Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Quick Tour of Cajamarca

I recently made a trip to the border with Ecuador to renew my visa, as I do every ninety days. This time Sonia decided to accompany me, so we included a little side trip to Cajamarca, a city in the mountains about halfway to the border. It´s the place where Francisco Pizarro and his mob began their conquest of the Inca empire, capturing the Inca king, holding him for a ransom of gold and silver, and then killing him. He and a few hundred soldiers killed the Inca´s five thousand defenders in the main plaza of Cajamarca without suffering a single casualty, thanks to their possesion of guns and horses. It has been estimated that over the next hundred years or so the population of South America was reduced by eighty to ninety percent, mostly because of diseases introduced by the Europeans.

Cajamarca is known as the dairy capital of Peru, and we visited one of the oldest haciendas in the region, where the cows are called by name to come to the trough and eat. (Actually the cows are lined up single file by one person, and another person calls them by name to enter the stall with their name over it. So it´s not as if the cows respond to their name, but they do seem to remember which stall belongs to each of them.)

We also took a couple of scenic tours, one to las Ventanillas de Otuzco (the windows of Otuzco), a pre-inca burial ground which was raided by the Spaniards looking for gold and silver objects that might have been buried with the dead in the small graves carved out of a cliff, leaving thousands of empty graves that now resemble windows. We also visited a regional park in Cumbemayo called El Bosque de Las Piedras (the Rock Forest). Besides having lots of interesting rock formations caused by erosion, it is home to the oldest known aqueduct in the Americas, a nine-kilometer canal carved out of the mountains around 1200 B.C.

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