North to Trujillo, Peru

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South America » Peru » La Libertad » Trujillo
July 9th 2006
Published: July 9th 2006
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After returning from Ecuador I spent several days back in Lima in the comfort of my very nice B&B which is my base for two months. It has been a terrific place to meet other travelers and it is in an excellent location.

More on Lima….

Having been in Lima off and on for almost one month, I’ve noticed a few things about “living” here. To start with, I was told the weather would be lousy—overcast all the time and cold (well, “cold” is a relative term; in the low 60s)—but so far the weather has been fairly pleasant with several sunny days and highs in the 70s. Lima is certainly grim looking when overcast but when it’s sunny, the area I’m living in, Miraflores, reminds me of Miami Beach.

Also, when you stay in place for a while you starting noticing its idiosyncrasies, or better stated, just things that are different from other places you’ve been or lived in. Whenever I eat out, which is often right now, I’ve noticed that the napkins provided with the meal are tiny and thin, so it takes about ten of these just to wipe your hands. I’ve also noticed in restaurants, particularly in some of the better ones, that each chair has a clasp attached to the chair for attaching a purse or bag. Not a bad theft-prevention idea I’d imagine.

Something I find very convenient about Lima is the official money changers on street corners throughout the city. You can walk up to anyone of them, offer your dollars or other currencies, and get Peruvian nuevo soles in return—and they give a good rate as well. I’ve found this to be very easy, particularly much easier than going into a bank or finding an ATM machine.

North to Trujillo….

After a week or so in Lima, I decided it was time to take off again. This time, however, I wanted to go somewhere relatively close by, and to a smaller city because as Gandhi once said, “People live in their small towns….” While Trujillo isn’t that small, it certainly is much smaller than Lima and has small town feel to it. I wanted to see daily life in a smaller city and Trujillo certainly fit the bill.

About forty minutes by plane north of Lima on the Pacific Coast, Trujillo, a city of about one million people, is the home of the great Chimu civilization, a culture that existed in the 12th to 15th century, and were known as expert metal workers. The existence of inhabitants here dates back some 12,000 years as evidenced by numerous archaeological remains scattered throughout the greater Trujillo area. Trujillo is also known as the home of Chan Chan, the capital of Chimu people who lived in the area and includes the largest adobe citadel in pre-Hispanic America.

The city is blessed with an excellent climate, known nationally as the “city of eternal spring” for its year-round temperatures in the low to mid 70s. The center of Trujillo is stunning, carefully preserving its 16th century architecture consisting of grand old houses, palaces and churches.

Parades and Protests in Trujillo….

I was lucky to arrive when I did because the next morning after my arrival the city’s most famous square, “Plaza de Armas,” was closed off in celebration of the city’s revolutionary history. While Peru declared its independence officially in 1821, Trujillo claims to have stated its independence first in 1820, and the city’s citizens are fiercely proud of this. So, on my first full day in Trujillo, I was honored to view an enormous parade complete with marching bands, students and city officials giving speeches.

It was also interesting to see protestors, a small but vocal group of people standing in front of the large of statute of Simor de Bolivar, South America’s famous general and liberator, chanting and singing while local dignitaries gave speeches. From the little I could understand, their beef was over misuse of funding for education and the low rate of pay for teachers in Peru.

At the same time, another group of protestors was organizing its own march on the other side of the square from the “official” parade. This group consisted mostly of ordinary workers and they were protesting the limited pay and benefits provided to average workers. They were heading towards the official parade so I thought this could get interesting.

As this group of small but rowdy marchers headed around the square and closer to the official parade route, I watched the police, complete with batons and large shields head to the street to “cut them off at the pass.” It was also fun to watch the various members of the press, previously standing around looking bored, running towards the marchers and police ready to get the two camps’ stories and take photographs. I followed the press, wanting to get some good pictures of my own, and for a short time, actually felt like a reporter thrust in the middle of on-going tensions.

As the marchers came to close for comfort to the official parade route, the police lined the street, essentially stopping them in mid-march, and before long a yelling match between several marchers and some other men ensued, and before long, they were surrounded by many members of the press, taking pictures and shouting questions at both sides, while the police, a few feet away, kept an eye on the scene. I got closer but stayed just comfortably near a tree in case I had to take cover.

Eventually, tensions cooled and the marchers disbanded and moved toward other areas of the square realizing that they wouldn’t get any closer to the official parade. It was interesting to watch this unfolding before my eyes. The official parade, with its numerous speeches beforehand, went on as events unfolded with protestors in the center of the square and other groups on surrounding streets. It was all peaceful and I was lucky to see to democracy in practice in Peru.

The President-Elect comes to Trujillo….

I was fortunate to see another expression of democracy as the President-elect of Peru, Alan Garcia, came to Trujillo the very next day to greet his supporter and announce a new education initiative. He takes office on July 28th. His first term was in the mid 1980s and generally was considered a disaster with high inflation and an increase in poverty. I guess Peruvians are forgiving or as is often the case in other countries, they voted for the “lesser of two evils.” In any event, I was standing in front of the tourist office in the Plaza de Armas, waiting to take my tour of local pre-Inca sites and I see 5 or 6 pickup trucks with guys in the back of each one, speeding down the street. Apparently, I missed seeing the lead car, the one carrying Alan Garcia. It was interesting, having lived in Washington, DC for many years, and seeing the President’s motorcade many times, that Peru’s presidential motorcade was much different. Rather than having black limos followed by dark SUVs, this Presidential motorcade consisted of a fairly new car (I think something like a Lincoln Towncar) followed by several pickup trucks.

The President’s motorcade stopped at the other side of the square from where I was, in front of the city’s municipal building—an old colonial-style building—where the President-elect went in. Many of his supporters gathered, waiting for him to come out on the balcony on the second floor of the building. I debated for several minutes whether I should go across the square and take a photograph of the President-elect and risk missing the bus for my tour but I was unsure at that point if the President-elect would be in view for a photograph, and how long that would take. I opted to stay behind and take my tour but I did get a glimpse, from a distance, of the President-elect stepping out onto the balcony to a thunderous roar from the crowd below, and for a short while, heard him speak as loudspeakers blared throughout the Plaza de Armas.

Tours of Pre-Inca sites….

My main objective in visiting Trujillo, besides taking in this smaller city’s daily life, was to see the well-known archaeological remains from the Cupisnique, Salinar, Viru, Mochina and Chimu cultures that are located just minutes outside of Trujillo. There is so much I could write on each of these remains so I will just briefly describe them, leaving the rest of one’s imagination.

One of my favorite ruins is the “Huacas del Sol y de la Luna,” a ceremonial area about 5km south of Trujillo. The Huaca or Temple of the Sun, is a large pyramid measuring some 43m in height and according to oral history, was built in only three days by some 250,000 men. It was largely used for ceremonies and housing the upper classes. A tomb was also uncovered here containing some 40 sacrificed people. The top of the tomb contains an adobe surface with the remains of large multi-colored murals and a depiction of the Moche God, Ai-Apaek.

Another incredible site is called “Chan Chan,” or “Jarij Jarij” in the ancient Yunga language, and “Sun Sun” in English. It is an enormous complex in the Moche valley, about 5km from Trujillo and was the religious and administrative center of the ancient Chimu Kingdom. Apparently over 100,000 people lived here and it is the largest adobe structure in pre-Hispanic America. What is fascinating about this site is not only how large it is but the various structures built within it including houses, stores and plazas. It was has an incredible underground aqueduct system built with amazing thought given the large distances water would need to flow. In 1986 UNESCO proclaimed it a “Historical and Cultural Heritage of Mankind.”

North to Huanchaco....

While on my visit to the Chan Chan site, afterwards our tour stopped in Huanchaco, a small seaside town about 13km northwest of Trujillo. Huanchaco is famous for its “little horses of tortora,” or small reed boats that are used for travel and fishing. A quaint village, Huanchaco is known for its delicious seafood and large handicrafts center. It also boasts a famous Baroque church and throngs of people visit this town during the summer months. We were fortunate to have stopped in Huanchaco at sunset (I’m sure it was planned this way), and I was able to see one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen—certainly worth our short visit here.

Back in Trujillo…

After my various tours, I spent my remaining two days looking around Trujillo. I didn’t do any organized tours;
President-Elect comes to TrujilloPresident-Elect comes to TrujilloPresident-Elect comes to Trujillo

I couldn't get a shot of the President-elect so this will have to do. Courtesy of La Republica.
rather, I simply just watched life go by in this relatively small city. Each day I discovered something, from interesting restaurants to street performers in the Plaza de Armas to street kids doing flips in front of stopped cars at red lights to earn a sole or two, to the many churches all coming to life in prayer and song on Sunday morning. I also saw far too many young kids selling all nature of things from candy to shoe shines to earn some money when they should be in school. Peru is a beautiful country with much to see and do but you cannot escape the poverty that exists here. It’s on most street corners and in many large shanty towns. Despite this poverty, Peruvians maintain a positive outlook on life and take pride in their country. I’ll definitely come back to Trujillo one day.

Thanks for reading!

Pura Vida!


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16th July 2006

Sure sounds like you're having a great time. Your pictures are great. Wish I were there with you! Just remembered I was supposed to send you the link to my friend who lives in Nepal, Have a wonderful trip and hope to see you soon!
7th October 2006

hi im a 24 peruavian guy. i ve just read your experience in my country and is certainly fascinating .. places like turjillo and lima ... i think you should see the south of peru like Ica which is famous for paracas culture and nazca lines .. im really glad to hear a foreigner talking lika that about my country .. sometimes peruvians dont think like that .. but thanx for visiting my country. good luck

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