Peru Update #7 — Ice Mummies and Arequipa

In Arequipa, our group visited a museum dedicated to ancient Incan children sacrificed to the mountain gods of Peru.  Apparently children were groomed for this role from birth, to become perfect sacrifices.  No photographs were allowed in the museum, but students saw mummified children who had been offered as sacrifices to placate the mountain gods.  One Explorations student’s imagination brings to life the somewhat gruesome story of one such girl.

Samia imagines:

The world rumbled with anger, shaking the ground with vibrations. Masses of hot gray smoke curled out of the volcano, thick and dense.  The people of the mountain needed to appease the mountain, and they went in search of the proper sacrifice: one worthy enough to suit the gods.

Volcano Near ArequipaThey traveled to the biggest cities and to the center of the empire, where the most beautiful and intelligent children were raised.  The children knew that one day they could be the chosen one, the one that would silence the mountain with their own silence and stillness. In return, they would dance with the gods.

It was a girl between 14 and 16 chosen to fulfill the task at hand. She was beautiful, truly fit to become part of the mountain. Her hair, black as coal, lay like a sheet, course and dense down her back. She had delicate high cheek bones and slanted eyes shining like full moons, though they were dark like the night. Her lips were full and sun-touched.

For months they hiked up arduous terrain, steep, cold and dry. Only thin grass and leather slippers protected the maiden`s feet. They made their way up higher and higher, the air growing thinner and thinner.  Fatigue calmed the girl`s fear, though it never truly numbed it away.  Coca leaves were offered up for chewing, and their juices lent energy to the weary travelers.  It was a large entourage that finally arrived at the mountain`s peak. Thick snow surrounded them.

The girl drank chichi from a clay vessel blessed by the priests. It relaxed the young woman, eased her stress, and brought her a little closer to her destination.  A finely woven dress covered her body, and a shawl adorned her shoulders.  One was made of llama wool and the other was of vicuña, an even softer wool. The rich red of the fabric was dyed with a small bug called cochemeal that lives in cacti.

A pin at her chest closed the shawl around her, just as this world would momentarily close in on her.  She sat on a woven cloth, arms embracing her body to stay warm.  The Incan priest raised his staff, tipped with a star-shaped stone, and brought it down.  It struck the girl´s head, caving in a large part of her skull and leaving a gaping hole where thick ruby blood seeped into her clothes. She sank to the ground, a whirl of colors the only accompaniment to her memories falling away.  Before her spirit lifted and rose into the wide expanse of sky, her lips parted with a small smile.  She realized that her duty was done: she was part of the mountain, a god.

Arequipa Plaza****************

After visiting with the ice mummies, the majority of Arequipa was less chilling.  Students enjoyed the central plaza, the markets, and especially the Santa Catalina monastery.

Ariel writes:

Not many cities captivate me in the way Arequipa does. While I do like spending time in large cities not many give off this vibe.  I find myself thinking of Cuba; the same Spanish imposed feel creeps through every crack in the street. Architecture isn’t something that’s really ever been of great interest to me but for some reason I find this place different.

Cuy AdoboThe people, as much as the city itself, give off that hot Latin American vibe that so intoxicating to me.  Arequipa is a city alive at all hours of the day, from the bakeries opening in the morning to the bar scene at night. Being a tourist town none of the locals really seem disturbed by the moving white mob that is our group, and some even smile.  Its easy to say that under it all there’s something I find special about this place.  I only wish we had more time here.

ArequipaAnna writes:

Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, and a busy but gorgeous city.  The Plaza des Armas at night is amazing.  The fountain, the cathedral, and all the palm trees lit by street lights are stunning. Along with the mild evening heat, the whole effect is magical.  Life in Arequipa seems fast-paced, crowded and fun.  The hidden markets, the fruit stands, and the people all create a picture of a truly lovely city.  We didn’t go very far exploring, but I love the Plaza and the surrounding streets. The people at our hostel, the monastery, the restaurant where we had dinner, and almost everyone else we met was helpful, kind, and patient with our large group.

Monastery 1Nate writes:

We had the opportunity to walk through Monestario de Santa Catalina, an amazing city-sized monastery in Arequipa. Upon entering through an archway labeled “Silencio” in thick black letters, my lips were sealed. The courtyards were incredible and the buildings were all colored magnificently in red and blue. My shirt is still streaked with the cobalt and iron oxide dust, the result of my mistake of leaning on the walls. Walking through the labyrinth of roads in silence provided a beautifully peaceful state of mind.

Monastery 4Its difficult to choose my favorite part of the experience, but I’d have to say it was walking across stone slabs through the courtyard with the papaya tree and looking at the paintings and colonial architecture… though I also loved all the heavy wooden doors and metal gates.  The multiple kitchens were fascinating, with large stone ovens, and stoves that colored the high vaulted ceilings with a thick black soot.  They also had water purifiers consisting of large porous stone vessels that allowed water to slowly drip into a pitcher below.  There were piles of strongly-scented herbs drying in the sun, and some of the rooms looked eerily like dungeons or medieval cells, with bare stone and iron bars, stains dripping down the stone walls, and a single hole in the ceiling for light. Nearly every room in the monastery fascinated me.

Monastery 5

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One Comment on “Peru Update #7 — Ice Mummies and Arequipa”

  1. Sterry Judy Says:

    I was enchanted by the vibrant colors in that monastery–wasn’t it for women only? At least the one I visited was only for women. I forget what a monastery for women is called–cloister?


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