Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city and was founded well before the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s. It is uniquely characterized by buildings in the city center made entirely of white volcanic stone called "sillar" as well as impressive catholic churches and basilicas. We had the opportunity to visit the Santa Catalina convent which was founded in the late 1500’s. The convent was a self-sustained walled in city within a city. There was little to no interaction between the nuns within and the outside community and their daily activities were a mystery to the people of the time. I scarcely walked through a door without nearly banging my head and it served as a reminder of how much smaller people were five hundred years ago. To see such an intensely catholic institution so far from its origins constructed so long ago really drives home how powerful religion is, and how effective it was in aiding the Spanish conquest.
Arequipa is known as a Spanish island in an indigenous sea and its European influence is seen on every street. Our subsequent travels drove home to me just how indigenous the surrounding area is and gave us a unique exposure to that side of the Peruvian culture. // Jeff