Arequipa and Colca Canyon History

From the era before the Spanish conquest, little is known of the region around Arequipa. At one point this area was inhabited by Aymara from the Lake Titicaca region, but the Inca’s have also left behind some proof of their dominance in this region.

The Misti volcano is currently inactive, but had strong eruptions between the years 1438 and 1471. Arequipa has more than 80 volcanoes nearby, most of which can be found in the Valley of the Volcanoes. Unfortunately the city was built on a very earthquake prone area, and was completely destroyed by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions during the 17th century.

The modern city of Arequipa was founded on 15 August 1540 by Garci Manuel de Carbajal, an emissary of the conqueror Francisco Pizarro. One year later King Charles V of Spain gave it the rank of city and the coat of arms that it still bears.

On 21 July 1821, when San Martin declared Peru’s independence from the Spanish colony, and during the 19th century Arequipa was one of the richer cities in Peru and hoe to a big part of Peruvian aristocracies.

Its colonial buildings were erected in sillar (pearl coloured volcanic rock) which was used abundantly throughout the city, giving it the nickname of "The White City". In 2000 when being declared the city centre a world heritage site, UNESCO declared; “The historic centre of Arequipa is an example of ornamental architecture, representing a masterpiece of the European creative coalition and native characteristics.” “A colonial village challenged by the conditions of nature, indigenous influence, the process of conquest and evangelization as well as spectacular natural scenery.”

The White City of Arequipa has become the centre of economic growth in the south and is one of the most important producers of cement, iron and milk in the country. This has allowed Arequipa to develop and grow in population and change over the years. In the mid-20th century, especially in the era of the Sendero Luminoso when many villages in the Andes suffered from the repression, there was an influx of immigration from the highlands and mountain areas, and now Arequipa’s population is a mixture of Spanish, indigenous and mixed.

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