Views, History, and Charm in Cuzco’s Santa Ana Neighborhood

On the hills above the city of Cuzco, ancient neighborhoods sit. Santa Ana may well be the oldest of them and from it  one gets an attractive and beautiful view of the entire city.

From the seats that are at the side of the old and important church of Santa Ana, the view of the Plaza de Armas captured me.  Everything was at my feet. The calm I felt up there looking over the city was unique. Although the small plaza of Santa Ana is under construction the view is still fascinating from that angle.

Located under the important hill Picchu, this neighborhood was inhabited as much as 800 years before Christ. The famous archeologist John Rowe excavated the site called Chanapata which was found here; perhaps the earliest site of human habitation found to date in the Cuzco Valley.

Going Up the Cuesta Santa Ana
Going Up the Cuesta Santa Ana

In Inca times the neighborhood was called Carmenca and was on the road that led to one of the two most populous quarters of the Empire, the great Chinchaysuyoto the northwest. Besides ayllus (communities) dedicated to farming, as seen in the terracing still visible in the neighborhood, Carmenca housed the Cañari and Chachapoyas people from Ecuador and Northern Peru, respectively, who were the personal guards of the Incas.

When the Spanish came to Cuzco they two came on that long highway from the north and entered Cuzco through Carmenca.  Important Spaniards, such as the chronicler Juan de Betanzos, settled here. Even though the infrastructure of the neighborhood, its plaza, streets, and homes are being updated, in many parts of the neighborhood you can still see the colonial big-houses.


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A Woman Selling Fruir on the corner of La Cuesta Santa Ana
A Woman Selling Fruit on the corner of La Cuesta Santa Ana

A friend from the neighborhood told me that in the middle of the plaza was found a wooden cross carved by knife. On it were engraved the full names of the Spanish invaders who took Cuzco. They say that the cross has disappeared mysteriously because no one knows what happened to it.

Today there is a cross attached to the side wall of the church. This cross makes reference to the betrayal, profanation, and punishment that was lived here.

The Spanish built an archway as an entrance to the walled city of Cuzco that they built on top of the Inca one. In its day, it was a point of control for all people entering the city. Today the colonial arch still exists and brings an unusual charm to the neighborhood.

Restoring Santa Ana
Restoring Santa Ana

Today the streets of the neighborhood fill with many people who come and go. There are always vendors of sweets, ice-cream, cooled teas, etc. In the area between the arch and the plaza of Santa Ana you see a diversity of businesses such as travel agencies, restaurants, grocery stores, hostels, and many others.

The zone of Santa Ana continues to maintain its traditional patronal feast since it is one of the most ancient neighborhoods of Cuzco and its saint has many devotees throughout the city of Cuzco. The feast and devotion to Saint Anne bring many people to the city from throughout the city of Cuzco, although they are most concentrated in the quarter of Chinchaysuyo.

A Cross on the Wall
A Cross on the Wall

On its festive days both tourists and local people fill the neighborhood with joy and emotion. The carguyoq (those responsible for sponsoring the feast) and their supporters present dances, allegories (floats) and fireworks. Everyone is thrilled withe all the color and everyone carries away memories. Cameras fill nights with their flashes.

Just as Santa Ana is one of Cuzco’s important historic neighborhoods, so too there are seven more. These hold much history and tradition. I imagine that visitor to our city must find these neighborhoods interesting and they probably want to know what has happened in each.

Take a Sit and Enjoy the Good View from Santa Ana Overlook
Take a Sit and Enjoy the Good View from the Santa Ana Overlook
View of the Plaza de Armas from Santa Ana Overlook
View of the Plaza de Armas from Santa Ana Overlook


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