Researchers from the Pre-Columbian past have insisted that the Indian culture from the Argentinian Northwest was influenced by the Tiahuanaco culture, much ancient than the Incas.
Others assert that the diaguita culture domained the North and West of Jujuy (they occupied a small part of the western territories of the province, they formed independent tribes, with their corresponding chiefs, and spoke a tongue called "cacana").
Whatever the case may be, when the Spaniards arrived in this region, they found omaguaca Indian communities, who dwelled northern Jujuy, the Puna, the narrow gorges that reach the Humahuaca Canyon, the small dales and the mountain slopes and were the most advanced tribe in the province; the oclayas, in the Valley of Jujuy, in the area of the Xibi Xibi, Titaxi, Tilquiza, Jaire, Chijra and Zapla, up to the Perico hillsides, who were brave warriors but could not be compared to the omaguacas; and the jujuies, which was probably a generic name given by the Spaniards to the tribes hiding their dwellings in present Cuyaya, La Almona and Juan Galán.
The foundation of a city in the Valley of Jujuy was delayed by the brave opposition the Indians presented to the Spaniards. But the most influencing factors was the struggle between the Spaniards from Chile and Perú, who intended to dominate the territory of Tucumán, which would include the present provinces of Salta and Jujuy.
After several vain attempts to found the city, starting by Perez de Zorita's in August 20, 1561 under the name of Nieva, between the Grande and Sivisivi Rivers, the population surrendered before the Indian attacks and the domestic fights to dominate the region from Perú to Chile. They managed to subsist only until 1563.
The famous dispute on the jurisdiction of Tucumán was settled in August 29, 1563, when a royal warrant was published which declared this region an autonomous province separated from the Chilean usurpation carried out at that moment by Francisco de Villagra. By means of this document, the king commanded that Tucumán depended upon Perú as an immediate hierarchical authority.
The Indians, encouraged by their hostile besieging on other populations, would devastate the region and knock on the gates of the heroic city that had just been founded.
The Valley of Jujuy was a strategic point, as the routes coming from Perú and the ones opening into the progressive southern region and getting to the Atlantic would converge there.
Therefore, in October 13, 1575, don Pedro de Zárate founded the city of San Francisco in the New Province of Álava, in the area called Punta de Diamante (Diamond's Point) due to the nearby joint of the rivers surrounding the city (the Grande and the Chico) where the Salvador cemetery lies nowadays. The city hardly survived for a year, as it was also destroyed by the Indians.
Finally, the Spanish military superiority was imposed and in April 19, 1593, Francisco de Argañaraz y Muguía founded San Salvador de Velazco en el Valle de Jujuy, the present provincial capital.
During the wars for independence, Jujuy became the field for the battles between the Northern Army and the realista forces.
Two years after the May Revolution, Jujuy would deliver its best children. The low military formation, in addition to the lack of necessary elements and the lower number led to the logical outcome of the Cotagaita, Nazareno and Desagüadero defeats. There was not much the patriot leaders that assumed command of the Northern Army -such as Francisco Ortiz de Ocampo, Antonio González Balcarce, Juan José Castelli and Juan Martín de Pueyrredón- could have done.
Only the victory of November 7, 1810 in Suipacha, which represents the first Argentinian victory in the war for independence managed by the northern gauchos led by Martín Miguel de Güemes and supported by the porteño captain Balbastro, elevated and kept the faith among them. The figure of Manuel Belgrano is known by all the Argentinians, especially those from Jujuy, who have turned him into a hero of national emancipation par excellence.
Belgrano arrived in Jujuy in May 19, 1812 and was welcomed by the people in general who saw the Norhtern Army and its new commander as the solution to the threat of the realista invasion. The situation was clear and its general guidelines followed the government forecast. Circumstances placed Belgrano before a hardship. With the enemy's advance, Belgrano ordered that Coronel Diaz Velez should take up command of the Humahuaca vanguard.
On the night of August 22, the definite order to abandon the village was given and the following morning, all the citizenship of Jujuy left the city. In the mid afternoon, most of the army went out whereas Belgrano did not do likewise until midnight. In the evening of the 23, the patriot rear guard was being attacked from various flanks and it could only be spared thanks to the vigorous action of Captain Zelaya, who organized the withdrawal under the enemy's fire.
On August 24, the realista vanguard entered Jujuy.
General Manuel Belgrano led the withdrawal, which was known as “Éxodo Jujeño" (Jujuy's Exodus). Jujuy had to put up with eleven realista invasions.
Eventually, in February 20, 1813, the battle of Salta sealed the fate of the realista army. A skillful maneuver by Belgrano left the enemy in a disadvantageous position and forced it to surrender and suffer a devastating defeat.
Once the surrender was signed, the Spaniards withdrew into Jujuy, which was being defended by a strong fraction that was still resisting. The realistas continued with a hasty march from this city towards Upper Perú.
After the vicotory, Jujuy's migrators headed towards Jujuy leaving the army in Salta.
On February 25, the patriot government was re-established in the city. Coronel José Bolaños was appointed governor.
Expeditions to Upper Perú followed until Belgrano's health set up the need for a replacement. Then, San Martín, with the aid of Martín de Güemes and his gaucho militia, by dint of unrivalled shrewdness, sacrifice and courage, could liberate these lands, which had been several times devastated in the ups and downs of military operations.