Sunday, August 5, 2007

July 28th: Quinua & Wari

We arrived in Ayacucho on the evening of the 27th of July, and as we all were starving we headed to the restaurant nextdoor to the house, the Wallpa Sua, for some pollo a la brasa. We kicked off the evening with some toddies and after dinner continued with more drinks around the firepit in the restaurant's patio, while fireworks went off overhead.

Afterward, some of us went off to keep it going, while others headed off to bed. At the park across from Santo Domingo church we happened to run into members of the tuna from the university's Civil Engineering program. A tuna is a musical ensemble in the tradition of 17th century Spain. Tunantes dress in archaic clothes and play for donations. The university of Huamanga has a well-known and prestigious tuna, and these young people were following in that tradition. In exchange for some wine and an appreciative audience, they played for us for several hours.

I didn't take the camera, but I did happen to find a video of the tuna that includes some of the very same members whom we met:

The next day, on July 28th proper, we hired a bus to take the whole gang to Quinua and Wari.


Quinua is a small town 37 km NE of Huamanga at 3300 meters. On 9 December 1824 it was the site of the final fight for the liberation of South America from Spanish colonial rule, the Battle of Ayacucho.

On the morning of the battle, the Spanish army under Gen. Canterac, some 8,000 strong and armed with 14 cannon, arrayed on the slopes beyond the plain, called the Pampa de la Quinua, while the multinational liberation army composed largely of Colombian, Chilean, Argentine, and Peruvian troops, headed by Gen. José de Sucre, lined up on the pampa itself. Though outnumbered by 3000 men and with only one cannon, the independence army carried the day.

In 1974, for the 150th anniversary of the battle a monument was erected on the pampa. It is 44 meters high to signify the 44-year struggle for independence, and bears statues of the commanders of the independence army. The site is a popular tourist destination, and offers some great views of the region, including the distant city of Huamanga.

Today, Quinua itself is a quiet little town and is well-known for its pottery and as a good place to eat traditional foods. One of its distinctive features is the local custom of placing small ceramic churches or other effigies atop the houses.


Between Quinua and Huamanga, lies the archaeological site of Wari (aka Huari). Wari was a large city, the capital of a state and culture that spread from Ayacucho to dominate the central and southern Peruvian Andes between 800 and 1100 CE. Today the city lies in ruins, mostly underground, and what is visible is a vast rubble field from collapsing walls, along with literally millions of pottery shards littering the ground.

When I was a kid we'd spend the day wandering among the cacti, picking up shards and hunting for arrowheads and turquoise, some of which was carved into beads by the Wari a thousand years ago. Today such activities are forbidden and access is limited.

Excavations have revealed complex ceremonial structures and even sophisticated plumbing systems made of carefully-shaped stone conduits.

While my dad showed my cousin Carla's in-laws around, my mom and I just took the opportunity to wander a bit and to look back on our days there so many years ago and enjoy the beauty of the place.

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