Friday, January 22, 2010

Circle South America: Salaverry Peru

Trujillo and the Temple of the Sun, Peru

Dear Family and Friends,

We docked in the port city of Salaverry, Peru which is the jumping off point for Trujillo and the home of Simon Bolivar as well as the Temples of the Sun and Moon. These ancient huacas, or temples, were built during the Mochica era from approximate 1 to 650 AD at the foot of the Sierra Blanco mountain in this mostly barren desert coast line of northwestern Peru.

The Mochica civilization pre-dated the Incas and its people and religion dominated northern South America for nearly 2,000 years. Their main city was on the left side of the Moche River, just south of modern day Trujillo and situated between their two main temples, the Huaca de la Luna and the Huaca del Sol. The Mochica worshiped nature and the representation of their god embodied the powers of water, earth, fire, animal life and the moon and the sun. The temples were constructed of adobe bricks and over 50 million were used to build the Huaca de la Luna, which is largest mud brick structure in the Americas.

Only about 25 % of the Huaca del Sol still exists but it was the larger of the two initially. The Huaca de la Luna is the only temple being excavated and its many levels are in the process of being unearthed. Because of the dry conditions in the area, the walls with their vibrantly painted reliefs carved from the adobe structures tell the story of this interesting culture. One of the more intriguing albeit gruesome aspects of their religion were the human sacrifices of brave, volunteer warriors to their gods of nature, mostly to appease them after floods and/or earthquakes or to solicit good weather for their crops of corn.

You might think the invading Incas or possibly the arrival of the Spaniards might have caused the demise of this once vibrant civilization, but, instead, the Mochia downfall came from a split in religious philosophy. Half the people lost their faith in the worship of all nature after two years of climatic disasters and the numerous human sacrifices failed to reverse their troubling circumstances. Half the people started to worship the god of the sun alone while the others drifted into other faiths, being absorbed by the Incas and other indigenous groups. When the Spaniards finally arrived in 1520’s, the Mochia were basically gone and few observed the destruction of their temples and city.

Peru has three distinct geographic climates. The desert, which is along the entire western coast, the jungle in the north and eastern areas and the mountains in the center of the country. They have considerable resources, including oil, natural gas, copper, gold and silver. Their exportation of sugar and rice is significant. Tourism, sparked by the nearly one million people who come to visit the ancient ruins at Machu Pichu which we will visit over the next few days, is a growing industry in this still third world country.

We visited Trujillo with its colonial charm and the Plaza de Armas which is surrounded by a cathedral, city hall and one of the original homes of Simon Bolivar, the famous President of Columbia who was the leader of the resistance against Spain and considered responsible for the independence of Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru and is revered by a national hero in all of them. This classically styled Spanish colonial mansion, including its five large open air patios, is about 45,000 square feet and had rooms for just gentleman and just ladies as well as 10 bedrooms and an open air bath. See picture of Bolivar’s solid marble bathtub, sculpted in Italy and shipped to the new world for his bathing pleasure. By the way, the indigenous women who were the servants in this town and at the Bolivar mansion practiced Polyandry, where a woman would have up to five husbands. How’s that for feminist equality. The Central Bank of Peru now is housed in a portion of this mansion but the rest is well preserved.

We set sail at 4:00 pm today from our current latitude of 8° 22’ o3” south, headed south (189.8 degrees) to Lima. More after we get back from Machu Pichu.

God bless you all,

Jud and Vicki

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