Cusco Stories and Tips

Saqsaywaman

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member

Saqsaywaman is pronounced as "sexy woman" for those of us who are non-natives. The site was used both as a site of worship and a military fortress.

The site of Saqsaywaman was completed in 1508. It took 50 to 60 years to complete. It is said that 20 to 30 thousand men were involved in constructing the site. In addition, several thousand lives were lost during the construction.

Our guide presented us with several theories of why Saqsaywaman was constructed the way it was. One states that Cusco was planned in the shape of a Puma, which symbolized life. The main city forms the body of the puma. The river Tullumayo forms the spine of the puma. The ruins of Saqsaywaman forms the head of the puma. In fact, the name Saqsaywaman can be translated from the Quenca language into "speckled head." There are three parallel huge limestone walls, built on different levels. These zigzag walls are thought to represent the teeth on the puma’s head. There is another interpretation of these same three walls. Some believe it can represent the three levels of the Andean religious world. These three levels are the Ukyu Bucha (underground stage), the Kay Pacha (surface stage) and the Hanan Pacha (sky stage). Still another interpretation states the zigzagging walls represent the thunderbolts and lightning of the god llapa.

Many people are in awe today as to how the structure was built using only primitive tools. The irregular stones are fitted together in a variety of interlocking shapes with great precision. They used no mortar and still a single piece of paper will not fit between the stones. In fact, the structure has withstood several earthquakes .

Saqsaywaman has an important history behind it. In 1533, the Spanish under Pizarro overtook Cusco. The Spanish lived there for 2 years without opposition. Then in 1536, Manco Inca started a rebellion using the strategic Saqsaywaman as a base. For several weeks, Manco Inca’s forces prevailed. However after several weeks of fighting, the Spanish overtook Saqsaywaman one night and put the Incan forces they found to death. What is weird is that on the day we were there a group of Peruvians were playing soccer on the same fields that these events happened.

You can take a four hour tour to visit this site and others from Cusco for around $10. You can get here on your own by cab or bus as well. Use your $20 tourist ticket to get into this site as well as 15 other historical sites. Definitely, get a guide or read about the site before you go otherwise you will see just a bunch of rocks.

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