Saturday, December 21, 2013

Trujillo and the Plaza de Armas, Trujillo, Peru

It is Sunday so we take a break from visiting the ruins to go into Trujillo for church. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1534, Trujillo was named after his birthplace in Spain. Fed by the Moche River, the fertile fruit and vegetable valley surrounding the town made the city one of the richest of the early Spanish conquests. And that became the Spaniards downfall! The people who lived here did not have to worry about life’s essentials, they were rich. So with life’s basic needs taken care of, they thought and plotted and planned. Trujillo became known as the revolutionary center of Peru and in 1820 became the first Peruvian city to declare its independence from Spanish. The people who came and settled in Trujillo were the independents: writers and poets, including Peru’s most popular Cesar Vallejo; revolutionaries and rebels flourished and the Peoples Workers Party was formed. These original members were later massacred but that did not daunt the people and many others in search of something better, something different moved to the area. At the spacious Plaza de Armas, the polished gleam of the stones was glistening when we arrived early on Sunday morning. This is the main square where the proclamation of the independence of Trujillo took place on December 29, 1820 and today it still looks shiny and new. Trujillo is the personification of old colonial glamour. The flamboyantly, colorful and wrought iron adorned buildings are grandiosely showcased around the gorgeous main plaza. This colorful assembly of old colonial buildings is a feast for the eyes. The brilliant blue with white detail of the Casa de Urquiaga which now is the Central Reserve Bank, the elegant burnt orange mansion that is the Hotel Libertador and the mustard-yellow cathedral and basilica all engage the eye. Interspersed with these large buildings are smaller ones, in an array of colors, all vying for attention. And if that was not enough, in the center of the plaza is the impressive Freedom Statue. Made from granite, marble and copper in Germany by sculptor Edmund Moeller and installed in the plaza in 1929, it is quite amazing. Consisting of three statues on a base, a man bent and cowering, a man with his arms back and then one with his arm raised, making a fist which clearly represents oppression, the struggle for freedom and finally liberation, it is topped by a heralding angel, this statue can definitely be defined as “a work of art”. But it is 9am and every Sunday at this time is the Flag-Raising Ceremony. Three flags, Peru National Flag, the flag from the state of La Libertidad and the city’s flag are raised with much pomp and circumstance. Most of the crowd is Peruvian with only a smattering of tourists and, just like we have experienced elsewhere in South America, patriotism is strong. Everyone sings and knows the words to not only the national anthem but also the State’s anthem. Following the raising of the flags, there is a parade of first military, then police and finally local schools and colleges. The military band plays stirring marching music and the crowds clap and sing the obvious well known favorites. Just like in the States we hear many people complain about the government or services or politicians, but unlike the States, these people revere their military and police and place the honor of these service members in high esteem. It is then time for mass at the cathedral, formally known as the Catedral Basilica Menor of Santa Marta. First built in 1647, the cathedral was the first place in 1662 that the Catholic Church officially supported the Independence Movement. Destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in 1781 with an architectural style that can only be described as romantic Baroque. Painted a pretty mustard-yellow, it has fleur-de-lis and religious embellishments in a rich cream color and with its smooth plaster finish and slightly rounded corners, it looks slightly Mediterranean. The Cathedral was made a National Historic Monument on August 2nd 1960. Not the largest cathedral we have been in, it is beautiful inside. The segmented ceiling is painted with religious scenes very reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel culminating in a glorious cupola over the altar. This main altar was carved by the Colombian sculptor Gustavo Ignacio Cortes and is free standing so we can walk around and view it from all sides. There is also an image of La Virgen de La Paz thought to have been brought by the first Spanish immigrants, which usually is in one of the side chapels but is brought to the left side of the altar for mass. Many people revere the Virgin and both before and after mass you can see people going up and kneeling in prayer in front of her, gently touching the folds of her dress or placing a flower beside her. I love churches! Mass was simple with only a priest, by himself, no help. One person who sang – beautifully I may add, and a large congregation. After mass although it is only 11am, we are hungry and our destination is Mar Picante, touted in Lonely Planet as the place to eat. They were right. The restaurant is off the tourist track, a short cab ride from the plaza and well worth the trip. Tom had excellent mixed seafood ceviche and I ordered the Cabrito Criolle (Goat with curry type spices over rice). Tom’s plate was laden with seafood, fish, crab, scallops, squid and more and my goat over rice – both dishes was outstanding. Goat, by the way, if it is cooked correctly which is slowly and preferably simmering in a sauce so it doesn’t dry out is delicious! It was then a cab ride home to a pouting Winston who was cheered up by a sampling of my goat that we bought for him and a long walk on the beach from Tom. We chalked today up as being another one of those special days when we participated in a country’s customs, acknowledge the individuality and embrace the patriotism of the country we are visiting. Peru!

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