Thursday, 12 February 2009

Casa Aliaga gives a glimpse of 18th century Lima

Lima - 17 January 2009 - Casa Aliaga is the only colonial house in the centre of Lima that has been occupied without interruptions by the same family since the foundation of Lima as capital of the Spanish colony in 1535. The builder and first owner was conquistador Jerónimo de Aliaga (1508-1569), a companion of Pizarro. The house and the family have survived earthquakes, uprisings, invasions, military dictatorships, terrorism and consumerism.

It is the only house in the old centre that gives an idea how Lima has been in the 18th and 19th century, when it was a stylish aristocratic centre. All other members of the elite abandoned the centre of Lima in the 60-ies and and 70-ies and let it grow dilapidated and almost collapse, while they found safe havens behind high walls in Miraflores, San Isidro and La Molina. The house is situated in Jirón de la Unión opposite the presidential palace, the former residence of the Viceroys of Peru. It is built on the remains of a huaca (temple), as are all the other important buildings from the beginnings of the colonial period, as the cathedral, presidential palace etc. When the Spanish made Lima, or Ciudad de los Reyes as their capital on January 18th 1535, it was already occupied. The curaca (chief) during the last Incas was Tauli Chusco. Pizarro gave part of his land to Jerónimo de Aliaga. The house was built there. The basement used to be connected by corridors to the viceroyal palace and the church of San Domingo.

Like everything else in Lima, Casa Aliaga was almost completely destroyed during the earthquake of 1740, only the chapel survived. The chapel is therefore one of the few sixteenth century remains in Lima. The walls of Casa Aliaga are made of quincha; a mat of bamboo covered in a mixture of mud, eggshells and faeces, resulting in a rather flexible earthquake resistant structure. Even large buildings as the basilica of San Francisco are partially made of quincha. During the Chilean occupation of Lima 1879-1882 the chapel was stripped of all its silver.

The present occupier of Casa Aliaga is Gonzalo de Aliaga Ascenzo, eight count of San Juan de Lurigancho. Since 1958 the family uses – with permission of the Spanish King – the old noble titles. He is married with Ana María Arrarte Fiedler, sister of Carlo Alberto, owner of Lima Tours, and Eduardo, vice-minister of tourism. Gonzalo is the seventeenth generation Aliaga who lives in the house. The second son of conquistador Jerónimo de Aliaga, also named Jerónimo was the first owner of the so called Mayorazgo de Aliaga. His daughter Juana inherited his possessions. Her son Jerónimo took the name Aliaga, but died without heirs in the beginning of the seventeenth century. His sister Ventura then became owner. She married a descendant of the eldest son of the conquistador, although as well in the female line, but with the surname Aliaga. Their descendants are still living in the house. One of the most important figures in de Limenian society in the eighteenth century was Sebastian de Aliaga y Colmenares. He inherited the title Marqués de Zelada de la Fuente and married in 1779 Doña Maria Mercedes de Santa Cruz y Querejazu, 4.Condesa de San Juan de Lurigancho. With the coming of the republic the noble titles were abolished in 1823.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article Ronald. I recently had dinner at the Casa de Aliaga and it was an unforgettable experience.