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Secrets of a square

Huacaypata, the old heart of Cusco

The main square in Cusco, as the only place in Peru and maybe America, is a privileged witness of the most important historic events in the Andean world. The old Huacaypata, as the Incas called it, will be always the "center" of the Tawantinsuyo: a fabulous empire leaded by the privileged sons of the Sun.

    If a spell or contrivance will turn the Main Square of Cusco into a human being, we are completely sure it will be an excited teller of great stories. It will be a unique character of uncertain age. In fact, nobody knows its age but it is likely to be more than one thousand years old.

    After being a silent witness of important events along centuries, the Main Square would have an endless number of stories to offer us. By the way, it would confirm us the legend that says it was marked by the mystic Manco Capac, who chose it as the symbolic center of the Empire following the orders of his father.
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    It will also tell us that at Inca times it was called "Huacaypata" a Quechua word without a definite meaning. Some people translate it as "Square of warriors" and others as " Square of regrets". These are the two meanings for this lovely Andean scenery, a place for religious and military ceremonies in the time of the Children Sun.

    And talking to us, it could not avoid show certain kind of vanity and pride. Thus, it has enough reasons for that, as it was the "center" from where all the paths to the four "suyos" left. The "suyos" were the territorial divisions of the immense empire: the powerful Tawantinsuyo.

    The questions would not be few; the answers would not be short. We would like it to tell us about the Inti Raymi, the ostentatious celebration to honour the Sun, or the details of that Inca celebration in which they took their ancient mummies in procession.

    Prosperous time for the inheritors of a culture that some years later would know the back of the luck. The misfortune will become human into those men of strange appearance who were coming from distant lands.

    What did it feel when Francisco Pizarro shouted loudly about conquering Cusco? It was March 23rd in 1534 and the conqueror founded a Spanish city in the Center of the Inca World. Then, churches and colonial houses, that we still see today, were built over the rests of the palaces and stone temples.

    And the Huacaypata, the symbolic center of the Tawantinsuyo around which Pachacutec, Huiracocha and Huayna Capac built their palaces, witnessed how its Inca structure changed until becoming a Main Square with its beautiful stone arcade that it still preserves. It was born again, but now it had a hybrid face, the same as the new children of these lands.

    It would probably tell us slowly, as wisdom usually express itself, how it witnessed the change performed in the "archaeological capital of America". It would say that the Spanish did not dare to destroy all that wonderful architecture in Cusco, instead they merged the two styles.

    It is proved by the construction of the Santo Domingo Church over the Koricancha or Sun Temple, the Santa Catalina Church over the Acllahuasi or Sun's virgins House, the Cathedral over the Suntur Wasi though it was then moved to the Huiracocha Inca Palace.

    The Main Square was indeed a witness of these changes. Cusco was taking a new appearance. The appearance of the evident syncretism, a perfect merge of two cultures: the Andean and the Occidental. This makes Cusco a unique city in the world declared by UNESCO as the Humanity Cultural Heritage in 1983.

    The questions would never finish. They would be persistent as the rain that get wet its pavements and gardens when the Andean sky start crying with those heavy tears that only have enough space into the eyelids of stormy clouds.

    We cannot stop talking with Huacaypata: a Square in Peru and maybe America that has been scenery of the more meaningful historic events. Some of them as cruel as the one of Tupac Amary II and all his family when they decided to fight against the oppression of the Spanish in 1780.

    The Square has managed to survive and remind us the greatness and miseries from the past. Currently, it is still the heart of the city even though we cannot listen to the terrible ancient roams any more. These have been replaced by quiet and amusing voices in different languages, apart from Spanish and Quechua, of the thousands of visitors that wander, have fun and are subjected to its indescribable enchantment.

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