Thursday, July 26, 2012

Salaverry and the Huatica

On my way today to the 17th Lima International Book Fair I walked up Avenida Salaverry toward the fair site at the Parque de los Proceres, built in commemoration of the forefathers of Independence.   The park, however, also bears an older name -Matamula- a leftover from the days when it was part of an hacienda with that name.  

In fact, the whole area was divided into haciendas and agricultural fundos. What made that possible was a constant 1 m./100 m. slant to Lima from downtown to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean.  The pre-Columbian dwellers of the area had a taken advantage of that and directed water from the Rimac River into irrigation canals that they dug criss-crossing the area.

Jesus Maria fell under the jurisdiction of what became known as the Chiefdom of Guatca, whose lord administered the lands along the canal known as the Huatica River.

One of the branches of the Huatica once emptied into what is today the Campo de Marte, one of Lima's largest parks.  There, on what was once the land of the Hacienda Santa Beatriz, the river formed a small lake, the Estanque de Santa Beatriz, in which limeños bathed and even rowed boats into the 20th Century.


In the image above, the lake can be seen at the base of the Monument to Jorge Chavez, before the monument was moved to its current location at the junction of Salaverry and Guzman Blanco avenues.

The Huatica then flowed toward the sea, roughly following the path  traced today by Ave. Salaverry and emptied into the ocean at Mar Bella in Magdalena.  The path there can still be traced as it is that which the road follows down toward the beaches at Mar Bella, next to the old orphanage.

The lake, still evident in the 1937 photo, was subsequently drained and filled. The Huatica, however, isn't entirely gone.

Under the streets of Lima, the water still runs to the Campo de Marte, which is criss-crossed with small channels.  Some of these connect to two parallel channels which run the length of Ave. Salaverry, from the Campo de Marte all the way to a park at the top of the cliffs above the sea. 

Several times a month the gates are opened and water sent down the channel to flood, and thus water, the wide median strips of Ave. Salaverry, Ave. Pershing, and parts of Ave. Javier Prado Oeste.

Then, for a brief time, the Huatica still flows.

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