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Legends of Cusco

As we have said in past notes, the great city of Cusco was formerly the capital of the majestic Tahuantinsuyo empire. Today, we are the heirs of an ancient culture. This is reflected not only in the archaeological complexes that have survived throughout the city and the Sacred Valley, but also in the architecture of many of its buildings that are still standing, and by the tradition that has been verbally transmitted and still remains live today.

On this occasion, we are going to share with you five myths and legends that originate from the navel of the world.

The Legend of the Ayar Brothers

In the past we have already told you about the legend of the Ayar Brothers, a story full of magic and mysticism. The Tampu Tocco mountain was devastated by a major flood. It is said that four young brothers appeared at the mountain top, each with his respective wife. They were: Ayar Manco and Mama Ocllo, Ayar Cachi and Mama Cora, Ayar Uchu and Mama Rahua and Ayar Auca and Mama Huaco, who together with ten “ayllus” (an Inca organization that groups 10 families) undertook a long journey in search of fertile land where they could settle.

Along the way, each brother fell until only Ayar Manco was left standing with his wife Mama Ocllo. After many years walking, he was finally able to sink the golden cane that the god Inti gave him into fertile land, a place that today we know as the city of Cusco and that is how the Tahuantinsuyo was founded, which later would become the Empire of the Incas.

The Legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo

Although there are different stories about the origins of the Tahuantinsuyo empire, the legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo is the best known. In ancient times, the god Inti sent his two sons, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, to put order within the anarchism that existed among the peoples in Cusco. The objective of sending his children was to undertake a teaching and learning campaign to civilize the people.

In this way, Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo emerged from Lake Titicaca, in Puno, and began their journey through the Andean lands. The god gave each one a golden rod to bury in the places they reached and settle in the place where it sank.

These rods ended up sinking in the Valley of Cusco, where they stayed to establish a small manor. Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo dedicated themselves here to teach all the crafts, techniques and other works necessary to get the Andean people out of their primitivism.

This legend explains how Peruvians learned the techniques of agriculture, ceramic, livestock, textiles, culinary art, etc.

The Legend of the Condor

Legend has it that in a village in Cusco a man lived with his small daughter. Every day, an elegant young man dressed in black with a white scarf and hat went to visit this man’s daughter to play with her. Over time, they became very good friends since they played every game. One day, this young man decided to play to carry her, and the girl realized that they were flying through the skies.

The young man left the girl in a niche on the edge of a ravine, and he was transformed into a beautiful condor. During the following months, this bird took charge of caring for and raising the girl and, after a few years, she became a woman and gave birth to a beautiful boy, the son of the condor. Unfortunately, the girl, now a woman, cried day and night saying that she missed her father very much, whom she had left in town, but the condor was turning a deaf ear and holding the poor woman captive.

One day, a hummingbird appeared at the niche of the ravine. When she saw him, the young woman cried “Oh, hummingbird, my little hummingbird! How lucky you are. You have wings! I have no way of getting out of here. A few years ago, a condor disguised as a young man brought me here. Now I am a woman and I have given birth to his child. The hummingbird, moved by her weeping, promised to find her father and tell him everything that happened so he could rescue her. At this, the young woman said “Listen to me, hummingbird. You know my house, right? In my house there are hundreds of beautiful flowers. I assure you that if you help me, all the flowers in my house will be yours! ».

After hearing this, the hummingbird flew to the village. He easily located the father and told him what had happened. However, in order to go to the rescue, the little bird told the man that they should take an old donkey and two toads on the rescue trip. When they reached the bottom of the ravine, they left the old donkey, who was already dead, so that the condor would be distracted by eating it. They climbed the ravine, rescued the young woman from the niche, and left the two toads in her place. One was bigger than the other.

After the rescue, the young woman returned to live happily with her father in the village. As the last detail of this meticulous plan, the hummingbird went to the condor and said: «Hey, condor. A misfortune has happened in your house! Your wife and your child have turned into toads. The condor, very concerned, flew away to see what had happened, but neither the young woman nor her son was inside the niche. Only two toads now inhabited their home. The bird of prey was scared but could do nothing. 

From that moment on, the hummingbird is every day among the flowers in the girl’s house. While she, her son and her father live happily in the community.

The Legend of the Llanganates Treasure

As history tells us, in 1532, when Francisco Pizarro founded the city of San Miguel de Piura as the beginning of the conquest of the Inca empire, some time before the capture of Atahualpa in Cajamarca, the powerful emperor did not take long to notice that the Spaniards had a great appreciation for gold. 

This is why the emperor promised to fill a room with gold, known as the Ransom Room, in exchange for his freedom. Although Pizarro agreed to the deal, he chose not to trust the Inca emperor due to the great influence that he exerted over the rest of his followers. For this reason, he broke the deal, and the destiny of Atahualpa was execution by garrote in 1533. The death penalty was carried out before the Ransom Room reached his hands.

Legend has it that the Inca general Rumiñahui was heading to Cajamarca with an estimated 750 tons of gold for the rescue, but when he learned that Atahualpa had been assassinated, he returned to Quito (Ecuador) and took the treasure to the Llagantis mountain range. Once there, he found a lake where he dumped the entire treasure. Despite being captured, imprisoned, and tortured by the Spaniards, he remained loyal to his late emperor, never ever revealing the location of the treasure.

The Legend of Yupanqui’s Vision

This story tells us that Túpac Yupanqui, son of the Inca Pachacútec, went to visit him in the time prior to his accession to the throne. After some time traveling, he came to a fountain where he saw a piece of glass fall into it. In this glass he saw the reflection of a man dressed as the leader of the Incas and three rays of sun came out of his head.

Túpac Yupanqui, scared, tried to run out of the place, but a voice told him not to fear because the vision that had been presented to him was of the god Inti. This voice also told him that he would conquer many territories and that he should always remember and make sacrifices in honor of his father, the Sun.

Sometime later, Túpac Yupanqui succeeded his father as the new emperor of the Tahuantinsuyo, and among the buildings he commissioned was a statue of the Sun built as it had been presented to him in that water body, as well as numerous temples to adore it.

If you would like to learn more about the Inca culture and about the ancient legacy of the Incas, we invite you to travel on board our PeruRail Vistadome panoramic trainsBuy your tickets here!

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