The fertile Cañete River Valley was once known as the Huarco (Hanging) Valley due to the predilection of its people to mete out this punishment to enemies and rebellious tribes. The Spanish christened it Villa Santa María de Cañete and imported the first black slaves to attend to agricultural tasks. The cultural adaptations the slaves made while trying to preserve their collective heritage in a new environment transformed the Cañete Valley into an enclave of rich Afro-Peruvian culture. It is the premier producer of one of the most famous products of Peru, the white-grape Pisco brandy, as well as wine and another grape-based liquor known as Cachina. It´s popular for its gastronomy, which includes rice with duck, carapulcra (a dish of stewed dried potatoes), beans stewed in a tomato sauce, and spicy stewed shrimp, with candied medlar (loquat) for dessert.
Today the valley is considered the cradle and capital of Afro-Peruvian Art. August is Afro-Peruvian Arts Month, and on Aug 12th the National Festival of Afro-Peruvian Art takes place in the valley´s capital, San Vicente de Cañete (often shortened to Cañete). The city is located about 89mi south of Lima. Parade floats each have dance teams representing different neighborhoods and institutions moving to their own beat and that of the street bands. The festival coincides with Cañete Tourist Week, meaning that the party will continue for days. This is the best time to enjoy the unique dance, music, and cuisine of the Cañete Valley. The best examples of Afro-Peruvian cultural expression will be honored at an awards ceremony later in the day, followed by a festive all-star concert where attendees and performers all celebrate together.
While you´re there …
The towns of Cañete and nearby Lunahuaná boast some of Peru´s best wineries, making them a must for Pisco lovers. If a vineyard tour and wine-tasting is too subdued for you, Lunahuaná is also popular for rafting or kayaking class II-IV rapids along the Cañete River as well as other adventure sports.
Incahuasi Archeological Complex
After 4 years of stubborn resistence, the powerful chiefdom of Huarco was conquered by Inca Túpac Yuapanqui, who had the city of Incahuasi (House of the Inca) built in the image of Cusco, as he Incahuasi to be of primary importance in the region. The Incahuasi ruins comprise storehouses, some palace wall remnants, columns from the sun temple, and a fortress as well as some ruins of the city proper, such as the main square, the center for executions and artistic expression.
Castle of Unánue
In the countryside, rises the 19th century Castle Unanue, which was bought in Bavaria and transported in pieces over the ocean to be rebuilt along the shores of Cañete River over a period of 60 years, at a cost of a thousand golden pesos (today a million dollars). With agrarian reform came sacking and obscurity for Castle Unanue, whose European gardens dried up and whose peacocks and other birds disappeared along with the tortoises and colorful fish. The 2007 quake substantially damaged the castle, leaving the minarets in ruins and cracking the structure up to the embrasures. Regardless, the flamboyant style of Castle Unanue is unique in South America and still dazzles despite its state of disrepair.
Other popular attractions include the modern dance clubs and seaside resorts of Asia District, the old fisherman´s cove turned surfing mecca of Cerro Azul, and the protected Forest Reserve adjacent to the mouth of the Nuevo Imperial Canal.