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US defeated by Ghana in 2010 World Cup

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Sunday, June 27, 2010 0 comments

Yesterday marks a sad day in the 2010 World Cup as the United States Soccer team fell short of a victory against their rival Ghana in the second round game.  The US fought hard to tie up the game after Ghana took the lead in the first half by scoring a goal within the first 5 minutes of the game.  Unfortunately as the two teams faced off in over time hours it was the Ghanan National team that came out victorious with another goal against the Americans.  The game was not without drama just like all the other games played by the underdog team. 

Granted the US played well however, faced against a better rival like Ghana, lost.  The US team has definitely come a long way but the question remains: "when will the US be a better team?"  A question which will only be answered with time.  Hopefully the lose towards Ghana will serve as a reference from which the US team can improve. 

I am however very proud of the US soccer teams efforts in the World Cup and their dedication, and I look forward to the future of US soccer.  Next World Cup will be better and I think we can expect to see great things from the US.

Until then I leave the US National Soccer team with this song by Hector Lavoe called "Todo Tiene Su Final"

Lima's Shoe-shiners

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza 0 comments

In a relatively poor country with a centralized capital like Lima (almost half of the countries population resides within Lima) it isn't uncommon to encounter several forms of what I call the micro-economy.  The micro-economy consist of many different forms of ambulantes (street vendors who are usually unlicensed by the city), shoe-shiners, beggars, car-washers, etc. all of whom make up this very visible niche.  These individuals make up a large quantity of the cities population and are common in many other countries as well, mostly visible in third world countries or developing nation (the more PC term).

Living in Lima as a photographer, not to mention working in Lima as a teacher has given me the opportunity to travel all over this monstrous metropolis and one thing I run into more often than not are shoe-shiners.  Once a job only held by young children as a summer gig or on the side to earn a bit of money, now is operated by men of all ages.  A job that used to be common in the US several decades ago has all but vanished from the street scene (shoe-shiners can be still found in some of the larger cities like LA), but shoeshine boys remain a common site in many countries all over the world.  In the US most remaining shoeshine businesses have been moved indoors and off the streets as cities have worked to reduce the number of street vendors in an effort to maintain the aesthetic appeal of their city streets, a task which has been nearly an uphill battle for municipal authorities in Lima.  An article written by the highlights the success of one homeless shoe-shiner who fell under opposition by the Department of Public Works who has shut down his operations until he can purchase a permit.  In Peru the shoeshine boy is often looked down upon by society, even more so when it isn't a child working the position.  While the job doesn't bring in a suitable salary for some it is more than enough to put food on the table for their families.  Interestingly enough some of Latin America's most well known and respected politicians and presidents like Peru's very own former president Alejandro Toledo.  The US also has a few politicians, musicians, and historical figures who also took up the trade when they were young.  Wikipedia has a short article on shoe-shiners which has the a list of famous people who have once held the position. 

In Lima the shoe-shiner can be found virtually anywhere in the city but tends to be more concentrated in places like Downtown Lima/city center, Miraflores, San Isidro, and Callao.  When it comes to such a profession the one thing that matters the most is location, location, location, and these guys pick the most populated and trafficked areas in the city to set up shop.  In many countries like the US and India permits are required for shoe-shiners to operate and in Lima some larger shiners operate under a license/permit from the city especially since their large booths tend to take up a lot of space and aren't as mobile as the smaller compact shoeshine box that others lug around all day. 

However you measure up the work of a shoeshine boy it is hard to ignore their iconic roll in the culture of cities everywhere.  It will definitely be a long time before the shoe-shiner becomes extinct as their niche in the urban market remains strong.  Where their is a need there is a customer, and in a desert central city like Lima the demand is high!

The Unsolved Massacre at Uchuraccay

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Sunday, June 20, 2010 0 comments

While walking along Jiron de la Union (in downtown Lima) with Zdenka, we passed the famous Casa de Higgins (house of Higgins).  The main wooden doors were open and a sign stating "free entrance" hung above, inside was the magnificent house was an exhibit dedicated to the famous journalist Doris Gibson (28 April 1910–23 August 2008).  She was also the founder and editor of the popular weekly news magazine Caretas.

During the tour of the house and the exhibit I came across a historical timeline of Caretas which had one date that caught my attention.  The date was 1983 and next to it read "Death of Journalists at Uchuraccay", having never heard of this incident I quickly wrote down the date and info for further investigation.

The 90's and 80's were two terrible decades for the Peruvian nation which was left traumatized by the violence and bloodshed caused by the constant fighting between the military and guerrilla forces (MRTA and Sendero Luminoso).  It was during this period of violence that a group of seven photographers/journalists and their guide were killed near the emblematic department of Ayacucho, in the small town of Uchuraccay.  Upon researching the net I managed to find many articles and videos which covered the controversy of the massacre at Uchuraccay among others.  One particular website that I discovered was by an independent film company called Quinoa Films, which has been in the process of producing a documentary based on the tragic events and the controversy surrounding Uchuraccay.  According to their website the journalists were killed while in the pursuit of information regarding allegations and rumors of supposed extrajudicial killings by the military, a dangerous topic to investigate in the first place.  The film centers around Oscar Retto, the father of the murdered journalist and photographer Willy Retto, who travels with a documentary crew to the original crime scene in search of the truth about his sons death.  The film is spearheaded by the director Carmen Valdivieso, who claims to have known a few of the journalists killed in the event.  Unfortunately due to insufficient funds the production of the film has been temporarily halted while the independent company receives more funding.  They are currently accepting any amount of donation that would help to support their efforts to finish the film.

Below is a excerpt from Quinoa Films website that gives more information about the incident, also they have managed to complete a subtitled trailer of the film which can be found below.

This is an independent documentary about a group of journalists, who became part of their own story when they were murdered in 1983 in Uchuraccay, a remote hamlet in the Andes of Peru, as they were investigating rumors of extrajudicial killing by the military. It took place in the midst of violent warfare between the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla organization, and government forces.
The killings of eight journalists, all of them from opposition newspapers, might have been just another unfortunate event caused by the violence that consumed the Andean region during those years. Yet their deaths were followed by significant irregularities in the legal process. Most of the suspects were never arrested, and according to legal records, the military authorities in the area, led by Army General Clemente Noel, did not cooperate with Judge Juan Flores, the investigator assigned to the case.
Most witnesses in Uchuraccay died in mysterious circumstances, and the remaining villagers escaped to nearby areas, leaving behind a ghost town.
A government investigative commission concluded that the journalists were killed by the villagers of Uchuraccay, who took them for terrorists, mistaking their cameras for rifles.
The story took a different turn three months later, with the discovery of a bag belonging to Willy Retto, which contained a camera with some revealing pictures of the moment when the journalists arrived in the town and spoke with the local villagers. The fact that three of the journalists spoke Quechua, and therefore could communicate with the locals who could not speak Spanish, challenged the official theory of mistaken identity.
Some witnesses stated that the journalists were incarcerated in the communal house, and killed after midnight. Yet those witnesses also died in suspicious circumstances.
Three local men were convicted to six years in prison. Although the case was never closed, it has been kept for the last twenty years as confidential.
The purpose of this documentary is to tell the story and help the families to request the reopening of the case. This story honors journalists killed all over the world in the line of duty with contemporary relevance, as the Iraq war and other conflicts worldwide have left scores of journalists killed in recent years.
Bringing the killers to justice will contribute to put an end to years of impunity in Peru. Many other cases of killings in neighboring areas have been reopened and those responsible have been convicted. The killings of Uchuraccay should not be the exception."

Here is the video trailer from their website, and for those who can read Spanish it might interest you to read this pdf document that was put together by the NPO Truth and Reconciliation about the murders at Uchuraccay :

I have also include some other documentaries that talke about the incident but they are in Spanish:

The Rise of Peruvian Food

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Friday, June 18, 2010 0 comments

When it comes to great food from the Americas no other country has yet to rival that of Peru's.  It is no surprise why Peruvian food is so widely recognized and praised among the gastronomic community, and one bite is all it will take to turn any skeptic into a believer.  About a decade and a half ago Peruvian food was a highly underrated cuisine in the food scene, however thanks to the food movement (NovoAndino = New Andean Cusine) that occurred in the mid and late 90's by Peru's most aspiring and talented chefs, Peruvian food has managed to rise to the forefront of international cuisine.

One example of Peru's culinary success is owed in part to the famous Chef Gastón Acurio, a chef who has managed to take Peruvian cuisine to an international level, with several restaurants in countries like: Mexico, Colombia, Spain, USA, Panama, Chile, Ecuador, and Venezuela.  Aside from his several restaurants Chef Acurio also hosts a popular food show on Peruvian TV which airs weekly and runs his very own culinary institute.

Saveur, a popular food and wine website and magazine has recently written an article that dissects the urban food cart vendor's of Lima and highlights one of Lima's most famous anticuchera's Grimanesa Vargas Araujo, more famously recognized as La Tia Grima.  La Tia Grima's highly demanded anticuchos or marinated beef hearts have won over the stomachs of many Limeños from all walks of life all of whom are content at waiting more than an hour to receive their order.

Below is a video review of Peruvian Chef Gastón Acurio's restaurant "La Mar", located in San Francisco.  This video is in Spanish but it has English subtitles.  The second video is of Chef Acurio preparing the popular Peruvian dish Cebiche.

Winter in Lima

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Wednesday, June 16, 2010 3 comments

Well I´m officially calling it, it´s winter in Lima!  As the days become shorter and the grey clouds begin to dominate the sky, the people of Lima begin to settle in for the harsh (by Limeñan standards) months to come.  With the change in climate I can finally put on my winter clothing I brought from Portland, which makes up about 70% of my wardrobe.  The early mornings are chilly with light winter winds that make every bone in your body tremble as you huddle in your bus seat desperately trying to stay warm all while trying to ignore that the only seat available to you was next to a window which is missing both panes of glass (god knows how they wound up broken!).  By mid day the suns warmth manages to permeate enough through the dense grey blanket of clouds so as to bring your body temperature back to a manageable level.  In terms of photography, the days cloud cover casts a blue tint over every conceivable color only to intensify the cold felt by everyone who wanders the streets.  The evenings come quick and it´s hard to fight the feeling of perpetual drowsiness one must battle with on a daily basis just to make it through the week. Yet in spite of all the winter weather the weekend nights are just as busy as ever, fulbito (mini soccer) matches continue to be played in every district, and the dedicated and hardcore surfing aficionados, dressed in their wetsuits ride the waves through the fog and light rain, all evidence of a city in pure defiance of the season.

Gone is any remote trace of summer, as people suit up in warm clothing and ditch the shorts and sandals.  Along the coast all the large commercial billboards have been removed and put away until next year when they will be put back up to greet the thousands of Peruvians and tourists who drive up and down the Panamericana Sur highway visiting the popular beaches like Asia, Puerto Viejo, Punta Hermosa, and Leon Dormido.  Gone are the street vending raspadilla (fruit flavored shaved ice cones) carts which seemed to innundate city with there delicious and refreshingly cool fruit flavors made from 100% all natural fruit pulp!  No more beach parties or wild summer nights of drunken debauchery and Pisco induced Plan B mistakes.  Probably the only thing I don´t miss about summer is the dread of having to ride in an old, rundown and dirty bus or micro, which turn passengers into living Limeños a la brasa (think Pollo a la Brasa)!  Try siting in a heat-stroke inducing sweat bath for more than an hour in rush hour traffic all while cramped up with 30 to 40 other complete strangers all generating an equally proportionate amount of body heat and sweat.  Add to this equation the collaborated body odor and the door man yelling at every one to move to the back when clearly there is no room as another wave of passengers attempt to break a Guiness World Record.

Among tourists traveling abroad to Peru there seems to be this misconception about Lima as a city similar to Los Angeles, a city that experiences a perpetual summer.  Many are quite surprised when they travel to Lima only to discover the winter season that dominates close to half of the year, not something one would expect from a South American coastal city.  Luckily for many travelers the winter is still rather tolerable thanks in part to the lack of rainfall (the worst one will experience is a light drizzle from time to time) Lima receives each year.  In general, I would describe Lima's climate as being rather mild, despite being a city located in a coastal desert.  Lima's winter usually sees average temperatures ranging from 12 °C (54 °F) to 20 °C (68 °F), which is rather manageable, especially if you come from the Pacific Northwest or any other region up north.  July through September are by far the coldest and wettest months during the winter season.  

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, June 10, 2010 0 comments

For those who are new to living in Peru or living in Lima, having a limited knowledge of English can make such simple tasks as reading/watching the news rather difficult.  How does a traveler and/or expat find out what is happening in Peru when websites like CNN or MSNBC don't really provide much coverage on the country (unless of course you're recently convicted Joran van der Sloot). 

Well there is a solution to your news deficiency and for almost 100 years it has been known as Andean Air Mail & Peruvian Times.  The Peruvian Times (for short) has been providing both Peruvians as well as the foreign community with an English language newspaper alternative for those who don't Habla Español.  The famous English language newspaper began it's operations back in 1908 under the name of West Coast Leader and covered the unfolding day to day events in Peru.  It wasn't til the 1940's that the West Coast Leader was forced to close up shop and move operations to a new location due to their support of the Allied Movement during the Second World War.  This change prompted publisher C.N. Griffis to change the paper's name to Peruvian Times.

As the years rolled on Peru would see many regime changes and with these changes the Peruvian Times would face harsh opposition from the government for their coverage of controversial events.  Media Silencing being an all to common practice in the days of the Velasco Era, however the Peruvian Times managed to hold firm their journalistic efforts in spite of such adversity and have evolved into the news company they are today.

With the growing popularity and simplicity of today's digital media the Peruvian Times has left behind the traditional news printing methods in favor of the convenience and wide user accessibility of the Internet, thus foreshadowing the need for manual typewriters and linotype machines.  Though the medium has changed, their dedication to gathering and presenting the news remains.

If you are interested in learning more about the Peruvian Times history or you would like to read some of their great news coverage you can check out their website here:

American Photographer in Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza 1 comments

Travel Photographer Tewfic El-sawy has posted on his blog, The Travel Photographer an article about an American photographer by the name of John Batdorff who has posted photos on his portfolio website from his recent trip to Peru. 

Batdorff is the son of two avid American photographers, who worked in his families newspaper taking photos and would later hone his craft while in college.  His work has been featured in the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming as well as several publications.  He continues his develop his passion for art and photography through his travels.

Chorrillos History is Being Destroyed!

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, June 3, 2010 1 comments

When my family first moved to Chorrillos in 2002, I found it be very beautiful and immediately fell in love with the city.  When I returned to Chorrillos last year I realized just how much the district had changed.  One of the most notable changes was the disappearance or should I say destruction of the Arco de La Villa which was located at the famous Curva towards the south end of Av. Huaylas (who's name has since been changed to Av. Defensores del Morro, as well as many others in the district).  The Arch was one of the few remaining patrimonies to the district and to discover that it had been torn down led many questions to be asked, most importantly why?  The Arch originally served as the entrance to the famous Hacienda Matellini which was later moved by the city to the Curva where it reside up until a few years ago when the Mayor Augusto Miyashiro Yamashiro had it destroyed.  What was his motive for having such an old relic of Chorrillos past destroyed?  What would come as a shock to many citizens and create mixed feelings towards the mayor was his decision to rebuild the arch out of METAL in a very crude representation of the original.  The new arch which can be seen by anyone who drives down Huaylas has been undergoing construction for almost two years now and has yet to be completed.  The plan of the reconstruction was to accompany the new arch with a system of small water fountains similar to the one's found in the Parque de la Reserva.

The city of Chorrillos has undergone what would appear to be a restructuring of it's image, a modernization if you will, at least on the surface that is what it appears to be.  Closer examination would show that all of the metal chain fences, light posts, and other metal structures in the city are fabricated by none other than the mayor's own brother.  In fact, since mayor Miyashiro's initial election in 1998 many allegations of illegal activities have been made, some with fairly substantial evidence.  Elevated taxation, constant construction projects, destruction of historical sites, are among some of the few problems that have fallen over the district of Chorrillos, which has many Chorrillanos upset and concerned.

As if things could not get any worse a historical site, a park with more than 100 years of existence was demolished by the Municipality of Chorrillos on April of 2010.  The pérgola and red marble columns of the Parque Cuadros were constructed overlooking the coast in the famous malecón of Chorrillos over 100 years ago and according to Peruvian law was protected under the status of National Patrimony which should have protected the structure from being destroyed.  In Lima, any structure or building that has more than 100 years of existence is protected under this status, many buildings are currently protected by this status (though they are in dire need of restoration).  The park was destroyed in order to make way for a new park which will feature several lit water fountains.  The outrage from the citizens and residences of the malecón is that they were never consulted about the parks remodeling, nor were they even advised about it.  In wake of the public outcry the mayor made a public statement that he had in fact addressed the residents and citizens, though in an interview with channel N he failed to mention exactly how he addressed the citizens.  His excuse for supposedly continuing with the construction despite the alleged disapproval by the citizens was that the park had become a site for "bad people" to consume illegal drugs and drink alcohol, a fact which is true but doesn't fully warrant the destruction of a historically protected site.  Aside from the destruction of the pergola and it's columns was the cutting down of 100 year old trees, as if Lima had enough trees to begin with.

What doesn't make sense is why the mayor would want to destroy a national landmark because a few bad apples smoke their weed and drink alcohol (I am also aware that the area was known for it's numerous incidences of theft).  If what Miyashiro stated is true then why didn't he just install more serenazgo security in the park?  Why was it necessary to build water fountains instead of preserving a NATIONAL LANDMARK?  Why would you remove century old trees and green grass for slabs of concrete?


What is concerning is the path which Chorrillos is going down and how it's cultural and historical identity is eroding at an alarming rate.  Granted Chorrillos is not the only district that is currently having problems with their mayors, look at San Juan de Miraflores for example. 

A La Vuelta de La Esquina - Chorrillos

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza 0 comments

When I actually manage to find free time to watch TV during my busy week there is one particular show that I absolutely adore watching, it's called "A La Vuelta de La Esquina" (english: Just Around the Corner).  The popular series which airs weekly on the channel PlusTV and takes viewers on a historical and cultural adventure through the vast depths and nether regions of Peru's capital Lima.  The show is hosted by the joyful Gonzalo Torres, who scours the cities several districts and plazas in search of interesting tales from Lima's past. 

As most of you already know I live in the district of Chorrillos which is located in the Southern Cone of the city (Spanish = Cono Sur).  The show is in Spanish but it will give the viewer an amazing tour of the place I call home!  I will also be posting other episodes of other districts for those interested.

The video is located below FYI.

Traveling to Lambayeque, A Big Little Town

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza 0 comments

Tom Filipowicz in Chiclayo gives a rundown on the northern Peruvian city of Lambayeque

Article brought to you by Mochica Hostess Tours

If I were to decide to move to another city in northern Peru, Lambayeque would probably be my choice. It’s got a lot going for it in a quiet sort of way. By quiet I mean it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of Chiclayo. You won’t find the taxis so prevalent on Chiclayo’s streets, and with a population of about 50,000 there is not the constant crush of humanity at every turn. There are a ton of motos for transportation, but somehow they seem less intrusive.

Lambayeque boasts at least three major parks, all beautifully landscaped and well maintained. The principal park with its surrounding well preserved colonial architecture reminds me of Lima’s Plaza de Armas, though of course on a much smaller scale. The town also has the only national university in the entire Lambayeque Region.

Lambayeque has made and is making an attempt to preserve some but not all of its colonial buildings, probably because the first calls for independence from Spain were voiced here. Two of the more noteworthy are Casa Descalzi (now a tourist restaurant) and Casa de la Logia known locally as Casa Montjoy, with its 400 year old 220 foot balcony. Casa Cùneo shown here dates back to the 1820s and according to printed information on the door supposedly played some part in the design of Peru’s flag. Many visitors voice the sentiment ‘if you’ve seen one colonial home you’ve seen them all’ but for me it’s not possible to look at what remains of this home and not get lost in thought wondering about the home and its inhabitants nearly 200 years ago.

The facade of this ancient church dates back to the mid 1500s according to local residents. It is probably the most photographed object in town. I always think of the Alamo when I see it. The church two doors to the right of the ‘Alamo’ is either being renovated or demolished. I wasn’t allowed access inside but in peeking over the thatch sheets was able to see many beautifully carved massive wooden columns inside the building.

 Lambayeque has two major museums to house and display the artifacts found at the many archeological sites in the area. The Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipân (Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipân) is the newest and is considered one of the finest in all Peru. My personal favorite is the Bruning Archeological Museum (Museo Arqueologico Nacional Bruning) located near the center of town.

There are several fine restaurants in town, including El Rincon del Pato, El Pacifico and Algarrobos. El Pacifico is a favorite of many Chiclayanos, and particularly on Sunday afternoon lines of cars can be seen dropping of customers for lunch. What puzzles me is that the restaurant is only open until 5:00pm. I suppose they have their reasons for that.

If there is any night life in Lambayeque I am not aware of it. I suspect there must be something available because the town is the home of Peru’s 7th Infantry Brigade, headquartered in this impressive colonial structure. I don’t know how many men are in a brigade, but unless things have changed since I was in the army these guys aren’t just sitting in the barracks at night writing letters home.

If you’re in the area set aside a half-day or more to visit Lambayeque. The town is clean, safe and most attractions are centrally located or easy to get to. I think you’ll like it.

If you’d like to experience events like this and get a taste of real daily life in northern provincial Peru, speak to Tom & Maribel via Mochica Hostess Tours

Traveling Through the Hills of Cusco, Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, June 1, 2010 0 comments

The above photo was taken while traveling on vacation with my family last December to Cusco, Peru.  After photography there is nothing I enjoy more than traveling, it's that sense of adventure and discovery of places unknown that makes it so enticing.  Just looking at the photo you get an idea of how fertile and full of life the  region is.  Most visitors to the city of Cusco are often content with exploring the expansive and vast ancient capital of the Incas, and yes they also enjoy the ruins that are literally scattered throughout the cities perimeter.  This being my second trip to Cusco I was much more interested in the surrounding landscape of the city than the city itself.  In some ways Cusco's topographical terrain reminds me in some ways of Portland's with the exception of the elevation differences, which are practically night and day!

Click on the photo below to see an amazing panorama of the city of Cusco!

Cusco, Peru: 3,400 m (11,200 ft)
Portland, Oregon-USA: 15.2 m (50 ft) 

Cusco is a landscape photographers wet dream, literally!  Everything you could possibly ask for from the large omnipresent mountains which cascade across all horizons to beautifully green hills that seem to roll like ocean waves on a collision course with the city below.  While the rainy season may not be ideal for those interested in visiting Machu Picchu, in my opinion is a great time to visit Cusco, especially towards the first weeks of December.  Usually around this time the bipolar skies offer the traveler the best experience of both worlds with mid-day and evening showers, scattered with the almost as unpredictable clear blue skies where the sun's rays pierce through dark clouds and shine spotlights of golden sunshine down upon the colonial city (all while Edvard Grieg's, Peer Gynt Op23: Morning Mood softly plays in the deep recesses of your unconscious mind).  I guess what I was trying to say (before I got carried away into a mad and incoherent rant) is that the weather is so wonderfully unpredictable that I believe the traveler is give a more vivid impression about live in the highland sierra, that and the COLORS the mixed light produces are literally AMAZING!

If you have already been to Cusco before it might not be a bad idea to reconsider a redux, especially since your first trip was probably so hectic what with all those ruins, churches, and museums you spent most of your time visiting, not to mention the time spent at Machu Pichhu, of course!

**The panoramic photo of the city of Cusco was taken by: 
Photographer: Ricardo Sánchez
*It can also be seen here on the Cusco Wikipedia page

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