Tag Archives: Historical site

Letters to Santa Rosa


“Dear Santa Rosa, please bring me a new bike…

In all fairness, the letters bought for 1 sol (approx. $0.30), and thrown down the well in Santa Rosa’s garden most likely aren’t requests for a new bike, a Dior handbag or a brand new BMW. Looking at the anguished faces of the thousands of people lining up to pay their respects to Lima’s own saint, they probably aren’t asking for frivolous things. They’re praying for a miraculous cure for their dying husband, relief from agonizing pain, or perhaps that their straying wife and mother of their six children will come back home again. Kissing and caressing the hands of Santa Rosa’s statue, they do sincerely believe that she will fulfill their wishes. Because in the end, she is their last hope.

On the 30th of August every year, the Limeños celebrate the first South American Saint. From a very young age, Rosa spent her time praying and fasting, and helping the sick and poor in her community. When her parents wanted her to get married, she cut of all her hair, and disfigured her face with lye and pepper so that no man would want her. She chained a chastity belt around her waist and threw the key into the well, the same one where people now throw their letters with their wish-lists. Defeated, her father gave her a private room in his house where she could live in total seclusion. There, she slept on a stone pillow, nailing her hair to the floor so that she wouldn’t be able to sleep more than a couple of hours per day.

Still not feeling she was doing enough, Rosa built a cave in her family’s garden where she spent her nights praying and flogging herself. Finally, her dedication and martyrdom payed off. One night in sleepless deliriousness she saw a vision of baby Jesus. He offered her to drink his blood (like a vampire) and then asked her to marry him. Shortly after, her wishes came true when she died at the age of 31.

The Catholic Church of coursed loved her story, and fifty years after her death acknowledged her as a saint.

And because of this, tens of thousands Limeños make their way to her garden every year to pay their respects, throw coins into her praying cave (for money), buy cheap religious tchotchkes from the nuns and write letters on rose-covered stationary to the saint that has become famous for fulfilling your every wish. Just like Santa Claus.

I wonder if Santa Rosa would be devastated, if she knew…


The Mysterious Pyramids of Caral


How can it be that 5,000 years ago people as far apart as Egypt and Peru came up with the same idea – –  to build pyramids?

In the Supe Valley desert, four hours north of Lima, there’s an excavation going on that might change the history of the world as we know it. Initially discovered more than fifty years ago by an American scientist, no one really paid attention to the site until Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady started excavating the site in 1994. What she found was unexpected — an sprawling urban complex of pyramids, temples, amphitheaters, plazas and ordinary houses across 150 acres. To date, this pre-ceramic metropolis is the oldest known settlement in the Americas.

The size of the site is staggering. Only five of the many pyramids in Caral have been excavated and renovated so far, but they have discovered an additional 19 pyramid complexes along the Supe Valley. Who knows what else they will find if they keep digging. And there are still a lot of unanswered questions hanging in the air: Who were these people? Where did they come from? Where did they go? Why were no weapons found at the site? And maybe most interestingly – why were no graves found here?

The last two questions blow my mind. A peaceful people with no weapons? How is it possible that they had no fear of invasion or attack? The only feasible answer to this in my mind, although incredible, is that they must have had strong mental powers. Obviously religion also played a huge role in their lives, what with so many pyramids that were constructed purely as sacred ceremonial sites. They have also found numerous flutes, instruments, recreational drugs and aphrodisiacs. Did they just enjoy life and cherish a good time? And if it’s true that the original Egyptians also were a peaceful people, does this mean that war is a relatively new invention? Were all ancient people closer to God than we are? Did greed and envy not exist before modern time?

And what on earth did they do with the folks who died? The archeologists believe that Caral was inhabited by 3,000 people at the time, and was an active city for at least 600 years. If so, there should be tens of thousands of graves in the area. But there are none. The only bodies found on the site are the sacrificial remains of a couple of children and a young man. Our guide said that five thousand years ago Peruvians did not have the custom of burning corpses. So where did the bodies go? We joked that perhaps they were beamed up to a UFO and carried into space. But we just don’t know. No one knows. Maybe one day the archeologists will find out. But after 17 years of excavations, isn’t it strange that they still don’t know?

And why pyramids? Perhaps it’s just a logical shape to build to reach as high as possible into the sky, before they had the technological savvy to build high towers like churches. So maybe the Caralians, like the Egyptians, didn’t need the help of aliens to build their edifices – they just built up, up, up…