CHAPTER XIII. Vilcabamba

Although the refuge of Manco is frequently spoken of as Uiticos by the contemporary writers, the word Vilcabamba, or Uilcapampa, is used even more often. In fact Garcilasso, the chief historian of the Incas, himself the son of an Inca princess, does not mention Uiticos. Vilcabamba was the common name of the province. Father Calancha says it was a very large area, "covering fourteen degrees of longitude," about seven hundred miles wide. It included many savage tribes "of the far interior" who acknowledged the supremacy of the Incas and brought tribute to Manco and his sons. "The Manaries and the Pilcosones came a hundred and two hundred leagues" to visit the Inca in Uiticos.

The name, Vilcabamba, is also applied repeatedly to a town. Titu Cusi says he lived there many years during his youth. Calancha says it was "two days' journey from Puquiura." Raimondi thought it must be Choqquequirau. Captain Garcia's soldiers, however, speak of it as being down in the warm valleys of the montana, the present rubber country. On the other hand the only place which bears this name on the maps of Peru is near the source of the Vilcabamba River, not more than three or four leagues from Pucyura. We determined to visit it.

We found the town to lie on the edge of bleak upland pastures, 11,750 feet above the sea. Instead of Inca walls or ruins Vilcabamba has threescore solidly built Spanish houses. At the time of our visit they were mostly empty, although their roofs, of unusually heavy thatch, seemed to be in good repair. We stayed at the house of the gobernador, Manuel Condore. The nights were bitterly cold and we should have been most uncomfortable in a tent.

The gobernador said that the reason the town was deserted was that most of the people were now attending to their chacras, or little farms, and looking after their herds of sheep and cattle in the neighboring valleys. He said that only at special festival times, such as the annual visit of the priest, who celebrates mass in the church here, once a year, are the buildings fully occupied. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, gold mines were discovered in the adjacent mountains and the capital of the Spanish province of Vilcabamba was transferred from Hoyara to this place. Its official name, Condore said, is still San Francisco de la Victoria de Vilcabamba, and as such it occurs on most of the early maps of Peru. The solidity of the stone houses was due to the prosperity of the gold diggers. The present air of desolation and absence of population is probably due to the decay of that industry.

The church is large. Near it, and slightly apart from the building, is a picturesque stone belfry with three old Spanish bells. Condore said that the church was built at least three hundred years ago. It is probably the very structure whose construction was carefully supervised by Ocampo. In the negotiations for permission to move the municipality of San Francisco de la Victoria from Hoyara to the neighborhood of the mines, Ocampo, then one of the chief settlers, went to Cuzco as agent of the interested parties, to take the matter up with the viceroy. Ocampo's story is in part as follows:

"The change of site appeared convenient for the service of God our Lord and of his Majesty, and for the increase of his royal fifths, as well as beneficial to the inhabitants of the said city. Having examined the capitulations and reasons, the said Don Luis de Velasco [the viceroy] granted the licence to move the city to where it is now founded, ordering that it should have the title and name of the city of San Francisco of the Victory of Uilcapampa, which was its first name. By this change of site I, the said Baltasar de Ocampo, performed a great service to God our Lord and his Majesty. Through my care, industry and solicitude, a very good church was built, with its principal chapel and great doors." We found the walls to be heavy, massive, and well buttressed, the doors to be unusually large and the whole to show considerable "industry and solicitude."

The site was called "Onccoy, where the Spaniards who first discovered this land found the flocks and herds." Modern Vilcabamba is on grassy slopes, well suited for flocks and herds. On the steeper slopes potatoes are still raised, although the valley itself is given up to-day almost entirely to pasture lands. We saw horses, cattle, and sheep in abundance where the Incas must have pastured their llamas and alpacas. In the rocky cliffs near by are remains of the mines begun in Ocampo's day. There is little doubt that this was Onccoy, although that name is now no longer used here.

We met at the gobernador's an old Indian who admitted that an Inca had once lived on Rosaspata Hill. Of all the scores of persons whom we interviewed through the courtesy of the intelligent planters of the region or through the customary assistance of government officials, this Indian was the only one to make such an admission. Even he denied having heard of "Uiticos" or any of its variations. If we were indeed in the country of Manco and his sons, why should no one be familiar with that name?