Food Culture, Ingredients

The Inca’s Tears Make Salt in Cuzco

The Famous Salt Terraces of Maras

An Inca treasure emanates from the depths of the Andes in Cuzco. It is a pink salt rich in minerals. It appears when underground water evaporates in terraced ponds and shows off a wonder.  The salt ponds are found at 3300 meters above sea level in Cuzco, close to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and are called Maras.

There are many stories and myths about this magical place. For example, the legend of the Ayar sisters and brothers tells how Ayar Cachi, one of the four brothers, was sealed in a cave by his siblings. People say this Inca warrior shed salty tears and from them came the wondrous place of Maras with its treasure of salt.  They say that is why it is called Cachi which in Quechua means salt.

The Inca's Tears Evaporating on the Land (Photo: Rosario Soto)
The Inca’s Tears Evaporating on the Land (Photo: Rosario Soto)

National and International tourists throng to Maras. They are fascinated on seeing so many salt pongs and a few small streams that flow from above. The waters evaporate into salt as they disappear along their way.

A popular tour takes people to Maras, before they enter the Sacred Valley. It is heavily promoted by various public and private entities. Travel agencies organize visits to this amazing and beautiful place.

The Salt of Maras is used in gastronomy because of its properties. Animals such as llamas, vicuñas, and cattle need salt. In addition the salt can convert meat into chalona, a kind of jerky or dried meat so that the meat is preserved for later consumption.

Working the Salt Fields with Bare Feet
Working the Salt Fields with Bare Feet (Photo: Rosario Soto)

Gathered from dried ponds, the salt is gathered into sacks and sold for consumption. You can find these in various places throughout our city, such as in the wholesale markets and in many stores.

People buy the salt because it is natural and because it has a high mineral content. If you wish to buy it, ask for the pink Andean salt, or the tears of Ayar Cachi.

 

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