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Simple Yet Stunning: Documenting Life in Peru

Peru is located in western South America and is home to a number of ancient and indigenous cultures. The country is still developing and over 25 percent of its residents are officially impoverished. Despite the simple means, Peru remains a rich and vibrant country full of many different cultures and ways of life.

In a recent photography series by Associated Press photojournalist Rodrigo Abd, the beautiful reality of life in Peru was documented for our appreciation. Abd's photos will make you smile, laugh, wonder and cry at the wonderful complexity of the simple life.

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Ashaninka India girls playing soccer. The Ashaninka Indian tribe is one of the most ancient America tribes, but that does not mean that they are respected in modern Peruvian culture. The Ashaninka in Peru share their coca fields with drug-traffickers, rebels and the military, which inevitably puts their lives in constant danger.

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The Ashaninka are the largest indigenous population in Peru's Amazon, but they still account for less than 1 percent of the country's population of 30 million.

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In one of the Ashaninka communities called Otari, the residents of the village live a simple existence. This is despite the fact that they are located within the Apurimac River Valley, the number one coca producing valley in the world. Coca is the ingredient used to make cocaine as well as Coca-Cola.

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Some of the group's members have given up life in the rainforest for the bustling cities. Still, the Ashaninka elders teach the new generations the importance of the wilderness, as well as their native language. However, the children learn mostly in Spanish, which poses a threat to the survival of their native language.

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The tribes engage in the practice of land clearing, or the burning of coca fields to facilitate the growth of a new harvest. Many members of the tribe chew the coca as part of their tradition and resist efforts to use the product commercially, although not very successfully.

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A worker in the field chews coca leaves. Coca had been an integral part of the Andean culture for centuries, with many groups using the plant in their daily and religious practices. Because of the lucrative nature of coca, the Peruvian government now encourages the Ashaninka people to grow other kinds of crops like cacao and coffee.

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The Apurimac River in Pichari, Peru. This river cuts through the valley that, according to reports from the United Nations, yields 56 percent of Peru's coca leaves.

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A girl resting on a bed of coca leaves.

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The local evangelical orchestra called "La Roca Eterna" perform during a church festival in the village of Pichari.

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A woman bathing at a communal faucet on the Apurimac River.

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Boats await customers to ferry across the Apurimac River in Pichari.

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A coca farmer spraying his fields in Pichari.

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Every year, thousands of Christian faithful in Peru make the trek to the Lord of Huanca Sanctuary near Cuzco. The Lord of Huanca is a bleeding image of Jesus Christ that tradition says was painted in a cave 339 years ago. On September 14th every year, devotees make a seven hour hike up to the foot of a mountain carrying candles and flowers for the ceremony.

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Women cooking cuy chactado, fried guinea pigs to sell to the pilgrims making the trek to the Lord of Huanca Sanctuary.

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The remains of the mines in the Madre de Dios region. Studies on the levels of mercury in this formal gold mining region revealed that many of the indigenous people living there had been affected, especially the children.

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The San Pedro market in Cuzco. There are over 3,000 different varieties of potatoes in Peru, many of them exported overseas.

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A widow weeps as she tells the tale of her husband's murder by Shining Path rebels in Chaca, Peru. The Shining Path is a group of Maoist guerrilla insurgents who is known for its violence against peasants and civilians. The group is a recognized terrorist organization in the United States, European Union and Canada.

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Women on Market Day in the town's main square.

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Preparing Pachamanca, a traditional dish of meat, vegetables and herbs that is buried in a pit and roasted with hot stones.

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Boys playing in Chaca, Peru.

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Students dressed as soldiers at the start of a memorial service for the Bishop of their town.

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A woman holding the Peruvian national flag with the Lima skyline as a backdrop.

Submitted by user: Michael T.

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