The Americas Revisted travel blog

Today we leave our Hotel around 9am to vist the Museo Santuarios Andinos. Here we are given a guided tour of the artifacts found in the tombs on Mount Ampato, dating from 550 years ago. We are shown ceramics, jewellery textiles and also the remains of Juanita a 12 year old girl that was sacrificed to the gods for good crops and favourable weather. She was discovered in 1995 when a nearby volcano erupted and melted the ice on Mount Ampato. When found she was frozen, therefore mummified naturally, so all her internal organs and some fluids were intact. Juanita is still stored frozen in the museum in a kneeling position with her legs underneath her. She is amazing to see and in remarkable condition. Arceologists have gone on to find more child offerings and all were prepubescent, in good health, were given strong corn beer to make them pliable to receive a blunt force trauma, so they could be offered to the gods. Finding Juanita and a further 12 children have given great insight into the Inca civilization.

We then visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. This convent cover 20,000 sq metres with its own streets and was founded in 1570. We first visit the novices area where 7 novices lived in their own rooms and studied to become a nun for 2 years. They ate, studied and slept there in solitude. Their parents would pay for these girls to enter the convent as it was prestigious to have a daughter become a nun as they would then always have an easy path to heaven. The old hospital shows items that were given by the nun's families to them and this showed how wealthy the families of these nuns were. Extravagant china, dolls, furniture etc. The novices would after 2 years progress to become a nun and then live in one of the 80 houses (2 or 3 bedrooms) where they would have their own servant which was always an indigenous female. The role of the nuns, other than study the bible and pray, was to embroider, bake bread and teach school. The youngest nun to enter was 3yo and she remained there all her life. We see the room where the nuns were viewed before burial and the walls show paintings of the nuns that had passed. They lived to a ripe old age! No childbirth, disease and good food all contributed to a long life. There is an offering area where outsiders would offer items to the nuns and sometimes babies were abandoned to the convent. In some cases nuns became pregnant to priests! The laundry area was very well organised with running water and huge terracotta urns cut in half were used to wash the clothes in.

In 1870 the solo life disappeared and the nuns had a communal kitchen and dormitories and they mixed together more. The houses were no longer used after this time. The nuns were also permitted to leave the convent for short periods.

Now only 20 nuns live in one section of the convent and the rest is the museum. The youngest is 30 and the oldest 70 and the last time one to enter the convent of her own free will was 3 years ago.

A huge site and quite remarkable how the church has changed over the years. Is it a dying institution?

A late long lunch at an upstairs restaurant on their balcony. There was a lovely breeze and it was so pleasant. We shared a sandwich and chips. Afterwards we wandered around the old part of Arequipa where the streets are narrow and winding. It is so different to the main part of Arequipa where the streets are in a grid pattern.

Before dinner we have a drink at the bar that overlooks the Plaza de Armas. From the rooftop you can see a lovely sunset and the Cathedral is lit up once the sun goes down. The restaurant supplies ponchos for the customers if they feel the cold. For dinner we head to Zingaro Restaurant. I have the alpaca steak, beautifully cooked and very tender. Phil has the chicken. A glass of wine each. PEN 132 = A$57

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