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Huancavelica (Wankawillka in Quechua) is the one of the poorest cities in Peru. It is the capital of the Huancavelica region and has a population of approximately 40,000. Indigenous peoples represent a major percentage of the population. It has an approximate altitude of 3,600 meters; the climate is cold and dry between the months of February and August with a rainy season between September and January.


The Huancavelica area sports a rough geography with highly varied elevation, from 1,950 metres in the valleys to more than 5,000 metres on its snow-covered summits. These majestic mountains contain metallic deposits. They consist of the western chain of the Andes, which includes the Chonta mountain range, formed by a series of hills, the most prominent of which are: Citaq (5328m), Huamanrazo (5298m) and Altar (5268m).

Among the region's rivers are the Mantaro, the Pampas, the Huarpa and the Churcampa. The Rio Mantaro penetrates Huancavelica, forming Tayacaja's Peninsula. Another river that shapes the relief is that of the Cuenca of the Rio Pampas, which is born in the lagoons of Huancavelica's high sierras, as Choclococha and Oclococha.


In the pre-Incan era, Huancavelica was known as the Wancawilka region or "the place where the grandsons of the Wankas live". The city itself was established on August 5th, 1572. The mines of Huancavelica were dicovered in 1563/1564 by the Indian Nahuincopa, servant of Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera.

There were the most prolific source of mercury in Spanish America, and as such were vital to the mining operations of the Spanish colonial-era. Mercury was necessary to extract silver from the ores produced in the Potosi silver-mines of Peru superior, now named Bolivia, using the patio process (see also amalgamation). Mercury was so essential that mercury consumption was the basis upon which the tax on precious metals, known as the Quinto Real, was levied.

The extraction of the quick-silver in the "socavones" (tunnels) was extremely difficult. The life expectancy laid between three years and three months. Everyday before the miners came down, a Mass for the Dead were celebrated. Due to the need of numerous hand-workers and the high rate of mortality, the Viceroy of Peru Francisco de Toledo resumed and improved the pre-columbian mandatory service of the mita. Though the risks, the mining attracts people from all over the Viceroyalty.

The alloted concession were rectangular, about 67x33m. Miners were divided in "carreteros" and "barreteros".

In 1648 the Viceroy of Peru, declared that Potosi and Huancavelica were "the two pillars that support this kingdom and that of Spain." Moreover, the viceroy thought that Spain could, if necessary, dispense with the silver from Potosi, but it could not dispense with the mercury from Huancavelica.Arthur Preston Whitaker, The Huancavelica Mercury Mine: A Contribution to the History of the Bourbon Renaissance in the Spanish Empire, Harvard Historical Monographs 16 .


Huancavelica is serviced by a train which runs between it and Huancayo known as "el Tren Macho". According to popular saying, this train leaves when it wants and arrives when it can.... There are no paved roads which go directly to Huancavelica and most of the city is unpaved as well.

See also

Region de Huancavelica (Spanish)

[[:es:Huancavelica|Huancavelica (Spanish)]]
[[:es:Departamento_de_Huancavelica|Departamento de Huancavelica (Spanish)]]

Almaden (the other major source of mercury in the Spanish empire).

External links

Pagina Web del Gobierno Regional de Huancavelica - Peru

Web Oficial Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Huancavelica

Rutas de Acceso a Huancavelica desde Lima - Peru


Bruno COLLIN, Largent du Potosi (Perou) et les emissions monetaires francaises , Histoire et mesure, XVII - N 3/4 - Monnaie et espace, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2006, reference du 24 septembre 2007, disponible sur : http://histoiremesure.revues.org/document894.html.

Raul GUERRERO , La cartographie miniere americaine. http://www.mgm.fr/PUB/Mappemonde/M488/m41_43.pdf

Web Page of Gobierno Regional de Huancavelica - Peru

Rutas de Acceso a Huancavelica desde Lima - Peru
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Huancavelica

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