After a week´s vacation with the Shah family in Chicago, Ravi and I are back on the trail. Our first stop was Lima, Peru, and from the very beginning we saw that this half of our world tour was going to be very different.
We arrived in Lima Thursday evening. A driver met us at the airport and drove us to the hostel, all the while explaining to us interesting facts about the various pre-Incan civilizations. We checked in, slept well, and woke up the next day ready to explore some ruins (huacas) that are actually in Lima´s upscale district of Miraflores.
The Lima practiced ritual human sacrifice of women in honor of the female gods of the Sea and the Moon. Why women only and not men? Well, because they were a matriarchal culture, and therefore could only sacrifice the best to their twin feminine deities. Lima´s modern buildings obscure that Lima is actually a flat valley next to the sea, and the Lima people needed a high place to use as an altar for sacrifice. As Lima is prone to earthquakes, the industrious Lima people built the structure out of adobe bricks lined up like books. The trapezoidal shape and the bookcase style resist tremors nicely. More than 30 tombs have been found at Pucllana.
After the ruins, we visited the Larco Museum. This museum displays pottery and artifacts from Pre-Incan and Incan cultures. The pottery and metal work was all exquisite, but what struck me most was a gold funerary mask that looked almost exactly like a gold funerary mask (the Mask of Agamemnon) we´d already seen from Mycenea, Greece! Thousands of years and thousands mile separate these places, and yet extremely similar artwork for identical purposes. I´m amazed at how universal human expression can be. And yes, like the Greeks, the pre-Incans also portrayed their more intimate moments in pottery form.
Our second full day in Lima, Saturday, was actually a great time to be in the city, as the 18th is the main day for El Senor de los Milagros procession, celebrating a painting of Jesus that ¨miraculously¨ survived a major earthquake. Groups wearing purple robes take turns carting around this large painting on a very heavy carriage, with tens of thousands of people following along the route, music and hymms, fireworks and a lot of energy. It was very cool to check out while we were downtown.
Luckily for us, Karim, a friend of a friend whom we had met in Chicago in June, lives in Lima and took us right to the heart of the action (though even she said that she had never in her life been as close as we were to the painting on the procession route -- leave it to me!).
Karim also took us to other sites in the center of Lima that day, including some gorgeous outdoor plazas and the very interesting Monastery of San Fransisco, which housed gorgeous artwork and architecture throughout, an amazing library with centuries-old texts, and crypts with bones of the dead strewn about, some in ¨artistic¨ formations.
Let me finish by adding a few observations that I have made since being in Peru, having traveled to the developing world on many occasions in the past. First of all, being fairly fluent in Spanish helps SO much, not only facilitating commerce communication, but really having good conversations with locals, some of whom were actually not trying to sell us something. Second, where are all the motorcycles? I don´t know what the rest of S America is like, but Peru is the first developing country that doesn´t have a culture of motos, which progresses to cars. Just cars. Not even streets full of bicycles and animals. Just cars. And tons of taxis and minivans that serve as their buses, too. Lastly, where are all the skinny people? I feel like the people look more like Americans, in terms of their BMIs, than those of S and SE Asia. Very unexpected. I guess all the fried liver street stalls at the above mentioned festival don´t help!