Friday, August 18, 2017

Views from around Lima's main square

Lima's Plaza de Armas or, as it is officially known today, Plaza Mayor, is Lima's main square. It was there that the Spanish city of Lima was founded in 1535, on the site of an existing native settlement.

The square is surrounded by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and City Hall. Many visitors mistakenly think that the buildings are colonial, but the only colonial architectural elements still surviving there are the art cast iron fountain, inaugurated in 1651, and the Royal Magistrate's House, also from the 1600s. Over time earthquakes, fires, and "progress" have led to the reconstruction or replacement of the rest.

The plaza and the surrounding boulevards are usually crowded with tourists, local visitors, taxis, and hawkers.  The reason I was able to capture images relatively devoid of crowds was that on the day I went in late July the plaza was closed to visitors.

Public school teachers from the Cusco region had gone on strike for better wages and better conditions, and had journeyed to Lima to press their case. There, there were joined by local teachers, and were staging rallies and marches a few blocks away, near Congress.  The government had decided to close off the plaza to avoid any disturbances or scenes in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace and to "protect the historic center".

Of course, I did not know that when I ventured downtown and found myself cut off from the bookstore I wished to visit.  After being rebuffed at one intersection, I found a spot where the police were letting a few people in. They shut access just as I was about to go in, and asked us to wait a bit. People got verbally belligerent, and the officer in charge --feeling stung after his earlier gesture-- now insisted that access was definitely closed unless one had an ID showing that one lived or worked in the area.  Fortunately, someone called to him that she had some foreign visitors who had "come all this way to know the historic center", so he instructed her to go in at the far end of the barricade.  Hearing that, I quickly followed, and when challenged, I told the officer there that "he said for tourists to come in this way" and handed him my California driver's license.  The cop glanced at it and waved me through.

Thus, I got to stroll around the periphery of the nearly deserted plaza, emptier that I've ever seen it, and on a serendipitously sunny day.

Lima city hall (built in 1944).

Art cast iron fountain (from1651), and the Presidential Palace (1938).

From L to R: Presidential Palace, Mt. San Cristobal, Royal Magistrate's House (17th C.), Archbishop's Palace (1924).

Lima Cathedral, viewed across the Plaza, from Pasaje Santa Rosa.

In the foreground, the monument to Taulichusco the Elder, last indigenous ruler of Lima.

Old Post Post Office & Telegraphs building

No comments: