The second post in my Peruvian throwback series is about Ollantaytambo, a small town in the Urubamba province of southern Peru. Ollantaytambo is about 60 kilometers out from Cusco, one of the major stops during my Peruvian adventure. It is an ancient Incan archaeological site, originally acting as a royal estate for the Incan nobility to live. It has since seen conquest, resistance and the Spanish Conquistadors, as well as even once acting as a temporary capital for the Incan empire when the Spanish conquered nearby Cusco.
Ollantaytambo is host to some of South America’s oldest continuously occupied dwellings. Many are as old as the late 15th century. The houses have wooden doors that are wider at their base than at their height, and a large stone lintel across the entire length of the archway.
The valleys surrounding Ollantaytambo required extensive terracing to be agriculturally effective. This has created a rather complex and surprisingly complicated agricultural understanding. There is a single species of crop that can live and flourish at the very precise altitude of only one or two terraces. Thus, each terrace can host its own species of crop, such as potatoes. Across from the valleys and into the hillsides, qollqa (store houses) with built in ventilation systems kept rations high and cool. You may look twice thinking you’ve seen a face in the stone face near the qollqa. You have, but it is a friendly one, known as Wiracochan. Wiracochan is the messenger of Viracocha, the creator god. You can see his protruding nose and furrowed eyes carved into the stone.
My favourite kind of history across all cultures are the folklores and fairy tales. You can observe a lot about a culture by the legends its people tell and the values they keep. This one is a forbidden love story from the ancient Incas.
The Story of Ollantay
In the capital city of Cusco, was a common boy named Ollantay. Despite his humble beginnings, Ollantay worked hard at becoming a strong warrior. It soon became apparent that this young man is very skilled at fighting. Ollantay rises with each success and soon he is elevated to the title of General. An Incan General holds equal social status to nobility, a far ways up from his peasant beginnings.
Ollantay falls in love with a beautiful woman named Kusi Quyllur (Happy Star). Kusi Quyllur is the daughter of the Inca ruler Pachacuti (He Who Shakes The Earth), and their relationship is forbidden due to Ollantay’s commoner beginnings. But the two are blinded by their love and start to meet in secret with the help of Kusi Quyllur’s mother, Quya Anawarkhi.
Ollantay wishes to marry Kusi Quyllur and seeks out the high priest for help. The high priest reveals many bad omens foretelling negative outcomes if Ollantay tries to marry Kusi Quyllur. Despite this, Ollantay still decides to ask Pachacutec if he may marry Kusi Quyllur.
When Ollantay speaks with Pachacuti, the Inca ruler is furious and believes that his general has forgotten his commoner origins. Pachacuti thus expels Ollantay from the royal court and secretly imprisons his daughter in the Acllahuasi (House of Chosen Women). Ollantay soon learns that Kusi Quyllur is no longer at the palace, and believes that she has been killed. Along with his servant and confidant Piqui Chaqui (Flea Foot), Ollantay leaves the imperial capital of Cusco and settles in Ollantaytambo, a city that has been named in honour of Ollantay’s great victories. Ollantay promises that one day, he will return and destroy Cusco and Pachacuti.
Some months after her imprisonment, Kusi Quyllur gives birth to Ollantay’s daughter, whom she calls Ima Sumac (How Beautiful). She cannot contact Ollantay, so Kusi Quyllur gives her daughter to her friend Pitu Salla (Twinned Love) to raise as though she were her own.
Meanwhile in Ollantaytambo, a following of supporters for Ollantay begin to gather and arm themselves for a battle. Pachacuti hears of the gathering and orders his general Rumi Nawi (Stone-Eyed) to gather warriors and march to confront Ollantay. Ollantay sends his own general Orqo Waranka (A Thousand Mountains) to ambush Rumi Nawi at the mountain pass. Orqo Waranka succeeds in the ambush but Rumi Nawi escapes capture. Battles continue without much success for ten years until Pachacuti dies and passes his empire to his son Tupac Yupanqui.
Tupac Yupanqui wants to end the fighting and decides to capture Ollantay once and for all. Rumi Nawi vows to redeem himself and offers a deceptive plan. Tupac Yupanqui sends Rumi Nawi to the gates of Ollantaytambo covered in wounds, pretending that the new ruler has betrayed him and he wants to join Ollantay’s forces. When Ollantay opens the city gates, Rumi Nawi’s men capture Ollantay, Orqo Waranka and all the other rebels. Rumi Nawi returns to Cusco victorious in his redemption.
After consulting with his advisors, Tupac Yupanqui sentences all of the prisoners to death. When he further considers his choice though, Tupac Yupanqui changes his mind and reverses his sentence at the very last minute. Tupac Yupanqui decides that it is better to have such strong warriors as his allies, so he decides to not only pardon them, but also to give them high ranking, respectable posts through out the empire. Ollantay is named as the senior general and deputy of Tupac Yupanqui, while Orqo Waranka is named as the ruler of the Antisuyu province.
Still in the Acllahuasi, Kusi Quyllur has been imprisoned for over ten years and has suffered in the hands of Mama Caca, the Stone Mother. One day, Ima Sumac accidentally learns that her mother is actually a princess locked away in the Acllahuasi. She decides to go see the new Incan ruler and ask for forgiveness for her mother so that she may be released. Ima Sumac enters the imperial palace and speaks with Tupac Yupanqui, who doesn’t not know who Ima Sumac is, but is interested in what she has to say. Both Tupac Yupanqui and Ollantay follow Ima Sumac to the Acllahuasi. There, they find a ghostly woman with very long, black hair who Tupac Yupanqui recognizes as his long lost sister Kusi Quyllur. Kusi Quyllur explains to her brother what their father did to her, and Tupac Yupanqui instantly releases her. On Ollantay’s request, he also approves of Kusi Quyllur and Ollantay’s union, and immediately allows Ollantay and Kusi Quyllur to marry.
Anyone who is curious about any historical accuracy, there was indeed a ruler by the name of Pachacuti who ruled the Kingdom of Cusco and expanded it into the Inca Empire, the Tawantinsuyu. He ruled from 1438-1471/1472 with his wife Quya Anawarkhi and was succeeded by his son Tupac Yupanqui. Pachacuti’s father is believed by the Incans to have been Viracocha.