Monday, April 23, 2007
Our second outing in Lima with the Sherpani took us to the famed Plaza San Martin named for Jose San Martin who, in 1821, entered Lima and formally declared independence. After being educated in Spain, San Martin rose to prominence in his home country of Argentina when he returned to lend his efforts to South America's fight for independence from Spain. He helped liberate both Argentina and Chile before seizing power in Peru. Eventually he was appointed Protector of Peru and ultimately became the country's first President. Early in his presidency, San Martin met with the great liberator of the North, Simon Bolivar. As a result of this meeting, San Martin mysteriously resigned his positions in the government and the army and sailed for France where he died in 1850. Bolivar finished the complete liberation of Peru and eventually the Congress voted to name part of Peru in his honor (i.e. Bolivia).
There are numerous monuments to Bolivar throughout Peru, but the Plaza San Martin is rightfully dedicated to the man who first fought to wrest Peru from Spain. In the center of the plaza is a large bronze statue of San Martin erected on the hundredth anniversary of Martin's arrival in Peru. On the base of the monument is a statue of Madre Patria, the symbolic mother of Peru. Notice on her head sits a llama. The original commission called for her to have a crown of flames. The Spanish word for flame is llama and clearly something was lost in the translation. The plaza is surrounded on 3 sides by large french-style buildings. One of the more famous of these is the Gran Hotel Bolivar -- famous mostly not for its beautiful architecture but for its luxurious bar and pisco sours (a uniquely Peruvian drink). Before leaving the plaza, we ate lunch at El Estadio Futbol Club -- a delightfully cool (it was a very hot day), soccer-themed restaurant. The food was also good and reasonably priced even though the restaurant was clearly a tourist trap. From the plaza we walked down the pedestrian street Jiron de la Union that connects the Plaza San Martin with the better known Plaza de Armas.
Along the way we passed Iglesia de la Merced, the first house of worship built in Lima. It was built by Hernando Pizarro (brother of Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer who conquered the Incas and founded Lima in 1535) on the site where religious services were first held. The current structure was finished in 1704 and the facade was built in the baroque style. The interior of the church is equally intricate but too dark for our camera to do it justice. After the church, we visited the Correo Central (the post office). The exterior is surprisingly intricate and reminded us of the Old Post Office in Washington, DC which I have always thought looked more like a Gothic cathedral than a place to buy stamps. There is a small museum in the building, but it was underwhelming at best.
Posted by Linsey at 7:05 AM