Battlefield of Ayacucho

Date of Submission: 05/08/2019
Criteria: (vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Region of Ayacucho, Province of Huamanga, District of Quinua
Coordinates: S13 02 34 W74 07 51
Ref.: 6413

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The battle of Ayacucho (from quechua “corner of the dead”) was the last great confrontation within the land campaigns of the Spanish American Wars of Independence (1809-1826), where the countries under Spanish domination fought for their freedom in large confrontations. The battle took place at Pampa de Ayacucho, also known as  Pampa de la Quinua (from quechua “quenua” related to a popular shrub in the area), located in the district of Quinua, department of Ayacucho, on December 9, 1824. The victory of independentist forces in charge of the United Liberation Army of Peru ends the Spanish colonial military presence in South America and consolidates the Independence of Peru, which had already been declared in Lima on July 28, 1821 by General José de San Martín. Thereby the battles for Peru's independence ended with a military capitulation that would be transformed years later into a diplomatic treaty signed in Paris on August 14, 1879.


After the independentist victory of the Battle of Junín on August 6, 1824, the patriotic and royalist forces retreated to look for better positions by taking alternate routes in a southeastern direction until reached surrounding town of Quinua on December 6 and 8, respectively since they were determined to end the long war started militarily in Peru in 1818. The patriotic army occupied the town of Quinua in the east and the royalist army the Cerro Condorcunca in the heights.

The United Liberation Army of Peru was at the Battle of Ayacucho leaded by General Antonio José de Sucre designated by Liberator Simón Bolívar. It was composed of combined military forces of the Republic of Colombia (now Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama) and the Vencedor, Vargas, Rifles, Bogotá, Voltígeros, Pichincha, Caracas, Grenadiers of Colombia and Húsares de Colombia Battalions. As well as Húsares de Junín, the Legion of the Guard, the Infantry battalion No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 (Peru) and one squadron of the Cavalry Grenadiers Regiment of Río de la Plata (Argentina), to which Chilean soldiers were incorporated in many battalions, making a total of 5780 infantry and cavalry soldiers and a single piece of artillery. On the other hand, the royalist army leaded by Viceroy La Serna had 5876 Infantry soldiers, 1030 cavalry soldiers and 16 artillery cannons. On the morning of December 9, the confrontation with royalist artillery fire began, taking place the confrontation in the afternoon. The patriot army had the following formation for the battle according to the description of the Irish Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Florencio O'Leary, a participant in the events of that day:

  • The right: Division of General José María Córdoba (2.300 soldiers), composed by four battalions: Bogotá, Voltigeros, Pichincha and Caracas. 
  • On the center: Division of General Guillermo Miller, composed by the Cavalry Grenadiers Regiment of Colombia, Húsares de Junín and Cavalry Grenadiers of Río de la Plata. 
  • The left: Division of General José de La Mar (1.580 soldiers), composed by four battalions: No. 1, 2, 3 and Peruvian Legion. 
  • In reserve: Division of General Jacinto Lara (1.700 soldiers), composed by three battalions: Rifles, Vencedores and Vargas, were spread out behind the center. 

Prior to the confrontation, General Sucre harangued the troops and walked through the ranks saying: "Soldiers! the fate of South America depends on today's efforts; another day of glory will crown your admirable perseverance. Soldiers! Long live the Liberator! Long live Bolivar, the Savior of Peru!”. The actions and strategies of both armies during the approximately four hours of the bloody battle ended with the defeat of the royalists with an estimated of 1,800 dead and 700 wounded soldiers, fourteen artillery pieces, two thousand five hundred rifles and many articles of war, while the losses of the patriot army were 310 dead and 709 wounded soldiers.

Thereon, the remarkable German researcher and traveler Ernst W. Middendorf (1830-1908) mentioned that “(…) the battle of Ayacucho, in which only 6,000 South American patriots defeated the Spanish army of 10 000 soldiers, is undoubtedly the most important battle of all those that were fought in South America, since the Spanish domination in this part of America was definitively liquidated”. (Observations and studies of the country and its population during his permanence of 25 years – Volume III La Sierra, First Spanish version, Lima, 1974, p. 433). Later in 1825, Bolívar wrote and published a review about the life of the General Sucre, pointing out that: “The Battle of Ayacucho is at the top of American glory, and the work of General Sucre. The planning of it was perfect, and the execution divine. Future generations will commemorate the victory of Ayacucho to bless it and contemplate it sitting on the throne of freedom, commanding to Americans the exercise of their rights and the sacred laws of nature”. (Bolívar, Letter to Sucre, Nazca, April 26, 1825).

After the battle, the Royalist Lieutenant General José Canterac, Chief of the High Command, agreed to the proposal of an honorable capitulation by the independentists, when his army was decimated and Viceroy La Serna was wounded and imprisoned. They negotiated on that day the terms of the document, that would be signed by him instead of Viceroy La Serna when he was disabled and by Antonio José de Sucre the next day in Huamanga, but dated on December 9.

That treaty, known as Capitulation of Ayacucho, was composed of 18 articles that establish the capitulation conditions, whose first article was undoubtedly the most important. It established that “The territory guarded by the Spanish troops in Peru would be handed over to the arms of the liberation army to the Desaguadero, with parks, mastery and all existing military warehouses”. “(…) the remains of the Spanish army, baggage and horses of troops, garrison found throughout the territory and other forces and objects belonging to the Spanish government would also be handed over.” That implied the capitulation and departure of Peru from all military commands, canceling the presence of the royalist army. Only General Olañeta stayed in Alto Perú (now Bolivia) and General Rodil positioned in the Real Felipe Fortress in Callao were left defending the Spanish royalist cause in South America until 1826 when he handed over the aforementioned square.

In 1974, while commemorating 150 years of the Battle of Ayacucho, the Declaration of Ayacucho was signed in Lima whereby Heads of State and government representatives of the region recognized that “(…) the high historical significance of this definitive act of arms in the emancipatory feat of America, with which it concluded an essential stage in the process of forging the freedom of our peoples, proclaiming “(…) that the Battle of Ayacucho constitutes the unity symbol of the Latin American peoples in their struggle for liberation and the celebration of its 150th anniversary is a propitious reason to emphasize that the union of Latin America demands the permanent and continued effort for the full realization of the ideals of freedom, justice, sovereignty, equality and solidarity”.  The document was signed by Juan Velasco, President of Peru; Hugo Banzer, President of Bolivia; Omar Torrijos, Head of Government of Panama; Carlos Andrés Pérez, President of Venezuela; Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala, representative of the President of Colombia; Alberto J. Vignes, representative of the President of Argentina; Carlos Aníbal Jaramillo, representative of the President of Ecuador, and Vice Admiral Patricio Carvajal, representative of the Head of State of Chile.


The Pampa de Ayacucho or Pampa de la Quinua is located 37 km in the northwest of Ayacucho city, near the town of Quinua, where the Capitulation of Ayacucho was signed. It occupies an extensive elevated plain with a certain slope at an altitude of 3,275 m.a.s.l., covering an approximate extension of 72 hectares. It is a natural viewpoint where the beautiful landscape of Ayacucho countryside can be seen due to its privileged geographic location.

The historian José de la Riva Agüero describes the battlefield like: “The small Pampa de Ayacucho is climbed from Quinua. It is a flat arid, cut by deep ditches. To the east, the tight and abrupt slopes of the Condorcunca (voice or throat of the condor) close it. To one side, the dry ravine of Jatunhuayco (great flash floods) opens. To the north, the narrow Ventamayu valley, with a stream shaded by molles and a small chapel destroyed or unfinished, under the title of San Cristóbal" (Riva Agüero. 1955: 51).

The Ecozone of the pampa belongs to the ecoregion of dry woodlands – Inter Andean valleys located between 3 000 and 4 500 m.a.s.l., in zones with rare or relative presence of rains. The vegetation is represented mainly by shrub lands, where the taya (a Peruvian medicinal plant) is the most representative, as well as the queñual or quinual, that is a tree adapted to cold temperatures, whose bark is peeled and forms a thick cover of protection against the low temperatures, being in the Cerro Condorcunca and Andrespata. Historically, the royalist army was located in these hills at the beginning of the battle.

In the place, there is a commemorative monument of the battle, knows as the Obelisco de la Pampa de la Quinua, an artwork of the Spanish artist Aurelio Bernandino Arias, which was built as part of the celebration of 150th anniversary in 1974, according to the provisions of Law No. 14733 that states “the construction of a monument in the field de Quinua was what the nation needs, the scene of the Battle of Ayacucho. It eternalizes the immortal epic accomplishment of December 9 and constitutes complete homage to the peoples of Peru, whom forged their freedom", being the only existing permanent structure in the pampa.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Battle of Ayacucho becomes an important milestone of the Peruvian and South American history because it consolidates the independence process of many American states of the Spanish Crown. The victory of patriot multinational forces leaded by the Venezuelan military officer Antonio José de Sucre, General in Chief of the United Liberation Army, over the royalist forces leaded by José de La Serna, the Viceroy of Peru, finalizes with the recognition of the royalist military defeat in the region, which represents the tipping point in favour of the definitive independence of many nations of South America.

The remarkable joint operation by combined military forces of the Republic of Colombia (now Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama) composed by Vencedor, Vargas, Rifles, Bogotá, Voltígeros, Pichincha, Caracas, Grenadiers of Colombia. Also, Húsares de Colombia Battalions, like the Húsares de Junín, theLegion of the Guard, the Infantry battalion No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 (Peru) and one squadron of the Cavalry Grenadiers Regiment of Río de la Plata (Argentina), and Chilean soldiers were also incorporated in many battalions. That artillery reflects the strategic importance for the region of subduing or eliminating the strong presence of the royalist army in Peru.  It constituted an obstacle to ensure the recently achieved independence of many South American nations.

The historical significance of the Battle of Ayacucho is part of the collective memory of the involved nations that are present in the historiography of many South American countries, including references of Ayacucho in the naming of the Peruvian department and cities, towns, villages, streets, institutions, and so on, of many countries that commemorates the historical battle.

Criteria (vi): The historical significance of the great event that meant the victory of patriot forces over the royalist forces of the Spanish Crown in the Battle of Ayacucho is based upon the great effort and determination, motivated by independentist and freedom ideals of the Legion of the Guard composed by combined military forces of the Gran Colombia (now Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama) and Peru, with the participation of one squadron of the Cavalry Grenadiers Regiment of Río de la Plata (Argentina) and Chilean soldiers included in many battalions. They achieved together the military victory in the battlefield and the following capitulation of the Spanish army, ensuring the demobilization and withdrawal of the royalist army of Peru, the last great military bastion of the Spanish monarchy in South America, thereby opening a chapter in history of American nations that participated in this event, which supported their future like independent States.

Moreover, the Pampa de Ayacucho or Pampa de la Quinua represents a significant example of landscape closely associated with a landmark event in history of many South American nations. In this place, the population of Quinua dramatizes the victory of the Union Liberation Army in the Battle of Ayacucho each year on December 9 .

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


The extract of the narration from the sources of individuals that participated in the battle (Irish Colonel Daniel Florencio O’Leary and the British General Guillermo Miller) shows that the center of the activities were developed in the area of the Pampa de Ayacucho. In this regard, O’Leary describes “In their steps forwards and backwards, the Union Army arrived to the Pampa de Ayacucho, to the east and near the Peruvian town of Quinua, to three leagues of Huamanga, on December 6, 1824”.

The pampa de Ayacucho or Quinua was a field with ravines or hollows described by the historian José de la Riva Agüero y Osma in his literary work "Paisajes peruanos" (1912) and by Mariano Torrente in his literary work "Historia de la Hispanoamericana" (1829-1830), taking a prominent position the Cerro Condorcunca , where the royalist forces were posted before the beginning of the battle.

The plan published in 1829 by Mariano Torrente, few years after the battle, describes schematically the scenario of the Battle of Ayacucho and the main movements, which had the pampa and the Cerro Condorcunca as the main sites. A remarkable oil painting by Teófilo Aguirre (1918) that is in the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru and other by Martin Tovar y Tovar (1886) that is in the National Art Gallery of Caracas, Venezuela, give people an idea about moments of the battle and the signature of the capitulation near the town of Quinua.

The statutory provisions issued by the Peruvian State endorses the authenticity of the site.


The pampa de Ayacucho or pampa de la Quinua has reached the present time intact as the high plain in which the Battle of Ayacucho took place. The only tangible intervention in the place is a commemorative obelisk built to celebrate the 150 years of the Battle of Ayacucho. Indeed, the natural attributes of the place are preserved intact, maintaining the prominent geography and vegetation of the ecoregion in which it is located.

The Peruvian law ensures the integrity of the Pampa de Ayacucho since 1973, when the Peruvian State declared the Pampa de la Quinua as Historic Monument of the Scenario of the Battle of Ayacucho by Supreme Decision No. 709, with an area of 72 hectares, in which the topographic survey and the descriptive memory were part of the document. In 2017, as the bicentennial of the battle approaches, the Department of Culture recognizes the Historic Battle Site by Ministerial Decision No. 495-2017-MC; months before, the Management Regulations of Historic Battle Sites were approved through Supreme Decree No. 008-2017-MC. It was an initiative aimed at regulating the management of Historic Battle Sites, such as the Pampa de Ayacucho, where the determination of sectors to establish uses and the Management Plan are in process. It should be noted that the obelisk was declared a Monument of the National Cultural Heritage by Viceministerial Decision No. 092-2018-VPCIC-MC on June 28, 2018.

Moreover, the site is included within the Historic Sanctuary of Pampa de Ayacucho, a 300-hectare natural area declared by Supreme Decree No. 119-80-AA on July 14, 1980, and has a Master Plan for the period 2016-2020, approved by Presidential Decision No. 019-2016-SERNANP.

Comparison with other similar properties

Symbolic properties and memorials associated with beliefs, individuals or events are a type of cultural property that is currently very poorly represented on the World Heritage List and generally related to imprisonment places with associated building structures and memorial sites of events or activities. For example, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau (1940-1945) in Poland (1979); Australian Convicts Sites (2010); Robben Island in South Africa (1999) and Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site in Brazil (2017) among others. Besides that, since there is no specific examples related to battlefields, we consider the Pampa de Ayacucho or Pampa de la Quinua to be a representative proposal, given its symbolic and commemorative significance for several South American countries.

The Waterloo Battlefield in Belgium stands out as some of the properties similar to the Pampa de Ayacucho, inscribed on the Indicative List of the mentioned State Party in 2008. It is one of the great symbols of the Napoleonic epic that marked the European history between 1796 and 1815. The Waterloo Battlefield has reached the 21st century in a state very close to what existed in the 19th century, due to the agricultural activities around it. The commemorative monuments built there increased the symbolic value of the site. Both the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Ayacucho involved multinational armies with the aim of defending regional interests, so they are, even now, memorial sites for several countries and even for all the continent.