You drive into the little village of Uquia (population about 300) and you might wonder why you are stopping. After all, this is a tiny place, the whole village seems to be concentrated on one street. Interestingly, this village has two major reasons to come and visit.
One is its church, San Fransisco de Paula, which houses an important trove of paintings from the Cuzco school. When the Spaniards conquered the Inca Empire in 1534 they gradually started bringing Christianity to the region. Religious artists were sent to Cuzco to teach the natives the European techniques of painting, the first such effort in the Americas. This effort, perhaps intended to create artists who could faithfully copy European works instead resulted in an interesting development that combined native tendencies and tastes with the established European way of painting. One thing that is different is the use of color. The Cuzco school painters included more earth colors as well as bright reds and yellows. Interestingly, these colors you will see everywhere in the Andean region- they are for example the dominant colors in indigenous clothes.
The church in Uquia has a large collection of 10 paintings of what they call the angeles arquebuceros (Angels with an Arquebus). The arquebus was an early muzzle loaded rifle.
I was not able to find out why such a small church in such a remote place would have such an important collection. Some have argued that this portrayal of the angels in fact was entirely familiar to the Quechua natives, perhaps serving as a more modern adaptation of their own "warrior angels." Thus, a fascinating mixing of the two cultures, the European and Andean...both artistically, culturally and religiously.
Across from the main square of Humahuaca is Santa Barbara Hill. While you will often see statues of the Spanish conquerors or national heroes near the main plazas, this is entirely different.
This region had an important part to play in the War of Independence. At the time, this was a crossroads, a strategic location on the road to the colony of Alto Peru (what is today Bolivia), which because of its natural resources (silver particularly) was far more important to the Spaniards than was Argentina. The monument shows a native chief, and I have heard different versions of who that might be, with reliefs of the battles that took place. 14 battles were fought in this region.
Some say that this monument honors the Army of the North, the locals might argue that it honors the important role that the indigenous people played, After all, Humahuaca successfully resisted 11 sieges by royalists.
Every day at noon in Humahuaca locals and tourists will come to see a local event. At midday the clock tower opens up and out comes the figure of San Fransisco Solano. The mechanism is quite intricate. As the bells are tolling the Saint makes the sign of the cross and goes back into the tower. Actually, the statue doesn't make a crossing motion, he is able to raise each of his hands and the stutue turns a bit, so it appears he is making the sign of the cross.
The Statue is 1.80 meters tall and was sculpted by Antonio Gargiulo, an Argentine sculptor. Somehow, the clock mechanism controls the whole movement of the statue.
The statue represents Francisco Solano, a Fransiscan friar (1549-1610), who was later sainted. Among his works in healing the sick, particularly during the plaguesin Europe. In 1589, he came to the New World, evangelizing in what is today Tucuman Province in Argentina. He was reputed to have a facility with languages and was able to learn the native languages quickly, which would be an enormous feat given how different the local languages are from anything he might have been familiar with. It is said that he was able to foretell the large earthquake in Peru in 1618, after his own death. Solano was sainted in 1726,
If the name sounds familiar, Mission San Fransisco Solano is one of the California Missions.
It should probably come as no surprise that there are archeological remains throughout the entire Humahuaca Gorge, the region served an important strategic function long before the Spaniards set foot in these parts.
Directly behind the village of Uquia you take the dirt road up. You will reach what they call the Quebrada de Coctaca. What this site is known for is the cultivation terraces, common in the Andean-Incaic settlements. The Pucara is in ruins, you are better off seeing the one in Tilcara which is well restored.
You can now find several guides in Uquia (and Humahuaca and neighboring villages) that now conduct cabalgatas (horse riding) and hikes out to this area. Really they don't market it just as visiting archeological remains as that would draw relatively small interest, instead it is a chance to explore the colorful scenery. If you go, be mindful that this is at about 2800 meters of altitude, if your body has'nt had a chance to get used to the altitude you will not be happy if you try going on a strenous hike.
Overview thx to "Moon travel planner"
Salta la Linda (the beauty) in the north of Argentina
Ideal location to visit (daytrip) Cafayate in the south (RN49) and Park National Los Cardones.
Second daytrip : to Humahuaca and it's valley, in the north .
Also a highlight and more to the south, Parque Nacional Talampaya.
Alternatives : Humahuaca after a stay in Jujuy, PNT after a stay in La Rioja
Humahuaca, a very small town but so reflecting the life of the original inhabitants.
The central "Plaza" is impressive, the local markets of indian handycrafts typical, a cheap remembrance by a statue to an Indian hero.
But never let us forget that the spanish invasion in the 16 century graved this civilization, "parked" the locals in a kind of reservation areas, especially in the north of Argentina.
This is a politic personel statement and efinatly history, forget about this, this is a travel sharing website.
Painters Valley/Palet is a fantastic and impressive valley to see, located somewhere on the
road RN9 in the Quabrada de Humahuaca.
Make a stop here, near the cementary of Maimara.
Next to the panoramic view, school children will give you a small present, not asking for money, but simply giving you their personel adres, so you can write them or send a postcard from your country. They are collecting postcards from all over the world. Don't disappoint them.
In Quachua language Purmamarca means "town of the lion" and in Aimara language means "town of virginal earth". Pumamarca rises 2275 metres above the sea level and is encircled by the River Purmamarca in the north and by hillocks, forming a canyon, in the south. As it is placed at the base of the Cerro de los Siete Colores the place has a special charm.
The Cerro de los Siete Colores ("Hill of the Seven Colours") that has sedimentary rocks of different colours -ochre, red, purple- and is placed behind the city in the Canyon of Purmamarca, a canyon that meets the Canyon of Humahuaca.
From the plaza, a staircase climbs to the Monumento made by the Tilcara sculptor Ernesto Soto Avendaño. The Indian statue is a example of indigenismo, a nationalist tendency in Latin American art and literature that romantically extols the virtues of native cultures. Even if the statue is not interesting for you, the view from there on the village is really beautiful.
After the chapel, the curved path with the goats, this is what you can see, on the top of the white mountain : cactus everywhere and a wonderful valley.
And once again, I let my imagination flow :
I loved the cactus on the front...do they not look like dancers in the arms of each other?
The walk is really nice to the chapel, but even nicer if you go further on the path penetrating in the heart of the moutain...you will then see a strange vegetation covering the curved path and also goats!
The chapel built in the rock is a really nice place and offers a very nice view of the valley. The white of the rocks is really strong even with the sun of 7pm and make you feel in another lunar world!
A nice walk to do if you have time is to follow the Av. Ejercito del Norte till the Peña Blanca, a white mountain/cliff situated at one end of the valley. We did this trail, passing through adobe houses and adobe field, without knowing that it way so nice up there and that there was actually something special to see : at the end, at the foot of the white hill, there was a stair leading to a little chapel integrated in the rock with a blue virgin... a discovering that suprised us and that we enjoyed very much! The view on the valley is also wonderful!
The streets of Humahuaca are wonderful...Empty , they give a feeling of isolated old town in the desert...the cobbled stones reflect the light of the sun that extend the horizont...like a dead town of a poetic beauty...And when they become alive thanks to the population, they get this authentic indian atmosphere...hats and indian ponchos colors the streets bleached by the sun...
The cabildo is famous for its clock tower, where a life-size figure of San Fransisco Solano emerges daily at noon to deliver a benediction. I haven't had the chance to see it but maybe a next time ;-) It was already very nice to see the building anyway ;-)