Friday, June 19, 2009
Day 12: Sacsayhuamán—J.M.R.
I've often wondered how a civilization can go from producing some of the greatest wonders of the world—the accomplishments of which are for the most part completely undocumented, from being wealthy beyond belief with some of the richest of natural resources, to one of the poorest and most run down, living mostly off of the relics of that past glory. I suppose the most obvious answer is sin. But as I sit here drinking my chicha morada, I wonder specifically about the Peruvian peoples. I first wonder how can a people not document something so great as why their city of Cuzco was built in the shape of a puma, that Sacsayhuamán was more than likely the head and that it's zigzag fortifications may have been the teeth of the beast? Why do we have no plans no notes on something that obviously took up a lot of time not for a few individuals but for most of the civilization because it was such a huge endeavor?
Sacsayhuamán. One Cuzco travel blog had this helpful but true note on how to say this intriguing Quechuan name: "the adultered Western pronunciation being Sexy Woman". Sacsayhuamán is an Incan ruin located just outside the city of Cuzco, Peru, and was allegedly built as a fortress during the time period of the Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially created the Incan empire. Though the fortress is no where near its former grandeur, there are enough of the foundation stones from the towers, the remains of the bath houses, and of course the three bulwarks or walls left to give us a picture of its former greatness. The walls are the most baffling for archeologist and common man alike—no blade, of steal or grass, can slip in between the formation of these rocks. So flawless is the craftsmanship in fitting the stones together without mortar. It's rather like a giant jigsaw puzzle, no stone could fit in any other place then where it currently sits.
While Sacsayhuamán is a testament to the glory of the Incan empire, it also bears witness to the empire's defeat. Stories say that the Incans finally rebelled against the Spaniards that had settled in Cuzco. Manco Inca and his men took the fortress in 1536, and used it as there central base as they attacked the Spanish. The fighting lasted for weeks before the Spanish—who were outnumbered some say 10 to 1—finally broke free from the city and dispersed out around and into the surrounding countryside only to double back and face the Incas on the opposing hill from Sacsayhuamán. The Conquistadors eventually broke through the native's defences, scaled the walls, and fought them all back into the three towers of the fortress where they put them all to the sword.
And the rest, as we say, is history. A history written by the conquerors. A history that picks up where the undocumented glory of a defeated people left off. A history that left the Peruvian people in a lesser light, one that has left them to a defeated spirit as well as a defeated empire.