History & Culture
Mysterious pre-Inca and Inca civilisations, indigenous Amazon tribes and European colonial influence spiced up with some African magic
The early history of Latin America is rich and complex. The Inca Empire dominated the Andes during the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, but their civilisation was built on roots of many much earlier civilisations that thrived in the highlands – some dating back thousands of years. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the early 16th Century and later the Portuguese changed the face of the continent for ever, bringing with them Christianity and building magnificent churches and palaces – often on the foundations of Inca buildings.
Evidence of the Inca and pre-Inca civilisations can be found throughout the Andes. From their capital at Cusco, the Incas systematically overthrew the earlier civilisations and completely dominated the Andes region from the mid-1400s until their final defeat by the Spanish in 1533. Inca rule extended to nearly a hundred different ethnic communities from Chile through Bolivia, Peru and up to the north of Ecuador: a vast region encompassing up to 14 million people and connected by an incredible system of 25,000 kilometres of mountain trails.
Archaeological excavation of these civilisations continues today. Machu Picchu stands as the greatest monument to the Incas but many other important excavations continue to reveal secrets from the past. Choquequirao – deep in the Peruvian forest – is now being excavated and appears to be an even larger ‘lost city’.
From the 1530s onwards, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in force and were committed to converting the local people to Christianity. Magnificent churches, cathedrals, convents and other ostentatious buildings were built across the region to show the power and authority of the Church. Very much the same later happened with the Portuguese in what is now Brazil. This has left the region with some fantastic colonial architecture, as exemplified in cities like Quito, Cusco and the many charming Portuguese colonial towns in Minas Gerais, Salvador and other towns along the Atlantic coast.
Many locals, however, clung to their original beliefs but put on a façade of Christianity to please their colonial masters. This has created a fascinating mix of syncretic beliefs which continue today – blending Christian festivals and beliefs with solar celebrations – or, in the case of the Afro-latinos, mixing Christian saints with African Gods.
Over the years, there was inter-breeding between the colonial masters and the local people, creating a ‘mestizo’ class. The mix is complex and uncertain, but in countries like Brazil where a significant number of African slaves were brought in to work on the plantations – you find today people of every conceivable shade: an amazing melting pot of race and cultures!
It is really this extraordinary history and collision of cultures that gives Latin America its vibe and diversity. Different peoples, different cultures and music, different traditions and beliefs and different cuisines all thrown into the pot and slowly cooked for centuries: there is really nowhere else quite like it!
To discover more about the rich history and cultures of Latin America, give us a call or send us a message.
Places to stay
Estancia La Bamba
An old style family-run estancia offering riding and relaxation within easy reach of Buenos Aires.View details about Estancia La Bamba
A grand town house now home to a boutique hotel with a critically acclaimed restaurant and flower-filled roof terrace.View details about Hub Porteño
Hacienda de Molinos
A tranquil country retreat immersed in the beauty of colonial charm and picturesque mountains.View details about Hacienda de Molinos
Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt
The luxurious Park Hyatt is another firm Miraviva favourite and is well located in the Recoleta district of Buenos Aires.View details about Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt
This chic and stylish boutique hotel in the artistic Barranco district of Lima is a home-away-from-home.View details about Hotel B
The Palacio Nazarenas is Cusco's top hotel offering the highest standards of service and comfort.View details about Palacio Nazarenas
The Country Club Hotel
The Country Club is an elegant 1920s hotel and one of the classiest places to stay in Lima.View details about The Country Club Hotel
La Casona Inkaterra
La Casona is an exclusive boutique hotel in a converted historic house in the heart of Cusco.View details about La Casona Inkaterra
Hotel Monasterio has a great sense of history and is a great all-round option for a stay in CuscoView details about Hotel Monasterio
Sol y Luna
Delightful casitas set in beautifully maintained gardens make Sol y Luna our favourite hotel in the Sacred Valley.View details about Sol y Luna
Hiram Bingham Train
It's not a hotel - but a trip on the Hiram Bingham train between Cusco and Machu Picchu is a great experience.View details about Hiram Bingham Train
The Libertador is a gracious 1930s hotel a few blocks from the centre of Arequipa.View details about The Libertador
Explora Rapa Nui
Explora Rapa Nui is the best base from which to explore the wonders of Easter IslandView details about Explora Rapa Nui
The Singular Patagonia
This landmark hotel in Patagonia brings to life the history of the region in five star luxury and comfort.View details about The Singular Patagonia
Purpose-built glass and steel boutique hotel with stunning views of local mountain ranges and volcanos.View details about Tierra Atacama
Casa Colonial Paraty
Two stunningly restored colonial properties.View details about Casa Colonial Paraty
Solar da Ponte
A delightful 18th century colonial mansion in the picture postcard historical village of Tiradentes, which is less of a hotel and more of a home.View details about Solar da Ponte
A truly delightful hideaway located on a remote beach on the Maraú Peninsula, but within striking distance of the fun bars and restaurants in Barra Grande.View details about Butterfly House
Stylish historical boutique hotel combining charm, coziness and modernity.View details about Casa Turquesa
Hacienda La Danesa
A very charming family-owned hacienda located just one hour outside Guayaquil, on a 500 hectare traditional cattle and cacao farm.View details about Hacienda La Danesa
Conveniently located in Plaza San Francisco in the old town, Casa Gangotena is an excellent boutique hotel with good service.View details about Casa Gangotena
MY Passion has recently been the subject of a complete refurbishment leaving her with a vibrant interior of distinctive Ecuadorian style, replete with rich reds and golds with starburst suns glowing from the ceilings.View details about M/Y Passion
Hacienda San Agustín de Callo
Built around a courtyard, the highlights of this unique hacienda are two Inca buildings – still in full use as a dining room and a chapel.View details about Hacienda San Agustín de Callo
La Pinta is large motor yacht which has recently been completely renovated. In spite of its size, it accommodates just 48 guests leaving ample social areas and a beautiful observation deck towards the bow.View details about LA PINTA
Cuenca’s best boutique hotel is conveniently located in the heart of the city and offers guests personalized service and a memorable stay.View details about Mansion Alcazar
Sofitel Santa Clara
The Sofitel Santa Clara is a magnificent historic hotel set in the walled city of Cartagena.View details about Sofitel Santa Clara
A new boutique hotel housed in a restored 1940’s mansion in the Miraflores district of Lima.View details about Atemporal
Surrounded by humming birds, agapanthus and red hot pokers, this five bedroom lodge is a charming and relaxing place to stay.View details about Kentitambo
Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
The only hotel located at the entrance to the citadel of Machu Picchu.View details about Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
Sumaq Machu Picchu
Completely refurbished in 2014, this hotel is in a very convenient location in Aguas Calientes.View details about Sumaq Machu Picchu
A charming new boutique hotel, situated on the beach five miles from the historic centre of Trancoso.View details about Pousada Tutabel
La Nube Posada
Stylish Boutique Hotel renowned for Colombian cuisine in Barichara, a picturesque, 300-year old Colonial Town.View details about La Nube Posada
La Posada de San Antonio
Colonial houses converted into a small hotel in historic Villa de Leyva where the reception area doubles as an art gallery.View details about La Posada de San Antonio
Casa San Agustin
Located in the heart of the old city of Cartagena three historic houses have been redesigned to create a charming contemporary hotel.View details about Casa San Agustin