Byline: CHARLIE PATTON
Before the Spanish came, bringing the guns, germs and steel that would topple an empire, the Incas established one of the Western Hemisphere's most sophisticated civilizations.
The most dramatic reminder of that empire is Machu Picchu, the ruins of what was once probably a vacation retreat for Incan royalty, located almost 8,000 feet above sea level on an isolated Andes mountaintop.
A visit to Machu Picchu, which is today part of Peru, will be one of the highlights of Florida Community College at Jacksonville's summer Classroom Without Walls program. The program, which consists of several for-credit courses in subjects such as Spanish, anthropology and biology, begins in May and includes a five-week visit to Peru.
The course carries a hefty tuition fee -- $3,275 or $3,465, depending on whether students decide to make the four-day hike up the Inca trail -- but a breathtaking itinerary.
Dubbed the Lost City of the Incas by the 20th century archaeologist who discovered it, Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish and thus was left largely intact as the empire fell in 1532.
Besides Machu Picchu, visits include the city of Cusco, which was the center of the Incan empire -- and in the Incan view, the center of the universe. There will be visits to the Amazonian rain forest and to Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, where natives live on floating islands woven from reeds.
Leading the trip will be three FCCJ instructors: Enrique Barquinero, a professor of Spanish and humanities; Brad Biglow, a professor of anthropology and humanities; and William Robichaud, a professor of biology.
For Barquinero, the trip constitutes a return to the land of his birth.
Born in Lima, Peru, Barquinero, 39, came with his family to the United States when he was 14 and settled in California. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge, and a master's degree in romance languages and literature from the University of Memphis. He came to Jacksonville to study at Florida Coastal School of Law, but by the time he had earned his law degree, he realized his first love was teaching. He has taught at FCCJ's Deerwood Campus for five years.
This summer's Classroom Without Walls is the second summer visit to Peru that Barquinero has helped organize. A similar, slightly shorter, trip took place in 2005. …