Tuesday, July 31, 2007


On Sunday after eating a very nice lunch at Urpicha, a restaurant I shall talk about later, we went to Huascaura, a small town on the hill above Huamanga on the western side, for the bullfights held there every Independence Day holiday.

We arrived late but in time to catch the last five bulls of the day.

Views from Old Huamanga

Church of San Cristóbal de Huamanga (1540)

The first church built in Huamanga. In its grounds are buried several of Francisco Pizarro's companions, including Pedro de Candia. The church is now roofless, and is used on extremely rare occasions.

Convent of Santa Teresa (1703)

This is still a functioning convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns. The church is open to the public and there is a small shop selling traditional confections made by the nuns, including a special sweet preserve of peppers and fruit unique to this convent.

Casa Jáuregui

One of the old bridges

Puka Cruz

Puka Cruz means "Red Cross" (puka = 'red' in Quechua, cruz = 'cross' in Spanish). Puka Cruz is one of the more traditional neighborhoods in Ayacucho and is home to many noted artisans and musicians. The cross is cleaned, freshly painted, and adorned on May 2-3, at the Feast of the Crosses.

Church of San Francisco de Paula (1713)

Templo de la Compañia (1605)

Built by the Jesuits and occupied by them until the Jesuit Expulsion of 1767.

Arco del Triunfo

The newcomer on the block, the arch was built in 1910 de commemorate the May 2nd, 18886, naval battle against Spanish forces attempting to retake their former colonies. It was remodeled for the centennial of the Battle of Ayacucho in 1924.

Huamanga Plazapi

Juancho, Mito, Diego, and I in Ayacucho's main square

Ayacucho is the capital of the department of the same name. Locals often refer to the city by its older name, Huamanga, and it's denizens as huamanguinos. The city was founded by Franciso Pizarro himself in 1539.

The Plaza de Armas is Huamanga's main square. At its center is an equestrian statue of José de Sucre, the general who led the independence army that foughtvictoriously against the Spanish at the Battle of Ayacucho. Overlooking the plaza is Acuchimay hill, which for decades sported a large cross at its crest. Now, besides the cross, there is a lookout point and places to eat.

On one side of the Plaza is the Cathedral, which was begun in 1632 and completed in 1672. The banner on its left tower announces planned celebrations in 2009 for the archdiocese's quadricentennial jubilee. From its main door emerges an immense litter bearing candles, wax figure, and a statue of Jesus which rises from its interior during the Easter Sunday procession. The litter can be seen in widely-distributed prommotional video from Peru's tourism bureau.

To the right of the cathedral is the Castilla y Zamora house, which has served as the headquarters of San Cristóbal de Huamanga University since 1677.

The other three sides of the plaza are lined with colonial-era arched galleries which were once the homes of Spanish notables. On the side of the plaza opposite the cathedral is the building housing Ayacucho's Superior Court.

Along the archways huamanguinas in traditional dress sell traditional sweets and qalchin qalchin, a hand-made local icecream made from peanuts or quinoa.

On Monday, Susana and I managed to get into the courthouse, even though it was officially closed for the Independence Day holiday.

Inside, we found the official portrait of my gradfather, Juan Ramón Fajardo Eyzaguirre, who -besides having been both mayor of Huamanga and political prisoner in its jail- was Chief Justice of the Superior Court in 1970-1971.

Lima - Huamanga

On Friday we got up early to head to Ayacucho, only to find that the buses we had contracted to fetch us to the interprovincial bus terminal did not show up. Instead we started flagging down taxis and somehow got all of us to the terminal in time - no mean feat, considering that, all told, there were about thirty-five of us.

We rode a double-decker bus from Expreso Molina. Those downstairs had seats that reclined fully into beds, while those upstairs enjoyed better views. We paid for those, however, by being more subject to the swaying of the bus during turns -of which there are a hideously large amount when climbing the Andes.

Nico, Diego, and Cecilia

We had decided to take a day bus in order to maximize our time in Ayacucho and to give the foreigners, in particular my cousin Carla's in-laws, a chance to see the countryside along the way.

We followed the Pan American highway southward to the town of Pisco -famed for its namesake distilled spirit- where we turned, east and upward, onto the Vía Libertadores.

Along the coast, the country is dominated by the desert, with the only greenery and populated centers along the many rivers descend from the mountains to the sea.

Vegetation gets more abundant the higher one travels, though the western side of the Andes is far drier than the eastern Andes. Eventually one gets high enough that trees and shrubs can no longer grow, and the landscape is marked by stone and hardy mountain grasses called ichu.

At that altitude -well above 4000 meters- the thinner atmosphere can induce lethargy and altitude sickness in those not accustomed to it. The time spent in the puna on this trip is far longer than that on the road to La Merced. Several of our party, particularly those on the second story of the bus, with its greater swaying, felt nauseous and some vomited. Even I, though usually not affected by altitude, felt sleepy.

After nine hours in the bus and crossing the pass at Apacheta, at 15,570 feet above the sea, we arrived in the city of Ayacucho - or as it is known locally, Huamanga.

Huamanga's main plaza

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hi. We're in Huamanga (aka Ayacucho) right now, some 2800 meters up in the central Andes, and old homestead. We're having a good time revisiting the city and nearby locales of Quinua and Wari.

I'll post updates and photos once I get back to Lima in a couple of days.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bar Cordano

One of the most pleasant nooks in downtown Lima is the Bar Cordano. Established around 1905 by Italian immigrants and just steps away from the train station and the Presidential Palace, the Cordano was for many years a popular haunt for travellers, politicians, bureaucrats, and even presidents.

Today, it is owned and managed by its workers, some of whom have been working there for decades (a picture of them in earlier times hangs on the wall), and although the bar and venerable espresso machine have been polished, the Cordano's marble tabletops, collection of old soft-drink and beer bottles, and quality food and drinks -the pisco sours are fantastic!- remain unchanged.

Saddly, the Cordano does not get the traffic that it used to. Although it is frequented by tour groups, these often don't stay or only order drinks. When we were there, as we exited we crossed paths with a small group whose guide was instructing his charges to pass through and exit onto Jirón Ancash, and most emphatically not to stay there. Too bad for them, as they were missing out on one of the classic Lima experiences.

Bar Cordano
202 Jirón Ancash
(corner with Jirón Carabaya)

* * * *

Alejandro, of PeruFood, has posted his translation of an article on the Cordano, "Bar Cordano: Lima's Most Historic Bar Facing Difficult Times", which originally appeared in Spanish here.

Downtown Lima: San Francisco Monastery

One of the obligatory sightseeing stops in downtown Lima is the old monastery of San Francisco.

The monastery was always a favorite childhood stop for me when downtown because of the flocks of pigeons who live there and can be fed by purchasing little bags of crushed corn from vendors or, as we used to do, bringing your own bread crumbs.

Built in the 17th Century, the site is composed of the Basilica and and monastery of the Franciscan order, as well as several attached chapels. It also was the final home and resting place of Franciso Sánchez Solano Jiménez, a friar who proselytized in the Plaza Mayor with a violin. After his death at the monastery in 1610 he was canonized as San Francisco Solano - Saint Francis Solano- a name which will sound familiar to California ears due to the namesake Mission San Fracisco Solano in downtown Sonoma.

The Basilica is still a functioning church, but the monastery ha been converted to a museum with guided tours. Among the objects on view are a series of lifesize paintings of the Stations of the Cross by the workshop of Pieter Paul Rubens, and another painting of the Last Supper depicting a guinea pig on the platter before Jesus.

Of course, the coolest aspect of San Francisco is the fact that below the lateral naves of the Basilica and underneath the plaza in front, there are catacombs.

One of the most impressive sights in the catacombs is this 10 meter deep conical pit, filled with bones. The pit, besides being an ossuary, serves as an anti-seismic device by absorbing vibrations that would threaten the structures above.

The friars, in cooperation with archaeologists and restorers, have gathered and sorted the bones in the upper gallery of the catacombs, but there remain deeper galleries which are not accessible to the public because they are untouched and unexplored, and will remain so permanently.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Downtown Lima

A few views of downtown Lima:

One of the characteristic features of Lima's historic downtown are the 17th, 18th and 19th century balconies that overhang many of the streets. Most are in serious disrepair, but many have been adopted by corporations or wealthy individuals who are paying to have them shored up and restored. These are on Jirón Ancash (jirón is an old word for street which is still in use in Peru, but perhaps nowhere else) which connects the train station and the Presidential Palace to the monastery of San Francisco, which can be glimpsed in the background.

Desamparados train station, on Jirón Ancash, and a few dozen yards from the Presidential Palace. It is a 19th or very early 20th century building, with wrought iron and English glasswork. Trains to Huancayo, over the highest railway pass in the word at Ticlio, can be caught there weekly.

The main square (Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas) with its 1648 Baroque fountain.

The Presidential Palace.

Although it is often called ¨Palacio Pizaro", it is in not in fact the palace built by Francisco Pizarro. The current building dates from the 1930s, and replaced an older mostly wooden structure which in turn occupied the spot of Pizarro's mansion on the east side of the Plaza de Armas. The palace is guarded by members of the Húsares de Junín (Junín Hussars) regiment, who wear a stylized 19th century uniform in red coat and blue pants, with a steel breastplate and a pike. The Húsares conduct a daily changing of the guard ceremony which is a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

The Cathedral

On the southern side of the Plaza de Armas and on the site of the original church built by the Conquistadors, the cathedral is the third church to occupy the spot. The current cathedral was built in the early 1600s after earthquakes damaged previous structures. It itself has been severely damaged by earthquakes and has had to undergo significant reconstruction on several occasions, the latest time in 1940. To it's left is the Archbishop's Palace.

Lima City Hall, on the north side of the Plaza de Armas, opposite the Archbishop's Palace

The "Rochabús"

The "rochabúses" are police riot-control vehicles equipped with water tanks and water cannon, manufactured by Daimler-Benz. The name comes from Temístocles Rocha. A landowner and minister in the government of Gen. Manuel Odría, Rocha, as chief of the electoral committee, refused to saction the presidential candidature of Fernando Belaúnde in 1956. These vehicles were called out to break up the demonstrations that ensued, and have been called "Rochabúses" ever since.

This one is in pretty good shape as most are rather battle-scarred. It is a bit surprising to still see one of these on the Plaza de Armas as the fleet was being replaced with Chilean vehicles known derisively as "Pinochitos" in reference to former Chilean dicator of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Jirón de la Unión

The Plaza San Martín

Downtown Lima's other main square, the Plaza San Martín, is a few blocks west of the Plaza de Armas to which it is connected by a pedestrian thoroughfare, the Jirón de la Unión. The plaza is dedicated to Gen. José de San Martín a hero of the war for independence. See a bit more about him at the bottom of this post.

Plaza de Acho

Built in 1766 by Viceroy Amat, Acho is the oldest bull ring in the Americas and third oldest in the world, after those of Zaragoza and Seville in Spain. In October, during the feast of Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles), Acho attracts the best taurine talents from all over the world and the plaza is packed to the gills. During the rest of the year it hosts lesser bullfights and folkloric festivals.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Nico!

Today, of course, is Nico's birthday. We started it by watching him open some presents from my parents, Toya and Orlando, aunt Marina, and Toño.

Then we took a trip to the old zoological garden, the Parque de las Leyendas (Park of Legends), and up to the lookout point at the top of San Cristóbal hill which overlooks the historic downtown.

In the evening, we finished out the day by inviting Nico's cousins to the Larcomar mall overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the district of Miraflores,

where we would, at Nico's request, eat at the Gelateria Laritza, one the best icecreameries in a city which abounds with them.

Afterward, we gave the children money to buy snacks, play video games, or get on the mechanical rides while we adults sat back at a café and had pisco sours and coffee. Nico was having so much fun that he opted to stay later at the mall with his 15-year old cousing Yannick, after which they took a cab to Yannick's house to spend the night.