Arequipa, a city and department in southern Peru. Founded by Spaniards in 1540, Arequipa became a commercial center during colonial times and the second city of modern Peru.
The city of Arequipa lies on the banks of the Chili River, 7,700 feet above sea level and approximately 60 miles from the Pacific coast. Towering over the city is the volcano Misti (18,990 feet high), a snow-covered, picturesque cone. The region is extremely arid, but irrigation has allowed agriculture to flourish in the Arequipa Valley.
Andean peoples inhabited the valley long before the arrival of the Incas, despite the assertion of Garcilaso de la Vega that Inca Mayta Cápac found the valley unpopulated. The need for pasturage and agricultural products induced Andean ethnic groups to send colonists into the valley. Aymara and even earlier peoples lived along the river. They were still there when the Inca armies arrived. The Incas may have forcibly resettled other peoples to Arequipa as mitmaqs (colonizers) for political purposes, but they called all the groups in the valley mitmaqs for propaganda, to discredit the existence of early cultures and civilizations.
In 1535, Spaniards first arrived in the region, marauding outward from Cuzco, the Inca capital that had just fallen to the conquistadores. Two years later, Diego de Almagro and his expedition passed through on their return from Chile. By 1539 some Spaniards had received encomiendas (grants of Indian labor and tribute) in the valley. The first Spanish attempt to establish a settlement in the region, however, was in 1539 at Camaná on the coast. When that locale proved hot and disease-infested, they received permission from Francisco Pizarro to move inland and founded Arequipa on 15 August 1540.
An oasis in the desert expanses of southern Peru, Arequipa quickly became an agricultural and commercial center. As president of the audiencia (high court) of Lima, Pedro de la Gasca created the corregimiento of Arequipa in 1548, the first province in the region. At about the same time a branch (caja real) of the royal treasury opened in the city. Residents used light volcanic sillar for construction, and Arequipa soon became known as the "White City." Arequipa distributed merchandise from Lima throughout southern Peru and was a stopping point for traders on their way to the mining camps of Upper Peru. Using the nearby port of Quilca, Arequipa transshipped the royal treasure on its passage from Potosí to Lima.
Around 1600, however, Arequipa's fortunes suffered a prolonged, albeit temporary, setback. The port of Arica became the southern conduit to Upper Peru, to the detriment of Arequipa's commercial life. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in 1600 and 1604 devastated the city and its farmlands. (The region is geologically unstable and has suffered severe tremors on many occasions.) The neighboring Vitor Valley, where many residents had vineyards, was particularly hard hit and took several years to recover. At roughly the same time, Arequipa, which had been perhaps the first great Peruvian wine producer, lost the Lima market to vintners around Ica and Pisco. But Arequipan wines retained their dominance in Upper Peru. The rich farmlands generally yielded a surplus of foodstuffs such as wheat, corn, and potatoes, and abundant flocks allowed the development of a significant textile industry. In 1612 it became the episcopal seat of the Arequipa diocese, with jurisdiction over all of southern coastal Peru.
The 1700s brought new prosperity to Arequipa. Local vintners began distilling aguardiente (brandy) from their surplus wine and made large profits from its sale in Upper Peru. The Proclamation of Free Trade (1778) increased commercial activity, although higher royal fiscal exactions caused a short-lived rebellion in January 1780. When Charles III established the Peruvian intendancies in 1784, the intendant of Arequipa received jurisdiction over all the provinces of southern coastal Peru. By the 1790s Arequipa was the second largest city in the viceroyalty, with a population of 22,030. It was a royalist stronghold during the wars for independence. Pumacahua and his indigenous soldiers invaded Arequipa in 1814 and killed the intendant, but they were able to hold the city only briefly.
Despite its royalist sentiments, however, Arequipa's economic interests lay less with Lima than with Upper Peru, and following independence Arequipa became a chief opponent of Lima's attempts at political centralization. Foreign commercial interests flocked to Arequipa, attracted by its economy and the access it offered to Bolivia. Arequipa's wine and brandy trade declined, replaced by wool exports. By 1876 railroads linked Arequipa with the coast and with Cuzco via Juliaca, and a Bank of Arequipa opened in 1872. The city has remained a bureaucratic, commercial, and agricultural center, attracting ever greater numbers of migrants from the sierra. Its population in 2005 was 860,000, with 1,140,000 in the department. The late nineteenth-century historical novel Jorge, el hijo del pueblo (1892) by María Nieves y Bustamante captures midnineteenth-century Arequipeña society during the time of the 1864 to 1856 civil war.
Germán Leguía y Martínez, Historia de Arequipa, 2 vols. (1912–1914).
Victor M. Barriga, Memorias para la historia de Arequipa, 4 vols. (1941–1952).
Guillermo Galdos Rodríguez, La rebelión de los Pasquines (1967).
Alberto Flores-Galindo, Arequipa y el sur andino: Ensayo de historia regional (siglos XVIII-XX (1977).
Alejandro Málaga Medina, Arequipa: Estudios históricos, 3 vols. (1981–1986).
Keith A. Davies, Landowners in Colonial Peru (1984).
Kendall W. Brown, Bourbons and Brandy: Imperial Reform in Eighteenth-Century Arequipa (1986).
Ballón Lozada, Héctor. Cien años de vida política de Arequipa, 1890–1990. Arequipa, Peru: Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, 1992.
Chambers, Sarah C. From Subjects to Citizens: Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780–1854. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.
Nieves y Bustamante, María. Jorge, el hijo del pueblo: Novela. Lima: Mejía Baca, 1958.
Kendall W. Brown
Arequipa (ärākē´pä), city (1993 pop. 713,206), alt. c.7,550 ft (2,300 m), capital of Arequipa dept., S Peru, on the Chili River. One of Peru's largest cities, it is the commercial center of S Peru and N Bolivia. Alpaca wool, the city's chief product, is graded, sorted, and shipped out through the port of Mollendo. Founded in 1540 on the site of an Inca town, Arequipa stands on an oasis in an arid plain and grows crops for local consumption. In a region prone to earthquakes, the city was almost totally destroyed by one in 1868, but its lovely examples of Spanish colonial architecture were restored. The most recent major earthquake occurred in 2001. The light-colored building stone, sillar, has given Arequipa the name "white city." It has a university and several other institutions of higher education.