More than 8.5 million people call Lima home. To get a better sense of this huge, sprawling city, we headed to central Lima. Our first stop was Cerro San Cristobal, a hill that provides an excellent view of the city some 1,300 feet below. From San Cristobal we saw the city stretching out in all directions and got an idea of the dramatic population growth Lima has undergone in the past 50 years (in 1960, the population was just over 1 million).
Once we got back into the city, we toured the 16th-century monastery of Santo Domingo, where we saw the tombs of two Peruvian saints, Martin de Porres and Rose of Lima, the first person from the Americas who was recognized as a saint. We spent some time in Santo Domingo’s chapter room—the original home of the National University of San Marcos, which was established in 1551 and is the oldest university in the Americas. We also got the rare opportunity to walk into the monastery’s library and see some of the centuries-old religious tomes up close.
We continued on to the Plaza de Armas, the city’s original power center that encompasses the national political power (represented by the government palace), local political power (municipal building), religious power (the cathedral), and economic power (banks). We arrived just as the changing of the guard was getting underway outside the government palace.
Our next stop was Barrio Chino, Lima’s Chinatown, where we enjoyed lunch at one of the city’s many Chinese restaurants. “Chifas” offer authentic Chinese food with Peruvian undertones—ají peppers, for instance, and Inca Kola to drink.
We returned to our meeting space after lunch, where the SSTers were given the names and addresses of their host families. We spend some time studying maps and getting an idea of their soon-to-be neighborhoods and routes to classes. The students are sprinkled around the city—a few are able to walk to classes, while others have a long bus commute. Together, their combined experiences will help the group have a better understanding of this massive city.