Town of the Rainbow
Chinchero, the most typical town in the sacred Valley of the Incas, is an inca city which the conquerors wanted to "civilize" and establish their culture, but they were never able to achieve it completely. Its inhabitants live in the almost untouched Inca constructions where their ancestors lived and formed the greatest and most prosperous civilization in America.
The city of the Rainbow is located 28 km. northeast of Cusco, over 3,762 meters, midway between the highlands and the warm valley, surrounded by the snow-clad mountains of Salkantay, Veronica and Soray. The view from here is impressive.
The current population of Chinchero lives in an old pre-Hispanic settlement and is one of the most representative signs of Andean cultural resistance. Its settlers, dressed in multicolored clothes, maintain their Indian race, only speak Quechua and still keep their age-old customs which they refuse to abandon.
The ayllus, or indigenous communities, as well as the swap system called trueque still goes on. They are Catholic, but their ancient beliefs bubble up now and then, giving thanks to the "Mamapacha" and the "apus", which are mountain spirits. They also make offerings in order to overcome any problem or have good crops.
Chinchero’s origins go way back. Some remains date back approximately two thousand years. The first inhabitants of this region were Ayamarcas who, when the first Cusco government came, defended their territory and resisted before being incorporated to the empire.
Chinchero was the place elected by Inca Tupac Yupanqui to establish his residence. He ordered beautiful palaces built for his personnel and his Panaca.
Years later, towards 1,536, Manco Inca began his revolt against the conquest by burning Chinchero so the spaniards could not renew their provisions and therefore stop chasing him during his retreat to unknown regions.
When Viceroy Toledo visited Cusco, he stopped in Chinchero. Here he established a plantation worked by Indian labor and had a church built over beautiful Inca buildings. During Tupac Amaru II’s revolution, Chinchero’s curaca Mateo García Pumacahua died with the spaniards to fight the rebel. Pumacahua's victory was painted in a mural which shows a puma defeating a snake, or amaru..
The past exists in Chinchero, as if a time-honored culture held on to this place. The native settlers, dressed with colorful clothes, come down from their villages to the main plaza on Sundays to exchange their products. This is a real sign of deep cultural roots, with little sign of modernity.
The current main plaza has a unique beauty; it has an Inca wall with 12 niches, each of which is 2 meters high and 1.50 meters wide. This wall was used as an ornament and as support of another plaza used as an atrium across from the church. It also has colonial arches in each corner, adobe mud-brick buildings, huge salons with windows, doors and terracing which are just a minor trace of the Inca culture.
Chinchero has been and still is one of Cusco’s bread-baskets. Its fertile lands produce excellent potatoes, olluco and oca tubers, lima beans, wheat and barley, which are the main axis of local commerce..