Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I am now in PIURA, located in the northwest corner of Peru. It is the oldest Spanish town in South America. It was here that Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro founded the first Spanish city in South America, San Miguel de Piura, in 1532, thus earning the modern day city its Peruvian nickname: "La Primera Ciudad"- meaning: the first city.

The Spanish named the city from the Quechuan word, pirhua, meaning abundance. Nowadays, Piura is known as the "Ciudad del eterno calor" meaning "The city of the eternal heat" because it is hot all year round.

When most people think ancient Peru they think Incas, but actually this civilization was more recent and very short-lived, lasting less than 100 years (1438 to 1533).

Like most of northern Peru, the territory of Piura had been inhabited by indigenous groups of natives called tallanes and yungas. These lived without an organization or single leader to rule until the Moche culture (100 to 800 AD) eventually took control. The Moche built great pyramids, spread-out towns and an extensive network of roads and water channels used for farming in a very dry region. They buried their elite with an impressive share of gold and precious stones. On my last trip we visited some amazing museums & pyramids of this culture near Chiclayo, several hours south of Piura.

Moche burial, Sipan, Peru

The Moche culture overlapped with the VicĂșs culture (200 B.C.-600 A.D.) which reigned in the northernmost corner of Peru´s coastal area where I am visiting. Several details of art and architecture link it with the Moche culture, but just as many details point to local development and influence radiating from the direction of Ecuador, which is not unusual considering Piura is on the border of Ecuador. After the Moche civilization disappeared mysteriously, the Chimor civilization ruled the northern coast of Peru, beginning around 850 and ending around 1470. Chimor was the last kingdom that had any chance of stopping the Inca conquest which began in the 1470s.

Vicus, dbl. chambered pot
Piura came under the rule of Tupac Inca Yupanqui for at least 40 years  before the Spanish arrived.

With the arrival of the Spanish in 1532, the current mestizo and creole cultures of Piura were born. This mestizo culture includes influences from Spanish Extremadura and Andalucia, African influence due to the arrival of slaves from Madagascar, the Chinese coolies that migrated from Canton to work the rice fields and replace the slaves, and also Roma Gypsies who came as pirates looking for pearls or incognito as Spanish horsemen. Northern Peru is basically today a melting pot of the many faces of these peoples.

My hostess and daughter
Piura served as the first main port through which the Inca gold the Spaniards had gathered was shipped back to Spain.

While Peru is the Latin American country with the highest levels of economic growth in recent years, almost half the children in the Piura region suffer from chronic malnutrition. This is due to the fact that so many fled the mountainous areas when the "Shining Path" raided their territories. Now these people cram the city, especially along the rivers.

Intense irrigation of the desert has made Piura a major agricultural center ( rice, cotton and plantain crops), that feeds the masses. One does not think of rice associated with this land of potatoes, but rice is usually served with every meal.  This is due to the influence of the Chinese who came.

Lush rice fields

I love this area (not the heat) and especially the people, who treat me like royalty.  To see a nun in habit is rare, so they have great respect for religious.
It is hard to see the poverty, but the smiling faces everywhere I go gives joy to my heart and even when I return home, these people are with me.
Quecha and Maria

Susana and her three
Andreas & Luis Antonio with tennis trophy LA had just won

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