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Culture —– Ancient Cultures of Latin America – Part III

by Brandi

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April 16th, 2010

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This week’s lesson on Spanish culture, we will cover a few fascinating ruins located near areas where I lived. Next week we will discuss the Legend of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec Indians, Hernan Cortés the conquistador, and theories about the origins of the Aztecs, Incas and so forth.

As I had mentioned last week, since I believe that Perú is one of the great Mecca of Latin American tourists looking for ruins (Mexico aside), I want to share some information about two other great Peruvian sites that I lived near.

One I want to talk about briefly is called Chan Chan. Loca ted near the modern Peruvian city called Trujillo [true-he-yo], Chan Chan (above) is claimed by some to be the largest Pre-Colombian city known to man. It was divided into nine “palaces” forming independent units.
(credits: photo – Museo de la Nación)

A unique feature of Chan Chan was that it had a ceremonial square, where I was told, you can stand on one side of a wall, and speak through an opening where your voice is amplified for a large group of people on the other side to hear. I can only imagine what type of events were held at such a mysterious place.

The sad part was that for months I lived right next to this ruin, but due to security reasons, I was never able to visit it up close. However, many native friends told me all about it, and I was able to see it from a distance. If any of you have more information about Chan Chan, please let us know more about this incredible archeological treasure.

Now to a different tourist site, I also lived in a small city called Lambayeque, which was in the northern quadrant of Perú, for about three months. It was a fairly small city that had a museum right in the middle of the pueblo called the Bruning Museum. It was named after a German archeologist who had come to excavate ruins.

As I entered the Bruning Museum, it was like entering a giant safe with a huge steel door like one you would see on a bank vault. Inside were hundreds of gold artifacts and ancient pottery pieces, many from the tomb o f “El Señor de Sipan” that we talked about last week. There was a group of pottery figures that were unique to Perú and surrounding areas called “huacos” [wah-cohs]. Huacos usually had some type of ornate design with some type of circular handle on the top (see below).

Huaco replica photos and products are found at: http://www.inca-ceramics.com/products.php#

One of the unique features of a huaco is that if you rub a coin against it, the coin wastes away and the huaco remains unmarked. In the city of Lambayeque were I lived, a mile or so from the Bruning Museum, right in the middle of a low-income pueblo was part of a large ruin that the government didn’t have enough money to excavate. On many of the dirt stre ets of that city around the ruin were small broken pieces of huacos. It was amazing to me to actually live in a city where archeological ruins were so prevalent that they were actually on the streets of the city.

As you can imagine, it is a crime to take an original huaco out of Perú. So, just before leaving the country, I bought a few “legal” replicas, put them in my suitcase and went to the airport in Lima to board my plane. As my bag was going through the scanner, the huacos were detected, security was summoned, and I was carted off to a back interrogation-type room by a very stern-looking officer. As you can imagine, I was sweating and extremely nervous. Thoughts raced through my mind like, “What if someone had sold me an original huaco instead of a replica? What if I never make it back to the United States? . . . .” After what seemed like an eternity, and my life passed before me at least once, they finally determined that the huacos I had were truly replicas, and I was allowed to board my plane and go on to my next country. Whew! What a relief it was!

Ancient Latin America is truly fascinating and I encourage all of you if you have the chance to read more about it, or even better, go visit as many of the fascinating locations as you can.

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