Huancayo Peru, The Unconquerable City Day 1
Huancayo Peru….The city of Huancayo is part of the province of the same name and is the capital of the department of Junín. Located to the south of Mantaro’s Valley and on the 3271 masl, it has become the most important city in the central mountain range of Peru. The name comes from the Quechua word Wanqayuk (Wanca = stone, yuk = the one that owns), which would mean “the place of the stone”.
Historically, the area was inhabited by the Huancas (1200 to 1460 AD), who dedicated the area to agriculture and built its populations on the mountaintops of the Mantaro Valley. It was annexed to the Inca Empire although, because of its bellicose character, it was not an easy town to manage.
In the colony, in June of 1572 the “Indians town” was founded with the name of “Santísima Trinidad de Huancayo”; the Liberator Don José de San Martín received the title of “Incontrastable” (unconquerable – decree of March 19, 1822) for its sacrifice, courage and support for the liberating cause. Its soldiers did not form a regular army, as the Huancas were guerrillas and more than 5,000 fell, in the fight against the Spaniards.
The decade of the ’80s was terrible for Huancayo as well as for many of the departments of the highlands and central jungle. Sendero Luminoso and MRTA terrorists subjected the area to harassment, violence, looting, and murder of the native communities of the area such as the Ashaninka. Regardless of age or sex, children were kidnapped and converted to terrorism. These communities formed the first anti-subversive rounds with traditional bows and arrows, then and with the support of the army, with rifles and other basic weapons.
That fighting spirit is what has driven them to overcome the era of terror and build prosperity, despite all the problems. Agriculture and livestock have become its main activities, being currently the third producers of dairy products in the country, behind Cajamarca and Arequipa.
They also raise trout and manufacture handicrafts and knits. Liquors and honey are produced and in recent years tourism has become another source of income. The city bustles with commercial activity and several malls have been built. In terms of hotel capacity, there is still much to do but something that is appreciated is that everyone has hot water, something vital, the sun heats up from 10 am until around 5 in the afternoon, then one feels very cold, brrrrr!
Like many cities in the country, Huancayo also sleeps very late and rises early but there is something that impressed me favorably, it is a town that is very proud of its roots, respects its customs, exalts patriotism, and has achieved a balance between it’s past and the present. Maybe it was a regional festival, but wherever I went I always found people with their typical clothes. The radio stations let one hear music from the region and there were native dance events.
Huancayo is also receiving Venezuelan emigrants who work in various jobs as waiters, security agents, vendors, etc., or they are seen in the markets where job offers or rooms for rent are published, but as in all “mass migration”, there are good and bad people. For those bad ones who have committed crimes, now the Huancaínos warn you to be careful with the Venezuelans. It is a pity that mistrust and distrust are growing like weeds.
There is a wide variety of fresh agricultural products and meats as can be seen in the markets, resulting in a rich cuisine which I will write about later, and yet, I have not seen obese people, and it is something that caught my attention.
I was only there for a couple of days and I could not learn much. I hope, in a future visit to go to the Nevado Huaytapallana, visit native communities of the Mantaro Valley, or see the archaeological remains of the Huancas. I want to learn more about this simple and hardworking town, that it says with pride, that it works in the fields or raises cattle or is a weaver.
El Ingenio Huancayo Peru, Day 2 – Trout’s Paradise
El Ingenio Huancayo Peru….It was Saturday, the second day of my trip, and I had to buy the ticket back to Lima for Sunday, then go to the agency to pick up a money transfer. Thus, my day was free, from 10 am until my 9.30 pm departure. Any plan to know distant areas from Huancayo had to be discarded, but I did not want to stay in the city.
There was a place that I wanted to understand, it was called El Ingenio, where there are fish farms for breeding trout. The common means of public transport in Huancayo are taxis, which form legally registered companies, and vans or “combi” that go everywhere, I didn’t see large buses in the city. Near the Plaza Huamanmarca, about 3 blocks from the Hotel and where a dance festival was held, was a combi that would transport me to Ingenio. On the road of approximately 1 hour to my destination, I was taking pictures while talking with my seatmate, a kind old man who, in addition to orienting me on places I could meet in such a short time, also told me part of his life and his activities.
He proudly told me that he lived in the countryside as a farmer. His entire production of peas and potatoes was sold to one of the big supermarket chains in the country and that left him enough to live comfortably. In addition, as an adult, he had received an agricultural technologist degree and he felt very happy raising his cows and making cheeses.
He lived with his lifelong wife and one son, while the other three sons, were in different cities of the country and all dedicated to trade. His hands showed a life of plowing the earth, and his smile the satisfaction of having done everything right, with its good and bad times. He did not allow me to take a picture of him, but if inner peace has a face, it should look like Don José. He got off in Concepción and left me his blessing.
We arrived at Ingenio, which was the final stop of the van. We passed through the main square where there were groups of typical dances, finally, the combi was parked in the lower part of a paved road. The entrance to the complex was in the upper part, I was glad I had not gone to Huaytapallana (5557 masl), I resented the lack of air during the climb but my curiosity was strong.
The fish farm is open to the public. It is located at 3460 Masl and is the first, pilot, fish center nationwide. Its facilities include pools and artificial lagoons that use the waters of the Ingenio River. The waters of the ponds are controlled in levels and toxicity, keeping them free of any substance that could harm the fish.
Fingerlings are artificially incubated in Ingenio, creating millions of eggs that hatch, with the fingerlings developing quickly until reaching a size of 8 to 10 centimeters, and then they are “sown” in rivers and lagoons of the area.
The production of trout also supports school feeding, 114 schools are supplied with more than 20 thousand kilos of trout meat per year; and, in addition, peasant communities in the area are trained in the business management of hydrobiological resources, as well as environmental monitoring and control.
There is a tower inside the complex from where you get a beautiful view of the pools and the surroundings. The wall of the hill next to the tower has become the “guest book” where “sign” visitors with initials and hearts.
A stand near the tower sold royal jelly, honey, and other derivatives, including chicha (a fermented drink) of honey whose flavor was very similar to that of “chicha de jora”. The desire of the bees to enter the tap maybe mistaking it for the hive, made me decide to try the chicha … and I also bought a jar of delicious honey. Bees became the best promoters.
The rural landscape is beautiful, the greenery of its fields, the murmur of its waters, the variety of birds … everything contributes to making this visit relaxing. If also adding that there are many restaurants and a hostel, many with their own farms, make temptation a pleasure that I succumbed … my chest strokes were less than those I did on my full belly…