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Volcano Land

Mount Sabancaya Erupting

Mount Sabancaya Erupting—Seen from Coporaque

The State of Arequipa is full of active volcanoes. Two of them in particular—Sabancaya and Ubinas—have been in eruption for weeks, if not months.

In fact, before the Spanish ever made it to Peru, an eruption of Sabancaya triggered the sacrifice of an Inca maiden (named by archaeologists as Juanita) on neighboring Nevada Ampato to satisfy the angry earth gods. A 12-year-old girl of good family, “Juanita” was marched up Ampato with an escort of priests, given some chicha to drink to calm her nerves, and clubbed to death. It was only in 1995 that Johan Reinhard discovered her remains and brought her body down to Arequipa, where it is on display in the city’s Museo Santuarios Andinos, where I saw it.

The Remains of the Inca Maiden Called “Juanita”

The Remains of the Inca Maiden Called “Juanita”

When I stayed in Arequipa, I awoke every morning to see the city ringed by the volcanoes Chachani, El Misti, and Pikchu-Pikchu. Going north to Colca Canyon, I saw perhaps a score of other volcanic peaks. This is a volatile section of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Nazca Plate is slipping under the South American Plate and making the Andes rise and providing pathways for the fires under the earth to rise to the top on occasion.