The City of Huaraz
Views from our hotel room, the same both nights we were here - 30th of September and 4th of October
The city of Huaraz is the capital of the State of Ancash and the seat of government of the Province of Huaraz. The urban population is distributed over the districts of Huaraz and Independencia. It was estimated in 2007 to exceed 120,000. Huaraz is headquarters of the province's Roman Catholic Bishop and the site of his official cathedral.
The Cathedral and the small part of original street left after the destruction of the town.
Location: Huaraz is in north-central Peru, about two hundred an sixty miles north of Lima, and at an altitude of ten thousand and thirteen feet. It is the largest population centre in the agriculturally important Callejón de Huaylas valley. The Callejon (in Spanish roughly meaning large valley or corridor) is a north-south valley bounded on the east by the Cordillera Blanca (permanent white snowcaps and glaciers) and on the west by the Cordillera Negra (no permanent snowcapped peaks or glaciers, hence black). The Cordillera Blanca includes Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru at twenty two thousand, two hundred and five feet and the third highest in the Western Hemisphere. Huascaran and the adjacent peak Huandoy in fair weather are clearly visible from Huaraz.
Huaraz Main Square.
History: In 1538, Fransisco Pizarro granted the right to collect taxes in Huaraz to the conquistador Sebastian de Torres. In 1574 Alonso de Huaraz Santoyo founded the village. From the beginning the Spaniards began exploiting the mineral wealth of the region. Several deposits of metal ores were discovered: silver, lead, tin and a small amount of gold. Availability of these metals for mining and smelting locally was the primary attraction of the Callejon area to Spain. Hundreds of the native Quechua-speakers by the 1570’s were labouring in the mines.
Recent history: Much of the north side and a large part of the center of the city were destroyed utterly in 1941 by floodwaters from a reservoir that was the city's municipal water supply. The reservoir dam was about four miles east of the town and six hundred feet in elevation above it. The dam burst from sudden overflow pressure caused by a fall of glacier ice probably caused by a localised tremor (earthquake). Within seconds the stream bed became an avalanche of water, mud, boulders and associated debris whose crest by the time it reached the city may have exceeded forty five feet above the stream bed. Four minutes after the dam burst the avalanche obliterated and covered the city's most modern suburb and destroyed most of the north half of the city. After the 1941 disaster the old reservoir dam was repaired but not replaced. Doubts about the safety of the dam were largely responsible for abandonment of that area for redevelopment.
Much repair work is on going
On the 31st of May 1970 the Ancash earthquake destroyed much of Huaraz, killing ten thousand people. Almost nothing was left of the old city with its narrow streets and big adobe casonas, roofed with tiles. The main square was the only major structure that survived the earthquake so the city was rebuilt around it. The old and big casonas were replaced with smaller houses while the old narrow streets were widened as they had proved to be death-traps during the earthquake. The earthquake was seven point eight on the Richter scale, duration of forty five seconds, as many as twenty thousand people were killed, leaving only ninety one survivors.
Communications: Huaraz is connected to the rest of the country through the Pan-American Highway and can be reached from Lima Casma or Chimbote in seven hours. A few miles to the north of Huaraz lies the small Anta airport which serves small planes from the two largest mining companies in the region as well as the regional airline LC Busre.
Tourism: The peaks of the region have been for many years the testing grounds for mountain climbers anticipating future expeditions into the Himalayas. Huaraz is a popular base for expeditions into the Cordillera Blanca and the Huayhuash south of the Callejon del Huaylas. Huascaran National Park is a popular destination for tourists, a UNESCO site since 1985. In the streets surrounding the farmers' market, the paraditas (street markets) of local sellers offer craft products such as ponchos, alpaca textiles (carpets, sweaters, etc.); jewelry made of locally-mined tin, copper, and silver; cuarteados (a typical dessert from the nearby town of Caraz made by mixing manjarblanco and fruit cake); boxes of manjarblanco, butter, cheese, honey, smoked and salty hams, jerky (Quechua charqui), etc. Huaraz is known as the 'Switzerland of the South' because of its beautiful peaks that are visible from the city centre.
Ladies repairing the mountain road, running welding repairs as the ladies sell oranges, a shopping street with the hillside behind
ALL IN ALL A BEAUTIFUL BACKDROP TO AN UNSPOILT AREA