Today we stopped at the Port of Callao, Peru which is close to our largest city yet, Lima, the capital of Peru. We took a private five hour tour that was exhausting. The city is huge and traffic is absolutely out of control. The traffic police stand in the middle of a street and point to people who need to pull over to get a ticket. That takes guts (on the cops’ part)! These drivers don’t stop for anyone that they don’t want to stop for. The only exception we saw was one of those lazy dogs standing in the middle of the road “daring” our 40 passenger bus to hit him. He finally gave up and moved his flea-bitten butt to the sidewalk, but he only moved for the bus, not cars. We switched to a four passenger tour car that could go to places that the bus couldn’t and was a LOT cheaper than the ship’s tour packages (I’m going to post some of those prices when we reach the end of the cruise so you can see what is being offered).
As we were leaving the ship, vendors were setting up their tents. We usually avoid buying at these as their prices are normally high, but we like to stop by just to get an idea of what we’ll be in for when we do our “serious” shopping in town. As it turned out, we’ve never seen vendors at the ports like these. Just about everything they sold was the absolute most inexpensive items we’ve seen. We are used to paying $15-20 for a t-shirt or $3-5 for a refrigerator magnet, etc. These vendors were charging only $5 for a shirt and $1 for a magnet. Great prices!!
The driver of our car, “Elvis”, drove that car like he was staring in a Fast & Furious movie, in and out of traffic lanes at break-neck speeds, often on only two wheels (yeah, sideways). I tried not to look until we arrived at our destination.
Our first stop was to take some photos of great graffiti on various buildings. Some paintings rated a spot in an art gallery. Next stop was on top of a hill overlooking most of Lima. Over 10-12 million people here (depending on who you ask) and they are pretty much “smashed” together. The guide pointed out the areas of the Ultra rich, super rich, rich, so-so and “all others” which he characterized as “fishermen”. Evidently, all the poor, working folks who live in those shacks on the side of mountains are mostly fishermen.
We toured the different city squares where each had its own history and buildings to see. We were told that any building painted yellow was some type of government building. We saw the President’s house (from the outside of course) and the congress buildings.
The highlight of our city tour was the Monastery of San Francisco. It was a huge, beautiful place with a lot of history, but under the monastery and church is really where the history is (IMO). This is the place of the catacombs. We toured under the church where the remains of over 25,000 people were found. According to the guide, only the rich could afford to be properly buried so the remains of the poor were delivered to the church for “disposal”. Unknown to most, the remains were just placed in the Catacombs under the church, but no records could be found to identify any of the remains. In addition to the Catacombs directly under the church, it was later discovered that there are THREE levels under the church, each containing thousands of bones. And just to add to the mystery/confusion, when a church’s Catacombs were nearing full, an additional “hallway/tunnel” was dug to connect one church with another. We were told that at least 20 churches in Lima from thee 16th and 17th centuries are connected underground by numerous Catacombs. BTW -- I don’t know where the air comes from to support these tunnels because the air is not clean or fresh (for us anyway). Anyhow, Convento de San Francisco is the Spanish name for Saint Francis Monastery located south of Parque la Muralla and one block northeast from the Plaza Mayor. The church and convent are part of the Historic Centre of Lima, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991. Aside from a church and monastery it also contains a library and catacombs. In this church, Jude the Apostle is venerated. At the feast of Saint Jude Tadeus a one and a half ton weighing silver stand is carried round in procession by 40 people, starting from the convent. The church and monastery were blessed in 1673 and completed in 1674. Though it survived several earthquakes intact in 1687 and 1746, it suffered extensive damage in an earthquake in 1970. The church is noted for its architecture, a high example of Spanish Baroque. Its granite carved portal would later influence those on other churches, including the Church of Merced. The vaults of the central and two side naves are painted in mudejar style: a mix of Moorish and Spanish designs. The main altar is totally made from wood. The halls of the head cloister are inlaid with Sevillian glazed tiles dating from the 1620s. The complex is made of the temple, the convent and two other churches, 'La Soledad' and 'El Milagro'. The convent's library is world-renowned. It possesses about 25,000 antique texts, some of them predating the conquest. Some notable books are the first Spanish dictionary published by the Royal Spanish Academy and a Holy Bible edition from 1571- 1572 printed in Antwerp.
Catacombs --Discovered in 1943, they contain thousand of skulls and bones, having served as a burial-place until 1808, when the city cemetery was opened outside Lima. It is estimated that 25,000 bodies were laid to rest there; the crypts, built of bricks and mortar, are very solid and have stood up well to earthquakes, it is also believe there existed secret passageways that connected to the Cathedral and the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.
There is so much to discuss and learn about this city I can’t even get close, but the thing that jumped out at me was --- here is a country that has been around since the 1500’s, but did NOT have a national anthem until 2008 (more on that later).
So, here’s a small portion of your history lesson for now: Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population of more than 10 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru and the third-largest city in the Americas (as defined by "city proper"), behind São Paulo, and Mexico City.
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as Ciudad de los Reyes. It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Around one-third of the national population lives in the metropolitan area. Lima is home to one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551, during the Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas. In October 2013, Lima was chosen to host the 2019 Pan American Games. It also hosted the December 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the Miss Universe 1982 pageant. In October 2015, Lima hosted the 2015 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.
Modern scholars speculate that the word "Lima" originated as the Spanish pronunciation of the native name Limaq. Linguistic evidence seems to support this theory as spoken Spanish consistently rejects stop consonants in word-final position. (That may explain why every time I hear someone speaking Spanish, it sounds as if they are never going to stop talking or reach the end of a sentence. Also explains why 4-5 people will be talking at the same time because no one actually “stops” and allows someone else to speak). Non-Peruvian Spanish speakers may mistakenly define the city name as the direct Spanish translation of "lime", the citrus fruit.
The city was founded in 1535 under the name City of the Kings (Spanish: Ciudad de los Reyes) because its foundation was decided on January 6, date of the feast of the Epiphany. This name quickly fell into disuse and Lima became the city's name of choice; on the oldest Spanish maps of Peru, both Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes can be seen together. Historically, the Flag of Lima has been known as the "Banner of Peru's Kings' City". It is made from a golden-colored silk canvas and embroidered in the center is its coat of arms. Lima's anthem was heard for the first time on January 18, 2008, in a formal meeting with important politicians, including Peruvian President Alan García, and other authorities. The anthem was created by Luis Enrique Tord (lyrics), Euding Maeshiro (music) and record producer Ricardo Núñez (arranger).
Lima's climate (like that of most of coastal Peru) gets severely disrupted in El Niño events. Coastal waters usually average around 63–66 °F, but get much warmer (as in 1998 when the water reached 79 °F. Air temperatures rise accordingly. Its population features a complex mix of racial and ethnic groups. Mestizos of mixed Amerindian and European (mostly Spanish and Italians) ancestry are the largest ethnic group. European Peruvians (White people) are the second largest group. Many are of Spanish, Italian or German descent; many others are of French, British, or Croatian descent. The minorities in Lima include Amerindians (mostly Aymara and Quechua) and Afro-Peruvians, whose African ancestors were initially brought to the region as slaves. Jews of European descent and Middle Easterners are there. Asians, especially of Chinese (Cantonese) and Japanese descent, came mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lima has, by far, the largest ethnic Chinese community in Latin America.
During the early 20th century, thousands of immigrants came to the city, including people of German, French, Italian and British descent. They organized social clubs and built their own schools. Immigrants influenced Peruvian cuisine, with Italians in particular exerting a strong influence in the Miraflores and San Isidro areas with their trattorias. Chinese and a lesser number of Japanese came to Lima and established themselves in the Barrios Altos neighborhood near downtown Lima. Lima residents refer to their Chinatown as Calle Capon and the city's ubiquitous Chifa restaurants – small, sit-down, usually Chinese-run restaurants serving the Peruvian spin on Chinese cuisine – can be found by the dozens in this enclave.
Known as Peruvian Coast Spanish, Lima's Spanish is characterized by the lack of strong intonations as found in many other Spanish-speaking regions. It is heavily influenced by Castilian Spanish. Throughout the colonial era, most of the Spanish nobility based in Lima were originally from Castile. Limean Castillian is also characterized by the lack of voseo, unlike many other Latin American countries. This is because voseo was primarily used by Spain's lower socioeconomic classes, a social group that did not begin to appear in Lima until the late colonial era. Limean Spanish is distinguished by its clarity in comparison to other Latin American accents and has been influenced by immigrant groups including Italians, Andalusians, West Africans, Chinese and Japanese. It also has been influenced by anglicisms as a result of globalization, as well as by Andean Spanish and Quechua, due to migration from the Andean highlands.
The Historic Centre, made up of the districts of Lima and Rímac, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. Some examples of colonial architecture include the Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral, Convent of Santo Domingo and the Palace of Torre Tagle. A tour of the city's churches is a popular circuit. A trip through the central district visits churches dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, the most noteworthy of which are the Cathedral and the Monastery of San Francisco, said to be connected by subterranean catacombs. Both contain paintings, Sevilian tile and sculpted wood furnishings.
Also notable is the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas, the point of origin for the Lord of Miracles, whose festivities in the month of October constitute the city's most important religious event. Some sections of the Walls remain and are frequented by tourists. These examples of medieval Spanish fortifications were built to defend the city from attacks by pirates and privateers.
Lima is known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas. A center of immigration and the center of the Spanish Viceroyalty, chefs incorporated dishes brought by the conquistadors and waves of immigrants: African, European, Chinese and Japanese. Since the second half of the 20th century, international immigrants were joined by internal migrants from rural areas. Lima cuisines include Creole food, Chifas, Cebicherias and Pollerias. In the 21st century, its restaurants became recognized internationally.
Lima's proximity to the port of Callao allows Callao to act as the metropolitan area's major port and one of Latin America's largest. Callao hosts nearly all maritime transport for the metropolitan area. A small port in Lurín serves oil tankers due to a nearby refinery. Maritime transport inside Lima city limits is relatively insignificant compared to that of Callao.
The urban transport system is composed of over 652 transit routes that are served by buses, microbuses and combis. The system is unorganized and is characterized by its informality. The service is run by 464 private companies that are poorly regulated by local government. Taxis are mostly informal and unmetered; they are cheap but feature poor driving habits. Fares are agreed upon before the passenger enters the taxi. Taxis vary in size from small four-door compacts to large vans. They account for a large part of the car stock. In many cases they are just a private car with a taxi sticker on the windshield. Additionally, several companies provide on-call taxi service.
Lima suffers most from air pollution. The sedimentary dust has solid particles that settle as dust on different surfaces or float through the air. The fine particles are the most dangerous given that they are able to damage human respiratory systems. The recommended limit of these particles by the World Health Organization is 5 tons/month. In February 2014, Lima recorded an average of 15.2 tons. The two districts with the highest concentration of sedimentary dust are El Agustino (46.1 tons) and Independencia (25.5 tons) in February 2014.
NOTE FROM ME: I’ve been meaning to mention this as we’ve seen it in most South American cities we have visited this trip. BUSES DO NOT (necessarily) STOP FOR PASSENGERS. It seems that if someone wants on or off a bus, the driver scopes out the physical shape of the passenger and then decides to either slow down and the passenger has to JUMP on or off OR stops if the passenger doesn’t look like they could make the jump. I’m serious! (at least about the bus just slowing down; I’m guessing at the logic).
The convent originally included seven cloisters (the main courtyard, St. Bonaventure, St. Francis Solanus (who is buried in the monastery church), the Pepper Yard, the Infirmary, the Novitiate and the Third Order). During the works to open Abancay Avenue in the 1940s, part of the monastery (including St. Bonaventure's courtyard) was demolished, and the section used by the Franciscan Third Order was separated from the main structure. Another cloister, that once belonged to the Franciscans, was given to the Society for Public Welfare around 1847 and became part of the Ruiz Dávila Hospice. Another part of the complex is now used by the Peruvian National Police.