Incas Work the Night on a River above Cuzco

In a place of sleeping rocks, the Miskawara River runs. Hills surround it and if one looks closely one can see hidden terrace walls among the overgrowth of brush. A broken building arises called Inca Carcel, or Inca Jail, about which many legends and myths are told.

Around Inca Carcel are many terraces, as if this were a quarry for finely carved stones. There are also a few houses with well-worked windows, as well as much more waiting to be discovered.

Many families go up there to rest from the city’s troubles and enjoy an outing in nature. At night, though, the place is different. Fog and darkness claim it for their own.

Miskawara River (Photo: Brayan Coraza)
Miskawara River (Photo: Brayan Coraza)

I used to go to Inca Carcel when I was little. I had heard that it was a dangerous place and that at night there were sirenas (mermaids) and machus (suffering ancestors) up there. But I had never heard about any Incas being there. With the energy of the sun, it is said, they can take life in the night when the fog and darkness are most dense.

One of my friends asked his grandparents about the place and they told him this story.

Once two young men stole a couple of sheep from a flock that was close by. They escaped with the animals up the Miskawara River as darkness came. Fog rolled in and the darkness was very thick.

As they moved more and more slowly in the darkness, their consciences began to bother them. They thought about returning the sheep, but it was too late.

Suddenly they saw the light of some bright torches and the shouting of people. They were Incas in full regalia and they were working hard. The boys were astonished at what they were seeing. They tried to flee but it was too late. The Incas trapped them and tied them up. Then they punished them and said “ama sua, ama khella, ama llulla” which means “do not steal, do not be lazy, and do not lie.”

Once those commands were made, they let the boys go since they were young and had pure hearts despite their actions. This was the first time they had stolen.

A Waca by Inca Carcel (photo: Brayan)
A Waca by Inca Carcel (photo: Brayan Coraza)

When the boys left this place they had no marks on the body from the punishments they had received, but they felt an enormous pain.

Many places around Cuzco have stories like this about people who do not let themselves be taken by the dangers of the night, especially sirenas, and ancestors, the machus. But with the passage of time the stories are fewer and fewer.

The Miskawara River is no longer as strong as it once was, they say, but who knows in reality what happens there at night. All you know is that the river makes a lot of sound since it drags big rocks with it in its way.

Flack of Sheep Near the Miska Wara River (Photo: Brayan Coraza)
Flack of Sheep Near the Miska Wara River (Photo: Brayan Coraza)


Brayan Coraza Morveli

Soy completamente cusqueño. Mi profesión es analista de sistemas. Me encanta escuchar y tocar la música andina tanto como bailar break. Me gusta también compartir mi experiencias como cusqueño con gente de otros lados. Una de mis metas es llegar a conocer mi cultura más profundamente y compartirla ampliamente con gente de otras generaciones tanto como con hermanos y hermanas de otros lados de nuestra planeta.

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