Cusco is the historic capital of the sun-worshiping empire of Inca. The first Spaniards arrived in the city on 15 November 1533. Francisco Pizarro officially arrived in Cusco on 23 March 1534, renaming it the "Very noble and great city of Cuzco". The many buildings constructed after the Hispanic invasion have a mixture of Spanish influence with Inca indigenous architecture. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city.
The main language in the country is Spanish but the Quechua language is spoken in several regions. There a large number of minor Amazonian languages as well. The city of Cusco,which holds a population of almost 400,000 and sits at an elevation is around 3,300 m (10,800 ft). The mountains only rise from Cusco. To the North is the range of Cordillera Vilcabamba. The highest peak in this range is Nevado Salcantay, which climbs to 6271 m (20,574 ft).
The Quechua People
The Quechua people are the remaining descendants of the Inca. After the Spanish invasion the Quechua remained in the mountains. The Spaniards forced Catholicism on the Inca so the Quechua Indians adopted some of the Catholic beliefs to avoid being destroyed but they also kept many of their animistic beliefs. What has occurred is a complete syncretism of Catholicism and the Incan mythology. All kinds of Christian symbols and rites are used every year, but they only reflect the hidden Andean religious meanings. For example, praying to the Virgin Mary might satisfy Inti, the god of the Sun. Pachamama, the mountain god and god of earth, provides fields with fertility and allows the farmers to reap the blessings. Yet, on the top of that mountain that is worshiped is a wooden Cross—there to symbolize the blessing of Pachamama. There is very little distinction between the two religious systems and neither are the pure forms of what they were.
Quechua ethnic groups also share traditional religions with other Andean peoples, particularly belief in Mother Earth (Pachamama), who grants fertility and to whom burnt offerings and libations are regularly made. Also important are the mountain spirits (apu) as well as lesser local deities (wak'a), who are still venerated especially in southern Peru.
Up to the present time Quechuas continue to be mistreated and are victims of political conflicts and ethnic persecution. In the Peruvian civil war of the 1980s between the government and Sendero Luminoso about three quarters of the estimated 70,000 death toll were Quechuas, whereas the war parties were without exception whites and mestizos.
The forced sterilization policy under Alberto Fujimori affected almost exclusively Quechua and Aymara women, a total exceeding 200,000.