Ayacucho, Perú


Ayacucho, Perú, sits at an elevation of 2761 meters (9,058 feet) in a high Andes Mountains plain or plateau called Altiplano. The greater metropolatin area has a population of around 182,000 people. Ayacucho was founded in 1540 as "San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga" and known simply as Huamanga until 1825. The official name was changed by Simón Bolívar in 1825 through a decree to commemorate the battle of Ayacucho during the Peruvian War of Independence. Ayacucho is famous for its 33 churches, which represent one for each year of Jesus' life. Ayacucho has large religious celebrations, especially during the Holy Week of Easter. These celebrations include horse races featuring Peruvian Caballos de Paso (This Peruvian horse is a breed of light saddle horse known for its smooth ride. It is distinguished by a natural, four-beat, lateral gait called the paso llano. This breed is protected by the Peruvian government and has been declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation by the National Institute of Culture) and the traditional running of the bulls, known locally as the jalatoro or pascuatoro. The jalatoro is similar to the Spanish encierro (the famous 'running of the bulls'), except that the bulls are led by horses of the Morochucos (cowboys of the Peruvian Andes Plains).

Archeologists have found remnants of civilizations dating back 15,000 years just 25 kilometers north of Ayacucho. That far back the Nazca and the Warpa people lived in the area. The Wari civilization inhabited the area between 500-900AD. Then the Incas conquered the Wari. Then along came the Spanish conquistadores. The Spanish colonial founding of Huamanga (Ayacucho) was led by conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1540. He named the town San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga. The city's main University was founded in 1677 as 'San Cristóbal of Huamanga University'. Ayacucho was significant in the colonial era for being an administrative center and a stopping-off point between Lima and Cuzco. In 1825, Simón Bolívar changed the city's name to Ayacucho, renaming it after the historical Battle of Ayacucho. Even though the city gained a new name and some fame, the economy declined following independence. There were attempts to revive the city's fortunes with a planned railway but the line was terminated in Huancavelica (about 200 km northeast). The highway was constructed in 1968.

The city's economy is based on agriculture and light manufacturing, including textiles, pottery, leather goods, and jewelry and metal work. Ayacucho is a regional tourism destination for its 33 churches built in the colonial period, and for the nearby battlefield of La Quinua, where the Ayacucho battle was fought in 1824. The University of San Cristóbal was reopened in 1959.

The climate of Huancayo is classified as a tundra climate. The average daily high is 23.8° C (74.9° F), while the nightly average temp is 9.3° (48.7° F). The valley averages 1117 mm (44 inches) of rain per year. The humidity is 64% - 79%. In comparing Ayacucho to Huancayo there is a big difference in temperature due to the lower elevation of Ayacucho. No, the numbers do not indicate huge differences but believe me, you do feel the difference. For me, the climate here in Ayacucho is much, much better.

While Huancayo has essentially no classic or colonial architecture left in the city, Ayacucho has what appears to be more of the colonial-era buildings than new buildings. Pretty much the entire city center is a historical area. The city center is a typical busy place, the streets are generally clean, the sidewalks often narrow as the streets are often narrow, and that is because so many of them date back hundreds of years. As I mentioned above, there are 33 churches, one for each year of the life of Christ. I have photos of 13 here in the city center, and I tried to get interior shots as well. If you look at the photo album you will see pics of a church and maybe inside it and then a plaque that has the name and year of construction. Not all of the churches have the plaque, but the ones that did I took a picture of it. I was here in town one full day and that is not enough to see all of those churches, if you were to try to. They are scattered all over the city and a few outside the city. So, should you put Ayacucho on your to-visit-in-Perú list? Yes, I belive you should.