The dramatically situated pre-hispanic fortress of Quilmes lies a short distance south of Cafayate and is a fascinating place to visit, especially if you get there before the tour groups start to arrive. Continuously inhabited between the 11th and 17th centuries, at its peak Quilmes was home to over five thousand inhabitants. Inca armies tried to invade this region in the 1480s but failed to dislodge the Quilmes people from their mountain refuge.
Unfortunately, the Spanish arrived shortly afterwards and the Quilmes wouldn’t be so fortunate against this second set of conquistadores, although that didn’t prevent them from mounting an heroic resistance that lasted 130 years.
The Quilmes civilisation fiercely resisted Spanish colonisation of the region, and the site saw bitter fighting when the Spanish invaded. The fortress was the scene of several bloody battles and a devastating siege. After the Spanish had crushed the Quilmes’ resistance once and for all, those who remained alive were deported wholesale to the area around Buenos Aires.
It is a poignant reminder of the fate of all indigenous peoples who resisted Spanish invasion, a poignancy not made any easier now that Quilmes is the name of Argentina’s most famous beer brand and can be seen adorning the shirts of football players. Not exactly a dignified way for a once proud people to be remembered.
After a sobering morning contemplating the historical injustices done to indigenous peoples across Latin America, it was back to Cafayate and a much anticipated wine tour and tasting at the Bodega Etchart. Etchart make a delicious Torrentes Reserva that we’d been sampling over previous days, so this was something to look forward to – yum.