Friday, March 22, 2013

Peru II

My next adventure was to downtown Lima, from Miraflores, where I'm staying and where the school is located.  A bit more about it later.  

Lima is BIG, there are about 8 million people in the metropolitan area.  Like Santiago, it's made up of a lot - 42 or so - smaller communities.  

(There is an Alcadesa (Mayor-ess) who is head of all the mayors who and has a staff of 39 elected deputies. When I arrived, there was a recall measure scheduled to go to vote.  Voting in Peru is mandatory, if you don't vote, you pay a fine. You also cannot buy alcohol or hold public gatherings, picket or demonstrate outside a voting place, or be arrested (unless you're caught in the act).  The process is bumpy at times, since voting is not automated in any way, and is a slow process.  In this case, it called for 40 "si o no" votes for the mayor and her staff.  The votes are also counted by hand by the 3 people who run each polling station.  

Ultimately, the mayor won, squeaking by with a few more "no" recall votes, but 20 of the deputies didn't, which means more elections...)

It's also, like the rest of the west coasts of North and South America, in a very active earthquake zone and averages a real terremoto (earthquake) every 30 years or so.  These have destroyed much of the old city multiple times, so the architecture is a mezcla (mixture) of colonial, post colonial and modern.  Many of the older buildings were painted in bright "colonial" colors, including Vatican yellow-gold and blue, like the Swiss guard uniforms, when the pope came to visit.  So it's also a colorful city.

My first real glimpse of this was the building here, which most likely was the saddest place in Lima on that day, the Venezuelan Embassy.  The pic was snapped at about the time that Hugo Chavez died, so the flag is still at full mast.  Red, by the way, is the national color of Venezuela.

This is the Peruvian equivalent of the Supreme Court, which dates to the earlier part of the 20th century.

This is actually the first great apartment building in Lima, built in the '20s in the style of the French.  It was a popular address in for many years, then lost many of it's richest clients as they moved to the outskirts of town.

The central plaza surrounded by 20th century buildings (in Vatican gold), the cathedral, the bishops palace and the presidential palace.

Another reason to like the Peruvians:  There is a national holiday on February 8 to celebrate "Pisco Sour Day".  Pisco is a brandy that's made by both the Chileans and Peruvians and the basis for one of the strongest drinks in the Southern hemisphere.  Up until this year, this fountain has been filled with Pisco on February 8.  For some reason the Alcadesa decided not to do it this year, perhaps as a retaliation for her recall action?

The guards were getting ready to welcome a guest to the palace (reconstructed in 1938).  Minutes later a motorcade came roaring in through the gates.

Interesting uniforms with braided tassels on the helmets, and they goose step march as well...

This statue is Don Jose de San Martin, one of the biggest military figures in South America's history, responsible for liberating Peru and Chile, and General of the Army of Argentina.

It's kind of difficult to see, but if you'll look closely at the female figure holding up the scroll, you'll see that there is a small something on top of her head.  It's a statue of a llama.  Okay... We all know that the llama is an Andean native, but why would it be on the head of a scroll holder on a statue?

Well... The word "llama" has 3 meanings in Spanish: the animal, a form of the verb "to call", and finally "flame".  The llama on the head of the woman was supposed to be the "llama de la libertad" (flame of liberty), but the sculptor was ill and left the finishing touches to his Peruvian assistant.  I love the fact that no one wanted to correct the mistake!

The Franciscan Church and Abbey, seat of the power of the church for many years.  Los Franciscanos were with Pizzaro from the beginning, bring God to the heathens and terrorizing the rest of the populations with their power.  The catacombs under the church were the burial places for much of the population for nearly 200 years, until they smell became too much for the monks and the church goers and they were sealed.  The first level has been excavated and is open for tours.  It's got the remains of 25,000 people in bins carved out of the walls and was for me truly horrible, a claustrophobic tunnel, filled with bones, poorly lit, underneath a huge church in earthquake country.  I've truly seen too many disaster movies and made a beeline for the cloister and fresh air.  It's a gorgeous colonial church and an active abbey with a legendary library.

One further note:  Peru is one of the few countries with 2 independence days.  The first was the day San Martin declared - Jul 28.  The second liberation was by Simon Bolivar famous for the liberation of Venezuela and Colombia.

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