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The majestic Plaza de Armas of Cusco is, together with Machu Picchu
, one of the most important symbols of the Inca culture in Peru. Thanks to its beauty and mystique, it has become one of the most visited places in the country. The visit is a must ! The history of the square is closely related to the history of the city
and thus, to the history of the Incas ...
Legend has it that the Sun God, Inti, and the Moon Goddess, Quilla, gave birth, in the Titicaca Lake, to a baby boy whom they called Manco Capac (Ayar Manco) and a baby girl, called Mama Ocllo. Manco Capac was ordered to teach the ignorant the arts of growing crops and raising animals. Mama Ocllo, on her side, was told to teach the arts of spinning and weaving cloth, to work at home and know about domestic chores. The brother and sister, subsequently married, were told to found a kingdom where the Sun would be worshipped and were given a golden rod which would help them find the right place to found that kingdom and its capital, which would be the center of the world. They were told that when arriving at the right place and when throwing the stick down it would sink into the earth until it disappeared. They found the place north of Lake Titicaca, where the soil was finally soft enough for the golden rod to easily sink into it. That fertile and ideal place was the valley of Cusco (Qosqo), and it was there where they established their new capital
, and from where they started governing their Empire.
It is historically known that the population explosion of the Tiwanaku Culture in the region of Lake Titicaca and the scarcity of land in the region were the reason that forced part of the population to move, looking for other fertile lands. It is also believed that the pressure of the Aymara tribes greatly contributed to this migration.
Upon their arrival in the Cusco region
, the Incas had to impose themselves on previously existing tribes through military operations and alliances. The Incas established themselves in the upper and central valley of Cusco, for close to two centuries, limiting their dominion to a small territory. Meanwhile, Manco Capac and his successors were devoted to improving agricultural production through the construction of terraces and bringing in fertile soil. They also dried the swamps of the valley and built some small buildings. The foundation of Cusco
goes back to that period. According to archaeological ruins found in the city and surroundings, Cusco is more than 3000 years old, but only became the capital of the Incas from the thirteenth century on.
When Manco Capac arrived in the valley of Cusco
, he settled down in the surroundings of a swampy area located between two rivers. He built his palace on the plateau where the fortress of Sacsayhuaman
is currently located and the town began growing around the swamp. His son and successor, Sinchi Roca, dried up the swamp with soil brought down from the mountains and, later on, Pachacútec took on him to completely cover the marsh with sand brought in from the coast.
During the Inca period, the Plaza de Armas was almost twice as large as it is today. It was divided in two parts, separated by one of the two creeks that runs through the city, called Saphy (currently covered and used as a sewer). On the northwest side of the creek one could find the Haucaypata or Aucaypata (place of the warrior), also called Huacaypata (place of the tears) or Huacapata (sacred place), according to several chroniclers. Nowadays, the Plaza de Armas only covers the northwestern part of the square, or Huacaypata. The southwestern side or Cusipata (place of joy), has just become a small square called Plaza del Regocijo. The rest is covered by buildings.
The Plaza de Armas used to be the religious center, hosting many Inca festivals as well as feasts and celebrations of the victories of the Incas. All around the square, they built the temples and palaces belonging to the families of the Incas who ruled after the capital
was founded but also some of the previous ones. This square was the starting point of the four main roads of the Capac Ñan, the famous Inca trail network. Each trail led to one of the four different suyos of the Empire, usually called the Tawantinsuyo: to the north was the Chinchaysuyo, to the west the Continsuyo, the Collasuyo to the south and the Antisuyo to the east.
After the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards, Cusco
was turned into a Spanish city on March 23, 1534. In the following years, the Spanish conquerors settled in the Inca palaces around the square. Afterwards, however, they decided to build their own colonial houses, cathedrals, churches and chapels on top of the existing Inca palaces and temples. In 1560, they started the construction of the Cathedral of Cusco, right over the spot where the palace of the Inca Viracocha was located, the Suntur Wasi. Eleven years later, in 1571, they started building another important church on the square, the Church of the Society of Jesus
Today, the Plaza de Armas is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the city
. It is surrounded by shops and travel agencies but also by some restaurants with a fantastic view over the square. Besides, it still is the site where they celebrate many of Cusco's traditional folk festivities, such as Santiraticuy, Corpus Christi and many other modern celebrations like Independence Day, Cusco's festivities and New Year, among others.
The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is a perfect blend between colonial and Inca history and architecture. Moreover, an elegant lighting system highlights the surrounding buildings these days and turns your visit, day or night, into an exciting and unforgettable experience.
Open every day without time restriction.