The Plaza de Armas in Cusco in the times of the Incas was called Huacaypata, a Quechua word that means place of lamentation. Many historical events took place in this place.
During the development of the Great Inca State or Tahuntinsuyo in pre-Hispanic times, it was a place where sacred ceremonies were carried out. Here the palaces of Pachacutec, Huayna Capac, Sinchi Roca, Wiracocha, Tupac Yupanqui and Wiracocha Inca were built, on which the Spanish built their main buildings, especially the religious ones.
The Plaza de Armas in Cusco was formerly a swamp, which during the time of the Incas was dried up and became the administrative, religious and cultural center of the capital of the empire.
During the conquest and colony, Túpac Amaru I and Túpac Amaru II were executed in the plaza for rebelling against Spanish rule. The square was an important ceremonial place where the Inti Raymi or Sun Festival was celebrated every year, it was the place where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco.
With the arrival of the Spanish, the square was transformed; Stone arches were built and the constructions that surround it to this day were erected, such as the Cathedral of Cusco, the Chapel of the Holy Family, the Chapel of Triumph, the Church of the Company of Jesus. Today the main buildings are still preserved, there are also many shops, nightclubs and fast food chains.
When Manco Cápac arrived in the valley of Cusco, he settled in the surroundings of a swamp located between two streams because that place was free from the threats of neighboring ethnic groups.
He made his palace at the base of the Sacsayhuamán plateau and the city was always built around the swamp. Sinchi Roca, son and successor of Manco Cápac, dried the swamp with earth brought from the mountains and later Pachacútec was in charge of completely drying it, covering the swamp with sand brought from the coastal coastline.
During the Inca period, the main square was larger than the current main square, because in addition to the current square (former Huacaypata) it occupied all the land of the current regocijo square (former cusipata), the «Hotel Cusco» and the stables located on the side of the middle street.
Precisely these blocks and the street in the middle were crossed by a stream called Saphy (currently covered and made into a sewer), which divided the square into its two already known sectors. During the Inca period, this stream was channeled throughout its urban route, and the part that crossed the square was covered as a tunnel. The current plaza de armas was only the northeast sector of the main plaza, the southwest sector being the so-called Cusipata.
It was the religious and administrative center of the Incas. Around the square were the palaces of Pachacútec, Huayna Cápac and Viracocha Inca.
During the Inca period, it was where almost all the Inca festivals were celebrated, including Inti Raymi, Huarachicuy, the Amaru dance, Cápac Raymi, etc. It was also there where the main fairs were held and where the victories of the Inca army were celebrated.
When the Spanish arrived in Cusco, they stayed in the Inca palaces around the square. Later, they built colonial mansions, cathedrals, temples and chapels on top of the Inca palaces. In 1542, the city council of Cusco, Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega Vargas (father of the chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega) authorized the construction of mansions in the middle of the great square. In this way, the Saphy stream was completely covered, the square was divided into three (Plaza de Armas, Plaza Regocijo, and Plazoleta de la Merced) as it was divided by the new constructions (Hotel Cusco, Portal Comercio and Portal Espinar).
In 1545 the corregidor Polo de Ondergardo ordered the removal of the sand from the beach that was in the elo of the square to use it in the construction of the cathedral of Cusco.
The Plaza de Armas in Cusco
Currently the Plaza de Armas of Cusco is located in the historic center of Cusco, and is surrounded by tourist restaurants, jewelry stores, travel agencies, tourist shops, etc.
The two temples built around it remain as such during the hours of worship, outside these hours they are museums open to the public upon payment of the corresponding rights.
Most of the buildings preserve some Inca walls in their foundations, however it is the colonial style that prevails. The importance of the area leads it to be the most expensive in the city of Cusco. In some cases the rent of a premises exceeds 1500 dollars per month. In the first decade of the 21st century, various national and international franchises entered the Cusqueño market, opening their first premises in the Plaza de Armas, such is the case of the Bembos company that opened a store in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco, as it also did. the American company McDonald’s.
The opening of other franchises such as Starbucks and KFC are also located in the main square of Cusco, the well-known coffee of the mermaid, has been carrying out its activities on Loreto street since 2011, while the fast food chain has been carrying out its commercial activities. where not long ago the famous Café Ayllu used to work.
he square continues to be the place of celebration for many folkloric Cuzco festivals such as Santiraticuy, Corpus Christi, Holy Week, etc. and many other modern festivals such as the Fiestas Patrias, Fiestas del Cusco, New Year, etc. Sometimes the Plaza de Armas of Cusco is the place of some free concerts, parades of delegations and some political rallies.