CHAPTER X. Searching for the Last Inca Capital

The events described in the preceding chapter happened, for the most part, in Uiticos [6] and Uilcapampa, northwest of Ollantaytambo, about one hundred miles away from the Cuzco palace of the Spanish viceroy, in what Prescott calls "the remote fastnesses of the Andes." One looks in vain for Uiticos on modern maps of Peru, although several of the older maps give it. In 1625 "Viticos" is marked on de Laet's map of Peru as a mountainous province northeast of Lima and three hundred and fifty miles northwest of Vilcabamba! This error was copied by some later cartographers, including Mercator, until about 1740, when "Viticos" disappeared from all maps of Peru. The map makers had learned that there was no such place in that vicinity. Its real location was lost about three hundred years ago. A map published at Nuremberg in 1599 gives "Pincos" in the "Andes" mountains, a small range west of "Cusco." This does not seem to have been adopted by other cartographers; although a Palls map of 1739 gives "Picos" in about the same place. Nearly all the cartographers of the eighteenth century who give "Viticos" supposed it to be the name of a tribe, e.g., "Los Viticos" or "Les Viticos."

The largest official map of Peru, the work of that remarkable explorer, Raimondi, who spent his life crossing and recrossing Peru, does not contain the word Uiticos nor any of its numerous spellings, Viticos, Vitcos, Pitcos, or Biticos. Incidentally, it may seem strange that Uiticos could ever be written "Biticos." The Quichua language has no sound of V. The early Spanish writers, however, wrote the capital letter U exactly like a capital V. In official documents and letters Uiticos became Viticos. The official readers, who had never heard the word pronounced, naturally used the V sound instead of the U sound. Both V and P easily become B. So Uiticos became Biticos and Uilcapampa became Vilcabamba.

Raimondi's marvelous energy led him to penetrate to more out-of-the-way Peruvian villages than any one had ever done before or is likely to do again. He stopped at nothing in the way of natural obstacles. In 1865 he went deep into the heart of Uilcapampa; yet found no Uiticos. He believed that the ruins of Choqquequirau represented the residence of the last Incas. This view had been held by the French explorer, Count de Sartiges, in 1834, who believed that Choqquequirau was abandoned when Sayri Tupac, Manco's oldest son, went to live in Yucay. Raimondi's view was also held by the leading Peruvian geographers, including Paz Soldan in 1877, and by Prefect Nunez and his friends in 1909, at the time of my visit to Choqquequirau. [7] The only dissenter was the learned Peruvian historian, Don Carlos Romero, who insisted that the last Inca capital must be found elsewhere. He urged the importance of searching for Uiticos in the valleys of the rivers now called Vilcabamba and Urubamba. It was to be the work of the Yale Peruvian Expedition of 1911 to collect the geographical evidence which would meet the requirements of the chronicles and establish the whereabouts of the long-lost Inca capital.

That there were undescribed and unidentified ruins to be found in the Urubamba Valley was known to a few people in Cuzco, mostly wealthy planters who had large estates in the province of Convencion. One told us that he went to Santa Ana every year and was acquainted with a muleteer who had told him of some interesting ruins near the San Miguel bridge. Knowing the propensity of his countrymen to exaggerate, however, he placed little confidence in the story and, shrugging his shoulders, had crossed the bridge a score of times without taking the trouble to look into the matter. Another, Senor Pancorbo, whose plantation was in the Vilcabamba Valley, said that he had heard vague rumors of ruins in the valley above his plantation, particularly near Pucyura. If his story should prove to be correct, then it was likely that this might be the very Puquiura where Friar Marcos had established the first church in the "province of Uilcapampa." But that was "near" Uiticos and near a village called Chuquipalpa, where should be found the ruins of a Temple of the Sun, and in these ruins a "white rock over a spring of water." Yet neither these friendly planters nor the friends among whom they inquired had ever heard of Uiticos or a place called Chuquipalpa, or of such an interesting rock; nor had they themselves seen the ruins of which they had heard.