The celebration is a two-for-one, at least if you are young and like to drink to excess. Our hotel was located next to the alameda you see being cleaned above. On the other side of the street from the alameda was the Fiesta Sagrada advertised by the banner above which was basically a concert that aired from sundown to 6 a.m. The bass was cranked up so much that our room shook, needless to say we got little sleep. The alameda was full of young people listening to the music, drinking huge quantities of beer and urinating and vomiting pretty much wherever they were standing. I give the city of Ayacucho credit for a quick cleanup since this crew started at sunup and had the place shipshape each day by 9 o'clock.
The second celebration took place in the center of colonial Ayacucho which has been fairly well preserved. The city has 35 churches, one for each year of Jesus' life. The Plaza de Armas, or main square, was the center of activity. On Friday night, the dead Jesus is carried around the square after sunset led by a choir, quite a solemn affair. Leading up to this parade and continuing through the weekend there is a huge block party of families and religious organizations playing music and dancing in the streets.
Vestiges of human settlements dating to 15-20,000 years ago were found at Pikimachay, located 25 kilometers north of Ayacucho, making it the oldest known inhabited site in Peru.
The Wari were mentioned in others blogs, for example Pisac. Although the empire fell sometime around 900 CE, the cities and towns continued to be inhabited. Many of the building techniques--trapezoidal windows and doors, stonework, terraces, irrigation--for which the Inca are famous were actually pioneered by the Wari. 400 years is a long time to improve skills. The Inca only had about 200 years of empire, cut short by Pizarro.
The whole area encompasses 1600 hectares, of which 400 was an urban area enclosed by an 8 meter high defensive wall. The site is only 5% excavated so there is still plenty to be discovered. Signs of the treasures possibly concealed there were evident in the pottery shards strewn across the paths. Along with the ruins, there is an informative museum. Slide show follows.
The final battle of South America's war for independence from Spain was fought on the 9th of December in 1824. The outcome of the battle was never in doubt as it was the last stand of a crumbling empire. The site is commemorated by an obelisk dedicated to the soldiers who fought there. Just as at Pikimachay, there is little there beside the obelisk. But there were plenty of Peruvians there to learn about their history during Semana Santa. Just as in much of Peru, it's also a reason to gather to eat and talk.