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The area was originally inhabited by the Wankas. At around 500 CE, they were incorporated into the Wari Empire. Despite efforts to defend its independence, the Wankas were eventually subdued by the Inca leader Pachacutec in 1460 and the region was incorporated into the Inca empire. It subsequently became a notable stopping point along the Inca Camino Real.
After the Spanish colonization (1534), Huancayo was overshadowed by Jauja, 18 km to the north, which the conquistador Francisco Pizarro established as a provisional capital of Peru until Lima took over that role.
In 1570, the viceroy Francisco de Toledo established the site as the center of his encomienda Guancayo. The town was officially established on June 1, 1572 with the title of Santísima Trinidad de Huancayo. During the war for independence, Huancayo was liberated on 20 November 1820. Construction on the cathedral commenced in 1831.
In 1969, two earthquakes struck Huancayo, destroying hundreds of homes, damaging in bridges, railways and killing 800-1,000 people. Landslides killed or missing and 300 additional people in suburban districts and near Huaytapallana mountains.
Today, in addition to its importance as a center of commerce, Huancayo is known for the crafts and the many festivals of the surrounding towns. Having rapidly expanded in recent decades, it has few remaining colonial buildings; the cityscape is dominated by modern constructions. The city is served by the Francisco Carle Airport located in Jauja but travelers usually use the Limean Airport.