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PERU | Monday, 5 April 2010 | Views [284]

Santa Catalina, Arequipa

Santa Catalina, Arequipa

We have been here since Wednesday – or at least our luggage has been – but we didn’t see any of the sights until today.  Arequipa is a comfortable place, especially for us Coloradans.  The altitude is a little higher than Denver and the historical district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) has a feel similar to LoDo.  Shops specialize in trekking, climbing and mountain biking and the people are as friendly as can be, especially those in our hotel.

So this morning we visited the Museo Santury at the Catholic University of Santa Maria.  “Juanita, the Ice Princess” is in the laboratory for more research so we saw her stand-in.  In 1995 Johan Reinhart, a mountaineer and archeologist, discovered her frozen body near the 20,000 foot summit of Ampato volcano where she had been sacrificed more than 500 years ago.  Incas selected only the most beautiful children for human sacrifice, believing them to be the purist.  Juanita, it is believed, was the daughter of important citizens who considered it an honor to give her up.  Forensic research continues on the hows and whys, using DNA and analyzing her well preserved clothing.  To me, even more amazing than the discovery, is the fact that Inca priests could climb to more than 20,000 feet carrying young children.  They wore woolen tunics and leather sandals, not the high-tech equipment that Reinhart’s crew had.

After lunch we toured the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, just around the corner from our hotel.  Thirty nuns, age 19 to 90, still live and work and pray in silence in the cloistered part of the convent.  At its prime 300 nuns and their assorted servants and slaves called this small city home.  Life for them was pretty good.  Their “cells” were spacious and cheerful with large kitchens and sitting areas.

 If it weren’t for the arrows marked “Salida” pointing the way you could easily become lost here for hours.  And that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.  The colors are vibrant reds and blues and yellows.  The doors and windows are ornately carved opening onto courtyards with orange trees.  There are flowers everywhere and classical music is piped in.  This is the most peaceful place I have ever been.  I was almost tempted to take my vows! 


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