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Goshen students had one of their most memorable days in Lima – called the City of Kings by its founder, Francisco Pizarro – by touring the historic downtown district. Their day was accented by visits to two historic churches and an insider’s tour of the Palacio de Gobierno – the home of Peru’s president.
The day began with a bus trip from the Miraflores district to the Parque de la Muralla (Park of the Wall), which is beside the Rimac River. The park features an original section of the defensive wall that once surrounded the central city and was built between 1684 and 1687. The park also is the site of a statue depicting a conquistador said to be Francisco Pizarro. The 1934 statue used to be in Lima’s central plaza, but was moved to the less prominent park location because of widespread misgivings about Pizarro, especially his subjugation of native people.
Students next visited at the Plaza Mayor, formerly known as the Plaza de Armas, in the heart of Lima’s historic center. On this spot Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535. Lima’s most important buildings surround the plaza – the Government Palace (home of Peru’s president), the Cathedral of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Municipal Palace (Lima’s City Hall) and the Union Club, a business and social club founded in 1868.
The first interior tour of the day was of the Cathedral of Lima, constructed in 1758, after an earthquake destroyed the earlier structure. Pizarro’s tomb is located inside the cathedral. The bones of the conqueror of the Inca Empire were positively identified through forensic scientists in 1977. A graphic illustration shows the fatal wounds that Pizarro suffered when he was slain by Spanish rivals – wounds that aided in identification of his remains. More significantly, the cathedral has magnificent chapels and priceless collections of gold, silver and paintings. And the main altar is nothing short of spectacular.
For the first time since 2006, GC students got an insiders’ tour of the Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno), the seat of the executive branch and home to Peru’s president. Besides touring the great halls of the palace, students visited narrow service passageways and got to witness the elaborate noon-hour changing of the guard ceremony from a balcony inside the palace – a first for Goshen students.
The army unit of dragoons responsible for guarding the palace is called the Calvary Regiment, Guard of the President of the Republic of Perú. The changing of the guard ceremony began with a brief concert by the regiment’s excellent band, whose members actually ride on horseback in parades while playing music. Dual 24-member units slowly emerged from opposite entrances of the palace. Taking high-kicking steps, the units converged in the center and then exchanged flags, signaling that one unit had relieved the other of guard duties.
For lunch, students enjoyed a traditional Peruvian two-course almuerzo, or lunch, at La Merced, a traditional downtown restaurant. La Merced is housed in what were once offices for the adjacent La Merced Church and features a wood-carved ceiling and walls. Students, however, seemed more focused on ordering their meals in Spanish – and then enjoying the diverse and tasty soups, salads and main courses.
After lunch, students were treated to a tour of the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo, which was constructed completed at the end of the 16th century after five decades of construction. The convent houses the remains of Peru’s Catholic saints – San Martin de Porres, San Juan Macias and Santa Rosa de Lima.
During the visit, students saw tranquil patios, beautiful interior walls decorated with 17th century Spanish tiles and a library said to house 25,000 books. It was at Santo Domingo that the first Peruvian university – the University of San Marcos – was founded in 1551. Students also enjoyed viewing two-row choir stalls with carvings representing saints and other biblical characters and an impressive view of the central nave of the Basilica of the Rosary.
The highlight of the tour was an arduous climb to the top of the convent’s tower. Along the way, students examined giant bells inside the tower. Once on top of the tower, students were treated to panoramic views of Lima on a misty, gray afternoon.
The tour of downtown Lima ended with a quick snack, a bus ride back to Miraflores and a joyful meeting with new host parents.