The film takes place on the high plains and in the mountains above the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Andes of southern Peru. The history of the area is as dramatic as the setting. The Inca Empire, one of the most advanced early civilizations of South America, ruled the area in the 1400-1500’s. The capital of the empire lay in Cusco. The empire stretched from modern day Chile to Ecuador, and the Incas were known for their massive, precise stonework and their system of roadways that stretched the length of the empire. In the mid 1500’s, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro invaded, imprisoned and murdered the Inca ruler Atahualpa, and proceeded to march on Cusco.
The years after the conquest were brutal for the Peruvians. The Spanish instituted the encomienda system, in which Peruvians were enslaved and made to work on the haciendas of the new Spanish landowners. Peru gained its independence from Spain in the early 1800's, but the situation remained much the same for the Peruvian campesinos well into the twentieth century.
Today, Peru is a developing nation, and its culture and society are changing rapidly. Tourism has played a major part in Peru’s recent development, and its most famous attraction is the Incan ruin of Machu Picchu. A fortress found in the mountains fifty miles from Cusco, Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish, and remained largely intact. Today, the ruin is reached by many after a trek on what is known as the Inca Trail. The trek takes four days, and winds its way through the mountains and over a pass 13,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, Peruvian porters carry massive bundles of gear to support the expeditions.