The Role of Cusco City in the Inca Empire

The Tawantinsuyo, the gathering of the four divisions of the Inca Empire, flourished from a city with a mythical origin, Cusco. As you go by the remaining ruins and temples in your tours by the metropolis, you will ask yourself about how important the role of this cosmopolite location was back in the times of Pachacuteq. Keep a close eye on details, and understand history as you walk through ancient temples and listen to old folk stories!

Cusco Origins

Experts agree on the meaning of the word Cusco, or in the indigenous Quechua tongue Q’osqo, as “umbilicus”. The shape of the Tahuantinsuyo after its expansion during 15th century is long and has the historical city almost on its center. Therefore, this meaning can be interpreted as the center part, in this case, of the long territory of the Inca Empire.

Going even further in past, the origin of the umbilicus has no evidence than the old myths told from grandparents to nieces orally, and later gathered by chroniclers after Spanish invasion.

The most known myth refers to the legendary couple who emerged from the Titicaca Lake, in the border of the current territories of Peru and Bolivia, Manco Capac and his sister Mama Ocllo sent by the Inti god as he felt compassionate about the rudimentary way of life of the inhabitants of the old Peruvians times. They both traversed over several mountains and valleys, until the long golden staff they were carrying buried itself into the fertile valley of Cusco. Manco Capac had the task of teaching men farming labors as well as building and defense, meanwhile Mama Ocllo taught women about weaving, cooking and raising children.

Historians tend to prefer another myth, the Ayar Brothers, who started their journey from another location, the Puma’orco Mountain. Four strong and skillful men with their spouses had the task of finding the best land and people to build an empire from. Each of them, took different paths and after several challenging situations, only one of them, Ayar Manco, could complete the mission after meeting several human groups, finally they established the onset of the Inca Empire in the lands of the Cusco Valley.

Nowadays, the Puma’orco Mountain can be visited for inquisitive travelers who love history.

The Raise of the Capital City

The expansion of the Tahuantinsuyo with the emperor Pachacuteq also raised the importance of the capital in the Inca Empire in several ways.

The capital became the religious center of all the lands conquered in the expansion. One of the strategies when conquering other cultures consisted in preserving the faith of the subjugated people, nevertheless Incas gathered the main idols of the foreign deities in the sacred temples in Cusco. On the other hand, the main temple of the god Sun was also housed in the center town. You can visit the puzzling remains of the Koricancha, the Sun Temple, during your stay in the city.

In addition, the biggest administration duties took place in this location. As it was the living place of the Emperor, reports, meetings, and decisions were made in the capital. Historians say, by the 15th century the city had a population up to 200 000 people. The last census indicates a current population of half of million cuzqueños approximately.

The role of the city in the Qapaq Ñan, the road system that connected all the four corners of their lands was being the center node of the long network across valleys, by the rainy forest and over mountains. Some parts of those trails were ancient paths renowned adding stones as pavement and others were built from zero. A small portion of them have resisted erosion and usage, as well as the destruction of Spanish invaders. The famous Inca Trail, the 4-day hike to Machu Picchu, is available through View Latin America to experiment the ancient Peruvian history by your own.

Another remark about the city lays on the biggest celebration throughout the year, the Inti Raymi. The Emperor leaded the ceremony celebrated in the day of winter solstice to honor the Inti god and to show appreciation because of the crops and the wellbeing of the population. One of the main attractions of Andean culture is the representation of this celebration brought to live every June 24th. More than 700 actors use their skills to represent the rituals of gratitude in three stages across Cusco. How about adding it to your itinerary?

Surroundings of Cusco

One of those stages is the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, 2 kilometers away of the current Main Square. Big stones in the walls in a zigzag shape are one of the first features you will spot in your visit. Experts say, Sacsayhuaman was used for different purposes, as a guarding place as it was in a place where all the town can be seen, as a storehouse for crops raised in nearby lands and also as a ceremonial place where rituals took place and important people’s mummies were stored.

Around one kilometer away, Q’enqo, meaning labyrinth, waits for you to tell a small chapter of Incan story. This shrine was carved in an enormous stone, and was named after the corridors inside it. There is an altar used for animal sacrifices for worship and divination purposes.

Once you explore more of the history, architecture, art and other facets of the Inca Empire you will understand the role of the metropolis in this old civilization. View Latin America has carefully experiences including visits to museums, ruins and authentic Andean communities with knowledgeable guides for you. Live history and love it as we do. Contact us!

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