Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trujillo - City of Culture and Contrasts

Trujillo, known as Peru's city of culture, is a lesser known city of Peru. After the capital - Lima - and Cusco, the jumping off point for Machu Picchu, there is usually a more vague notion of the other populated parts of Peru.

Lauded by the Lonely Planet, as "glamorously colonial", Trujillo is a delicious (quite literally) melting pot of culture, tradition, young,  and old.

Trujillo's Plaza de Armas is well-described, with brightly painted old colonial buildings surrounding a pristine main square, an impressive Cathedral, and palm trees swaying in the oceanic breeze.

To give a balanced account, I would have to mention the constant stream of taxis in and around the city.  There is a good and a bad side to this - when waiting more than 30 seconds for a taxi here, I find myself wondering if something is wrong...but they also contribute to the noise pollution in the city centre and many of the surrounding areas.

Since moving to Trujillo in March of this year with my family, I have often visited the centre to get a taste of 'old' Peru, as Trujillo is a fast developing city - the surrounding districts changing on an almost weekly basis as new businesses open and renovations are made.  

Most visitors to Trujillo only stop here for a few days on their way from or to Huanchaco, the fishing and surfing town about 20 minutes drive away. For these people, the historic centre of Trujillo has enough to keep them going, including a four star hotel (and plenty of hostels for backpackers).

Having lived here for 9 months now, I am still assimilating all that Trujillo has to offer. There is obviously more to the place than the centuries old buildings and the tours to the ancient ruins that tourists may add to their itinerary.

In the past ten years, so I am told, the city has expanded and developed at an incredibly fast pace - still, right now, there are apartment buildings going up all over the city.

There is a distinct culture here (one that I admittedly am still quite ignorant of) from Lima and the other cities further south - and I must do the best I can (with three children to raise) to learn about and assimilate into this culture, if my family and I are going to make Trujillo our long-term home.

The city has different personalities morning, noon, and night - completely different at night when more restaurants are open, music is blaring, and the market is bustling, compared to the morning, when it is possible to get to the centre and back in a taxi in twenty minutes. 

There are several universities in Trujillo - it is known as a university city, the buzz and energy of the young people adding to the character of the place.

Traffic here is nowhere near as bad as in Lima, but there are some spots around the city that snarl up in the early evenings.  It is around these times that the (very often) female police officers are marshalled to keep things moving, at work with a facial expression that only a woman could have.

My third son was born here in this city and his birth was registered in the Victor Larco Herrera municipal office, just metres away from the South Pacific Ocean.  

Locals are intrigued to see a very tiny Trujillano/Peruano when we are out walking locally with his Scottish and Canadian older brothers. We have been lucky to experience only very friendly and welcoming locals everywhere, who want to know why we are here and where we have come from.

Just a single glance at the local newspaper will tell you that there are the same problems here in Trujillo as there are in other cities, all over the world.

For now, I have seen just the surface of what this place is all about. There is a gravitation towards a North American culture, with two big malls of chain stores, a Starbucks in each. There seems to be a melding of cultures happening, and at the same time, something very distinct. 

Religious influences are still very strong, but subtle at the same time. Many homes display a rosary or a religious picture, while on Catholic holidays, the parks are still full and the streets busy.

From what I have seen so far, Peru is a child-loving place, and as well as open air religious festivals, children's events are everywhere, usually related to schools or nurseries, of which there are several all over the city.

And of course the weather (which is probably the factor I have overlooked the most since I got here) means so much is happening outside, all the time, every day. Just walking outside of my front door, there is a different view every day.

Alison is currently guest blogging for The Ultimate Peru List. She’s a freelance editor, writer, and craniosacral therapist. She lives in Trujillo, Peru with her husband and three sons.



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