When the Spanish conquistador Pizarro began his pillaging of Peru in 1533, he seized the Inca emperor Atahualpa and held him prisoner in what has come to be known as the Ransom Room. In exchange for his freedom, Atahualpa offered to fill the twelve-by-eight-meter room with gold – up to the height of the emperor's outstretched arm. Upon securing the gold, Pizarro had Atahualpa executed anyway. The building, once part of a larger complex, is typical of structures built during the height of the Inca Empire: a rectangular dwelling consisting of polygonal blocks articulated with trapezoidal niches and a single door. Most of the volcanic stone is spalling, a condition aggravated by pollution and weather fluctuations. The building has become so absorbed in a dense urban center that the building is hardly noticeable. Drainage from adjacent buildings must be diverted so the foundations are not threatened. Unbecoming additions – inappropriate roof, signage, raised floors and steps, exposed electrical conduits – also need to be removed so that the site can attain a level of dignity worthy of its historical significance.
Since the Watch
Following Watch listing in 1998, plans for a conservation project were prepared by the local office of the National Institute of Culture (currently Ministry of Culture). The 20th-century additions that encumbered the historic structure were removed in the first phase of this project. In 2011, the Municipality of Cajamarca and Asociación Los Andes de Cajamarca (ALAC) agreed to improve the surrounding infrastructure of the Ransom Room as part of a comprehensive plan to restore the Historic Center of Cajamarca. This effort parallels WMF’s own contribution to the restoration of the Belén Religious Complex, one of the most important historic monuments in Cajamarca. The Historic Center of Cajamarca, including the Ransom Room, was added to Peru's Tentative World Heritage List in 2002. August 2015