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Rivera’s roots

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter whose large scale wall frescos dealt mostly with social and political themes arising from Mexico’s 1910 revolution.

 

He painted in Mexico City and in the U.S. between 1922 and 1953, and was instrumental in establishing the Mural Movement in Mexican art.

 

Guanajuato’s Museo Casa Diego Rivera is located in the house where the artist was born, and where he lived until the age of ten, when his family moved to Mexico City.

 

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Living quarters on the ground floor are furnished in period antiques.

The upper floors house a permanent collection of nearly one hundred original works and sketches that span more than forty years.

Rivera was a man of contradictions.

Born into a well-to-do family, he became an ardent Marxist and his politics made him a persona non grata in Guanajuato for much of his life.

Born the son of a Catholic father and a Converso mother whose Jewish ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism, he was a lifelong atheist.

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

A year after his twin brother died at the age of two, Rivera began drawing on the walls of the family house and his parents installed chalkboards and wall canvasses to encourage his talent.

He was already studying art in Mexico City at the age of ten, and continued his studies in Madrid and then in Paris, where he lived and worked among the Montparnasse artists and where his friend Modigliani painted his portrait.  Rivera also traveled extensively through Italy, studying Renaissance frescoes.

His early work embraced the emerging school of Cubist art, but by 1917 he began to adopt a new style that emphasized simple forms and large patches of vivid colors with an Aztec influence.

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He painted his first significant mural, “Creation,” at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1921.  During the work he carried a pistol to protect himself from right-wing students.

His murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City were painted between 1922 and 1928, and soon afterward he produced works for Cuernavaca’s Cortés Palace.

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera arrived in Moscow in 1927 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.  Also attending was Alfred Barr, later the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective exhibition of Rivera’s works was held in 1931.

While in Russia, Rivera received a commission for a mural in Moscow’s Red Army Club, but was expelled from the country because of involvement in anti-Soviet politics, and the next year he was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Following his return to Mexico City, he produced a series of murals in the National Palace.

In 1929 he married his third wife, artist Frida Kahlo.  He was 42 and she was 22,  Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper would lead to their divorce in 1939 and remarriage in 1940.

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

In 1930, after completing a commission for murals in the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo, and the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Rivera accepted commissions from the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and from the California School of Fine Art.  The work he produced there is now on display in the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Between 1932 and 1933, Rivera completed the twenty-seven panels of his work “Detroit Industry”, commissioned by Edsel Ford, on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

His 1933 mural “Man at the Crossroads”, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, was removed from the Rockefeller Center following a furor over its inclusion of the image of Lenin.

When Diego refused to remove it, Rockefeller ordered Rivera to leave and the mural destroyed.  The censorship became a cause celebre among New York’s artistic community.

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

While Rockefeller detested Rivera’s art for its politics, Edsel Ford saw the art separately from the politics, and was a staunch defender of the artist’s talent even during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s.

The negative publicity over the Rockefeller Center mural, though, lost Rivera a commission for the Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1934, Rivera  repainted the Rockefeller Center mural in Mexico city’s Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He returned to the U.S. for the last time in 1940 to paint a ten-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco titled “Pan American Unity”.

The mural and its archives now reside at City College of San Francisco.

There’s plenty more to see on a future visit, but it’s still been a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende.

For more on Guanajuato, check out my earlier posts:

A panel from Diego Rivera’s work “Detroit Industry” appears on the cover of my latest novel, Lifelines: An American Dream, available now on Amazon.

 

Guanajuato’s Centro Historico

The first sight of Guanajuato is breathtakingly beautiful.  Thousands of brightly colored buildings are draped across the hills like a mosaic carpet, and the colors are warm in the morning sunlight.  It’s picture postcard perfect.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato has played an important role throughout much of Mexico’s history, including its service as one of  Mexico’s provisional capitals  up until its capture during the French intervention in 1863 .

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

This city’s spirit is well summed up by its  Plaza de la Paz – the Peace Plaza.

 

This is where the wealthiest of colonial families built their homes.

 

It is also the site of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato – the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato.

 

One of the plaza’s most distinctive feature is an allegorical sculpture of the woman “Peace”.

Since much of Guanajuato’s through traffic has been routed through the tunnels of abandoned silver mines which run below it, the narrow streets of the Centro Historico are very pedestrian-friendly, and beg to be walked.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Alhondigas de Granaditas – The Granary – dominates the  old city, and has played a central role in its history for more than two hundred years.

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Today it is one of the venues for the Festival Internacional Cervantino, held here every fall since 1972.

The festival  celebrates the life and work of Miguel Cervantes, who is considered by Spanish-speakers to be as significant an influence on their literature as Shakespeare is to English literature.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

The Alhondigas is best known, though, as the site of the first battle in Mexico’s War of Independence.

 

 

In 1810, insurgents led by patriot Miguel Hidalgo entered the city to find that Royalist troops and  sympathizers had barricaded themselves – and millions of pesos of silver – in the Alhondigas.

 

The Royalists were counting upon the granary’s thick and windowless walls and single gated entrance to resist a siege, and they were able to fight the rebels to a stalemate.

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

The impasse was broken when miner Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, better known to history by his nickname of El Pípila, armored himself with a large flat stone strapped to his back and crawled to the wooden gate with a flask of tar and a torch.

Martínez’s  courageous act enabled the patriots to take the building, and his heroism is commemorated by a colossal statue of him that now overlooks the city.

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

The building now serves as the Museo Regional de Guanajuato, documenting the city’s history  from before the Spanish Conquest.

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Its architecture honors heroes of the Mexican Revolution with mascarons, gargoyle-like sculptures that incorporate their faces.

The walls of the main stairwell contain murals by José Chávez Morado that allude to Independence, along with paintings and photographs.

It is a long-standing tradition to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s “El Grito de Dolores” – the call to arms – in the Alhondiga’s large courtyard.

An eternal flame is re-lit here each year on the anniversary of the battle.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

It ‘s no surprise that this charming and historic city is one of Mexico’s thirty-two World Heritage Sites.

Coming up next in Guanajuato:  Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist’s childhood home.

Also in Guanajuato:  Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, the opulent home and magnificent gardens built by one of the city’s silver barons.  Read more…

Hacienda style

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s five colonial “silver cities.”

 

Silver was discovered here in the 1600’s, and within a century Guanajuato had become the largest single source of silver in the world.

 

 

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnificent churches and mansions were built with the riches, and one of those mansions survives today as a museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

The former Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, less than three miles from the city center and just off the highway from Irapuato, covers almost five acres.

It was one of several estates owned by Captain Gabriel de la Barrera.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The main house sits among themed, formal gardens, several of which evoke the feel of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

The hacienda house was divided into living space, hacienda offices, a chapel, and a  work yard where mined minerals were processed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The façade has a strong Baroque influence, and the beamed ceilings and handrails are all original

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The altarpiece in the private chapel, covered in gold leaf, once stood in the cathedral of Jaen, Spain.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

In Mexico, the word hacienda describes the largest of estates. These were profit-making enterprises that had their origins in land grants made by the Spanish crown to conquistadors and royal officials.

The first was a grant made by the Spanish crown to Hernán Cortés.

 

 

 

 

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

Some haciendas were plantations, some were ranches, and others were mines or factories.  Many engaged in more than one of these enterprises.

 

 

 

 

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

While most hacienda owners – known as hacendados or patróns – lived in or near their haciendas, many of the largest landholders were absentee owners.

 

 

 

 

 

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Catholic Church acquired vast hacienda holdings or loaned money to hacendados.

As mortgage holders, the Church’s interests lay with the landholding class, a relationship which eventually left it on the wrong side of Mexican Revolution.

 

 

 

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

Haciendas are sometimes confused with encomiendas, another type of royal land grant which included the labor of its indigenous population.

These grantholders were responsible for instructing the natives in the Spanish language and Christian faith, and protecting them from warring tribes, in return for which they were entitled to exact labor or other tribute.

 

 

 

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

While the encomienda technically honored honor Queen Isabella’s command that natives were “free vassals of the crown” not to be enslaved or displaced, many were forced into hard labor and subjected to corporal punishment or death if they resisted.

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Many hacendados were also granted encomiendas, which gave all of their enterprises access to a pool of indigenous labor.

The Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera affords a beautiful setting and unique insight into the lives of the Spanish overlords, but it’s also hard to forget that such prosperity came at a terrible price.  An indigenous Mexican population estimated at twenty-five million persons before the Spanish conquest had, within a century, been reduced by war, disease, and forced labor, and other abuse to a little over one million.

There’s still more to see in Guanajuato, including the boyhood home of twentieth century Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and the city’s historic center, one of the birthplaces of Mexican independence.

To Live and Die in New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

I’ve been to New Orleans more times than I can count, but as I planned my first post-Katrina trip, I wondered how much of its long-familiar landscape would still remain.

My New Orleans ritual has remained unchanged in all of those years.  It begins with beignets and café au lait at the Cafe du Monde, followed by a stroll around Jackson Square and a climb to the crest of the levee, where I sit and watch the boats plying the Mississippi.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

On this morning as I sit in the cafe, a van pulls up and its two occupants extract from it a gigantic paper-mâché mask of Louis Armstrong.

Both men seem improbably short to be walking the streets with it perched upon their shoulders, but an entourage shortly appears, dressed in Mardi Gras finery.

"Second Line" dressed for a parade.

“Second Line” dressed for a parade.

The mask’s occupant appears and suits up, then the troop sets off down the streets for reasons and parts unknown.

More "Second Line"

More “Second Line”

 

It’s a perfect welcome back to New Orleans.

 

 

Jackson Square is always a feast for the eyes.  Artists who hang their work on its wrought iron fences are regulars, but the supporting cast of characters is constantly changing.

 

Jackson Square play date.

Jackson Square play date.

 

 

 

Today, two mothers sitting in the shade watch over a play date and what can only be described as the mini-van of baby strollers.

 

 

Across the square, a group of choir boys files down the sidewalk.

 

Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

 

Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans

 

 

 

The engine of a motorcycle with longhorn handlebars and an honest-to-God cowboy saddle clicks and cools as its owner sitting nearby with guitar and harmonica, picking out a tune.

Hey, buddy, can you spare some change for gas?

 

 

 

 

 

Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.

Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.

 

I decide to revisit old haunts in the Garden District and hop aboard the St. Charles Street trolley, hopeful that I’ll find the District as unchanged by Katrina as the French Quarter seems to be.

"Katina cross" marks a hurrican damage inspection.

“Katina cross” marks a hurrican damage inspection.

At first not much seems out of place, but after only a few blocks’ walk I come upon my first vacant house marked with the infamous X-code, or “Katrina cross”… which many have mistakenly taken for a demolition flag.

The markings in each of its quadrants actually record the date and time that the house was searched, the identity of the searchers, and a count of people found in the home…  whether alive or not.

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

The Lafayette Cemetery #2 is five blocks off St. Charles St., at the corner of Washington and Loyola, and even though I’ve seen the St. Louis cemetery – the heavyweight among New Orleans burials – on past trips I can’t resist walking its lanes to check out the stories told by its gravestones.

Back in the French Quarter, I stop by the Central Grocery for the world’s best-known muffaletta sandwich before wandering the streets.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

A procession led by a brass band appears, and I realize that I’m about to see my first New Orleans funeral parade.

Although such funeral parades were a widespread practice among both blacks and whites in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, whites stepped away from the ritual in the years before World War I.

 

 

It was not until the 1960’s that it began to spread across ethnic and religious boundaries.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

It feels far less like a funeral than it does a wake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

Many in the procession are dressed in black, and the mourners hold pictures of the deceased high.

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

One woman walks, turtle-like, beneath the weight of an ornately framed painting of a saint with cherubs.  From time to time, one or another breaks into dance.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

I never manage to learn the name of the deceased, but the rousing and worthy send-off tells me that he’s someone who will be sorely missed by many… and that I can cross one more item off my bucket list.

There are countless galleries and artisans' workshops here.

There are countless galleries and artisans’ workshops here.

I’ve been traveling around Mexico since the mid-’70’s, when the local arts and crafts market was a lot like shopping in the former Soviet Union:  All of stores carried much of the same, mundane merchandise, and selection was limited.

A bookworm metal sculpture awaits the rainy season.

A bookworm metal sculpture awaits the rainy season.

 

 

 

 

In the years since, Mexican artisans have responded to cheaply-made foreign knock-offs of their work with new and original designs, materials, and fabrication techniques.

Their efforts have taken Mexican artisanship and artistry to a new level and made it highly sought after  in the global market place.

 

El Jardin Hidalgo plaza, Tlaquepaque

El Jardin Hidalgo plaza, Tlaquepaque

 

 

San Pedro Tlaquepaque – known to most simply as Tlaquepaque – is one of five municipalities (think NYC boroughs) that make up Metropolitan Guadalajara.

 

A vendor sells sugar cane treats.

A vendor sells sugar cane treats.

It’s long been the home of talented artists and craftsmen, and today their work is sold here in boutiques that would fit in nicely among the shops on Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive, or Magnificent Mile.

 

Find pottery in every imaginable size, shape, and color.

Find pottery in every imaginable size, shape, and color.

It’s not surprising that Tlaquepaque is best known for its fine pottery, since the town takes its name from indigenous Nahuatl words meaning “place above clay land”, but its artisans also produce elegant blown glass.

Shops here also sell work from all over Mexico including ceramics, wood and bronze sculpture, wood furniture, paper-mâché art, and embroidered cloth.

The variety of materials used to create these works is amazing

The variety of materials used to create these works is amazing

Tlaquepaque was a village in its own right long before the Spanish Conquest, but today retains its Spanish colonial character, and much of its architecture dates back to the 19th century.

It holds a special place in Mexican history, for it was here in a house on the corner of Independencia and Contreras Medellin Streets that the Plan de Iguala, which granted Mexico independence from Spain, was signed.

 

A mare awaits her next trip.

A mare awaits her next trip.

A statue of Miguel Hidalgo, father of Mexican independence, towers over the central El Jardín Hidalgo plaza.

During the San Pedro patron saint festivities in June, many street stalls and art sellers set up their wares in the plaza.

 

 

 

El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Tlaquepaque

El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Tlaquepaque

Adjoining the Jardin are the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Solitude), and the Templo de San Pedro Tlaquepaque , which dates from the 1600’s.

A herd of while horses in metal explodes onto the street.

A herd of while horses in metal explodes onto the street.

Several of the main streets are closed to all but pedestrian traffic, which makes for unhurried strolls through cobblestone streets and alleyways, and plazas and gardens.

 

 

Work of Guadalajara artist Sergio Bustamante

Work of Guadalajara artist Sergio Bustamante

One of my favorite galleries is that of Sergio Bustamente, a Mexican artist and sculptor and a Guadalajara resident area since childhood.

 

First exhibited in Mexico City in 1966, his early work was done in paint and paper mache, but by the mid-1970s he was creating works – many reflecting animal themes – in wood and bronze.

 

He began designing furniture in 1979, and creating ceramic sculptures into the ’80’s.   Latest among his creations is a line of limited edition jewelry in which each piece is hand crafted and bears a certificate of authenticity.

 

Photography is prohibited in the gallery, but you can browse the full catalogue of Bustamante’s work  here.

Furniture and decorative items in wood are abundant in Tlaquepaque

Furniture and decorative items in wood are abundant in Tlaquepaque

 

Just down the block from the Bustament gallery you’ll find the Museo Regional de la Cerámica (Regional Ceramic Museum), which gives a great historical overview of this craft.

There are plenty of great dining choices here. Catty-cornered from the Jardin, the El Parián pavilion is home to a number of restaurants and bars.

You’ll also find a number of cafes and restaurants – many with patio seating – scattered throughout the district’s. Among these, I recommend Casa Fuerte.

El Abajeno, which has another location in Guadalajara on the Glorieta Minerva and had been serving locals for almost 50 years, is also popular.

Be advised, though, that breakfast offerings are limited, and restaurants here are most crowded on Sundays, when many of the shops are closed.

Sculpted metal mariachis silently serenade

Sculpted metal mariachis silently serenade

Expect at any of these to be serenaded by one the mariachi bands for which Tlaquepaque is well known.

 

Since many cultural activities here are schedule in the evenings, it’s worth making your visit  an overnight stay here.   

The area’s hotels are a short drive from Guadalajara’s city center, and there are a number of delightful B&B’s (click each for TripAdvisor ratings and photos ) including:

The new Plaza Forum Rio Nilo mall is located about 3 kilometers from El Jardin Hidalgo at the intersection of Avenidas Rio Nilo and García Barragán. 

Stores there include the Liverpool and Suburbia department stores, Best Buy, Office Max and a Cineplex.  Nearby you’ll also find Home Depot, WalMart, Auto Zone, Radio Shack.

 

San Luis Potosí unmasked

Teatro de la Paz and Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Teatro de la Paz and Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

San Luis Potosí sits astride the highway that links Saltillo and Monterrey to México City, and completion of the most recent link in the Highway 80 toll road has cut the drive from Guadalajara to just under four hours.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

I’ve driven it dozens of times on the way to and from the States, stopping no longer than needed to grab a night’s sleep at a roadside hotel, but I’ve decided to begin seeing it one attraction at a time with each new trip.

 

Catedral Potosina, Plaza de Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

Catedral Potosina, Plaza de Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.

 

The It was impossible to resist choosing the Museo Nacional de la Mascara – the National Mask Museum – as my first stop.  Its collection numbers more than 25 thousand indigenous masks and dance costumes, most of Mexican origin.  There are also a few Asian masks, mainly from India.

San Luis is one of México’s colonial Silver Cities, and mines in the surrounding mountains were for two hundred years some of the nation’s most prolific producers of minerals and precious metals.

Belltower of Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Belltower of Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

No surprise, then, that Spanish added the word Potosí  – ” fortune” – to the city’s name when silver was first discovered, or that the image of a mine entrance flanked by two silver and two gold bars appears on the city’s coat of arms.

Bronze scultpture of hooded penitent, Centro Historico, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Bronze scultpture of hooded penitent, Centro Historico, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Today mining only accounts for a fraction of the local economy.  Only the deteriorating remnants of the American Smelting and Refining Company’s offices in the city’s Colonia de Los Gringos, and ghost towns like  Cerro de San Pedro in the surrounding mountains testify to mining operations that continued until the Second World War.

Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Templo del Carmen, Plaza de las Armas, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

The metro area is now home to more than 2 million people, and mining has now been replaced by manufacturing, services, and  agriculture.

Many foreign companies have been attracted its new and massive multi-modal logistics center.  San Luis is the only inland port in Mexico to be designated a Free Trade Zone.

 

Facade detail, Templo del Carmen, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Facade detail, Templo del Carmen, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

 

Founded only twenty-five years after the Spanish conquest of México, San Luis is one of the nation’s oldest cities and one rich in historical tradition.

 

In the 1860’s, it was for a time the seat of President Benito Juárez’s government during the French occupation of México.

 

 

 

Shop window confections, Centro Historico, San Luis Potosí, México

Shop window confections, Centro Historico, San Luis Potosí, México

Fifty years later, Mexican patriot and president Francisco Madero was held there under arrest until his escape in 1910, when he called his countrymen to revolution with his Plan of San Luis.

The colonial center is home to many beautiful and historically significant colonial buildings, and has been closed off to vehicular traffic.

Teatro Alameda, San Luis Potosí, México

Teatro Alameda, San Luis Potosí, México

Only a couple of miles off the expressway,  I park curbside at the Alameda Central, a public garden park that covers more than ten city blocks.

 

From there it’s a walk of just one block past the Art Deco Cine Alameda to the Plaza del Carmen, and from there only two blocks further to the Plaza de las Armas.

Marti Palace ceiling detail, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Marti Palace ceiling detail, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

The museum is housed on the Plaza del Carmen in the magnificent “Marti Palace,” which was completed in 1897 as the residence of a prominent landowner and miner.

Marti Palace interior, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Marti Palace interior, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

After it passed from family ownership, the building was home to various federal government agencies until 1982, when it became the home of dance masks donated for public viewing by engineer and collector Victor Jose Moya.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

 

The Spanish tried unsuccessfully to ban the use of masks, which was a well-established part of ritual life in Mexico when they arrived.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Most are made of wood, but it’s not uncommon to find others made from leather, wax, bone, cardboard, or paper mache.

 

Their uses are varied, but they are almost always a part of ceremony and ritual, appearing most often in theatrical dance and processions.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Priests used masks to incarnate deities, and warriors wore masks of predators like the jaguar and eagle warriors in the belief that they would be imbued with the animal’s strengths.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Since Mexican Independence, mask traditions have continued to evolve into forms that depict Mexico’s history and popular culture.

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Museo Nacional de la Mascara, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

It’s taken me less than half a day to walk the Centro Historico and the museum, and it’s been a delightful break from a long road trip.

For the next trip I’ve set my sights on the city’s The Museo del Centro Taurino Potosino  (Potosí Bullfighting Museum), and its collection of bullfighting photographs, posters, clothing and equipment that once belonged to famous matadors.

Culinary Lima

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

Lima boasts three of the world’s Top 100 restaurants, and for good reason.

Top chefs have discovered Perú’s wide and distinctive selection of native fruits and vegetables, and fresh seafood, and are whipping up stunning menus with them.

During my 13 days in Perú, I’ve run already run across some tasty and intriguing local delicacies, first among which is the ubiquitous quinoa, which appears in everything from soups and salads to crusted meats and even beer.

I’ve also had a chance to try alpaca steak, Andes mountain trout, and the refreshing chicha morada beverage.

Today, though, is a foodie fantasy that takes us through the markets and kitchens of Lima to see, make, and taste some of their most popular offerings.

The tour is operated by the Lima Gourmet Company, and its foodie tour groups are restricted size to no more than eight persons in order to afford ample time to chat with vendors and chefs.

Our Lima Gourmet guide for the day is David Candia, who’s also studying to be a sommelier

 

Latte masterpiece at Cafe Bisetti, Lima, Peru

Latte masterpiece at Cafe Bisetti, Lima, Peru

The day begins with coffee at Cafe Bisetti back in the Barranco District.

 

The dining room is done in a sleek Euro style, but there’s a quaint Spanish colonial courtyard out back, and on the way to it we pass the room where nothing but organic coffee beans are being hand-sorted.

 

The latte looks almost too good to drink.

 

This morning we’re drinking breakfast nearby at La Bodega Verde, which is well known for its lúcuma smoothies and shakes.  They may look like plain vanilla, but the flavor is a delicate blend often described as maple +sweet potato.

This nectar comes from Perú’s native lúcuma fruit, also known by the English name “eggfruit” because its flesh resembles a hard-boiled egg yolk in texture and color.  Its use in Perú pre-dates the Incas, and is today is so popular that Starbucks has added it to the menu here.  It turns out that lúcuma is not just about a great taste.  It also packs high levels of B-vitamins and carotene.

The San Ysidro Market is where the pickiest of chefs go each morning for the best and freshest  produce and seafood.

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

 

David walks us first through the stalls of the produce vendors, introducing us to tropical fruits and vegetables and giving us an opportunity to taste each one.

Lima Gourmet Company's guide David Candia

Lima Gourmet Company’s guide David Candia

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

Next we visit the fishmonger, who shows us fresh fish and shellfish, explaining what to look for in the best seafood.   A photo on the back wall of his stall shows him at the same work more than twenty years ago.

Fishmonger, San Ysidro Market, Lima. Peru

Fishmonger, San Ysidro Market, Lima. Peru

Scallops at the San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

Scallops at the San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

Fresh fish and shrimp, San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

Fresh fish and shrimp, San Ysidro Market, Lima, Peru

 

We arrive at the Embarcadero 41 restaurant well before the lunch so that the staff can give full attention to explaining and demonstrating their preparations, then guiding foodies through a hands-on preparation of their own.

Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

 

 

First we stop by the bar and the restaurant’s cocktail artist for the secrets if Peru’s Pisco Sour.

 

 

Pisco is a grape brandy that reminds me a lot of grappa, but it’s made without the skin of the grape and packs a seductively smooth the punch.

 

 

We taste some aged and infused varieties of pisco, but it’s the crystal clear version that’s the star ingredient in Perú’s national drink, the Pisco Sour, which combines pisco, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white, shaken and chilled into a frothy concoction.

Making cevich at Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

Making cevich at Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

 

 

The star attraction at Embarcadero 41, though, is the ceviche.

 

This restaurant is so fanatic about the using the freshest fish in its ceviche that it closes after lunch rather than serve the morning’s catch for dinner!

 

The chef walks us through the preparation before we get to make our own.

 

 

Ceviceh at Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

Ceviceh at Embarcadero 41, Lima, Peru

 

 

 

I’ve had ceviche all up and down the Pacific coast, and Lima’s ceviche indisputably puts them all to shame.

 

They use only white fish, and it’s served along with Perúvian corn and yam, and garnished with red pepper.

 

 

 

 

 

Huaca Pucclana restaurant and ruins, Lima, Peru

Huaca Pucclana restaurant and ruins, Lima, Peru

 

 

 

Ceviche, though, is only the appetizer.

Today we return to the Huaca Pucclana ruins visited yesterday, but this time to the restaurant of the same name which sits at its doorstep, where the food is as incomparable as the setting.

 

 

Sampler, Huaca Pucclan restaurant, Lima, Peru

Sampler, Huaca Pucclan restaurant, Lima, Peru

The waiter presents us with sampler portions of more items than we could otherwise possibly eat.

It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite from among the entrees (although the Beef Heart may have been the first among equals!).

 

Pictured here, they are – clockwise from top left:

  • Causa Rolls, made of yellow mashed potato stuffed with avocado and salmon.
  • Beef heart with fried corn.
  • Broiled scallops with parmesan cheese and lemon butter.
  • Barbecued octopus on native potatoes, fava beans and corn.

 

Selections from Peru's Cumbres microbrewery.

Selections from Peru’s Cumbres microbrewery.

We chat with the sommelier about Perúvian wines, but I can’t resist asking about craft beers, and I’m glad I did.

I end up ordering one of each and inviting everyone at the table to join me in a beer tasting.

Two uniquely Perúvian twists on the brew were most memorable.  One is made from toasted quinoa, and the other is infused with the flavor of the chicha-morada which I had a chance to try in Ollantaytambo.

 

Dessert sampler, Huaca Pucclana, Lima, Peru

Dessert sampler, Huaca Pucclana, Lima, Peru

 

 

 

The dessert samplers are served up in shotglasses as “dessert shooters,” but if the portions were modest, the tastes were not.

 

 

 

Pictured here, they are, from left to right:

  • Warm rice pudding mille feuille and algarrobina ice cream.
  • Lucuma mousse, crunchy quinoa, double chocolate.
  • Suspiro de Limeña with port, cookies, and meringue.
  • “Doña Pepa” cheesecake with sweet molasses and honey

 

It’s been a food-filled day that may have trashed any appetite for dinner, but for anyone who experiences cravings later, here are four restaurants worth considering (see TripAdvisor for ratings and details):

  • Astrid y Gaston (plan ahead, the reservation wait list here is weeks long!)

 

Beer afficionados can find more on Peru’s craft brewers here:

  • Sierra Andina is another Perúvian microbrewery that produces a good product in more traditional flavor profiles.

 

Bohemian Barranco

Bajada de los Baños, Barranco, Lima

Bajada de los Baños, Barranco, Lima

Barranco is the Spanish word for “ravine”, and Lima’s Barranco District takes its name from a ravine that was once a riverbed, but is now the site of a pedestrian walkway – the Bajada de los Baños – a ramp that connects it to the beach below.

The forest of glittering high rises that has sprouted in neighboring Miraflores has not yet crept this far down the coast, and it still has the feeling of a village.

Bajada de los Baños, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Puente de los Suspiros Bridge of Sighs, Barranco, Lima, Peru

The ravine, though, is not the only unique feature of Barranco’s geography or its appeal.

Cliffs extending out from the shoreline to the south shield it from cold and damp southern winds to create a comfortable micro-climate.

Lima Barranco 05

La Ermita church, Barranco, Lima, Peru

On a side street, a hostel sign proclaims “backpackers welcome,” and through its open lobby door well-worn surfboards stand stacked against a wall.

Lima has been ranked Number 6 among the World’s 50 Best Surf Spots, and Barranco still boasts a marina and yacht club.

Barranco was originally a fishing village, and its maritime heritage is celebrated by the Eglesia de la Ermita.

Legend has it that a group of fishermen lost in the sea mist at last saw a distant light and rowed toward it.  When they came ashore, they found that in the spot where they had seen the light was nothing but a wooden cross in the sand, and built the church in thanksgiving.

Cupola of La Ermita church, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Cupola of La Ermita church, Barranco, Lima, Peru

La Ermita is now abandoned, its fractured ceiling a exposing earthquake-proof construction techniques that date back to pre-Columbian times that substitute light and flexible bamboo and stucco for heavy brick or stone.

Late 1800’s, the District became a fashionable beach resort where well-to-do  Limeños built casonas – their summer homes.

 

Electric trolley museum, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Electric trolley museum, Barranco, Lima, Peru

It was so popular that an electric trolley line once connected it to downtown Lima, and one of the trolley cars is now on display here as a permanent museum.

There’s more to Barranco, though, than its connection to the ocean

The District is also considered to be Lima’s most romantic and bohemian neighborhoods.

Cafe mural, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Cafe mural, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Peru’s leading writers, artists and musicians have lived and worked here for more than a century, and there are more than a dozen galleries here, including the first permanent exhibition of internationally known Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino.

Lima Barranco 08

Restaurants and gardens, Barranco, Lima, Peru

The heart of the District covers a dozen or so square blocks.

It’s easy to cover on foot and very secure to walk.

The central plaza retains its original Spanish colonial flavor, and parks and streets are flower-filled.

Shops sell artisan goods tapestries and ceramics.

Street art adorns walls and homes.  Facades of casonas built in the Republican style retain all of their elegance and charm.

 

 

Lima Barranco 03

Bajada de los Baños (Bridge of Sighs), Barranco, Lima, Peru

The walkway to the sea, the Bajada de los Baños, is spanned by the Puente de los Suspiros foot bridge.

Its name translates into Bridge of Sighs, so called because it is a frequent meeting place for lovers.

 

 

 

 

 

Dining car restaurant, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Dining car restaurant, Barranco, Lima, Peru

 

Here you’ll find no chain restaurants, but only owner-operated establishments, each brimming with its own unique charm.

Lima Barranco 10

Peruvian restaurant, Barranco, Lima, Peru

 

 

 

If Barranco is a pleasant way to pass the day, it comes even more alive in the evenings, when the bistros, bars, and cafes are crowded with young adults.

 

Restaurant at night, Barranco, Lima, Peru

Restaurant at night, Barranco, Lima, Peru

I settle over a latte to watch passers-by stop to play a piano that sits beneath an outdoor canopy.

"Play Me" piano, Barranco, Lima, Peru

“Play Me” piano, Barranco, Lima, Peru

It’s only one of dozens placed in city parks and other public spaces by the city, and I sit nearby as a young man plays a flawless rendition of a work by Debussy.

It’s a perfect end to a perfect day, but I’m still looking forward to tomorrow’s culinary tour of Lima!  Click here to come along!

Historic Lima

Evidence of pre-Inca cultures beneath Lima was unknown to Francisco Pizarro when he selected it as the capital of the Spanish viceroyalty of Perú, and the new capital barely survived its first year.

Archbishop's Palace, Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru

Archbishop’s Palace, Plaza Mayor, Lima, Perú

In 1536, the army of Inca Emperor Manco II nearly wiped the city from the map during his 8-year insurrection.

Plaza Mayor, Lima, Peru

Plaza Mayor, Lima, Perú

 

The Plaza Mayor, focal point of is Lima’s Centro Historico, is one of Peru’s dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It’s bordered by buildings constructed in the Spanish colonial style that include the Presidential Palace and Lima’s central Cathedral.

Government Palace, Peru's White House, on the Plaza Mayor, Lima

Government Palace, Perú’s White House, on the Plaza Mayor

 

Pizarro ordered the first Palace built shortly after the Conquest in 1535.

 

As elsewhere in Perú, the Spaniards placed it on the site of an Indian burial ground and shrine.

 

The Palace and its successors were the residence of Spanish Viceroys for nearly three hundred years, and later as independent Perú’s seat of government.

 

The current structure, built in the French Baroque style, was constructed in 1921.

 

Basilica Cathedral of Lima, Plaza Mayor

Basilica Cathedral of Lima, Plaza Mayor

The Basilica Cathedral of Lima is the third church erected on its site.

Pizarro ordered the first one built in 1541, and it was constructed of wood and adobe.

He was assassinated within a year and buried within the Cathedral’s walls in an unmarked grave that went unidentified for nearly two hundred fifty years.

The Cathedral has been the seat of the Lima Archdiocese since 1546.

It contains more than a dozen chapels, and has survived partial destruction by at least three major earthquakes, most recently in 1940.

Hand-carved lattice work on the Archbishop's Palace

Hand-carved lattice work on the Archbishop’s Palace

Ornate balconies of hand-carved wood, a signature feature of Lima’s colonial architecture, are prominently featured on Plaza buildings, most notably on the Archbishop’s Palace.

The balconies’ design, of Moorish origin, reflects the contribution of yet another influence on Peru’s melting pot culture.

The Convento de San Francisco is only a two block walk from the Plaza Mayor, but the route passes by a picturesque cafe and bar that’s too irresistible to pass up.

Bar Cordano is one of many neightborhood bistros in Lima's Centro Historio

Bar Cordano is one of many neightborhood bistros in Lima’s Centro Historio

A peak inside of the Bar Cordano, Lima Centro Historico

A peak inside of the Bar Cordano, Lima Centro Historico

 

Front facade of the San Franciso Convent, Lima, Peru

Front facade of the San Franciso Convent, Lima, Perú

Two spectacular features of the Convento de San Francisco make it a must-see, and since interior photography is prohibited, it can only be experienced in the flesh.

 

One is a staircase cupola fashioned from Nicaraguan cedar in exquisite, Moorish-inspired patterns.

 

San Francisco Convent, Lima, Peru

San Francisco Convent, Lima, Peru

 

The other is its ossuary, an extensive catacomb from which archeologists have exhumed for display the bones of tens of thousands buried within the convent over the centuries.

Between the Centro Historico and Miraflores, foundations deeply dug for Lima’s new high rises have revealed ruins and relics of pre-Inca culture.

Pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru

Pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana, Lima, Peru

The Huaca Pucllana is a great adobe and clay pyramid of seven staggered platforms.

It first appears out of the surrounding mid-rises as a dusty mound enclosed by chain link fence and marked by the trails of dirt bikers who once used the site.

It covers an area nearly three city blocks wide and five long.  Excavation is ongoing.

Its name – which comes from Quechua word “pucllay,” meaning “game” – translates as “a place for ritual games.”

Huaca Pucllana was a major ceremonial and administrative center of the Lima Culture, a coastal society that flourished at the same time that Europe was descending into the Middle Ages.

One part of the complex contains pits where offerings of fish and other marine life were once made to curry the favor of the gods.

The other was an administrative area which contains adobe structures among which some walls are still standing.

Spaces between the bricks of Huaca Pucllana allow the structure to stretch during earthquakes

Spaces between the bricks of Huaca Pucllana allow the structure to stretch during earthquakes

Also uncovered here are relics of the earlier Wari Culture, including the first of their tombs to be discovered completely intact.

Its three burial shrouds held the remains of three adults – one of high station – and those of a sacrificed child.

With only two days of this trip remaining, I’ve begun searching for the threads that run through all that I’ve seen in Perú.

One of  the headlines is this:  A Perú visit which ends with Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas is like seeing the ruins of ancient Rome without its Greek predecessors or the European cultures subsequently built upon it.

Tomorrow’s plan is to visit Lima’s Barranco District, a Bohemian enclave tucked against the Pacific just south of Miraflores.  Read on

Lima renaissance

"Suicide Bridge" in Miraflores District, Lima

“Suicide Bridge” in Miraflores District, Lima. Fences later installed prevent future jumps.

Machu Picchu visitors who treat Lima as no more than an airline connection are missing an essential part of the Peruvian experience.

 

There is easily enough to see and do in Perú’s capital to warrant spending a couple of days.

 

Lima is the only capital city in the Americas that sits directly on the Pacific coast, and the distinction has markedly shaped its culture.

 

One of Lima's many boulevard sidewalks

One of Lima’s many boulevard sidewalks

Fresh seafood, meticulously prepared and served up in eye-popping presentations, is widely available, and here in the land of its origin, the ceviche is incomparable.

The Cantonese-Peruvian fusion cuisine known as “chifa” has its origin in Chinese immigrants who came as railroad builders and agricultural workers around the turn of the twentieth century.

Today the Chinese commercial influence is evident in everything from consumer goods to the maker’s mark on the city’s busses.

 

Lima oceanfront facing south from Larcomar

Lima oceanfront facing south

In the fifteen years since the government prevailed over the Sendero Luminoso and Túpac Amaru terrorists, Lima has enjoyed a stability and increasing prosperity that’s visible everywhere.

 

The Limeños I talked with not only shared the belief that their lives were better than ten years ago, but that they felt optimistic about their futures.

Homes in Miraflores District, LIma

Homes in Miraflores District, LIma

 

The new prosperity has spawned world-class restaurants and hotels clustered around charming residential neighborhoods that range in architectural styles from historic to contemporary.

The prosperity is also fueling highway improvements and flood control projects throughout Perú.

In Lima, improvements include a subway system on which ground is newly broken, and ongoing land reclamation that continues to extend a string of public beachfront parks already close to ten miles long.

Bicycle rental stand on the oceanfront

Bicycle rental stand on the oceanfront

Whether you choose to walk, job, cycle, or surf them, their pull is irresistible.

 

The Miraflores District, situated south of the city center along the coast, is home to some of the city’s most elegant and historic homes.

 

More recently built  high rises and townhomes reflect the new prosperity.

The neighborhood is clean, secure, and eminently walkable.  It’s also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and hotels.  English is spoken in most of these. and staff is consistently friendly and helpful.

 

Contemporary home in Miraflores District, LIma

Contemporary home in Miraflores District, LIma

Classic home in Miraflores District, LIma

Classic home in Miraflores District, LIma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfers brave the waves in the height of winter

Surfers brave the waves in the height of winter

Lima is 800 miles south of the equator, so it’s autumn during this May visit.

 

While skies are often overcast, evenings require only a light jacket or sweater.

 

Not so for ocean temperatures, and the surfers are all wet-suited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfers suit up only feet away from a tsunami escape route sign.

Surfers suit up only feet away from a tsunami escape route sign.

 

Tsunami escape route signs all along the beach below remind all of the ever-present danger.

 

Lima hasn’t experienced a tsunami since the 8.2 magnitude earthquake of 1940.

Mosaic wall along the ocean front

Mosaic wall along the ocean front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Miraflores, the beachfront parks are mirrored by parks strung along the cliffs above.

Visitors will be wowed not only by Larcomar Mall‘s selection of eateries and chic shops, but by its stunning ocean overlook.

 

Lima ocean view facing south

Lima ocean view facing south

"The Kiss", by sculptor Victor Delfin, in the Parque Del Amor on Lima's oceanfront.

“The Kiss”, by sculptor Victor Delfin, in the Parque Del Amor on Lima’s oceanfront.

 

Not far down the beach, the centerpiece of the Parque del Amor, opened on Valentine’s day in 1993, is a Victor Delfin sculpture of lovers in passionate embrace titled “El Beso”.

Posted nearby is a quote by poet Antonio Cilloniz in which he laments that cities build monuments to warriors, but never to lovers.

Peace and love – paz y amor – is a recurrent theme throughout Peru.

In the San Miguel District, a statue of John Lennon holding a guitar stands in his namesake park, and tiles in a mosaic circle at his feet spell out the work “Imagine”.

Next to Miraflores’ municipal park at Larco and Diagonal Residents is Kennedy Park, known in the city for it stray cat population.

Here, neighborhood cat lovers “sponsor” a cat by paying for spaying, neutering, and vaccinations.  Residents have also been known to adopt strays long enough to give them a bath and a few square meals before returning them to the park for adoption by others.

Classic homes in Miraflores District, LIma

Classic home in Miraflores District, LIma

Lima traffic is a robustly chaotic affair in which any intersection not marked with a traffic light is a free-for-all.

It’s all the more challenging because horn-honking was forbidden by a former mayor who considered Lima’s ear-splitting street noise off-putting to tourists.

It’s best to rely on local drivers to navigate its formidable currents.

Be forewarned, though, that with curbside parking space at a premium there are no taxi stands –  and because the government does not license or regulate taxis –  it’s best to arrange transportation through your hotel, restaurant, or tour operator.

It’s taken a full day to explore Miraflores, but there’s plenty of Lima yet ahead, beginning with a visit to Lima’s Centro Historico.  Click here to come along!

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