Lima: Exploring Peru’s Lively Capital!
A Little Bit of History First!
Lima was originally occupied between 200-700 AD by a group of people known as The Lima Culture. The Lima Culture lived in various sites along the Pacific coast, one site was given the Quechua, (language of the Incas) name ‘Huaca Puccllana’. Puccllana was a great ceremonial site for The Lima Culture. The architecture was actually very similar to that of the ancient Egyptain Pyramids, though The Lima Culture used small adobe bricks assembled in rows and columns to form what looks like several shelves with rows and rows of books. They pyramids were trapezoidal so as to prevent destruction in the case of an earthquake, and wall sat as high as ten meters. Inside were plazas, ramps and entrances, and other enclosures.
Their religious practices were unique as they worshipped the sea and the two-headed shark was their most prominent religious symbol. At a typical religious feast, The Lima Culture sat at large banqueting tables and ate shark meat. They would also break ceramic jars that were made specifically for the ritual. It was very common for The Lima Culture to sacrifice women and sometimes children during these rituals. The women were thought to be the best of society, and The Lima Culture, like many other religious practices, wanted only to sacrifice the best. The women commonly performed dance routines and took hallucinogenic substances. The men would then take advantage of the women just prior to sacrificing them.
During the day, The Lima Culture farmed and fished. The women made pottery and textiles, which were the two most common trademarks of The Lima Culture. They ate corn, beans, apples, meats such as guinea pig, duck, alpaca, and of coarse they ate quite a lot of fish. The Lima Culture struggled to maintain their own cultural, economic, and religious identity as the Incas began to occupy the Andes. Eventually, many of the ruins where The Lima Culture resided were abandoned. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Francisco Pizzaro founded the city and called it La Ciudad de Los Reyes, or City of the Kings. In the 17th century the name Lima was adopted, a corruption of the Quechua (language of the Incas) word, ‘Rimac,’ meaning ‘speaker.’
Plaza de Armas and Surrounding Area
Today, Lima, Peru is a large metropolitan city made up of several districts, each housing its own shops, markets, urban areas, parks, and restaurants. Lima is located along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and its climate is cool with plenty of cloud coverage and ocean fog to keep the sun out in the winter months, May through November. During the summer, however, Lima gets plenty of sun and a warmth enough to be applying sunscreen daily. The must see districts in Lima are of course, Central Lima where you can walk around the Municipalidad and Plaza de Armas and capture pictures of the Palacio de Gobierno, (Government Palace), see the changing of the guard, and take a tour. In the plaza you can also visit the Cathedral and its mosaic walls and silver covered altars, and the Church of Santo Domingo with its vaulted ceiling and the display of several skulls which belonged to some of the most prominent saints in Peru. Just a short walk behind Santo Domingo is a square filled with pedestrians and vendors selling merchandise that tourists might purchase for friends and family back home. There are also food carts selling some of Peru’s favorite meals and desserts including Piccarones and Mazzamorra Morada. There are museums and churches in nearly every direction of the Plaza de Armas, all of which are worth seeing if time permits. My best suggestion is to start north of the Plaza where you will find the Museo de Nacion (National Museum). This museum will give you a basic understanding of Peru’s history, art, anthropology, and architecture. The San Francisco is another church and monastery that houses more than 25,000 volumes of books in its library, all of which are original manuscripts. The library smells like the pages of a brand new book and it makes you want to sit down, open one of the books, and begin to imagine the days when the pages really were brand new. The monastery also houses about 25,000 people buried in the catacombs below. And yes, you get the full tour of the catacombs where you get closely acquainted with the skeletons. Although today the bones have a transparent fiberglass cover so children don’t steal them, (apparently years ago stealing the bones of dead people was trendy and it became a problem).
Miraflores: A Must See District
Another must see district in Lima is the upscale, posh Miraflores, where middle to upper class professionals often live and work. From Huaca Puccllana, (mentioned above), you can walk along the Av. Arequipa which becomes Av Jose Larco and takes you all the way to the ocean where you will see the famous and newly built Larcomar. Along the way you will pass through the Parque Kennedy where there are tons of posh stores and restaurants. This is where I found Starbucks. Hidden in one corner of the park is a small street with several great pizzarias. The Larcomar was built only a few years ago along the cliffside of the Pacific Ocean. It is much like a typical western shopping mall and even has retailers and boutiques that we are all familiar with such as Louis Vuitton, chain restaurants we all know such as Chili’s, TGIF, Hooters, and even several night clubs and bars. If you’re looking for western commercialism at its finest in a Peru, you can find it at the Larcomar. The only real authentic thing about Larcomar is the beautiful view of the ocean. Continue walking southwest along the coast and you will end up at the Parque del Amor (Park of Love). Here stands a large monumental statute of two lovers kissing in the center of an amphitheatre-like stage. Around the park are mosaic tiles with love poems on them. Often you will find young couples having come from their wedding to take pictures at this park. In the 15-minutes we spent sitting in the park we saw two couples taking their wedding pictures.
Some Shopping Fun!
If you didn’t get to shop much in Cusco and Aguas Calientes, you might be better off anyhow. Lima has plenty of shopping and the prices are significantly better. If you buy a few things you might even be able to settle on a price that’s better than you expected. If you’re looking for clothing, Gamarra, an outdoor/indoor combination of retailer that offers excellent prices on clothing, house wares, and textiles. The streets are closed off to vehicles making it easy for pedestrians to walk from one end of the gallaria to the other. There are plenty of sidewalk vendors selling food and drinks for as little as cincuente, or 50 centimos (half of a sole). I had to stop and try a couple things myself, Emoliente, and Papa Rellenas. El Hueco, translated in English as ‘The Hole’ is another must see marketplace where locals and tourists can find music and movies for great prices. The only catch, the music and movies are pirated. Another underground market in Lima is called Polvos Azules where shoppers can find cameras, music, stereos, phones and other items sold in the black market. These markets are frequented by tourists and locals alike and are accepted as regular places to shop in Lima, even condoned by the government. If you’re staying long enough and need to do some grocery shopping, there are a few chains in Lima, the one we frequented the most was the Metro. Similar to a Raley’s or Safeway store you can find all your common grocery foods here. Metro also has a department for electronics, and house wares.