For those who know me, its no secret that I love history. As a PCV, I’ve hit the jackpot with a placement in Peru. There’s so many different cultural heritages to learn about and so many great archaeological sites to visit that would make any history buff want to cry. Not to mention, there is so much more to Peruvian history than just than the Incas and Machu Picchu. So in the spirit of sharing my love for history, I decided to do a series called Throwback Thursday where I highlight a specific part of Peruvian history on a Thursday of course. Enjoy – I hope ya’ll learn something!
Arequipa is such a great place to visit especially if you love history. When I went, I didn’t go with any plans except to walk around and see some of the beautiful colonial structures. In many ways, the city itself is everything Lima isn’t. Where Lima is rough and gritty, Arequipa is more refined. Where Lima is a bustling with automobile and pedestrian traffic, Arequipa, all although filled with tourists, is quieter, cleaner and with a slower moving pace.
Besides seeing Juanita, the ice mummy, one best places I visited was the Santa Catalina Monastery. Built in 1579, it is a huge mini city within the city that was founded by the Dominican Second Order nun, Maria de Guzman. Initially, the monastery was meant for rich upper-class women from Spanish families and each family would have to pay a dowry upon their daughter entering the monastery. Some dowries were as expensive as 2,500 silver coins which would be the equivalent of 50,000 dollars today — Ballin. On top of paying a hefty dowry, nuns were assigned up to 4 slaves to do their daily chores and were also required to bring things like paintings, intricate tapestries, clothes, and other things would make the environment scream, “We love God, but we love us some money too.”
But the sinning don’t stop there, ya’ll. It was also pretty common for the nuns to throw extravagant parties in their quarters – and no, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph weren’t the only folks invited. On even more scandalous note, the rumor is there were tunnels that connected the monastery with a church nearby that housed monks to aid the nuns in their nightly creeping. Stories of pregnant nuns and monk baby daddies were fueled by the allegation that a baby’s skeleton was found encased within the monastery walls however, the church denies such claims.
The monastery nuns raged right on up until 1871 when Pope Pius IX sent a strict nun to shut the party at the Santa Catalina social club down. She also freed all the servants and slaves and sent all of the dowries back to Spain in an effort the begin reforming the monastery.
In the 1960s, the structure suffered significant damage due to two earthquakes that struck Arequipa. In order to help pay for restoration costs and installing electricity and running water, the 20 remaining nuns opted to open up Santa Catalina to the public as a tourist attraction in 1970. And, today, history loving folks like me can freely roam around the beautiful grounds and learn about the story of malcriada nuns that loved to have a good time for only 35 soles.
Love history and want to hear more about colonial girls that just wanna have fun, check out my first Throwback Thursday post here.