Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru in the Huatanay Valley (Sacred Valley), of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco province and the Cusco region. The city has a population of about 300 000, triple the population it contained just 20 years ago. Alternate spellings include Cuzco, an anglicized variant, and Qusqu with post-1987 Quechua orthography.
The Church of La Compañía on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco
Cusco was the capital of Tahuantinsuyu (or Inca Empire). Many believe that the city was planned to be shaped like a puma. The city had two sectors: the hurin and hanan, which were further divided to each encompass two of the four provinces, Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Condesuyu (SW), and Collasuyu (SE). A road led from each of these quarters to the corresponding quarter of the empire. Each local leader was required to build a house in the city and live part of the year in Cusco, but only in the quarter of Cusco that corresponded to the quarter of the empire he had territory in. After Pachacuti, when an Inca died his title went to one son and his property was given to a corporation controlled by his other relatives, so each title holder had to build a new house and add new lands to the empire, in order to own any home and the land his family needed to maintain it after his death. Andean Indians still abandon their homes and build new ones when they marry, even if no one remains in the house.
According to Inca legend, the city was built by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cusco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire of Tahuantinsuyu. But archaeological evidence points to a slower, more organic growth of the city beginning before Pachacuti. There was however a city plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city.
Many of the Inca walls were thought to have been lost until a 1950 earthquake devastated the city. The granite walls of Korikancha (the Sun Temple) were exposed, as well as many walls throughout the city. Many wanted to restore the buildings to their colonial splendor, but a contingent of Cusco citizens wanted to retain the exposed walls. Eventually they won out and now tourists from around the world enjoy looking at these ruins within the living city.
Many buildings constructed after the conquest are of Spanish influence with a mix of Inca architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas. Often, Spanish buildings are juxtaposed atop the massive stone walls built by the Inca. The major earthquake that hit Cusco in 1950 badly destroyed the Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of Korikancha, but the city's Inca architecture firmly withstood the earthquake. This was the second time that the Dominican Priory was destroyed, the first being in 1650 when another major earthquake wracked Cusco. The Priory was completely destroyed in 1650 as well.
Other nearby Inca sites are Pachacuti's winter home Machu Picchu which can be reached by a lightly maintained Inca trail, the "fortress" at Ollantaytambo, and the "fortress" of Sacsayhuaman which is approximately two kilometers from Cusco. Other less visited ruins include Inca Wasi , the highest of all Inca sites at 3,980 m (13,134 feet), Old Vilcabamba the capital of the Inca after the capture of Cuzco, the sculpture garden at Chulquipalta (aka Chuquipalta, Ñusta España, The White Rock, Yurak Rumi), as well as Huillca Raccay , Patallacta , Choquequirao and many others.
The surrounding area, located in the Huatanay Valley, is strong in agriculture, including corn, barley, quinoa, tea and coffee, and gold mining.
Thanks to remodeling, Cusco's main stadium, Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega, attracted many more tourists during South America's continental soccer championship, the Copa América 2004 held in Peru.
Last updated: 08-20-2005 00:49:17
Last updated: 08-27-2005 07:12:43