Plaza de Armas

Cuzco, Peru

Submitted by: Duncan Cameron

Plaza de Armas is the center of the Historic section in Cuzco.

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Why It Works

Plaza de Armas is a beautifully landscaped plaza that includes a mixture of patterned trees and benches. The abundant shade, benches, sitting walls and steps make the plaza a popular lunchtime destination. The steps at the entry of the two Spanish Churches are also great for sitting, and are often used for elevated speaker platforms. Historically, the Plaza has served as the city’s primary meeting place. There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and stores spilling out into the Plaza. Many of the restaurants have outdoor tables, and there is constant entertainment throughout the day and night.

What Makes Plaza de Armas a Great Place?

People often cross through the Plaza as a short cut away from traffic or to avoid the curvy roads of Cuzco. The Plaza is most accessible by foot, but people often arrive by car. The most common meeting location for tourist groups is at the entrance stairs of La Cathedral in the Plaza. The Plaza is located at the center of the City and is accessible from all directions, making it a great meeting location.

At first you’ll observe the high velocity of people circulating throughout the Plaza. This is comforting for persons new to the area. Vehicles tend avoid the street adjacent to the plaza and also yield to pedestrians. The Plaza is well lit and offers various nooks and crannies to socialize in or to just be alone in.

People frequently walk through the Plaza at all times of the day or night. The Space is utilized by people of all ages as a meeting location, a place to relax, a place for social interaction, a tourist destination, to go to church, shop, or to eat at one of the many surrounding restaurant. The Plaza is used for special events like festivals, speakers, concerts, art exhibits, and demonstrations.

Plaza de Armas is the central destination in Cuzco. Tourists are encouraged to visit the Plaza to experience the culture, history, and people of the city.

History & Background

The Plaza de Armas was called ‘Huacaypata’ after its construction during the Inca Empire. The original plaza was twice the current size, and functioned as the cultural center of Inca life. Cuzco, which was the capital of the Inca Empire, was designed in the shape of a Puma to reflect their Inca animal mythology. Historians proclaim the plaza was intentionally built at the location of the heart of the Puma, in the center of the city. The location of the Plaza is no coincidence. The Plaza is used for most of the city’s events, gatherings, and festivals. Historians feel that the Plaza functioned as the cultural center, or "heart," of the Inca Empire.

In 1532 Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro defeated the Inca Empire and took control of Cuzco, renaming the Plaza to "Plaza de Armas." The Spanish reduced the size of the Plaza by building two Churches, la Catedral and la Compañia. La Catedral was built where the palace of Inca Wirancocha once stood. La Compañia was built in 1571 by the Jesuits during the time of Wayna Capac, the last ruler of the unconquered empire. An earthquake in 1650 destroyed the church leading to its immediate reconstruction, which resulted in one of the most beautiful churches in Latin America. The Plaza de Armas portrays the city's diverse history while remaining the center of Cuzco life and culture.

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