There is a little knowledge about the history of Huaraz, before the arriving of Spaniards. In 1533, the Spanish Army arrived in this area under the command of Hernando Pizarro. They did the first description of the qualities of the area, and they described that was a green fertile soil, with many livestock in the highlands, and prosperous villages.
Despite that, there is human presence since 10.000 B.C, during that time people were dedicated to be gathers and hunters. A proof of that, is the Guitarreros cave across from the town of Mancos. Since that age Huaraz had to pass, by different changes with the development of farming in the zone of Vicuas and Villaqui.
During the ancient age, the Chavín culture developed the urban growing, So, the village of Waras were created, with its ceremonial center located at Pumacayan hill. In the middle age, can be located the Recuay culture. After that, the area of Huaraz was conquered by the Wari culture, this empire built the archaeological rests of Wilcahuain and Waullac. Finally, the area was annexed to the Inca Empire.
Francisco Pizarro, known as the Spanish conquistador of Peru, in 1538 granted the right to collect taxes in the area within what is now the Province of Huaraz to his subordinate Sebastián de Torres. Alonso de Santoyo founded on 20 January 1574 a Hispanic Indigenous reduction (Reducción Hispano Indígena) with the name of Pampa Huarás de San Sebastián, with 14 quarters. Later its political creation, dated on 12 February 1821, while General José de San Martín was staying in Huaura (city north from Lima) founded 4 Departments, including Huaylas as one of them, with its capital, the city of Caraz. Finally on 1857, it was split in two, giving birth to the new young Province of Huaraz with its capital, the nowadays, City of Huaraz.
From the beginning the Spaniards began exploiting the mineral wealth of the region. Several deposits of metal ores were discovered: silver, lead, and tin, among others. Availability of these metals for mining and smelting locally was the primary attraction of the Callejón area to Spain. Hundreds of the native Quechua-speakers by the 1570s were laboring in the mines.
As in other areas of Spanish settlement in the Andean countries most agricultural works such as native irrigation canals and terraces were appropriated or destroyed by the colonial administrators. The Spaniards did not call their tactics slavery, though in fact the effects were the same. Disappearances and unexplained deaths were common for resistors. The entire population of some villages was forcibly marched long distances and resettled. To identify those who tried to return to their prior homes, the native peoples were required to wear distinctive clothing identifiable by areas or provinces. The Spanish patron or hacendado often chose for those people under his control a costume copied from his home region in Spain. These costumes are now a source of regional and national pride among many Andeans who identify with their native ancestry.
Much of the north side and a large part of the center of the city was destroyed in 1941 by floodwaters and avalanche debris because of a burst reservoir that was the city's municipal water supply. The reservoir dam was about east of the town and more than 200 meters elevation above it. The dam failed because of sudden overflow pressure from an avalanche of glacier ice probably caused by a localized tremor (earthquake). Within a few minutes the stream bed was filled with an avalanche of water, mud, boulders, and associated debris whose crest by the time it reached the city may have exceeded 15 meters height above the stream bed. In as few as 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. The creek valley upstream from the city in the mid-1960s exhibited scarred inner banks several meters higher than the normal water level. The scarring caused by the avalanche was increasingly higher above the stream bed on the creek valley walls nearer the reservoir. The scoured appearance of the creek valley indicated the mass and power of the avalanche gaining momentum as it crashed down the narrow valley, accumulating debris as it descended.
By 1965 fewer than a half dozen buildings had been rebuilt in the creek valley adjacent north of the city. The valley was still filled by as many as three meters of soil and debris deposited by the 1941 avalanche. Giant boulders lay about, some protruding as many as four meters above the 1965 creek bed level. Many boulders from the 1941 avalanche were strewn down to the confluence of the creek with the Santa River. Huaraz area residents who remembered the disaster of 1941 said in 1965 that the river itself was diverted by avalanche debris for some days until eroded away and carried downstream (northward), and there were boulders on the west bank that had come with the avalanche.
On 31 May 1970 the same reservoir dam burst during the Ancash earthquake. Down the creek valley again came an avalanche eerily similar to that of 1941. In the prior four years or so the suburb had begun to again be redeveloped: numerous residences were built atop the 1941 avalanche deposit within the at-risk creek valley. The earthquake was 7.8 on the Richter scale. Within its duration of 45 seconds virtually every structure of consequence in the city's center was destroyed. A few minutes later the north half of the city, particularly in the creek valley, was obliterated by an avalanche of icy mud carrying boulders and other debris.
As many as 20,000 people were killed within the city; there were reported only 91 survivors within the city itself. The historic structures along the narrow streets, particularly the big adobe casonas (large houses) roofed with ceramic tiles, were reduced to rubble. The main square was evident by the dearth of rubble; the city was rebuilt around it. Where once stood the old casonas and their high-walled compounds now there are smaller buildings. The narrow streets had been deathtraps during the quake; the post-1970 city design has wider, more modern streets.
Chavin de Huantar
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