Monday, January 28, 2019
We flew from Lima to Arequipa, Peru this morning. The city of Arequipa was established in 1540 by Garcí Manuel De Carbajal, a Spanish lieutenant who explored the area as an emissary of Francisco Pizarro.
The city sits within view of two volcanos: El Misti (still active) and Chanchani. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy, so we didn’t get to see them. The population of Arequipa is about 1.5 million. The city’s industries include agriculture, cattle, mining, and alpaca clothing. Peru grows garlic, onions, 4,000 varieties of potatoes, 1,200 varieties of corn, 54 varieties of quinoa, asparagus, rice and vegetables. Guinea pig is a popular but expensive meal, and alpaca is also good to eat. Vegetables like asparagus are grown only for export because they are too expensive for Peruvians whose average salary is 600 soles per month, or about $200. Private schools are only available to the rich, since the tuition is usually more than 1000 soles per month, or $330.
The name Arequipa is a corrupted version of the Quechua words for Behind the Volcano. Quechua is still spoken by some people outside of the urban areas, but, like many other languages, is in danger of disappearing. Some schools are starting to teach the Quechua language in an effort to keep it alive.
At the center of the city is the Plaza de Armas de Arequipa, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings here were made out of volcanic sillar (a variety of rhyolite), so they are all white in color. Cars and taxis are banned from driving around the plaza.
Nearby is The Cloisters, which were originally attached to the cathedral. The rooms, used by Jesuit priests for residences, have been converted to small shops, restaurants and offices.
We visited the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, built in 1579 as a cloister for Dominican nuns. It still houses a small religious community in a newer part of the monastery. Several areas were severely damage by an earthquake in 2001. Built of volcanic sillar stone which is porous, the monastery has been damaged by air pollution as well. It was put on the World Monuments Watch in 2008, and work is being done to restore mural paintings in the church.
At the time the Monastery was built, the practice among Peruvians was to marry off the first daughter, send the second daughter to the convent, and require the third daughter to stay home to care for her parents. Novitiates could decide to leave the convent before taking their final vows, but most of the young women stayed. The nuns were cloistered, meaning they never left, even to visit family. Family could visit, but speak to the nuns only through a grate, and gifts had to be passed via a small door with a rotating cabinet. The nuns were silent except for one day per week, Sunday, and they could speak only in one designated area.
The monastery was unique in that it was structured much like a small town, the only such monastery in the world. Many of the nuns had their own house, complete with servants if they could afford them. In more recent years, the nuns moved to a newer monastery where they all live together, not in separate houses. Those who still live here make chocolates and other items to sell to visitors.
The pride of the convent is Blessed Sister Ana, who came to the monastery when she was 4 years old in the early 1600s. She had returned home at the age of 14, and her parents were planning give her in marriage. She had other plans, though, after seeing a vision of herself in a habit, and she secretly returned to the convent. Her parents objected strongly, but she was adamant, and lived there until her death in 1686. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1985 after a miracle was attributed to her.