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The city of eternal spring Arequipa and wonderful valley Colca (page 1 of 4)

Irina Nazarova, Peru (January 2008)
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In Peru there is everything that can attract a curious tourist or traveller: the most rich pre-Columbus history and its monuments, natural reserves to any taste (selva, mountains, desert, ocean), cuisine that without exaggeration can be called one of the best in the world and many other attractions.

But to my opinion, the weak side of Peru is city architecture. Despite the fact that Lima used to be capital of vice-kingdom, construction art in the cities of Peru has been represented much weaker than, for example in Mexico, where practically every more or less large city is a monument of colonial architecture.

However, the trip to Arequipa left a lasting impression on me. I cannot compare this city with Lima as the colonial center of the capital is very much neglected nowadays, and therefore, it is so far impossible to evaluate it to the full extent. But out of all provincial cities, which I managed to visit, only Cusco can be placed in line with Arequipa in beauty, cleanliness, architectural richness and tourist attraction. (My Peruvian friends think a lot of Cajamarca, but I have so far only plans to visit it.)

Arequipa at night
Arequipa is one of the few Peruvian cities, where you can walk with pleasure feeling quite safe at any time of the day (unlike in Lima). And the fact that Arequipa is called a «white city» fully corresponds to reality. Most buildings are built of white tuff sillar that is still mined in stone quarry of Anyashuaiko. The basic style – is Italian and Spanish baroque.

Arequipa gave birth to the so called mestizo architectural style
In the 17th century Arequipa gave birth to the so called mestizo architectural style, in which different decoration elements both European (shells, sirens) and Indian (parrots, papaya) are used. Easy to handle, the tuff was the basic material for such a style. Its influence is traced in some cities of Bolivia that earlier used to be Upper Peru.

The very first structures in Arequipa were made of unburned bricks and stone, similar structures are still preserved in the oldest in the region city of San Lazaro. But the catastrophe of 1582 made the constructors think about seismicity and pay attention to such light-weight, thermal-resistant and strong material as tuff. Thus, the reason for all-round use of white tuff is not only aesthetics, but common sense as well.

Excellent climate - almost all-year-round cloudless blue sky and comfortable temperature add to the picture. White stone, sun, graceful architecture – is a secret of special charm of Arequipa.

The city is situated in the valley of the Chili river at the height of 2335 m and surrounded by three the most beautiful volcanoes: Misti (5821), Chachani (6075) and Pichu Pichu (5680). The first residents of the valley are aymara Indians. Incas came there in the 14th century.

That is why there exist two versions of the city name. According to one of them in the language of aymara «ari» means «top», and «quipa» - «situated behind», the volcano Misti is meant. Another version sends us back to Incas. According to the legend Inca Mayta Capac (the fourth Inca), when he saw that picturesque place for the first time, which also turned out to be an enter point between Cusco and ocean, exclaimed «Ari, quipay!», that means «Yes, we stay (or you stay)!»

The modern city was founded on August 15, 1540 by captain Garci Manuel de Carbajal, who named it «Villa de la Asuncion de Nuestra Señora del Valle Hermoso de Arequipa» («Villa of the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God in the beautiful valley of Arequipa») and on September 22, 1541 Charles V (Carlos V) granted Arequipa the title of city.

Arequipa has always been faithful to the royal court in the period of civil wars and for that it has been granted the title of «the most noble, faithful, loyal subject». And at the same time in the period of Republic the city turned into the stronghold of faithfulness and respect of the Constitution. It turned out that it has practically always been the opponent to the capital. Arequipa was even called the «gun pointed at Lima». This and many other factors give the reason for the residents of Arequipa – Arequipeños, or as they call themselves characatos, feel themselves special and be proud of their birth. In any boutique of the city you can buy a «Passport of a citizen of an independent republic of Arequipa». This is an absolute copy of the official Peruvian passport.

Main Cathedral of Arequipa Main Cathedral of Arequipa at night Altar in Main Cathedral Organ in Main Cathedral

The selectiveness of the city is much explained by its isolation form other settlements of Peru (of course earlier, when the transportation system was not so much developed), as well as by big concentration of «white» population. Population census of 1791 showed that out of 37000 of residents of Arequipa 22000 were of Spanish origin, 6000 Indians, 5000 mongrels and 3700 – Blacks. It is very unusual, because even in the capital the white population has always been in minority. Besides, in the period of Independence (1824) many English businessmen appeared in the city, who exported the wool of sheep, alpaca and vicuna). It has left its own trace in a number of English names and luxurious mansions in British style.

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