Monday, December 9, 2013

Lima and the Plaza de Armas, Lima, Peru

It is Sunday and church day and since we are in Lima, this week we will go to mass at the cathedral in the historic center at where else but the Plaza de Armas, the main square in every city. The most prevalent opinion of anyone who has visited Lima is the ever presence of fog, a mist that is called “garua”. With the exception of the month of January, day after day the city is unrelentingly steeped in the melancholy mist which interestingly enough gives the city character and well, makes it interesting. Herman Melville (who wrote Moby Dick) visited Lima in the 1800’s and later wrote, perhaps, the most famous quote about the city. “It is the strangest, saddest city thou canst see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe”. A little melodramatic but there is no doubt that Lima wears its garua like a mantle. Had the Spanish known this when they came to Lima, they may not have built the Capital of their Andean Empire here but, they arrived in January right in the middle of summer and the only month when Lima has bright blue, sunny skies! Our taxi driver becomes very friendly when he finds out we are from San Jose, California. His son lives and works in Palo Alto, which is just a few miles from us and we spend some time discussing California before he gives us a quick narration of Lima and the buildings as we pass them. Crossing the Rio Rimac, we are in central Lima with its narrow streets and ornate, baroque style colonial churches. The Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor as locals call it was established in the 16th century by Francisco Pizarro and it was the center for the Spanish empire in their conquest of South America. Unfortunately, due to earthquakes and the weather, not a single original building remains from those colonial times with the exception of the gorgeous brass fountain erected in 1650. There are however some rather grand buildings which were built at the turn of the century. The Palacio de Gobierno is a baroque style building constructed in 1937 and is now the residence of Peru’s president and next to the cathedral is the colonial style, Palacio Arzobispal, the Archbishops Palace which was built in 1924 and has several Moorish-style balconies. Though it still has a Baroque style façade, the cathedral is the plaza’s newest renovation. Completely restored in 1940, it is on the same plot that Pizarro designated for the first church back in 1535. Because it has been rebuilt many times from the early baroque through the neo-classical craze of the late 18th century, the interior of the church is fascinating in its various styles, many of which can be seen in the smaller chapels leading from the nave. There are more than a dozen altars in every architectural style imaginable and there is an ornate wood choir which is in a gorgeous rococo style. The designer in me went into overdrive as I walked around the whole mélange. It was amazing in its diversity. Mass, conducted by one of the monsignors was also very formal. At one point there was so much incense being wafted around, the altar began to look as if it too was shrouded in garua! After mass, we considered lunch, but Winston might need a walk, so a decision was made to go back, eat lunch at home and take Winston to the MIraflores dog park. Oh, and because of Tom’s passport we were in Lima a total of 18 days and had one day when the sun managed to peek through!

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