Huanchaco, a trip into the past

Huanchaco is a beachside town of Mochica origin. It is the most important beachside town of Trujillo, capital of La Libertad. The name Huanchaco comes from Gua-kocha, a quechua word meaning “beautiful lake with gold fish”. Huanchaco is famous for its embarcation of the caballitos de totora, one of the remains of Moche’s and Chimu’s traditions. It has been maintained over time and is a representative symbol of their identity, with immense historical value. Huanchaco’s original population were indigenous fishermen who worshipped the moon and a golden fish called Huaca Taska. It was the main port of Moche, Chimu and Inca eras.


The Moche civilization flourished from 100 A to 800 AD. The Moche were not politically organized as a monolithic empire or state. Rather, they were likely a group of autonomous polities that shared a common elite culture, as seen in the rich iconography and monumental architecture that survive today. Thirty minutes from Huanchaco, you can visit Huaca del sol y Huaca de la luna, the largest adobe pyramid of Peru. Huaca de la Luna has three tiers and is decorated with friezes showing Moche mythology and rituals.

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(Huaca de la Luna, Lourdes Cardenal,

Archaeological evidence suggest that Chimor culture had followed and grew out of the Moche civilization in Huanchaco and in the region. Early Chimu pottery had some resemblance to that of the Moche. Their ceramics are all black, and their work in precious metals is very detailed and intricate. The culture arose about 900 and was conquered by Incas around 1470. The Chimu were known to have worshipped the moon and it is believed they considered it more powerful than the sun, which was preferred by the Inca Empire. A common object for offerings as well as one used by artisans was the shell of the Spondylus shellfish.It was associated with the sea, rainfall, and fertility. They were highly valued and traded by the Chimu people. The Chimu are best known for their distinctive monochromatic pottery and fine metal working of copper, gold, silver, bronze and tumbaga (copper and gold). The pottery is often in the shape of a creature, or has a human figure sitting or standing on a cuboid bottle. You can find some of those pottery in the museum of Huanchaco which is by the beach. The Chimu society was a four-level hierarchical system, with a powerful elite rule over administrative centers. Fifteen minutes from Huanchaco you can visit Chan Chan the capital of the Chimus and the top of the Chimu hierarchy. It is the largest adobe city in the ancient world, designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city of Chan Chan spanned 20 km² and had a dense urban center of 6 km² which contained extravagant cuidadedas (large architectural masterpieces which housed plazas, storerooms, and burial platforms for the royals).

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(Chan Chan, Matteo Roscioli,

Huanchaco is way more than a surfer town. It hides, behind its hills, some of the treasures of Pre-Colombian culture, the roots of nowaday Peruvian culture.

Written by Claire De Hauteclocque, HELP English teacher

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