Chinchero is the most typical population of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is a purely Inca city. Its inhabitants inhabit the almost intact Inca constructions, in the same place where their distant ancestors lived and formed the largest and most prosperous civilization in America. It is the capital of the district of the same name, which belongs to the province of Urubamba. It is one of the most representative towns of Cusco in general and known for its archeology and crafts.
Currently, Chinchero has a population of over 15,000 inhabitants, made up of twelve indigenous communities that maintain the ayllus system, although they no longer correspond to the organizational system in force before the Spanish conquest. These communities, following the Tahuantinsuyo organization system, directly appoint their highest authority: the varayoc. Chinchero is one of the few places where the traditional form of marketing called barter is preserved.
According to Luis E. Valcárcel, Chinchero was a foundation of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui, that is, a palatial residence in a peasant environment. The Inca ordered the erection of shrines, baths, platforms and the great royal palace in 1480. The chronicles relate that the ruler died in obscure circumstances. Some believe that he was poisoned by his favorite princess, Chiqui Ocllo, although it could also have been the coya Mama Ocllo herself, who resented the Inca’s preference for the son of his concubine. In the struggle for power, all of Chiqui Ocllo’s supporters were exterminated, including the princess. The Inca’s son, Cápac Huari, was confined for life in the Chinchero jail.
Around 1540, the rebel Manco Inca, fleeing from him to Vilcabamba, burned down Chinchero to prevent the Spanish from being able to supply themselves.
Location and Geography
The capital is the town of Chinchero, located at 3,754 meters above sea level. 28 kilometers from Cusco in the province of Urubamba, Department of Cusco, and before reaching the Sacred Valley of the Incas (and the Urubamba River) is the town of Chinchero on a frigid high Andean plain in the morning and at nightfall.
The town of Chinchero, where stone is the main protagonist, is strategically located at the crossroads of three roads that connect Cusco, Yucay and Pumamarca. During the Tahuantinsuyo it was located on the road that led directly to Machu Picchu. This route started from the Carminca neighborhood (present-day Santa Ana neighborhood), followed the slopes of Senca hill, passed near the Piuray lagoon and, next to Chinchero, continued to Maras.
Art and Customs
The colorful craft fair of Chinchero takes place every Sunday in the Plaza de Armas, in front of the colonial church. Vendors arrive from the early hours of the morning, mainly from Chinchero, but also from neighboring towns, to sell their handicrafts.
There are minor fairs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Clothes made of sheep, llama and alpaca wool are sold there, as well as crafts of all kinds and native musical instruments. This market takes place in front of a strong Inca wall with twelve large trapezoidal niches (niches). The market, which has been held since time immemorial, takes place at the end of the town and is one of the few where the primitive system of buying and selling, called “barter”, is still practiced. It is about the exchange of products from the area, for other products, utensils and articles brought from neighboring regions.
From Urubamba come sellers of coca leaves, coffee and lemons and fruits
From Maras you can find maras salt
People arrive from Yucay with medlars, corn, coca leaves, cabbage and hot peppers.
From Ayarmaka they bring onions, tarhui, potatoes and geese.
From Huayllabamba come rocoto and lemons.
The majority of buyers and sellers are women. In addition, the merchants are mostly the same producers, although the presence of intermediaries from different regions such as Cusco, Maras, Urubamba and Yucay is still noticeable.
The Church is made up of Inca stone structures, which were used as the foundations of the colonial construction and shaped the design. Its entrance door faces the Plaza de Armas and is located on one of the side walls. The interior walls and ceiling are covered with filigree mural painting and religious motifs.
On the side wall there is a large painting that represents the Virgin Nativity towards the center, with an interesting view of the town. The canvas was painted in 1693 by Francisco Chihuantito. The church is only open on Sundays for morning mass.
“The silhouette of the Catholic church is parallel to the Inca niches of the square and the whole complex emerges as a step that rises progressively and completely in the breadth of the horizon. We do not know the historical origins of the decision to place the church of Chinchero there and not elsewhere. But whatever it was, it was, with all evidence, the best aesthetic and technological solution, the only possible one to create without destroying the beauty already preformed by the Inca terraces.”
In the sector where the church is today you can see formidable walls of polyhedrons assembled to perfection that form retaining walls giving shape to the platforms. In addition, large rooms with windows remain. In the town square you can see an Inca wall made up of twelve niches. The niches have a modern stone eaves that covers and protects them above. The structures built on these terraces have mostly disappeared, but a portion of the walls still forms part of the large church.
The murals of the Chinchero temple also express the great importance that the region had. In the exterior environment of the portal, the Virgin of Monserrate, the procession of the chief Pumacahua and the defeat of Túpac Amaru stand out. It is interesting that in the sky the fight between two mythological beings is observed: a puma bites the neck of a dragon or Amaru. These are the heraldic emblems of rival chieftains.
Pumacahua, by ordering that the mural be painted in his own town, wanted to emphasize the ancestral nature of the conflict in order to quell the rebellious spirits of the inhabitants. The allegories of the puma and the dragon are not simple decorations, but, as Macera points out, they made it easy to identify, by remembering their surnames, the main protagonists of the drama: the puma, the chief of Chinchero Mateo Pumacahua, and the great dragon or amaru verde to the cacique of Tinta José Gabriel Condorcanqui, Túpac Amaru II.
Their typical dress is made with spinning and weaving in the style of their ancestors, the men with vests and pants made of baize, walnut ponchos made of sheep’s wool and multi-colored chullos; the women with llicllas, a black baize skirt with a red border, monteras and their characteristic small braids.
Many of the inhabitants of Chinchero dress in the style of their ancestors. Not only during the Sunday fair, to draw the attention of tourists, but on a daily basis, jealously preserving its tradition. The adult man wears the typical montera, especially on Sundays and holidays. He also wears nogal sheep wool ponchos, vests and pants made of baize, as well as multi-colored chullos. On his feet he wore sandals, either leather or rubber.
The woman from Chincherina, for her part, has inherited the art of spinning and weaving wool for generations. For this reason, she proudly retains her traditional clothing. She dresses in llicllas (kind of dark blankets decorated with red and green filigree and a brooch at chest height), vests and skirts of black baize, fastened to the body with sashes or chumpis. On her heads, decorated with fine braids, they wear colorful hats.
Places to visit
The Piuray Lagoon
Located at kilometer 27, this lagoon supplies water to the city of Cusco from the Tahuantinsuyo. It was the Incas who brought its waters to the imperial city through underground aqueducts.
Huaypo is a tourist attraction a few hours from Cusco, it conserves a unique ecosystem, currently in this lagoon the breeding of pejerrey is being carried out for consumption and sale in the various supply centers. Adventure tourism and hiking are also carried out in the Huaypo lagoon.
An exquisite way to discover something more about the cultures of the towns is by trying their stews. Chinchero offers the visitor one of its most distinguished cultural elements such as the tasty stew, rabbit or guinea pig pepián, kapiche cheese, chuñocola, olluco with meat, kapchi and lawa.
All accompanied by the refreshing chicha de jora.
Custom and Traditions
The inhabitants of Chichero practice the Catholic religion and have a great devotion to the Virgin of the Nativity that is found on the main altar of the temple, patron saint and mayor for life of the district, celebrated on September 8.
The town of Chinchero preserves a traditionally religious spirit that reveals the syncretism of the Catholicism of the Spanish and the worldview of the Andean man.
Religious Festivals in the 14 Communities and 36 sectors.
January 1: every two years the Varayoc Oath of each community is held, for which the entire population and local authorities are invited.
February: Carnivals the date to celebrate carnivals is variable, however the main objective is the recognition of the boundaries of the adjoining communities. this holiday is very colorful and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by young singles who go in search of their better half
May: Vela Cuy Cross As in all Andean towns, the Inca huacas or shrines were replaced by crosses. The festival of the Cross in Chinchero begins on May 2 with the Velada de la Cruz, amidst songs, prayers and music. The next day, the crosses are taken down from their altars to be carried to mass by their mayordomos.
The town of Chinchero preserves a traditionally religious spirit, which reveals the syncretism of the cults brought by the Spaniards and the feelings of the Andean man. Its main celebrations revolve around its patron saint, the Virgin of the Nativity, and the Lord of Coyllur Riti. The festivities involve the entire town and are characterized by their unique color.
June: Lord of Qoyllor Rit and Nearly 50,000 Peruvian and foreign pilgrims arrive on foot to worship the lonely Lord of Coyllur Riti in the Sinacara area. This pilgrimage is the hardest in all of Peru. Devotees ascend up to 5,000 m.a.s.l. and must withstand minimum temperatures of -4° C.
Corpus Christi After the pilgrimage to Coyllur riti, the dancers participate in the Corpus Christi celebrations of Chinchero. This crowded religious festivity begins on Thursday with the celebration of the festive mass. Later, the procession of the Saints is carried out, in which the Mamacha Natividad, San Isidro, San Miguel, San Antonio, the Purified Virgin, among others, parade. Once the tour is over, professional dancers compete in a colorful parade. Each comparsa exhibits its best choreography and its most colorful costumes before a qualifying jury. In the afternoon, the cacharpari begins, an occasion in which the butlers entertain the visitors by offering them drinks and the traditional chiri uchu.
September 8: Virgin Nativity This is the most important festival in Chinchero, as it is the Patron Saint and Mayor for Life of the district. The festivities begin with a mass in honor of the Virgin Nativity. Towards noon a traditional procession is carried out, where the image is accompanied by dances and colorful parades. In the afternoon there is a beauty pageant, and at night serenades, music and fireworks.
The main economic activity in Chinchero is agriculture. 55% of farmers are dedicated to the cultivation of potatoes, cereals and other minor tubers. Today as in the past, Chinchero is considered the granary of Cusco. In its lands, the production of sheep and cattle stands out, although the llamas brought from the punas should be mentioned. His bulls are in great demand to plow the land. The area has very important water resources such as the Huaypo and Piuray lagoons.
Tourism is one of the main axes in boosting the economy of the people of Chinchero, they produce and market beautiful clothing as well as handmade crafts and sell them to national and foreign tourists.
How to get to Chinchero?
Chinchero is generally reached by paved road Cusco – Urubamba (Sacred Valley of the Incas) at 30 km.
The land terminal is located on Av. Grau, first block, at a time of approximately 45 minutes.
How to enter its attractions:
If you are a national or foreign tourist and you want to visit the different archaeological sites, you must pay for the single tourist ticket ($10), since all of Chinchero is located on Inca ruins. Visiting hours are from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.