We had taken a look at the urban sprawl that constituted Lima, and we’d identified some of the things we wanted to see outside the city itself. We’d also taken a close look at Peruvian traffic and driving practices and determined we didn’t want to engage in them at first hand. We looked online for some tours that would best meet our needs and settled on a company called Haku tours. We signed up for a visit to Pachacamac on 28th March.
Pachacamac is a name we were not familiar with before arriving here, so we did a little bit of pre-reading before setting out on the Thursday morning. The site was settled in about 200 AD and grew in importance under the Wari empire, eventually holding status as the home of an oracle under the Inca empire.
The site is about an hour’s drive away from our base in Miraflores, passing a number of interesting points. Our guide, Amadeo, drew our attention in particular to the many shanty towns that have sprung up around the city. In the 1950s, Lima was a city of one million people in a country with a total population around 8 million. It now hosts 11 million citizens, representing one-third of the Peruvian population of 33 million. As with many Southern hemisphere countries, economic growth has been associated with increased industrialization and, as a direct result, people move from the country to the city. And their children tend to stay in the city.
Although he describes them as shanty towns, the literal translation would be “Young Towns.” The owner of Haku Tours grew up in a shanty town and everyone in the company gets two days off every month to go and do volunteer work in the towns.
When we got to Pachamac, I was surprised at how huge and well-preserved the site was. There are a number of distinct areas which supported different activities. The Mamacones complex was an educational establishment for the female children of the elite of the Wari culture. Although Wari men filled the role of leaders as warriors, true political power resided in the women.
At Mamacones, the girls were taught how to govern by senior women. They spent their formative years learning and drinking beer and, at the end of their education they were offered three choices: marry, stay and be a teacher, or become a sacrifice to the gods. Apparently, enough of them chose the last option to keep the gods appeased. Possibly in part due to the permanent state of intoxication in which they existed.
As the Incan empire expanded, it adopted many of the existing belief systems of the conquered peoples and incorporated them into their own. Thus, Pachacamac continued to be a place of pilgrimage for individuals who wanted to consult the oracle who, in turn, continued to dispense enigmatic and ambiguous predictions.
They even constructed a road that ran direct from Pachacamac to their showpiece capital at Machu Picchu.
From my European perspective, I’ve always thought of the Incas as the dominant pre-Columbian force in South America so it’s interesting to discover that their period of dominance lasted only around 100 years. In fact, the Spanish conquistadors exploited the resentment of the peoples conquered by the Incans. This was in part what allowed them to overthrow such a huge empire with a small expeditionary force.