Dubbed “the Pearl of the Andes" by nineteenth-century Italian naturalist Antonio Raimondi, the city of Tarma is an enchanted spot perched in the central highlands, riddled with narrow streets and fertile fields that take on a new lease of life, color and mysticism during the Easter Week festivities.
As the road begins the descent from the town of Las Vegas to the fertile valley that dazzled Raimondi, Tarma emerges as a vision. Nestling amongst the fresh green hills that shelter the town from the highland winds, the city hums with the bustle of the festival that moves through the streets and spills over into neighboring villages. Everyone is getting ready to celebrate Easter Week.
Tarma is a region of fertile lands, clear blue skies and a patchwork of cropfields which are gilded by the setting sun. Tarma lies to the northwest of the Mantaro Valley, just four hours from Lima. One can reach the city by the Central Highway, which runs up to the town of La Oroya, where visitors should take the detour that leads down to the lower jungle valley of Chanchamayo. Along this route, some 235 kilometers from the capital, lies Tarma.
Local researcher Federico Phillips claims the city, the birthplace former President Manuel Odría, was founded on July 26, 1538 with the name Santa Ana. A year later, the town was occupied by 150 Spaniards, most of them from Seville, whose custom of carpeting the streets with flower petals during Easter Week was to become highly popular over the years.
The ancient settlers in this region were the Taramas, a minor tribe which for five centuries fought for domination of the valley with the Pumpus and the war-like Huancas, until all of them were subdued by the Incas. The terracing and ruins at Tarmatambo are a mute testimony to these ancient cultures, as well as the archaeological sites of Collapata, Murallapunta, Shoguemarca and Yanamarca.