The central plaza of Cuzco with the cathedral on the left.
Jacobs Takes Tour to Learn Cuzco History
According to Inca legend, in the 12th century the sun god Inti determined the people on earth needed a little organizing. He sent Manco Capac.
With a golden rod in his hand that Inti had given him, Capac set off to discover the location for a new place to live. He would know the right place when the golden rod could be completely plunged into the earth.
Capac plunged his rod into the earth at Cuzco. In the local language of Quechua, this means navel of the earth.
One of the Americas’ greatest empires was born.
Walking the streets in this old city of Cuzco, remnants of Inca construction are reminders that this once was a very impressive community.
Inca stone work line the side streets of old Cuzco.
Tired of trying to figure things out on my own, and remembering my entire day with the non-English speaking taxi driver in the highlands, I opted to be a tourist and signed up for a city tour.
“The cathedral is built where there was once a Inca temple. Construction began in 1559 and took 100 years to build,” said Rony, my tour guide for the day.
We drifted through the church, and my one goal for this tour was to see the Last Supper painting by Marcos Zapata.
I had seen it in 2004, but that was before digital cameras and flash wasn’t allowed. So, the photo I had was dark. But now there were security guards everywhere. The sound of a camera shutter would bring a horde of plain-clothed, undercover camera police from out of the gold-leafed painting frames. I learned this the hard way.
I had to get more covert.
We entered the area of the church where the painting was hanging. I positioned myself with a wide-angle lens to take one shot. With the camera hanging from my shoulder and my head pointed in another direction, I took one shot.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the camera police looking around trying to determine where the sound came from. But, the crowd of people I stood behind made it impossible for the police to see me.
After our group left the church, I looked at my camera and saw my mission had been accomplished. I had a photo of the Last Supper with a cuy (guinea pig) in front of Christ.
The Cuzco cathedral sits on the edge of the Plaza de Armas.
Painting of the Last Supper in the cathedral of Cuzco Peru.
The Inca Empire was short lived, only about 100 years, but during that time an empire was created that engulfed most of western South America. Roads, cities and temples were constructed as a result of a brilliant knowledge of stone masonry.
None of the Inca sites are more impressive than the temple and military complex of Sacsayhuaman. Only 20 percent of the complex remains.
The complex is huge and looks like the size of several football fields. This massive area is used for parades.
“The largest stone in the complex weighs 28,000 tons,” Rony said. “Historians estimate it took 20,000 people 50 years to build Sacsayhuaman. Others wish to believe it was with the help of space aliens. You choose what works for you.”
Rony then told us a story.
“When Bill Gates came to visit here a couple of years ago, he joked he could buy this big stone if he wanted. I heard him say it and was offended by his idea that our culture was for sale. I mentioned to one of his security guards that when Bill Gates can carry the stone off by himself on his back, then he could have the stone.
“Apparently, the security guard told Mr. Gates what I had said. At the end of the tour, he approached me and asked if I said what he heard and I told him yes. He apologized for his remark and told me he was sorry for being insensitive.
“I now call this stone the Bill Gates stone for his ability to recognize our culture and history cannot be bought and carried away for someone’s entertainment,” Rony concluded.
It’s good to know some things just can’t be bought.
The Inca ruins of Sacsaywaman near Cuzco Peru.
A Peruvian woman in traditional dress grazes her llama on the grounds of Sacsaywaman.