Visiting the Ruinas de los Indios Quilmes (Ruins of the Quilmes Indians) in the Provincia de Tucuman, Argentina?

Introduction

I took a day trip from San Miguel de Tucuman, Provincia Tucuman, Argentina to visit is Ruinas de los Indios Quilmes (RIQ).  The Quilmes lived in northwestern Argentina, and were part of the Diaguita group indigenous to the area.  Only about 10 percent of the ruins have been restored.  This post will be about my trip and the sights to be seen at RIQ.  The Quilmes will be discussed in passing to provide a background for the reader, but if the reader wants to know more about the Quilmes, the reader should consult other resources.  The post is divided into the following sections:

  • Trip to the Ruina de los Indios Quilmes
  • Background on the Quilmes
  • Ruinas de los Quilmes
  • Important Points to learn from the Quilmes

Most of the post will be from photos taken during my trip to visit QIR  Comments will be provided for each photo.

Trip to the Ruinas de los Indios Quilmes

QIR is about 182 kilometers (113 miles) from San Miguel de Tucuman.  The trip passes through the foothills of the Andes reaching an altitude of almost 10,000.  During the trip you pass through subtropical forests and semi arid deserts.  Twelve hours should be allowed for this trip.  I was picked up at my hotel at 7:30 AM in the morning, and returned about 6:30 PM.  Maps below show the route from San Miguel de Tucuman to QIR and return.

Ruinas de Quilmes are shown here in northwest Argentina.  The enlarged map in the lower left show our route from San Miguel de Tucuman.  Buenos Aires is shown in the lower right to provide a perspective.
Ruinas de Quilmes are shown here in northwest Argentina. The enlarged map in the lower left shows our route from San Miguel de Tucuman. Buenos Aires is shown in the lower right to provide a perspective.  Maps are courtesy of Bing Maps.
A satellite view of our route shows the eastern side of the mountains we crossed full of subtropical vegetation, and the western side of the mountains to be a dry semi arid region.
A satellite view of our route shows the eastern side of the mountains we crossed.  It is full of subtropical vegetation.  The western side of the mountains is a semi arid region.  This satellite photo is courtesy of Google Maps.
Climbing the eastern side of the mountains coming from San Miguel de Tucuman on the way to Ruinas de Quilmes.
Climbing the eastern side of the mountains coming from San Miguel de Tucuman on the way to Ruinas de Quilmes.  You can see the dense subtropical growth as we rose into the mountains.
Our high point for the day was 3,042 meters (9.980 ft) just shy of 10,000 feet.
Our high point for the day was 3,042 meters (9.980 ft) just shy of 10,000 feet
The winding road down into the Amaicha Valley (home of the Quilmes).
The winding road down into the Amaicha Valley (home of the Quilmes).

Background on the Quilmes Indians

Ruinas de Quilmes are in the Amaicha Valley across the mountains from San Miguel de Tucuman.  This is a long semi arid valley.  About 5,000 people resided the area starting about 850 AD.  For almost 100 years prior to the arrival on the Spaniards, about 1530, the Quilmes fiercely fought the Incas who came south from Peru.  It is not entirely clear to me if the Incas ever completely conquered the Quilmes. However, a few years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the tour guide at the ruins told be that the Incas had left the area.  It took about 130 years for the Spaniards to conquer the Quilmes in 1667.  It is hard to believe that the Spaniards had so much trouble conquering the Quilmes.  My guess is that the Spaniards just did not devote the resources needed to conquer the Quilmes.  If they could conquer the Incas, they could surely conquer the Quilmes.  Again my hunch is that when it finally became important to the Spaniards, they devoted the resources necessary to complete the conquest.

Inca territory can be seen in this map.  The general area where the Quilmes resided is also shown.
Inca territory can be seen in this map. The general area where the Quilmes resided is also shown.  This map is courtesy of Wikipedia.

About 2,000 people were still residing at the site of the ruins when they were conquered.  At that point they were marched 1,500 kilometers to the south and resettled south of Buenos Aires and area named Quilmes.  During the 1,500 mile march, many of the Quilmes died.  I think the main things to remember about the Quilmes are:

  1. They lived in the area of the Ruinas de Quilmes for about 800 years starting about 850 AD,
  2. They were fiercely independent and fought long wars with the Incas for 100 years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1530,
  3. They fought with the Spaniards for over 130 years before being conquered in 1667, and
  4. In the end the Quilmes were resettled by force to a city south of Buenos Aires.  Hundreds died during during the forced march.

 The Ruinas de los Indios Quilmes

The ruins are located at an altitude of about 2,000 meters (6,500 + feet) elevation.  The ruins were rediscovered about 1890.  Work was started to restore the ruins in 1978.   My tour guide told me that only about 10 % of the ruins have been restored.  Satellite pictures of both the general area of the ruins and the restored areas are shown below.

Most of the Ruinas de los Quilmes are shown inside the circled area.  This view is courtesy of Google Maps.  I circled the general area of the ruins.
Most of the Ruinas de los Quilmes are shown inside the circled area. This view is courtesy of Bing Maps. I circled the general area of the ruins.  Ninety percent of the ruins remain unrestored.
Restored area of Ruinas de los Quilmes.  Only about 10% of the ruins have been restored.
Restored area of Ruinas de los Quilmes. Only about 10% of the ruins have been restored.  This view is courtesy of Bing Maps.

Photos from my visit to Ruinas de Los Indios Quilmes

Road to Ruinas de Los Indios Quilmes after leaving Argentina Route 40.
Road to Ruinas de Los Indios Quilmes after leaving Argentina Route 40.
Sign announcing the entrance to Ruinas de Los Indios Quilmes
Sign announcing the entrance to Ruinas de Los Indios Quilmes
Tools used by the Quilmes for grinding corn and other grains.  These are basically the same of the tools used by American Indians.
Tools used by the Quilmes for grinding corn and other grains. These are basically the same of the tools used by American Indians.
More tools
More tools
A large area that would have housed several families.  Roofs have not been part of the restoration process.
A large area that would have housed several families. Roofs have not been part of the restoration process.
This smaller area was for a single family.  This would have reserved for a family with special privileges.
This smaller area was for a single family. This would have reserved for a family with special privileges.
Rooms of all kinds and shapes were seen.
Rooms of all kinds and shapes were seen.
Cactus are growing in the area of an old room today.  I can only presume the cactus was not in these rooms when the village was occupied.
Cactus are growing in the area of an old room today. I can only presume the cactus was not in these rooms when the village was occupied.
A smaller room with another growing cactus.
A smaller room with another growing cactus.
Not every room has a cactus.  I wonder if the wife or the husband had the responsibility to water the plants, or if they took turns>
Not every room has a cactus. I wonder if the wife or the husband had the responsibility to water the plants, or if they took turns.
A common grinding area just outside a walkway.  Again, this looks very similar to grinding areas that I have seen in the ruins of American Indians.
A common grinding area just outside a walkway. Again, this looks very similar to grinding areas that I have seen in the ruins of American Indians.
Outside of the Runias de Los Indios Quilmes on Argentina Route 40 returning to San Miguel de Tucuman.
Outside of the Runias de Los Indios Quilmes on Argentina Route 40 returning to San Miguel de Tucuman.

Conclusion

I did not know anything about the Quilmes prior to my visit to San Miguel de Tucuman.  I think this was the most interesting part of the visit.  RIQ is just not on the same scale of Machu Picchu (home of the ruler of the Incas).  What I did learn today was a better appreciation of how large the Inca Kingdom really was, the will the the Quilmes to maintain their freedom from both the Incas and Spaniards, and how in the end they were hauled away as slaves.  It is a great story of the struggles of one of the many indian tribes in South American to maintain their independence for over 800 years.

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