Cusco City: Shape of Puma?

In this post I tell you who first wrote about Cusco´s puma shape.

I have heard some guides in Sacsayhuaman saying the city of Cusco has the shape of a puma. As I was always intrigued about the sources of this kind of information, I read a lot of XVI and XVII-century chroniclers and this is what I found.

Cusco shape of puma

The puma at Pumaqchupan neighborhood


Juan de Betanzos: A Lion

The first who wrote about this subject was the spanish chronicler Juan de Betanzos. In his Suma y Narración de los Incas, written in 1551, Juan de Betanzos stated:

“Ynga Yupangue…a toda la ciudad junta nombró cuerpo de león diciendo que los tales vecinos e moradores del eran miembros del tal león”.
According to this author, it was Inca Yupanqui the first who regarded the city as a “lion”. At that time, the spanish newcomers named lion to the native puma.
Cusco puma city

Pumas fountain on Santa Catalina street


Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa: And the Head?

A few years later, in 1572, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa in his Historia de los Incas not only mentioned the same Inca but also gave further details. He added the tail was the junction of two rivers (Tullumayo and Saphy to the south), and the puma´s body was the main city center:

” …Topa Inga Yupangui acordosé que su padre Pachacuti habia llamado a la ciudad del Cuzco la ciudad león, que la cola era adonde se juntan los dos rios…, y que dijo quel cuerpo era la plaza y las poblaciones de la redonda, y que la cabeza le faltaba. Y así consultado…dijo que la mejor cabeza que le podria poner sería hacerle una fortaleza”.

This chronicler also wrote that Inca Yupanqui noticed this puma did not have a head and then decided to build Sacsayhuaman to the north.

Cusco puma city

Inca Garcilaso de la Vega: The Tail
My favorite chronicler, the cusqueño Inca Garcilaso de la Vega wrote a whole chapter about the description of the city of Cusco in his 1609´s Comentarios Reales de los Incas.

This native author claimed the city was a “león” (puma) due to its weapons and army.

“…y a la salida del mismo arroyo (Saphy river) y calle dijeron: cola de leon, por decir que su ciudad era…un leon en sus armas y milicia”.
Even though Inca Garcilaso de la Vega did not mention explicitly the city had the shape of a puma, he implied this when he explained the city finished to the south as a tail due to the junction of two rivers (Tullumayo and Saphy).
“…esta otro (neighbor), al mediodia de la ciudad, que se dice Pumaqchupan (1); quiere decir: cola de leon, porque aquel barrio fenece en punta, por dos arroyos que al fin del se juntan. Tambien le dieron este nombre por decir que aquel barrio (era) lo ultimo de la ciudad: quisieron honrarle con llamarle cola y cabo de leon. Sin esto, tenian leones en el, y otros animales fieros”.
Cusco puma city

Puma pointing out the four quarters

(1) Pumaqchupan is still the name of a neighborhood to the south of the main square. Nowadays, there is a paqcha or water fountain down there.

If you walk up Tullumayo avenue, you will get to the street of Pumacurco which according to this shape would have been the puma´s spine. Finally, you hike to Sacsayhuaman that was the puma´s head.
Cusco puma city

This is the best shot I snapped at the park of the puma

Related Posts:

Reasons to visit Cusco

What to do in Cusco 1st day

Boleto Turistico in Cusco

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About Peru En RoUte

Natural-born backpack traveller around Peru
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One Response to Cusco City: Shape of Puma?

  1. Pingback: Sacsayhuaman: All You Should Know | PERU EN ROUTE. Enjoy Peru. Share Peru.

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