Pampa de Ayacucho
A short walk uphill from Quinua is the Pampa de Ayacucho, the broad plain where Spanish and patriot troops clashed on December 9, 1824, in the final battle of South America’s independence. This is one of Peru’s three historical sanctuaries, along with Machu Picchu and the other independence battlefield at Junín.
Above the plain rises Cerro Condorccuncca, where the Spanish force of 9,300 soldiers were led by Viceroy José de la Serna. On the plain below, 5,800 patriot soldiers from all over South America and Europe were led by General Antonio José de Sucre—not Simón Bolívar as is commonly believed (Bolívar was in Lima at the time).
The battle began at 10 a.m. after relatives and friends on opposing sides were allowed to greet each other. After a series of tactical mistakes by the Spanish, the patriots pushed downhill and won the battle after three hours of grueling, mostly hand-to-hand fighting. By 1 p.m., the patriots had lost 300 men and the Spanish 1,700.
A post-battle peace treaty was signed in a room on Quinua’s plaza—now glassed off for public viewing in the Casa de la Capitulación—while the wounded were being treated in the town’s church. Today the battlefield is marked with a stone obelisk, 44 meters tall in recognition of the 44 years between this battle and Túpac Amaru II’s indigenous rebellion against the Spanish in 1780.
An agency day tour to Huari and Quinua usually includes the Pikimachay Cave, a few kilometers past the turnoff to Quinua on the road to Huanta. Some agencies also continue on through a striking desert valley, known for its production of avocados and lúcuma fruit, to visit villagers and take a hike up the nearby mirador of Huatuscalla.
Getting to Pampa de Ayacucho
Buses from Ayacucho to Quinua can be taken at Salvador Cavero 124, next to El Niño Restaurant on the northeast edge of town. Combis leave when full (US$1, 1.5 hours). If taking public transport, visit Huari on your trip out and then continue on to Quinua—combis passing Huari in the afternoon on their way to Ayacucho are usually full, making it hard to get home.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition