The ruins of Quilmes can be reached from Cafayate (Salta) or from Tafi del Valle (Tucumán).
At first sight, the morning sun allows visitors to see a big mountain with different marks and traces from the rest of the mountains. You only need to get near it to see what it is all about and once the human eye gets a good view, everything changes completely.
The ruins of Quilmes, as they are known, belonged to the Calchaquí natives who settled on the hillsides and on the mountain range called Calchaquí, from which the tribes got their name: Quilmes and Calchaquí.
The huge mountain that seems taken from a fairy tale is a stone fortress. The pens and cactuses have contributed to the development of these communities that raised animals and grew quinoa, corn and other plantations that helped feed the people.
On the mountain range called Calchaquí
The place chosen to set their defense against the enemy
The city of the Calchaquí people
The highest part of what today we refer to as ruins was the place chosen by the locals to set their defense against the enemy. First, there were other tribes and eventually the Spanish conquerors who found a strong resistance upon arrival until they were able to impose themselves.
The Same Sun, The Same Rain
A gravel road takes us down to the foot of the hill named Alto del Rey (the King’s Heights) where this impressive city lies. None of its old inhabitants can be seen. With luck, visitors can find some traces of what once was this civilization, like arrow tips, stone or pottery axes.
The ruins of Quilmes were one of the most important pre-Hispanic settlements in Argentina and it is known that the Calchaquí tribe lived there from about 800 AD until 1666, when it was conquered by the Spanish. Most of the survivors were judged by the conquerors and taken to the south of the Province of Buenos Aires. They were taken prisoners in the nearby areas of the present District of Quilmes, which owes its name to them.
Today, walking along these ancient galleries, through its paths and passages as well as through its pens, where long ago the animals grazed or the children played, is a unique experience that attracts visitors as soon as they catch a glimpse of the mountain.
As the brilliant writer Ray Bradbury would say, perhaps a meeting between a man of these times and another of those times could take place. And perhaps, as it is seen today, the city of the Calchaquí people has not been destroyed, forgotten or abandoned. Its inhabitants, the same as always, continue living there more alive than ever. We just have to let our imagination soar.
Pablo Etchevers Eduardo Epifanio
See more points of interest in Tafí del Valle