Spring Waxing Moon of the Southern Cross
Lima. Ordinarily gray according to Rosa, our tour guide for a quirky museum, the Museo Larco, Lima presented itself to us today in milky, but bright sun. My first venture out today was to the Miraflores section of Lima, an upscale neighborhood of exclusive hotels, fancy restaurants, and, improbably to me, a significant surfing community.
A free shuttle was on offer, so I took it. When I got down to the dock, I discovered that H. Stern jewelry had paid for it. Yesterday in Guayaquil, a nicely dressed man in a serious blue suit handed out brochure’s for H. Stern’s pierside stand. Today the shuttle with a map of Lima and a coupon for a free trinket. These guys want your business.
The ride, about 45 minutes, passed through lower to lower middle income areas, including the port district of Callao. There is the usual Latin American junky, run down feel with folks lounging in front of shops selling what look like used goods and the sometimes hidden behind steel doors fancy homes of wealthier Limenos.
There is, too, a difference. This is a city with an architectural sensibility It has trouble taking full hold because of poverty, but its aesthetic seemed consistent to me. First is color. Homes and some business often use pastels or bright colors for their side facing the street. Rosa said this was because Lima is gray most of the time. Maybe so. Also, there is a modernist use of blocky shapes, squares and rectangles in the shaping of buildings. These two things together produce a Matisse-Mondrian like built environment trying to be born.
Throw in the third element, the influence of Spanish colonial architecture seen in iron work, balconies and the use of wood, and there is a fusion between modernism, colorists and colonial influence that is unique in my experience.
Miraflores felt comfortable to me. Not what I’m looking for in a travel experience. This was 50th and France in Spanish. It did have stunning views of the Pacific pushing big rollers toward the beach and a few hardy surfers paddling out to catch them.
It also had one quintessentially Limeno element, ceviche. This dish has brought to perfection in Lima according to the New York Times and Lonely Planet. I tried some on a restaurant patio overlooking the Pacific. More what I’m looking for.
When the shuttle let me off in Miraflores, it dropped me off right in front of H. Sterns where another nice man in a blue suit pointed out the store in case any of us had missed it. I went, just to see what the whole deal was like.
To the right as I went in the door was a tray full of Pisco sours, the national drink of Peru made from a brandy like wine called Pisco and lime and other things. Wasted on this friend of Bill W. The rest of the store had necklaces, rings and bracelets set in separate vitrines. Pricy stuff. One delicate gold necklace with pre-Incan frogs went for $1,300.
Back to the ship for a kip and then up for a trip to the Museo Larco. This was an unexpected treat. Set in a wonderful Spanish colonial mansion with all an white exterior covered with bougainvillea and various levels including a sunken patio with a restaurant and gift shops.
This museum contains a world-class collection of Moche ceramics. By that I mean floor to ceiling cases, each case about 18 inches high and four feet wide, chock full of first class work. There were portrait pieces with smiling Moche, laughing Moche, frowning, crying, fearful, awe struck and all detailed in the most careful and artistic manner. There were also cases of sleeping Moche, Moche with tooth aches, Moche tortured, Moche in costume. Other cases held cunningly created ceramic potatoes, corn and fruits peculiar to northen Peru. There were ducks, frogs, dogs and were-crabs, were-birds, examples of brain surgery, amputation.
The Moche ceramicists represented life in Moche culture in all its facets, including, in two rooms set off by themselves on the sunken patio level, the sexual. Here were Moche men with women performing fellatio, couples on their side making love, masturbating skeletons and certain scenes where the copulation occurred underground.
These latter two reveal something interesting about Moche beliefs. The masturbating skeletons showed that death enters into life as the semen falls on the ground. Fellatio and anal intercourse are sex acts by the living that do not have procreation as their intent and show life entering the realm of death.
The copulation underground involves the pacche mama, or earth mother. This is the fertilization of the earth itself so that it will be bountiful.
At the MIA we have several hundred shunga, at least. These are erotic ukiyo-e prints and were the fourth major subject matter for these works after beautiful women, kabuki actors and landscapes. I would hope the day would come when these prints could be on display as part of the permanent collection.
This was an unusual and captivating museum with additional high quality metal work by the Chimu culture and extraordinary 400 threads to the inch textiles by the Paraccas culture. It showed the best work by the best artisans of these all pre-Incan cultures. If you ever get to Lima, check it out.
We were supposed to be back on the ship by 6:15 pm, having left at 2:15, but a quick visit to the equally quirky but not as well curated Museo de Oro, put us on the opposite side of Lima from the dock at rush hour.
We got back at 7:15, but only after witnessing driving techniques best left in Peru.
Stop signs here mean, hesitate, but only if there’s something coming. Many times a person in the left lane crossed our lane to turn right as we were executing the opposite maneuver. Then there’s the just put your big bus out there and dare people to hit you move. This for an hour and a half.
We came back, got dinner from the Lido deck, deck `11 and sat out by the window looking at the lights of Lima spread out in fan from the Pacific to the mountains.
BTW: There were also many, many Limeno kiddos out with witches hats, micky mouse ears and dragon costumes going door to door.