Silk Underwear Concealed – Kleptocracy Revealed: Lima, Peru

Armas PlazaWe flew from Manta, Ecuador to Lima for a few days to meet-up with family members who were visiting for a week and on their way back to the States after spending a total of two-plus weeks acclimating to the altitude in Cuzco and then volunteering on conservation projects at Machu Picchu. We were looking forward to the reunion but we weren’t prepared for the fact that Lima is c-o-l-d, damp and gloomy.  The city sits in the northern fringe of the Atacama Desert which gets roughly an inch of moisture a year; 95% of that comes in the form of a fog that blankets the city each morning. At this time of year (November) it lifts briefly only to return in the late afternoon usually accompanied by a blustery wind. However, we were both excited to each inherit a set of silk long johns to warm us in the absence of sunshine.  We were assured that the sun does indeed make an appearance for two to three months a year starting in January, unimaginable as it then seemed. Love Park in bloom

Parque KennedyMost surprisingly, given this climatological fact, was the abundance of flowers in the parks and boulevards of the city; daily watering keeps the city in bloom. Parque Central and Parque Kennedy, near our residence were redolent with blooms and lazy cats stretched out and napping on the lawns. Love Park or Parque de Amor, was awash with flowers, a statue of two lovers entwined and intricately tiled mosaic walls. Plaza de Armas and Plaza del San Martin were similarly bedecked as were most of the wide boulevards with grassy medians.Armas Plaza and the Palacio Gubierno

Lima, and the adjacent port city of Callao, host roughly eleven million people, more than a third of the country’s population, with urban sprawl being a pronounced feature. The old Historic District radiates out from the Palace of the President, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, San Fransisco Church and Convent, among the notables, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

We toured the underground crypts in the San Francisco church, a bastion of egalitarian burial. Each of the crypts were filled with ten bodies with no distinctions between classes and then covered with quicklime. The members of the religious order may have had a separate chamber but in death a commonality of the human condition was finally recognized.

We wound our way through tunnels with side chambers and came upon a unique feature, the ossuary, which was a circular crypt where the curators, displaying a macabre sense of design, had arranged the larger bones, tibia, fibula, etc. and skulls artfully in elaborate patterns.  We guessed that the smaller bones had sifted their way down to pile up below.

MuseumRafaael Larco HerreraAbout midway through our visit we caught a cab across town to the Museo Larco which was as fine a museum as we’ve seen anywhere, including all the offerings one might see in the Smithsonian. The grounds were a riot of colors, impeccably landscaped and it was a pleasure just to sit and gaze around at the spectacular gardens.grounds of Museo Larco

Funerary bundle with mask and gold crown

Funerary bundle with mask and gold crown

The benefactor, Rafael Larco Hoyle (1901-1966) began the museum in 1926 and, with his family’s financial backing, amassed a collection from archeological sites along Peru’s northern coast.Gold adornments

These included many cultures previously unknown and the objects were of precious and semi-precious metals and stones, ceremonial and everyday pottery and earthenware and vestments of the upper classes. In all, 45,000 items were cataloged and on display to the public.  After hours of wandering through this fabulous museum we were satiated and our eyes began to cross and glaze over!

Dueling set

Dueling set

On our penultimate full day in Lima we went to Museo Oro del Peru – the Gold Museum – another privately endowed property. The ground floor was more a monument to militarism and kleptocracy, devoted to armaments from the 16th through the 20th centuries from all over the world. We took a few pictures before being reminded that photos are discouraged but a “short” list of some of the implements of war and the related accoutrements follows: armor complete with codpieces, brass knuckles, dirks, a “Beefeater” uniform, Gatling guns, a beautifully polished Kalashnikov rifle presented by the USSR Ambassador, a plethora of fantastic European dueling pistols, maces, Moroccan scimitars and Nazi paraphernalia. Two over-the-top items were uniforms personally donated by Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain in 1938 and Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet of Chile in 1976.

After being sidetracked on the first floor for well over an hour we climbed down the stairs and reached our real objective, a subterranean level which housed within vaults containing gold, silver, bronze, copper, pearls, turquoise, weavings, funerary offerings, litters, and mummified corpses. In a nod to the ultimate equality of mortals a corpse of a lower class commoner was among the items. A corpse’s class in life could be determined by its position: a corpse laid out horizontally was in the lower classes as opposed to the corpse seated vertically in its funerary bundle in the higher classes.  In addition, death objects accompanying the body ranged from pottery shards to the elaborate which, again, made the class distinction painfully obvious.  One thing that struck us, just as we were again reaching our critical threshold of museum overload, was that the precious metals, pearls and stones would not have filled the hold of the smallest Spanish galleon. The fact that these items were buried kept them beyond the reach of the acquisitive conquistadores.San Simon Plaza

We barely scratched the surface of the city of Lima and didn’t explore any of Peru’s other magnificent and well-known sites.  But we had a terrific reunion with some of our family, learned a little about this country’s rich and varied history and, clad in our silk long underwear, departed gratefully for warmer climes.

Love Park - Lovers entwined and workers maintaining

Love Park – Lovers entwining and workers maintaining

By Richard and Anita

 

43 comments

  • The final photo made me chuckle. Good catch! You – and the artist, I guess! 🙂 Definitely a locale of mixed emotions for travellers. You covered it all well.

    Like

    • The statue of the lovers entwined was one of our favorites as well as the setting. There were many maintenance workers in both the Miraflores distract and the old historic district making sure that everything was working. The easiest people to spot were the street sweepers clad in lime green coveralls and caps diligently keeping the city clean.

      Like

  • Oh my god those cats are too funny.

    Like

  • I never knew about the fog, but you sure made the best of it! Your photos are so beautiful!!

    Like

  • We visited Lima when there was warmth and brilliant sunshine. It’s interesting how the weather can color an experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  • I once visited Lima for a day, which wasn’t long enough to make any judgements about weather. I invite you to submit you picture of the napping cats to my photo gallery on cats around the world, http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Way-Beyond/Photo-Galleries/Photos-of-Cats/photos-of-cats.html

    Like

  • Love the architecture. I would never have thought that Lima would be cloudy and gloomy. I figured bright sunshine year round (haha). I actually have a cousin who has lived there for at least 25 – 30 years. I’m not really in touch, but I assume that he and his wife must like Lima, or they wouldn’t have made it home.

    Like

  • I’ve never got as far as Peru but I wouldn’t have realised that it was cold there! But it does sound a fascinating place with lots to see.

    Like

    • Since Lima was at sea level we assumed (wrong!) that the city would be shorts and t-shirt weather and checked the online weather reports to make sure. We’ve just gotten a little acclimated to H-O-T and humid so anything less feels cold! However, Lima was a fascinating city and we weren’t there long enough to visit all the places we wanted to see.

      Like

  • I like a lot about this post — everything from weather to skulls — but I love the sculpture in Love Park. Great pic to end the post. Nice introduction to Lima for someone, like me, who hasn’t been there yet.

    Like

    • As you might be able to tell from this post we had a bit of a hard time adjusting to what felt like (to us) to be cold since we’ve been in hot tropical climates for so long! The parks were beautiful and Love Park, with the passionate lovers sculpture and mosaic walls that overlooked the Pacific was one of our favorite places.

      Like

  • I stumbled on your site some time ago – I enjoy each and every post and your very good photos. Your writing is so much better than the hack stuff you read on-line now written by people who either haven’t traveled anywhere or are border-line literate. Just wanted to let you know you have a fan here in the avocado groves in California. Travel on!!!

    Like

    • Thanks so much for your comment and we’re delighted to have a fan from the “avocado groves” of California who enjoys virtual traveling! We read a lot of travel blogs (for fun and information) and are often amazed at the great quality of writing that is available. We’re in the process of updating and adding more links to Blogs We Like on our Home page and you might find some more blogs you’ll enjoy!

      Like

  • A very interesting look at Lima. The bones do make for intriguing patterns. What bothers me most is thinking how long it took to have ‘clean’ bones. Nice to combine family visit with this look around. Peru’s Machu Picchu is on my list so nice to know there’s plenty of other things to do as well.

    Like

    • What we found a little ghoulish was the idea of someone actually arranging the skulls and bones but this kind of stuff just makes the crypts unusual as well as fascinating. I don’t think we’d thought about the process of cleaning the bones but I guess quicklime and a little time will do the job! My sister and brother-in-law raved about their Machu Picchu adventure so it sounds like you’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Anita

      Like

  • A lovely glimpse into Lima. A place I’ve never been to, but one which I’d love to experience, along with so many other places in that part of the world. The historic centre is definitely something I’d gravitate to in Lima.

    Like

    • The Historic Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely magnificent including the old baroque-style buildings and other gorgeous edifices, many of which are decorated with enormous, intricately carved box balconies. It’s a lovely day spent wandering, taking photos and people watching! Hopefully, we’ll trade locations one of these days and we’ll see your part of the world while you visit the Americas.

      Like

  • I remember being frigidly cold while traveling through Peru, except that Lima was steamy. The cold nights in Cusco caught me by surprise. Glad I missed the foggy mornings you encountered.

    Like

    • Sounds like we were in Lima during different seasons! We’d checked the weather forecast and packed for warmer weather so the damp cold was an unpleasant surprise. And I can’t even imagine the cold in Cusco combined with the very high altitude but it sounds like an amazing experience to visit that area and see Machu Picchu.

      Like

  • I enjoyed this glimpse into Lima. I love the riot of colours in the landscape, but the crypts kind of creep me out.

    Like

  • Don’t you love silk underwear! We take them (top and bottoms) on just about on every trip (though not on this trip to the South Pacific).
    This post brought back some good memories of Lima. We were only there for a week too, but in January so we had better weather.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  • Looks like you managed to pack in a lot of sightseeing in just a few days, Anita. I love the idea of Love Park but would most likely pass on the underground crypt.

    Like

  • Ken Shelley Foley

    Hi guys. Lima looks beautiful but we’ll pass on the “cold and gloomy” part. We had planned to go back to Manta in Feb so as not to overstay our time allotment in the U.S., but our son convinced us to go to Thailand instead. We’ll be there from Feb 1 to Mar 12, flying into Bangkok and out of Phuket, so we’ll spend 6 weeks in Thailand and Malaysia. Where will you guys be?

    On Sat, Nov 29, 2014 at 10:44 AM, No Particular Place To Go wrote:

    > Anita and Richard @ No Particular Place To Go posted: “We flew from > Manta, Ecuador to Lima for a few days to meet-up with family members who > were visiting for a week and on their way back to the States after spending > a total of two-plus weeks acclimating to the altitude in Cuzco and then > volunteering on conse”

    Like

    • Lima does have some beautiful parks and architecture but you’re right, cold and gloomy turn us off every time, too! As for Thailand -How much persuading did THAT take?!!! We’re thinking Malaysia and Thailand sometime mid-2015 and will enjoy reading your previews. For now we” be in South America another month and then around the Caribbean Islands unit we meet up with you in Spain next May. What a great way to live!

      Like

  • How wonderful that you were able to meet your family members in Lima. Did you spend Thanksgiving in Lima? I have pictures of the Love Park and a few of the Gold Museum, too ( before they politely asked me not to take photos), but none of my Peru pics are digital. I’m going to have to do that someday. Happy belated Thanksgiving. Where are you now?

    Like

    • We were also asked politely to put away the camera at the Gold Museum which left us more time to ooh and ahh over that incredible place! We celebrated Thanksgiving in Manta with the always welcoming Expat group and enjoyed a traditional meal complete with turkey and pumpkin pie. This was all the more appreciated because our last 2 Thanksgivings have been very quiet… We were very happy to leave the colder climes of Peru and next week (Dec. 3) we’ll move on to Cartagena, Colombia which should be still warmer yet!

      Like

  • It sounds like you enjoyed the area and the museums in Lima though the climate not so much. We would be the same way. The parks look beautiful and I’m glad you had a good family visit. I can’t remember where you are headed next. I look forward to your posts. Life is good.
    Safe and happy travels,
    Suzi

    Like

    • It’s much too cold and gloomy in Lima for us although the parks and flowers are beautiful as well as the historic center. Cartagena is next up on our itinerary and then … We’re glad that your enjoying our posts and wish you safe travels as well as lots of fun in Panama as the festivities begin. P.S. A letter is coming your way once we get settled in a bit!

      Like

  • The view of the bone remains of the dead, how they were buried seems strange. But then, cultures and beliefs, no matter where or in what century is what makes our world interesting.

    Like

    • You’re right, Ann. Although we love cemeteries (maybe we’re a bit ghoulish!) the idea of making patterns with bones is a little macabre. It is interesting to see the many ceremonies of each culture and/or religion and learn about their views of the afterlife. The whole funerary rites are fascinating as well as the treasures that accompany the body into the next life.

      Like

      • I could bypass learning of death and after death in other cultures, but I do enjoy learning about the daily living of other cultures. I had first hand 12 years learning the Irish culture and getting to travel to other countries (short trips) it was still interesting to experience the people. Of course, I really understand why since I found out my #1 of 5 top strengths is Connectedness 🙂

        Like

We'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s