Peru is filled with cultural history and natural beauty. It’s also known for its many myths, mysteries, and local legends. If you visit Peru for its famous Machu Picchu and Inca Trail but want to visit a town that is filled with history and intrigue, then you should plan a trip to Cachiche.
Cachiche is located just 4 km from Ica, Peru. The legend of Cachiche dates back to the 17th century during the Spanish Inquisition. Originally, the Spanish Inquisition was intended to identify heretics among those who converted from Islam and Judaism to Catholicism. However, in Peru, the Inquisition also involved persecuting women who practiced their pagan beliefs. These women were believed to be witches and hunted down.
The brujas or “witches” sought religious refuge in Lima; however, they are also persecuted there. Eventually, they settled in in the Ica Valley countryside in a village called Cachiche. The witches have lived there ever since, operating in secret until the 1980s.
Julia Hernández Pecho Viuda de Díaz
The most famous of the Cachiche witches was Julia Hernández Pecho Viuda de Díaz. Legend has it that she cured the stammer of a local boy named Fernando Leon de Vivero; that boy went on to become a congressman in Lima. He was so grateful for what she had done for him that he commissioned a statue in her form; the statue is a woman with her hands stretched upward in the shape of a V with an owl and a skull on her sides.
It is believed that Julia died at the age of 106 in 1987. The statue stands there to this day. Cachiche would also become known for its seven-headed palm tree. The village’s unusual palm tree has several trunks generating from a single root system. Before Julia's death, she prophesized that when the 7th head of the palm tree appeared, Ica would be wiped out. Julia’s prophecy was pretty much forgotten after her death; however, in 1998, Ica was flooded, affecting thousands. That was the year the palm sprouted its 7th head, just as Julia has predicted.
Sculpture in Cachiche
In the 80s and 90s, the Cachiche witches started to come out of their shrouds of secrecy when the town piqued the interest of many people including Peruvian presidents who were seeking alternative health practices. The Cachiche witches had passed down their practices through the generations; one of their favorite healing methods involved the use of the San Pedro cactus which contains mescaline, a psychedelic alkaloid known for its hallucinogenic effects. Mescaline is used in medicine today to treat alcoholism and depression.
Cachiche is still known as Peru’s center of witchcraft. The palm tree still exists there today and is located at the center of the village. Many tales have been passed down that it became twisted and distorted because of the spells cursed upon it by a dying witch who was sacrificed on the spot.