Capital of the department of La Libertad, Trujillo is one of the main cultural destinations in Peru since it is where you find remarkable displays of Pre-Hispanic architecture, like Moche pyramids and Chan Chan, largest mud city in the world. It is also one of the best preserved Colonial cities and capital of the Marinera, one of Peru’s loveliest dances.
Trujillo’s Pre-Hispanic origin is complex yet very dynamic. Perhaps its most important claim to fame is the Mochica civilization, which rose up after the Cupisnique and reached the highest level of cultural development in the region. The area of influence of these warriors and artisans stretched throughout most of the central and northern coast of Peru. After their decline, other very powerful kingdoms arose, most importantly the Huamachucos and Chimus. The latter group actually had a foothold in the Paramonga Valley in what is today the department of Lima and set up their capital in Chan Chan, just outside the city of Trujillo. After staunchly resisting the Incas from 1462 – 1465, they finally fell to the armies of the emperor, Tupac Yupanqui. Impressed by the quality of Mochica and Chimu art, the Incas took with them back to Cusco a group of artisans to serve the nobility there.
Subsequently, the Spanish arrived and pushed southward through Peru, and as they stumbled upon the Moche Valley after having sojourned through extensive deserts, they saw it as a blessing. In 1534, Diego de Almagro founded the Villa de Trujillo de Nueva Castilla, which soon turned into a permanent residence for Spanish landowners and nobles. The wealth of these new inhabitants drew the attention of pirates, who sacked La Libertad’s coastal cities in the 17th century, a situation that forced then Viceroy Melchor de Navarra to build a wall around the city. In 1790, Trujillo was declared the Capital of Independence, and it became the seat of power for the northern territories: La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura, Tumbes, and Cajamarca.
The struggle for independence was intensely felt in Trujillo since it was the first city to declare itself free of Spanish rule. In 1824, Simon Bolivar moved his headquarters to Trujillo and from there planned his Pichincha, Junin, and Ayacucho campaigns that sealed independence for Spanish America.
With the onset of the 20th century, the department saw new wealth flow into its hands in the form of sugar cane plantations, which laid the foundations for the area’s future agroindustry. This bonanza went hand-in-hand with an important cultural movement, the heads of which were Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, Cesar Vallejo, and Macedonio de la Torre, a sculptor.
In 1971, the government launched its agrarian reform, which interrupted the previous growth the department was undergoing, yet it has seen a new increase thanks to the Chavimochic Project irrigation works that have opened a new panorama for the nation’s economy thanks to the exportation of asparagus, artichokes, bell peppers, grapes, avocados, and others.