Among the many ancient feasts that are still celebrated in Peru, the Virgin of Candelaria festival stands out for being the most colorful and massive of them all, a symbol of the religious syncretism among aymara, quechua and spanish culture that is revealed through the dance of the peculiar characters that are part of its performance. This festivity is so outstanding that is even postulated to be included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible cultural heritage.
When it comes to sightseeing in the city of Lima and discovering its rich historical and architectural heritage, the experience can be a great adventure. Spanish colonial houses and archaeological sites contrast with modern tall buildings in a cosmopolitan city. And even though a tour around the Peruvian capital may require a few days, here we suggest a 2-day tour for tight schedules.
Lima: History, Cuisine and Culture
Let’s start the day with a juicy breakfast on the terrace of the Tierra Viva Miraflores Larco; we will need all the strength possible to accomplish our objectives of the day. We should start at Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas (Main Square), located in the center of Lima, 35 minutes away from our hotel. There we will find the Cathedral of Lima, built upon the palace of Sinchi Puma Prince of Cusco, opened to the public in 1540.
After that, you could walk two blocks in the direction of the Catacombs, inside the San Francisco Monastery, you will find impressive graves that lie underneath this church of baroque architecture, one of the best preserved in Lima (the admission price is S/. 7, and includes a guided tour).
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But, why is Tierra Viva the best choice for you in Peru?
The occupation of Tipón happened at around 1200 a.c. and it is believed that the first inhabitants belonged to the Wari Empire or to the Ayamarcas, a culture that lived in the valley of Cusco, located at about 20 km from Tipón. From this period remains the 6km of the defense wall that used to surround it. It was Pachacutec who 200 years later transformed it into the complex as we know it today.
Considered one of the greatest south american mestizo baroque edifications, La Compañía church, which began its construction in late XVI century, was entirely made in ashlar, the white volcanic rock that identifies the colonial urban structure of the Historical Center of Arequipa.
Located in one of the corners of the main square, La Compañia church has survived earthquakes and bomb attacks that have hit the so called “White City”, as well as the persecutions and expulsions inflicted to Compañía de Jesús, the religious congregation that was founded in 1450 in the city of Rome by the spanish Ignacio de Loyola.
The temple and its cloisters are the most representative monuments of the Arequipa School, that influenced not only nearby churches such as Cayma, Yanahuara, Paucarpata and Characato, but also expanded through all the southern region all the way to Potosí in Bolivia, leaving true arquitectonic jewels as the Puno Cathedral.
According to spanish historian Bernales Ballesteros, is the carving in the frontage of La Compañia Church where the genuinely mestizo art is born and where the hispanic-american transculturalization process harmonically ends. The design comes from the peninsula, but the work on the stone and its decorative motives are orginal from that area. In the interior, the major altar stands out -one of the most beautiful in Arequipa-, that holds, at its center, the painting “La Virgen con el Niño” (The Virgin with young Jesus), from italian painter Bernardo Bitti, that came to Peru in 1575.
Like if he had been possesed, the danzaq shakes frantically, crashing in the air, with an incredible skill, the scissors. It is said that he has a pact with the devil, that he feels no pain, that he is capable of mediate between man and nature, that he gains strength from the wamanis and the apus, gods of the snowy covered mountains and andean lagoons. Like every 24 of december, they have come to all the towns in Huancavelica to praise the the little Jesus Christ.
The Scissors dance, considered by UNESCO an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” since 2010, is performed by the danzaqs, men that descend from the “tusuq laylas”, pre hispanic soothsayers and healers that were persecuted during the colonial times, leaving them with no other choice but to shelter in the high areas of the Ande. With time, colonizers accepted their return but with the condition that they would only dance to the saints and the god of the Catholic Church, starting the tradition that goes on every patronal feast. Peruvian writer José María Arguedas immortalized the mysticism of the danzaq in his novel “The Agony of Rasu Ñiti”.
And every year, from december 24th to 27th, the traditional Atipanacuy takes place in different areas of Huancavelica -and other regions of the central Andes and southern Peru-, dance competitions that face the danzaqs and their orchestras, that count with an harpist and a violinist. The dancer, dressed with a particular outfit and shaking the two 25 centimeters long pieces of metal -the scissors-, performs many jumps and acrobatic moves, executing different kinds of challenges in which, a lot of times, he must defeat the pain and suffering that he self inflicts, as a test of his courage and strength. If you are close to Huancavelica during Christmas days you can not miss them. They are one of the most authentic expressions of the culture of the Andes.
Lima was founded in 1535 but has a long pre columbian history, reason why you can find around the city not only archaeological complexes and colonial edifications, but also recreation, culture and modern entertainment centers, like The Magic Water Circuit, located in the Reserve Park in downtown.
Opened in July of 2007, The Magic Water Circuit holds the Guinness record for being the “Biggest Water Fountain Complex of the World in a Public Park”. Its 13 fountains -one of which has a water jet that reaches 80 meters tall- look as if they were executing a synchronized dance of music, light and colour. The spectacle of the water drawing different kinds of figures that vanish into the air has made this a favorite place for citizens of Lima, especially the children.
If you are close to the place, you can’t also miss the Reserve Park -named in honour to the reservist troops that participated in the defense of the city during the war with Chile- and its neoclassical buildings constructed in 1926 and designed by french architect Claude Sahut.
The Reserve Park and The Magic Water Circuit opens in the following schedule:
- Monday to Sunday from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm, totally free.
- From Wednesday to Sunday and holidays from 3:00 pm to 10:30 pm. The entrance price is S/.4.00, but for kids younger than 4, adults older than 65 and disabled, have free access to the park.
- In the Summer, the schedules extend to Tuesday from 3:00 pm to 10:30 pm.
- The show of the Fantasy Fountain starts at 7:17, 8:15 and 9:9:30 pm.
- It counts with a parking lot for visitors and the cost is S/.10.00.
For more information about The Magic Water Circuit and other attractions in the park, you can go to http://www.parquedelareserva.com.pe/indexIn.html
The sun arises from the density of the jungle while we prepare to get out to the macaw’s clay lick. The jungle shudders with life and we hear noises of hundred of different types of animals, mostly monkeys and birds, many of them unique in this part of the world. And while we sailed through the untamed Manu river, we witness a wild world spectacle of one of the most remote places in the peruvian amazon.
Tapires, macaws, parrots, jaguars, otters, anacondas, cocks of the rock, monkeys, alligators, butterflies, besides endless kind of plants and insects, are part of over a 1000 bird species, 200 mammals, 13 primates, 250 types of trees and 15 000 types of flowers that inhabit the National Park of Manu. This reserve alberges the greatest wildlife density and diversity in contrast to any tropical forest of the world. To be there may be one of the best experiences that anyone can enjoy.
Located at the foothills of the Andes, in the occidental edge of the Amazon, the Manu was always protected due to its inaccessibility, until 1973 when it was declared by the peruvian government as a National Park. In 1977 the UNESCO acknowledged it as a Biosphere Reserve and, in 1978 it was named Common Heritage of Mankind.
The best time to visit the National Park of Manu is during the dry season (June to November) because many of the park areas are inaccessible in times of rain (January to April). It is not possible to enter without a tour guide, reason why we recommend to organize in groups or hire a touristic operator.
In 1995, in the snowcapped mountain of Ampato in Arequipa, Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zárate discovered, buried in the ice, the corpse of 12 year old inca girl that would have been sacrificed in the times of the Inca Pachacutec reign, around 1450 A.D.
Surrounding her there were many “illas” or gold idols as well as others made from spondylus’ shells. The archeologists also found nineteen types of plants -with corn and legumes standing out- and dried llama meat (charqui), which made them think that the girl, they named Juanita, was a young “Aclla”, a maid that belonged to the Inca that would have been offered in sacrifice to the god Wiracocha to appease the volcano activity in the area.
Contrary to what is generally believed, the girl, known as the Lady of Ampato, would not have passed by an artificial mummification process in which the internal organs are extracted to embalm the body in order to preserve it. But “Juanita” maintains intact all of hers due to the glacial frozen (natural mummification) of the Ampato’s snow mountain, where the offering was left. After the discovery of “Juanita”, the explorers found two more bodies: Urpicha and Sarita.
Investigations determined that by the time of her death, Juanita had perfect teeth, strong bones, that she had not suffer from any kind of disease and that she died from a blow in her head. Close to the day of the offering, she was under strict fast and about 6 to 8 hours before the sacrifice was performed, she ate a meal of vegetables. Likewise, she was prepared with plants and coca leafs to numb her.
It is known that those who were chosen by the Inca for sacrifices were prepared from an early age. This is why Juanita must have been the object of important rituals that started in her homeland and continued through her pilgrimage towards Ampato. Today, her mummified body is in the Museo Santuario de Altura del Sur Andino of the University Católica de Santa María in Arequipa.
The Qorikancha was the center of the Inca world. From it, the imaginary lines called Ceques departed, organizing the sanctuaries or huacas that surrounded Cusco and that gave to the capital of the Tahuantinsuyo its sacred character. Upon its foundations, the Spanish built the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo.
Qorikancha’s internal walls, which are covered in gold leaf, would have been remodeled by Inca Pachacutec during the reconstruction of Cusco city around the year 1438. It is not certain who could have built them, but the work appears to be from pre inca times, when the city was dominated by series of “ayllus”, known as the Ayarmacas. These communities called it the Inticancha.
The chronicler Inca Garcilaso De la Vega described that there were also many kind of divinities in the Qorikancha and a large garden with golden and silver life size animals, treasures that were delivered to the spanish for the rescue of Inca Atahualpa; the rest was looted, around 1533, in order to be molten and sent to Spain. Finally, by 1560, Juan Pizarro would inherited the “Temple of the Sun”, the most important religious center of the Tahuantinsuyo to the the order of preachers, who are still its owners today.
Nowadays, the Convent of Santo Domingo is one of the main cultural centers in Cusco. Apart from the art expositions, it is used for events like concerts, conversation groups, audiovisual presentations, book presentations, theatrical plays, festivals and other artistic events.