History of Humahuaca

Humahuaca, Where Time Stopped

The omaguacas were the typical human group in the area. This is the name by which the Spanish conquerors knew the Indians dwelling the Grande de Jujuy River ravine, also known as the Humahuaca Canyon in those old days. This name derives from an Indian legend that makes reference to a head crying: Humahuacac! Humahuacac! As regards the origin of the name, some historians, such as Dr. Horacio Carrillo, assert that it refers to the burial site for heads or outstanding heads. Later, the name was generalized and the archeologists used the name “Humahuaca” to refer not only to the culture which developed in the ravine but also in the surrounding lands. Like all Andean Indians, they did not have a writing system, which was partly replaced by the use of the “quipus”, which could only be managed by some officers and priests of the empire. The historical records of the conquest date back from the late XVI century. Humahuaca is a town of narrow cobble streets, illuminated by colonial style street lamps and dwelled by a people clinging to ancient traditions. It was a remarkable center in the times of the colony due to the transformation of the pre-existing Indian settlement which had a dairy farm or inn from the Incan times. Its Hyspanic foundation by Juan Ochoa de Zárate dates from 1591. It had a very important rol as a stop for expeditions to High Perú. The Government of the Province is negotiating the incorporation of the Humahuaca Canyon as Historical and Cultural Itinerary of International Interest before the authorities of the UNESCO, highlighting its historical value on the grounds that: “During 10,000 years, this Andean valley has been the scenery for most cultural developments in the region and the neighboring countries from South America, in an ininterrupted tour from the settlement of the first hunting peoples, some ten thousand years ago until this day. In such sense, the Humahuaca Canyon has worked as a permanent way of interaction, both longitudinally and transversally, joining distant and different territories and cultures, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Andes to the southern plains. Route for muleteers and caravans in the early times, route for the Incas before the arrival of the Spaniards, trade path between the River Plate and Potosí through the Royal Road, contemporaneous link among the countries of the region, the Humahuaca Canyon has represented and still represents a roundtrip way for cultural interfecundation, as a fruit of its own dynamics and operability, leaving tangible and intangible heritage that give evidence both of its irrefutable historical authenticity and its patrimonial integrity.”

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