History of Cusco

Cusco church

The archaeological excavations of Cusco reveal that a primitive population already lived around 3 thousand years ago in the valley of Cusco and they tell us something about their cultures.

According to an Inca myth current at the time of the conquest, the founding Incas, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca at the islands of the Sun and the Moon, sent to earth by the solar and lunar deities to bring culture to a barbarous world. From there they began a lengthly quest(about 500 km. if they took the shortest route over the Raya pass) which ended in a valley far to the north, at the spot where Manco probed with his golden staff, and it disappeared into the ground. Here they founded their civilization, and the Inca city of Cusco.

In the early 1500s, with the arrival of the Europeans, diseases and epidemics spread down through South America from Central America and the Caribbean, wiping out scores of people. One casualty of the epidemics was Huayna Capa, the last ruler of the united Inca Empire. Following his death the empire was divided in two sections, one section for each of his sons to rule over. Unfortunately each son wanted total control and a civil war broke out.

During this same period the Spanish arrived in South America and eventually marched on Cusco. The gold and silver was looted under the direction of Francisco Pizzaro, who entered the city himself for the first time in 1533. Uprisings between the Spanish and the Incas followed but the heavily armed Spanish conquered the Incas. Once the gold and silver were taken from Cusco the Spanish focus shifted to Lima, and Cusco became another colonial town.

The most significant historical events since that time have largely been earthquakes. The worst earthquakes to rock Cusco were in 1650, 1950, and 1986. The quake of 1650 devastated Cusco, destroying many of the churches and historical buildings. Despite this Cusco has been resilient and rebuilt following each of these disasters.

In 1933 the 25th Congress of Americanists performed in Ciudad de la Plata, Argentina, declared Cusco City as the "Archaeological Capital of South America". In 1950 another bad earthquake of 7° in the Mercalli scale had shaken the old Inkan Capital that left just one quarter of its buildings standing. In 1978 the 7th Convention of Mayors of the World Great Cities, performed in Milan, Italy, declared Cuscoas "Cultural Heritage of the World".

In Paris, on December 9, 1983, the UNESCO declared Cuscoas "Cultural Patrimony of Humanity". On December 22, 1983, by means of Law Nº 23765 the Peruvian government declared the city as " Tourist Capital of Peru" as well as " Cultural Patrimony of the Nation". Today Cuscois capital of the department having the same name and at the same time the seat of the Inka Region formed along with the departments of Apurimac and Madre de Dios. The 1993 Peruvian Constitution declares Cusco as the Historic Capital of the country.

Spanish Cusco built its foundations on Inca walls and followed the lines of Incas streets. They built several buildings, churches and founded a flourishing school of art (17th - 18th centuries), represented by several painters and artists (paintings of the Cusqueña School, the pulpit of San Blas, the custody of the Cathedral and the church of La Merced, etc.). The mix of Andean and Spanish cultures has given Cusco´s architecture and population very special characteristics. It is a city of incomparable beauty that conserves its customs and traditions with pride, while at the same time it is gradually adapting itself to modernity.

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