Back up the Andes – to Ayacucho for some Wari culture and post-civil war enquiry

So enough of this mucking about at sea level and enjoying hot weather on beaches, it’s back up the mountains for a while for us. This time to the Ayacucho region in the south central Andes of Peru, an area steeped in Andean history for the last 2000 years, with a rebellious reputation that has endured. The history of the Wari (or Huari) culture intrigues because of its influence on the later ‘Inca empire’; the Battle of Ayacucho (1824) was a final stage of the war for Peru’s ‘independence’ from Spain; and for the last 20 years of the 20th century Ayacucho was at the centre of a bloody civil war that convulsed Peru and has repercussions to this day.

La Vida en el Abismo (Life in the Abyss – Trainspotting 2)
We travelled back to Lima first from Trujillo by bus, less than 600km down the pretty straight Pan-American Norte during the day. It took a hellish 12+ hours, the last 30km from the outskirts of Lima to the central bus station took 3.5 hours. Not good! So we were delighted to find the Trainspotting 2 film showing in a cinema in the Plaza San Miguel, near where we were staying for a couple nights, 7km from Lima’s central district. Luckily for us it was showing not dubbed but in english, with very poor spanish subtitling. What a brilliant film, full of social comment, and laughs, and a great depiction of the addict’s life by Spud. Afterwards we found a suitably sketchy backstreet bar nearby, called El Refugio, and got a wee bit pissed, we could even smoke outside whilst doing so. A great night all round!

The Wari (or Huari) were a culture that originated in the Ayacucho region around 4-500AD, and have come to be seen as the first ‘Imperial Andean’ empire. After a slow start they used military might and a complicated religious belief system to control most of Peru (Andean & coastal areas) all the way down to where today’s Bolivia starts around Lake Titicaca on the Andean Altiplano. They were quite sophisticated in their urban centres, admin, irrigation, roads, agriculture, art and craft skills. Then around 10-1100AD they seem to have quite quickly disappeared. We’d like to know more!

an early SP propaganda poster

The Battle of Ayacucho (December 1824) came late in the war of Independence from Spain, but was deemed to be a decisive victory, although remants of the colonialists fought on until 1826. Given the Ayacucho region’s rebellious past we wonder why this region was one of the last to clear out the Spanish? 156 years later Ayacucho was the starting place for the rebellion launched by a maoist communist group called Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). What started as an apparent struggle for the emancipation of the indigenous campesinos, turned into a very bloody civil war across much of Peru, as Shining Path proved to be an utterly ruthless authoritarian bunch who turned on the campesinos, whilst at the same time the Peruvian state ran a dirty war against the people of the region. So the indigenous campesinos ended up being heavily persecuted by both sides – by their so-called liberators, and their long-term oppressors. What we wonder is the region like some 17+ years after the end of the military operations?

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