The indigenous name of this city is Qosqo. Although it was used in Quechua, its origin has been found in the Aymara language. The word itself originated in the phrasequsqu wanka (‘Rock of the owl’), attending to the foundational myth of the Ayar Siblings. According to this legend, Ayar Awqa (Ayar Auca) got wings and flew to the site of the future city and transformed into a rock to mark the possession of the land by his ayllu (‘linage’).
“Go fly over there (they say his wings were born), and by sitting down there take possession in the very seat where that milestone appears, because we’ll then settle and live there”. Ayar Auca, after hearing the words of his brother, rose on his wings and went to that place Manco Cápac commanded him, he sat there and turned himself into stone and became a possession mark, which in the ancient language of this valley is called cozco, therefore this place remained with the name of Cozco until today.—Juan Diez de Betanzos, Suma y narración de los incas.
The Spanish conquistadors adopted the local name, transliterating it into Spanish asCuzco or less often Cozco. Cuzco was the standard spelling on official documents and chronicles in colonial times, though Cusco was also used. Cuzco, pronounced as in 16th-century Spanish, seems to have been a close approximation to the Cusco Quechua pronunciation of the name at the time; both Spanish and Quechuan pronunciation have evolved since then, with the result that the Spanish pronunciation of ‘z’ is no longer close to the Quechuan pronunciation of the consonant represented by ‘z’ in “Cuzco”. In 1976, the city mayor signed an ordinance banning the traditional spelling and ordering the use of a new one, Cusco, in the municipality publications. Nineteen years later, in 23 June 1990, the local authorities officialized a brand new spelling instead: Qosqo.
In English, both s and z are accepted, as there is no international, official spelling.
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (13th century-1532). Many believe that the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. Under the Inca, the city had two sectors: the urin and hanan. Each was further divided to encompass two of the four provinces, Chinchaysuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Kontisuyu (SW) and Qollasuyu (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 that corresponded to the quarter of the empire in which he had territory. After the rule of Pachacuti, when an Inca died, his title went to one son and his property was given to a corporation controlled by his other relatives (the process was called split inheritance). Each title holder had to build a new house and add new lands to the empire, in order to own the land his family needed to maintain after his death.
According to Inca legend, the city was built by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire of Tawantinsuyu. Archaeological evidence, however, points to a slower, more organic growth of the city beginning before Pachacuti. The city was constructed according to a definite plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city. The city plan was replicated at other sites throughout the empire.
The city fell to the sphere of Huáscar in the division of the empire after the death of Wayna Qhapaq in 1527. It was captured by the generals of Atahualpa in April 1532 in the Battle of Quipaipan. Nineteen months later, Spanish explorers invaded the city (see battle of Cuzco).
It is unknown how Cusco was built, or how its stones were quarried.
CUSCO AFTER THE CHRISTIAN INVASION
The first Christian arrived in the city on 15 November 1533. Francisco Pizarro officially arrived in Cusco on 23 March 1534, renaming it the “Very noble and great city of Cuzco”. The many buildings constructed after the Spanish invasion have a mixture of Spanish influence with Inca indigenous architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas neighborhoods. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city.
The city was retaken from the Spanish during the Siege of Cuzco of 1536 by Manco Inca Yupanqui, a leader of the Sapa Inca. Although the siege lasted ten months, it was ultimately unsuccessful. Manco’s forces were able to reclaim the city for only a few days. Throughout the conflict and years of the Spanish colonization of the Americas many of Inca citizens and warriors succumbed to smallpox and died.
Cusco stands on layers of cultures, with the Tawantinsuyu (old Inca Empire) built on Killke structures, and the Spanish having replaced indigenous temples with Catholic churches, and palaces with mansions for the invaders.
Cusco was the center for the Spanish colonization and spread of Christianity in the Andean world. It became very prosperous thanks to agriculture, cattle raising, and mining, as well as its trade with Spain. The Spanish colonists constructed many churches and convents, as well as a cathedral, university and Archbishopric. Just as the Inca built on top of Killke structures, Spanish buildings were based on the massive stone walls built by the Inca.
A major earthquake on 21 May 1950 caused severe localised damage in Cusco. The Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun), were among the colonial era buildings affected. The city’s Inca architecture, however, withstood the earthquake. Many of the old Inca walls were at first thought to have been lost after the earthquake, but the granite retaining walls of the Qurikancha were exposed, as well as those of other ancient structures throughout the city. Restoration work at the Santo Domingo complex was conducted in such a way as to expose the Inca masonry formerly obscured by the super-structure without compromising the integrity of the colonial heritage. Cusco had also been the center of a major earthquake in 1650, and many of the buildings damaged in 1950 had been impacted by an earthquake only nine years previously.
After Peru declared its independence in 1821, Cusco maintained its importance within the administrative structure of the country. Upon independence, the government created theDepartment of Cuzco, maintaining authority over territory extending to the Brazilian border. Cusco was made capital of the department; subsequently it became the most important city in the south-eastern Andean region.
- In 1933, the Congress of Americanists met in La Plata, Argentina and declared the city as the Archeological Capital of the Americas.
- In 1978, the 7th Convention of Mayors of Great World Cities met in Milan, Italy and declared Cusco a Cultural Heritage of the World.
- In 1983, UNESCO, in Paris, France declared the city a World Heritage Site. The Peruvian government declared it the Tourism Capital of Peru and Cultural Heritage of the Nation.
- In 2007, the New7Wonders Foundation designated Machu Picchu one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, following a worldwide poll.
A 1950 earthquake shook the city, causing the destruction of more than one third of the city’s structures. Later, the city began to establish itself as a focal point for tourism and began to receive a greater number of tourists.
Since the 1990s, tourism has increased. Currently, Cusco is the most important tourist destination in Peru. Under the administration of mayor Daniel Estrada Pérez, a staunch supporter of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, between 1983 and 1995 the Quechuaname Qosqo was officially adopted for the city.
The city of Cusco extends throughout the Watanay river valley. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). North is the Willkapampa mountain range with 4,000 m – 6,000 m high mountains. The highest peak is Sallqantay (6,271 m) about 60 km (37.28 mi) northwest of Cusco.
Cusco has a subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb). Its climate is generally dry and temperate, with two defined seasons. The dry season lasts from April to October, with abundant sunshine, and occasional nighttime freezes: July is the coolest month with an average of 9.6 °C (49.3 °F). The wet season lasts from November to March, with night frost less common: November averages 13.4 °C (56.1 °F). Although frost and hail are common, snow is virtually unheard of. The only snowfall ever recorded was in June 1911.
Cusco was found in 2006 to be the spot on Earth with the highest ultraviolet light level.
Because of its antiquity and importance, the city center retains many buildings, plazas, streets and churches of pre-Columbian times and colonial buildings, which led to his being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. Among the main sights of the city are:
Barrio de San Blas
This neighborhood housing artisans, workshops and craft shops, is one of the most picturesque sites in the city. Its streets are steep and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca foundations. It has an attractive square and the oldest parish church in Cusco, built in 1563, which has a carved wooden pulpit considered the epitome of Colonial era woodwork in Cusco.
The Quechua name of this neighborhood is Tuq’ukachi which means the opening of the salt
This street is the most visited by tourists. On the street Hatun Rumiyoq (“the one with the big stone”) was the palace of Inca Roca, which was converted to the Archbishop’s residence.
Along this street that runs from the Plaza de Armas to the Barrio de San Blas, one can see the Stone of Twelve Angles, which is viewed as marvel of ancient stonework and has become emblematic of the city’s history.
The National University of San Antonio Abad in Cuzco (Spanish: Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco) (UNSAAC) is a public university in Cusco, Peru and one of the oldest in the country. Its foundation was first proposed on March 1, 1692, at the urging and support of Pope Innocent XII. The document in which Pope Innocent XII sponsored the founding of the university was signed in Madrid, Spain by King Charles II on June 1, 1692, thus becoming Cusco’s principal and oldest university. The university was authorized to confer the bachelors, licentiate, masters, and doctorate degrees.
It currently has 24 faculties with 37 professorial chairs and 29 academic departments.