Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Street art in Chorrillos

Saw these while walking in Chorrillos yesterday and checking the route for a new Lima Walk:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ritual on the Island of San Lorenzo

Lima 19 December 2011 - As part of the 'Pilgrimage of the Wise Old men' of the huacas of Lima in the week of summer solstice , the island of San Lorenzo was visited on December 19th 2011 by a group of 'abuelos sabios', wise old men, and their followers to pay respect to the ancient sacred site. Other huacas that were visited are Caral, Pachacamac, Garagay, Mateo Salado, Maranga, Puruchuco and Paraiso.

The group of approx. 60 persons gathered in Pueblo Libre and went in buses to La Punta in Callao, to board a boat of the navy. The island of San Lorenzo is property of the army and cannot be visited freely. So another good reason to join the group. The sun was out in full force and just before we would arrive at the island, produced a circular rainbow. And the night before there had been a small earthquake originating in this area as well. Signs?

Upon arrival the group was greeted by antropologist Mapi Fortunic, specialised in sacred geography. After performing a ritual at the start the group moved to a beach where the women performed dances and offered flowers to the ocean. Most part of the people entered the ocean as well.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lima, the revival of a cosmopolitan centre

Lima is at the brink of another revival in its existence, which according to archaeologists goes back thousands of years. Driven by the fastest growing economy in the continent, a booming gastronomic scene and exciting entrepreneurial and cultural activities, the city seems to be rising from the ashes of some decades of neglect and poverty.

New five star hotels are moving in. The Westin Libertador Hotel, the highest building of Lima, is almost ready. Inkaterra is rumoured to start its first hotel in the Peruvian capital. Intercontinental is supposed to get a brand new hotel in Larcomar. And in the historic centre of Lima, Spanish Arte Express is adapting two of its acquisitions to become a boutique hotel. The museum scene is getting ready for an exciting time with the recently reopened MALI, Museo Larco that was officially reopened last night and a new Museo Metropolitano that will open in October. It feels like Lima is taking its place among the cities that count in the continent.

And, different from all the other cities in the Americas, (metropolitan) Lima can say it has been here for perhaps 4,000 years. It has had its ups and downs. Much more than any other city, the ups have been very up, being the second most important place in the Inca empire and the capital of the whole of Spanish South America, and the downs really down with El Niño, earthquakes and terrorism.
Four hours north of Lima lays Caral, the oldest city of the Americas and dating from the same time as the pyramids of Egypt. Around 4,000 years ago the big so called temples in U were built in this region. Huacoy in Carabayllo, Garagay in San Martin de Porres and La Florida in Rimac are examples of these huge constructions with central plazas of around 125,000 square meters. The people who built these temples must have had an advanced social structure, but disappeared.

Next came around 200 BC the Lima Culture. They built the huaca Pucllana in Miraflores, Huallamarca in San Isidro, the first temples of Maranga in San Miguel. And not only that, they were also responsible for digging the canals to irrigate the valley and turn it into agricultural land. One of these canals, rio Surco, still exists. And until the 1960-ies and 70-ies the area around Lima still was agricultural.
The Lima culture was contemporary to the Moche in the north and Nazca in the south and disappeared around 600 AD. Apparently due to a mega El Niño phenomenon. The area was conquered by the Andean Huari, who buried their dead in temples of the Lima culture, as Huari mummies were discovered in the huaca Pucllana.

A third epoch started with the Ichma. Unlike the Lima culture, who used little adobe bricks, they constructed their temples and administrative centres with huge adobe blocks: Mateo Salado near the Plaza de la Bandera, Mangomarca and Campoy in San Juan de Lurigancho, the more than 50 temples in Maranga in San Miguel, Cajamarquilla in Lurigancho and of course Pachacamac a bit to the south of Lima. Pachacamac was home to an important god that protected the population against earthquakes.
When the Incas conquered these lands around 1470 AD Pachacamac became the second most important place in the empire and the most important oracle. Historian Maria Rostworowski argues that Lima’s patron saint El Señor de los Milagros is none else than Pachacamac in disguise.

When the Spanish arrived another deciding period in Lima’s history started. Out of Lima the colonial rulers administered their South American possessions. Palaces, churches and official buildings lined the streets of a new baroque Lima. In the green lands around the city the huacas where silent reminders of the past, where the haciendas of the Spanish masters became the new agricultural centres. Here the Indian population worked, together with slaves from Africa.
Escaped slaves formed their own settlements or ‘palenques’ in Carabayllo, Chosica and San Juan de Lurigancho. But they lived as well in the popular districts of Barrios Altos and Rimac, giving birth to the creole culture, the typical dishes and music of Lima. Surviving major earthquakes in the 17th and 18th century, Lima slowly lost position as parts of the colonial empire started to be administered from other centres as Buenos Aires and Santa Fe de Bogota and in the end broke away from colonial rule.

Unwillingly, Peru was forced into Independence. Lima became a city in decline. When you read Flora Tristan’s description of the city in the 1830-ies she could be talking about parts of downtown Lima today. The discovery of the use of guano from the islands near Paracas as natural fertilizer gave a new impulse to Lima, but the war with Chile put a quick stop to that.
Only in the 1920-ies, after a hundred years of independence, Lima experienced a new boom, when the opening of the Panama Canal made trade with Europe and the US much easier. Plaza San Martin was built as was a new financial centre. The Second World War was also good for the Peruvian economy and for Lima, which said goodbye to its romantic neo-colonial architecture and began building contemporary architecture, wanting to play a role in the world.

But that was too soon. First the legacy of colonialism had to be removed. The semi slavery on the haciendas was finally abolished, leading to an enormous influx of immigrants, even more when terrorism rose in the 1980-ies. Lima was not able to handle this and the historical centre collapsed, the middle and upper classes took refuge behind walls and gates in safe suburbs and the immigrants flooded the city. Now Lima is a metropolis with 9 million inhabitants. Still struggling with the consequences of the past, but moving to a very interesting future. The history, the food and the culture certainly make Lima one of the most exciting places to be in at the moment.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Discovering the district of Rimac

Last Saturday I had a walk in the district of Rimac, one of the more challenging parts of Lima, because of the decay, poverty and alleged unsafety. In order not to tempt fate the walk went from the Puente de Piedra through Jr. Trujillo with the smallest church of Lima, San José del Puente, then Jr. Chiclayo and through the alameda de los Descalzos to the convent of the Descalzos. After visiting the museum by taxi to huaca La Florida and by return taxi to the Plaza de Acho, to walk back to the Plaza de Armas via the Puente Ricardo Palma.

Surprising Franciscan convent
The Convent of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles commonly known as Descalzos is a surprise. A very quiet and well preserved convent, with a great collection of colonial paintings from the schools of Lima, Cuzco and Quito. It was used as a Franciscan monastery until 1979 and then turned into a museum for religious art. The present building dates from the middle of the 18th century, but the origin of the place goes back to 1595, when this was the first enclosed monastery in Peru. The informal name is the Convento de los Descalzos (barefoot). The Franciscan monks wore very simple sandals which led to the name. The convent has seven cloisters. One of the cloisters was in the 1980-ies decorated in the popular style of Ayachuco, which gives it a very pleasant appearance. The chapel dates from 1733 and has an impressive entrance, alabaster windows and an altar inlaid with mother of pearl.

Oldest temple in Lima completey neglected
With an age of 4,000 years the huaca La Florida is the oldest pre-Hispanic structure in the metropolitan area of Lima and as well the largest with a plaza 140,000 square meters. It is a so called U-shaped temple. Other U-shaped temples are Huacoy in Carabayllo and Garagay in San Martin de Porres. Those two are in a better shape than La Florida, although the plaza of Huacoy was last year divided in parcels to be sold of for urbanization. La Florida is completely surrounded by buildings and the plaza has been converted in the fields of Sporting Club Cristal. A wall protects the club from the main structure of the huaca. The guards of the club told it was unsafe to explore the huaca, as there was a ‘ lost city’ on top with drug addicts. There was nothing on top, everything was completely deserted. It is a neglected place. Pity.

Bullfighting in Lima
Originally the bull fights were held in the main square with temporary seating arragements. A special building, the Plaza de Toros de Acho, was constructed in 1766, during the reign of Viceroy Amat. It has the form of a 15-sided polygon with an arena with a diameter of 80 metres. In 1944 the diameter was reduced to 55 metres and the number of seats doubled. The season for bullfighting is from the end of October, the celebration of El Senor de los Milagros, to the end of November. There is a museum dedicated to bullfighting and mainly made up out of donations of the family Graña, important producers of cattle and the bulls. Fernando Graña Elizalde (1911-1982) not only raised the bulls for fighting on his hacienda Huando in Huaral, but also paso horses and fighting cocks. Together with Alejandro Graña Garland and José Antonio Roca Rey he took the concession of the bull fights in the Plaza de Acho for 20 years and they remodelled the building in 1944. The funny Arab inspired mirador de Ingunza, the only remains of the house of Francisco Esteban de Ingunza Basualdo (1808-1886) from 1858, makes an interesting combination.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Let Ekeko help you at the ´Feria de los Deseos´

Lima 9 January 2010. Today we visited in Lima the ´Feria de los Deseos´ (the market of the wishes). Organizer Lidia Cortez Ñaca from Puno explains that this is the eleventh year that she organizes this market in Lima. It is an old custom in the Altiplano, the area around lake Titicaca, around the summer solstice (December 21st), and dates possibly from the Tiahuanacu culture (1400 BC until 1200 AD). The patron saint of the Feria is Ekeko, a little obese guy that brings prosperity, abundance and happiness, en who is supposed to be a continuation of the deity Tunupu.

In the Altiplano the market is called Feria de las Alasitas. An aymara word. All the things you´d like to see happen are for sale in miniature on the market; houses, cars, divorce papers, suitcase with money and a visum etc. These are being blessed with incense and rose water and you have to keep them in a safe place at home, and Ekeko will make your wish reality. To simplify my wishes I bought some money in miniature, what subsequently was blessed. Now it lays in a safe little place.

Except these rather materialistic wishes, there are numerous other activities, you can do a floricimiento, a bath of flower petals, which brings prosperity and happiness as well. Or let your future be read in coca leaves, let your fears be taken away by an egg etc. Lidia Cortez says that the persons who do all of this are not shamans, because those are from the north of Peru. These are sacerdotes andinos. Other than shamans they don´t use liquor to spray over you for cleansing, but they use flower petals and animals like the armadillo and guinea pig.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Gastón Acurrio recieves Dutch prince Claus prize 2009

Lima 17 December 2009 - Tonight chef Gastón Acurrio received from Dutch ambassador Barend van der Heijden one of the ten prizes for 2009 from the Prince Claus Fund for his significant contribution to culinary arts, for raising the profile of Peruvian cuisine and for fostering local development through creating pride in Peruvian culture and identity. Gastón accepted the price on behalf of all the people involved in Peruvian gastronomy, from the farmer who produces the products to the picarones salesman on the corner and the chef of the fancy restaurants in Miraflores and San Isidro.

Gastón divided his price over three projects. A cooking school in San Andrés in Pisco will be financed. Pisco was destroyed by the earthquake of 2008 and has still not recovered. Guaranga Films will get a contribution. They made recently a documentary on the ají (pepper) from the point of view of the farmers. And thirdly the Instituto de Cocina Pachacutec gets money for expansion. This school for cooks is located in the desert area in the district Ventanilla in the poor north of Lima. The school combines cooking classes with lessons in democracy. Recently hotel chain Marriott signed an agreement with the school for sponsoring of the hotel courses. The students will be trained in a Marriott hotel.

Regarding the question what message he has for the Dutch population who in general have little knowledge of the Peruvian cuisine, Gastón answers that countries without a large culinary tradition like Holland, England and Germany in general are very open to new experiences. It is to the Peruvians supply solutions. With the best Indonesian restaurants outside Indonesia Holland should be able to give opportunities to the Peruvian cuisine as well thinks Gastón.

The Prince Claus Fund seeks to highlight and celebrate artists, cultural groups and organizations that demonstrate significant interactions between culture and nature and introduce new ideas and approaches to environmental issues.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Peruvian baroque music live

Today I finally attended an event with Peruvian baroque music. A mass organized by the Italian cultural institute in their chapel Santa Maria dei Fiore in Petit Thouars, Santa Beatriz, Lima. I love classical music and during the years I´ve become more critical. In Lima there is in general not much on offer, but Lima as the capital of the Spanish colonies in South America had a vice regal court and composers of baroque music. So what is more appropriate and interesting than to hear this music being performed here? Preferably in an (old) church.

There are not that many opportunities and you have to search a lot. I missed two occasions in May and November, because I discovered them after the event. But this time I was on time! At 11.00 a.m. the Misa en Octavo Tono of Peruvian composer Tomás Torrejón y Velasco (1644-1728) was going to be performed in the chapel of the Italian Institute by the Coro Lima Triumpante and Escuela Cantorum de la Universidad Catolica Sedes Sapientiae.

Although most events in the cultural institutes in Lima don’t attract enormous crowds and they also have the tendency not to start on time, I was early; 10.30. There was one woman, elegant looking, walking on the same deserted street. A fellow listener no doubt. Walking around the block to see if a door was open. But no, everything closed. Returning to the chapel, there was another woman waiting in the doorway. Pilar. We discussed Lima, music and the effort one has to do to find out about events such as this. By 11 am there were 4 people, including the elegant woman of earlier. But no movement of the doors. By 11.15 we were with 13. The discussions on the pavement became more animated, although by now you could hardly hear each other because of the traffic in Petit Thouars; noise, claxons and exhaust fumes practically blow you away.

At 11.30 the doors opened. A few workers came out, to clean the doors and sweep the pavement. Then after 15 minutes we were allowed in. Not much going on yet. Around 12 there were some important looking people walking in and out. Embassy persons? Anyway, at 12.30 the important looking people sat down as well and the priest came in. Mass was about to start! There were around 40 people, the chapel could easily contain 4 times as many.

The choirs started with the Hanacpachap Cussicuinin, the oldest polyphonic music composed in the Americas, published in 1631 and in the quechua language. Then the Misa en Octavo Tono from Torrejón y Velasco, composed in 1706. The priest by the way held the mass in part Italian, part Spanish, without a sermon, just with some thoughts. To give major attention to the music. Conductor José Quezada Macchiavello made a integral reconstruction of the text, which consists of the Kyrie, Credo, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. He added the Halleluya in Gregorian chant and included the Ave Verum of Mozart as well. This is how a mass should be! Wonderful music that lifts your soul up to the heavens. Worth the waiting of 1,5 hour.