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Tumbes, northernmost Peruvian city. Located on the Pacific coast near the Ecuadorian border, at an elevation of 450 feet, Tumbes is an important regional center. It was the site of a significant pre-Columbian fortress, one of the first to be described by Spanish explorers. Its size and beauty suggested to Pedro de Candía and Alonso de Molina, the first European witnesses, the potential wealth of the Inca peoples to the south. The fortress, along with a temple of the sun decorated with gold and silver and a house of the virgins, dominated the site. Agustín de Zárate, who arrived in the early 1540s, reported it was "one of the finest sights in the country until the Indians of Puna Island destroyed it." Diego de Almagro was made "commander" of the fortress of Tumbes, and Hernando de Luque was appointed its first bishop.

At the northernmost part of the Peruvian desert, Tumbes receives sufficient annual rainfall to support scrub vegetation, and the Tumbes River provides irrigation water. In the early seventeenth century, Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa, who traveled the Americas and wrote an extensive geographical treatise, described the area as highly productive. Today, corn is planted for local consumption, and tobacco, rice, and cotton are cultivated. Cattle and goats are raised, and fish are caught. Petroleum was found at nearby Zorritos in 1864, but production levels never matched those of Piura.

See alsoIncas, The .


Noble David Cook, Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520–1620 (1981).

Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa, Compendio y descripción de las indias occidentales (1948).

Additional Bibliography

Hocquenghem, Anne-Marie. Para vencer la muerte: Piura y Tumbes: raíces en el bosque seco y en la selva alta, horizontes en el Pacífico y en la Amazonia. Paris: CNRSPICS, 1998.

Zárate, Agustin de. Historia del descubrimiento y conquista del Perú. Ed. Franklin Pease G. Y. & Teodoro Hampe Martínez. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Fondo Editorial, [1555] 1995.

                                       Noble David Cook