Guinea pig (cuy) is apparently a critical component of Andean cuisine. At the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, we were told that guinea pigs have been domesticated and bred as a source of protein for thousands of years.
And although the selection of meats throughout Peru and Ecuador has (thankfully) expanded substantially, guinea pig remains a prized meal.
As part of a microfinance project we profiled in a village outside of Huancavelica, Peru, we took the opportunity to visit a local, yet fairly large-scale guinea pig farm. The rate at which guinea pigs multiplied here makes rabbits look tame. In the course of only a few months, the guinea pig population in the breeding center had expanded from a few dozen to over 1600. We tried to get our heads around the math and gave up.
After our guinea pig eating experience in Ecuador, we declined another offer even though our Peruvian friends insisted their cuy was much better than Ecuadoran cuy. Neighborly rivalries — even when it comes to guinea pig — run deep.