Some of Arequipa’s old buildings hint at the existence of ancient mysteries: mysteries which, when unraveled, reveal a fascinating history of past civilizations, and La Hostería lies in a privileged position within this city to allow us to uncover some of these secrets.
Located on the edge of the “Coa”ronda, its toponymy suggests a place dedicated to terrace-based agriculture, a coabeing a wooden tool used to dig furrows and holes for the planting of maize. This is an important fact, since maize was the Inca Empire’s main crop and was grown in the best areas, where soil and water conditions allowed for excellent harvests. Later on, because of its steep slope this area would also be called the “Barranca del río” or “River ravine”. The slope meant that buildings were constructed on terraces, including west-facing viewpoints lined with arches. In the city’s current semiotics, arches and vaults made of white, volcanic sillar rock are considered to be the most authentic expression of “Arequipeño” architecture, and are prominently used a local symbol.
The ronda (old street) is part of the city’s basic structure, and is so-called because of its antiquity or its peripheral location. When the Spaniards arrived these roads that nowadays lead to the heart of modern Arequipa already existed, forming part of a spatial structure that no longer exists. It is worth noting that when the Incas arrived they probably found a pre-existing agricultural structure developed by their predecessors, the Collaguas, who came from the altiplano and the Colca region. This has been corroborated by notes written in 1581 by Don Ulloa de Mogollón, who on the orders of the Viceroy carried out a census of the ethnic groups’ lands that the Spaniards occupied, in which he mentions the possessions of the “Ariquipas”, from which it is presumed that the Arequipa’s name originates, although it is often attributed to the Inca Emperor Mayta Capac, who on being told of the valley’s benefits announced: “Ari Qhipay”, which in Quechua means “Yes, stay”.
“Yes, stay”, but where? This may be best explained by a series of discoveries that commenced in the middle of the 20th century, in the 1950s, in the patios of the centennial Independencia Americana School, which revealed tombs belonging to the Churajón culture, and which started a debate on the antiquity of the valley’s pre-Hispanic occupation. Thirty years later, in the 1980s Dr. Manuel Hunqui made the unexpected discovery of the remains of a Colla house in what is now the third patio of the Banco Continental in San Francisco Street. These archaeological discoveries, in addition to recurrent casual finds by various builders during construction projects in the 1970s and 1980s on Santo Domingo Street and Deán Valdivia Street lent weight to the hypothesis of a substantial pre-Inca settlement.
In 1998 a pre-Hispanic tomb was discovered in Deán Valdivia Street that was probably connected to the findings formerly made in the Independencia Americana School. Four years later, in 2002, on the corner of the streets Ugarte and Santa Catalina, other structures were uncovered. Finally, in 2007, remains of another residence were once again found in the so-called Casa de la Moneda, which in Dr. Pablo de la Vera Cruz’s opinion were of Churajón origin.
These discoveries could have been unrelated were it not for the fact that they followed a pattern of occupation that coincides with the layout of ancient aqueducts as recorded on a 1917 map by Don Eduardo de Rivero. On this map, which shows the Spanish irrigation channels and aqueducts that crisscrossed the city of Arequipa, the San Jerónimo and San Juan de Dios aqueducts stand out, where the archaeological discoveries mentioned above are located. These continue to the historical ronda de la Palma, now Alto de la Luna Street / Dolores Ave., or to the ronda of Socabaya, which maintains the currently layout of Salaverry Ave. and Malecón Socabaya to the Apacheta cemetery, from where it continues to the pre-Hispanic settlement of “Pillo” or “Pillu”, a Quechua word meaning “Floral Wreath”. Finally, the last route would have been the ronda de la Pólvora (of which now only fragments remain, such as the current Manzanitos Street) that runs from Arequipa with the district of Socabaya. Socabaya’s name is derived from the Quechua suk’a(things placed in order) and aya (dead), therefore meaning “Field of the dead” or “Place where the dead lie”.
These roads then meet and continue on until they reach Churajón Culture territory, in the district of Polobaya (according to Lic. Nexmi Daza, this name comes from a Puquina word, pholluyog-paya, meaning “Old lady with a cloak”), and Mollebaya (which comes from the Quechua molle, an Andean tree sometimes referred to as the false pepper tree, because of its fruit’s similarity to pepper; it is also known as “Pirú”, and the Quechua word aya, meaning dead). Mollebaya would therefore mean: “Tree (molle) of the dead”, referring to a sacred place represented by the molletree where the spirits of the dead would live.
So the Churajón route passed through the current Hostería and although there would have been more than one ancient road, all converge on the mysterious Coa, and then continue along paths now built over, but which occasionally surface to break free from their past.
Among these ancient roads we have the following routes: Villalba, Cruz Verde and Salaverry streets to the cemetery; Las Peñas Street, Paisajista Ave., the Founder’s Mansion, the “Pillo” archaeological site.
Another route runs along what are now the following modern streets: Bolívar, Zela, Santa Catalina, the Cathedral Passage, Plaza de Armas, General Morán, San Juan de Dios, Déan Valdivia, Perú, Alto de la Luna, Dolores Ave., Emancipación Ave., María Nieves y Bustamante, Caracas, Sabandía Ave., up to the Sabandía Mill and Yumina.
These two routes then join and continue on to Churajón, going through Socabaya, Quequeña, Mollebaya and Polobaya, before continuing on via various ancient roads to the millennial ruins of Tiahuanacu, in Puno and Bolivia.