web inca rail

The Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of Cusco, a Jewel of Peruvian History

The Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of Cusco, a Jewel of Peruvian History

You will fall in love with the Plaza de Armas of Cusco. Its colonial architecture buildings serve as an example of the impact the Spanish conquerors made in the city. However, this place has existed long before the Conquest. This was the chosen starting point to begin developing the Imperial City, which became the capital of the Inca Empire.

History and beauty come together in this splendid Peruvian square. Do you want to know all of its secrets before visiting it? Keep on reading about this fascinating square lines below!


History of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco

Legend says that Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo arrived here after traveling many kilometers/miles looking for the right place to create the Inca Empire. They had been sent by the God Inti, father of Manco Capac, who ordered them to carry a golden rod and, in the land in which it sank, was where the new city had to be founded.

When Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo arrived in Cusco, the place where the Plaza de Armas now stands was a swamp. The golden rod sank here and the founders of the Inca Empire began to prepare the land to build what would be their capital.

The Inca Sinchi Roca, successor of Manco Capac, ordered the drying of this swamp to transform the place into the administrative, cultural and religious center of what would be the great Inca Empire.

During the Inca era, the Plaza de Armas occupied a much larger space than we know now, including various places in the surrounding areas. Thus, during this era, the square was divided into two parts: Aucaypata or Huacaypata or Huacapata (intellectuals cannot come to an agreement with the original name) and Cusipata; which were separated by the Saphi stream.

There were also palaces at the Plaza de Armas that belonged to Incas of great importance, such as: Pachacutec, Huayna Capac or Viracocha. It is here that major events like the famous Inti Raymi were celebrated. On the other hand, this was the starting point of the great network of the Inca roads, the Qhapaq Ñan, which connected the entire empire.

As you can see, the Plaza de Armas of Cusco was the representation of the strength and dominance of the Incas in the South American region but with the arrival of the Spaniards, all of this changed.


The Plaza de Armas During the Spanish Conquest


Very similar to what happened to the rest of Peru and America, the Spanish conquerors arrived to Cusco and devastated everything. After defeating the Incas, Pizarro’s men settled in their palaces in the square, destroyed the Inca’s buildings and over the ruins, created their own colonial mansions, as well as the cathedral and other religious temples.

Furthermore, they ordered the lifting of various buildings near the creek, as a consequence, eliminating it and separating the old square in three: Plaza de Armas, Plaza del Regocijo and Plazoleta de la Merced.


The Execution of Tupac Amaru II in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco

One of the most important and striking episodes in the history of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco is the execution of Tupac Amaru II. This character from Cusco, with both an indigenous and Peruvian-Spanish background, began a rebellion against everything related to Spain and Europe. Although it lasted only a few months (from November 4th, 1780 to April 6th, 1781), it caused thousands of deaths.

In 1781, Tupac Amaru II was captured and was sent to Cusco. There, he was sentenced to execution along with his family and colleagues. After witnessing how their relatives and friends were murdered, the Spaniards tied Tupac Amaru II’s   arms and legs to four horses to dismember him. However, story tells they were not able to kill him even in this manner. Thus, the Spaniards decided to cut off his head and expose it in Cusco as a trophy. They did the same with his other body parts, which they spread throughout different areas of Peru as a warning for those who were thinking of rebelling against the crown.


The Plaza de Armas of Cusco Today


As of today, the Plaza de Armas is one of the main tourist attractions of the city of Cusco. Here are several religious temples (the cathedral, the Church of the Society of Jesus and, the Chapel of Triumph), accompanied by beautiful portals with colonial arches.

If you are lucky, the Plaza de Armas will welcome you with events where you can enjoy traditional dances and music from Cusco from pre-Hispanic times to the present day.

You will also find different restaurants, coffee shops and beer taverns at the Plaza de Armas surroundings where you can enjoy to the fullest the flavors of Peru with the most amazing views. Observe closely every detail of this square, you can now discover  the stories that hide in each one of its corners!