The area has been inhabited for millennia, with several prominent pre-Incan civilizations popping up in the fertile oasis.

Francisco Pizarro founded Trujillo in 1534, and he thought so highly of this patch of desert he named it after his birthplace in Spain’s Estremadura. Spoiled by the fruits of the fertile Moche valley, Trujillo never had to worry about money – wealth came easily. With life’s essentials taken care of, thoughts turned to politics and life’s grander schemes, and so the city's reputation for being a hotbed of revolt began. The town was besieged during the Inca rebellion of 1536 and in 1820 was the first Peruvian city to declare independence from Spain.

The tradition continued into the 20th century, as bohemians flocked, poets put pen to paper (including Peru’s best poet, César Vallejo) and rebels raised their fists defiantly in the air. It was here that the Alianza Popular Revolution Americana (APRA) workers’ party was formed – and where many of its members were later massacred.