Quebrada de Humahuaca
Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural and historical and its stunning scenery. The Quebradade Humahuaca is and amazing attraction for turists all over the world. The landscape is impressive. The word “quebrada” means deep valley or ravine. It’s famous for its multi-coloured mountains: each colour is the result of a different layer of sediments deposited over the last 600 million years. Successive tectonic plate movements gave them the shapes we see today. The local fauna includes the mythic condor and eagles soaring above the peaks and vicuñas and guanacos grazing on the rocky slopes.
The vegetation is scarcer the higher up and further north you go. Green valleys in the outskirts of San Salvador slowly turn into an arid, vast ravine known as Humahuaca. Covered with houses built from dry clay, the landscape becomes astonishing.
Following the National Highway N° 9 going north, from San Salvador de Jujuy you arrive to the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a great mountains valley of 155km. The answer is simple, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is a privileged Territory, because of the diversity and richness of its geological heritage it has got different geomorphologic units, composed with continental and marine sediments from different periods, since Precambric (600 million years) to the Quaternary. These geomorphologic units are exposed to the fluvial action, introducing erosive processes, and are composed by different kind of minerals, which give the landscape beautiful colours and shapes. One of the most important geomorphologic unit in Jujuy is EL Cerro de los siete Colores, located in Purmamarca. (The Seven Colours Hill) The Seven Colours Hill The multi-coulored sediments from the Mesozoic have been folded and eroded into strange shapes on this hill. Colour 1: light orange; composed with red clay, mud and sand; Age: 3 - 4 million years. Colour 2: white, composed with lime rock. Age: 400 million years. Colour 3: brown, purple and violet. The violet is composed with lead and the others are rich in calcium. Age: 80 – 90 million years. Colour 4: red, composed with clay & iron. Age: 3 – 4 million years. Colour 5: Green, composed with copper oxide. Colour 6: brown, composed by rock with manganese. Age: 1 – 2 million years. Colour 7: Yellow, composed with brimstone. Age: 80 – 90 million years. Ancient celebrations and rituals are kept alive today. The Carnival is the biggest and most popular of all. The festivities begin on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday each year. The meeting point is the town’s main square, where Mass is said. From there, groups of people walk up the hills in search of apachetas (cairns) under which the pujllay, or little devil, is buried. At sunset, the previous year’s pujllay is dug up and three explosions boom in the valley, symbolically opening the doors of the Underworld for the Devil to come out and play. The “devils” show up (well, it’s actually men wearing traditional costumes) and then lead the revellers down the mountain, dancing and singing. The Carnival lasts for nine whole days of drinking, eating and endless partying.
On Carnival Sunday, the same groups of people walk up the mountain to their cairns, singing traditional songs. When the sun sets, the music stops and the “devils” begin to cry because the end is nigh. The “devils” are in charge of the ritual burial of the pujllay. This symbolises the return of the devil to the Underworld for another year. Another ritual that has survived since pre-Hispanic times is that of the Pachamama. Pachamama is Mother Earth, a divinity that nurtures and protects human beings, who thank her by feeding her in return. Every year on August 1st, family and friends get together to carry out the Pachamama ritual. They dig a hole in the garden and decorate it with confetti and streamers. One by one, they place (cooked) food offerings inside: corn (an Andean staple food), quinoa, lamb, kid, different kinds of potato (another Andean staple), broad beans, wine, beer, chicha (a drink made from fermented corn) and coca leaves, among others. Once the Pachamama is fed, the hole is covered with earth and the Pachamama is given a cigar to smoke. These traditions are typical of the whole area, including the province of Salta and parts of Bolivia, not just Jujuy.