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Santa Catalina Monastery (Arequipa)

February 18, 2011

Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa, Peru


Rick and I have taken a few weeks off from our project because of the heavy rains that are currently pelting Cusco and Puerto Maldonado. At the beginning of February, we opted to leave the jungle because the humidity and the mosquitoes had reached an all time high. Februrary is the rainiest month of the year and we found ourselves drenched and itching during our last stint in the field. Rick had 200 chigger bites on his back at one count. Believe it or not, both of our camera bodies are still functioning (with occasional metering issues).

We headed back to Cusco to plan the next leg of our journey and were informed that Manu Road, our other major work area, was wrought with landslides. Last year the road was closed for all of February because entire sections of the road were swept off the mountainside. We decided it was just as well to wait till June for that part of the project.

So, we ended up in Arequipa, Peru for a few days – also known as “the White City.” The name comes from sillar, the volcanic rock used in most of the architecture. You can see the fingerprint of Spanish colonialism around every corner. Aside from the palm trees in the Plaza de Armas and the women adorned in traditinal Andean dress, you’d think you were in Europe. We spent the first two days visiting the local museums and sites – the highlights being the Santa Catalina Monastery and the Museo Santuary.

The Monastery was delightful – a photographer’s dream. It was only recently opened to the public (1970s) after over 300 years of isolation. It occupies a number of city blocks and is a labryinth of nun’s quarters, fountains, and hidden courtyards. I was impressed by the beautiful colors of the walls and the perfectly landscaped scenery. If you had to be cloistered – this would be the place to do it. I was also amused by the display on barbed wire undergarments that were used by nuns to atone for their sins.

We also visited the Museo Santuary, which hosts Juanita, the Incan Ice Maiden. Juanita was a sacrifice given to a volcano to stop the volcano from erupting. She was recovered a few decades ago in perfect conditions (even her organs were still intact) when a scientist was studying volcanos near Areqipa. Over ten other child sacrifices have been discovered on other volcanoes in Peru and one of them was on display in a freezer in the museum. The history was fascinting  and there is a National Geographic Documentary on Juanita if you are interested.

Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa, Peru

Santa Catalina Monastery, Arequipa, Peru

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lorraine Marshall permalink
    February 18, 2011 10:09 pm

    Beautiful convent–the colors! I want to come down and see it! Glad you two are both feeling well.

  2. Moria.Robinson permalink
    February 21, 2011 7:38 pm

    As Lorraine says, what amazing colors! I love the simplicity of the images. It is wonderful how such vivid colors can still be so natural-looking. Enjoy your well-deserved break from the humid woods!

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