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Is There Thanksgiving in Peru?

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Cities in Peru: Trujillo, Chimbote, Sechin, Casma, Huaraz
The history of the colonization of the Americas is sufficiently drilled into your head, right? Europeans arrive in the New World, bringing new diseases and Christianity with them. They enslave the natives, or kill them with either their new weapons or sickness. In short, they colonize, establishing towns and villages - lifestyles similar to those that they had in Europe. Maybe you've visited one of these colonial towns in the United States. Incidentally, Kevin's hometown of Philadelphia, or my hometown, Williamsburg, Virginia are both major colonial towns.

We've been exploring Pre-Incan societies on the Northern Coast of Peru where we are based. We've been staying in a town not so old as those others, but still pretty old. Trujillo, like Philadelphia and Williamsburg, is a major historical site from colonial times. However, the colonists that came to Peru weren't British, they were Spanish. So Trujillo has a very different feel to it.

Julia shares her dreams

Meet Julia

Last night, over a three dollar plate of salad, papas fritas (french fries), a quarter of a roasted chicken, and a gaseosa (soda) in Chimbote, two hours south of Trujillo, Peru, I got to know Julia Espiritu. She's eighteen years-old and in the tercero level at the Andres Bello school in town, just across from the Plaza de las Armas. Julia's favorite music is salsa and chicha, a type of Peruvian music: she loves dancing at some of the local discotheques. I told her I liked Elvis Crespo, who sings "Sonrisa," which I've been hearing on the radio ever since Mexico, and she giggled. Julia has hopes of working in one of the bigger cities as either a lawyer or a secretary, but she's undecided. "A lawyer," she grinned, "can earn about 1500 sol. ($300) Every month!" She further emphasized that while many girls are married and preganant by the age of twelve or thirteen, she does not want to get married, fearing that it may ruin her studies. Although Julia's family comes central highlands, about twelve hours away by car, they only speak Spanish. Andean Peruvians, who live in the mountains and highlands, are bilingual Quechua and Spanish, but Julia explained, "Castellano" is what she and her friends speak. Do you have your own language with your friends?


Trujillo was founded in 1536 by Pizarro, the conquistador who defeated the Inca Empire. This was only a few years after he defeated the Inca Empire at Cajamarca (we'll be learning a lot about this soon!) and created the "viceroyship of Peru" for Spain, with its capital at Lima.

And if that wasn't enough to make it noteworthy, Trujillo was later the first city in Peru to claim independence from Spain in 1820. In 1821, the rest of Peru followed suit. Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Argentina and Chile, marched into Lima and "officially" proclaimed Peru's independence in the town of Huacho.

The colonists of Trujillo, experiencing a lack freedom and heavy taxation, were sick of being controlled by Spain. At the same time, they realized that Trujillo had a lot of potential. Besides the gold already ransacked from Pre-Columbian temples, Peru was producing many other valuable minerals and resources. Like colonists in the United States, colonists in Peru wanted more control and less taxation over the trade of these valuable resources. Guano, a strong fertilizer and Trujillo's leading resource, especially helped rouse sentiment towards liberty. Yes, that's right. Trujillo declared independence from Spain because they wanted control of their own guano, or bird poop! They sold a lot of it back then, and competition was fierce.

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A VW bug rests by an ornate cathedral, mixing new with old
Do you have an image in your head of what a "colonial" town looks like? Colonial towns in America are usually full of redbrick buildings with white wooden trim and shudders that line thin cobblestone streets. Horse-drawn carriages clack down these streets, past marble steps, up to the front doors of old English style houses and taverns. Well, colonial towns in Peru are a little different.

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Bright colors and rod iron maintain colonial character

Despite its increasing size, Trujillo has managed to retain much of its colonial character throughout the years. As you can see by our pictures, many of the buildings are painted with bright colors of mostly blues and yellows. Notice the extravagant amount of fancy wrought iron gates designed over the windows and doors. It's almost strange to witness all this history in a modern day setting. Here, in bustling downtown, zillions of taxis, street vendors and money changers work in front of colonial mansions, ornate cathedrals and churches. It's an impressive juxtaposition of old and new.
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Doors are opening for Kevin and Ary (BIG doors, that is!)
The colonial mansions throughout the city are now mostly banks and museums. I changed money in a beautiful ornate old bank. By appearances, I almost expected them to give me some of the gold that the colonists had looted, instead of Peruvian Nuevo Soles! However, despite its colonial shell, it was very much a modern day bank inside.

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Kevin feels like a king at Palacio Iturregui
Kevin, his friend Ary, and I also visited the Palacio Iturregui, one of the most elegant colonial buildings in the town. Once the home of General Iturregui when he declared Trujillo's independence from Spain in 1820, it's now a swanky private club. They let us into the courtyard to look around and take pictures. Very classy.

Remember my dispatch from Guatemala City when I told you about the Plaza? (WHAT!? YOU MUST?!) Of course you'll recall that all Spanish cities were required to construct a large central Plaza for military drills and ceremonies. Each plaza has a similar layout. Usually, the municipal building exists on the North side, while the Cathedral sits on the East. Important mansions and other government buildings are situated elsewhere in other areas of the plaza.

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Plaza de las Armas: Trujillo's #1 hot spot
The Plaza de las Armas in Trujillo is quite an amazing site, especially at night. EVERYONE comes to hang out. It's huge, and the tiles shimmer like marble, so they always look wet. Since colonial times, I imagine, the plaza has been the center for socializing and business in the city. Any time of day you can find people there--kids selling candy, college students studying or chatting, young lovers stealing kisses, artisans selling jewelry and musicians practicing. Tourists can even get a horse-drawn buggy ride from the Plaza. After going to the Plaza a few times, Kevin and I had more friends than we had time to hang out!

I wish the British had the tradition of a central Plaza; It really serves as a social center for everyone.

Where do you go hang out with your friends? Is it as grand as this?


Shawn - For Your Eyes Only: Shawn's Adventure in Peru
Team - The Conquistadors: They Came, They Conquered, and Left Their Mark
Kavitha - It's a Small World After All!
Monica - If Decapitated Heads Could Talk!!
Making a Difference - Constant Threat at Big Mountain
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