The weather in Lima is warming up, now that spring is here. Or maybe it's almost summer - the summer solstice would actually be about 21 or 22 December in the southern hemisphere, right?
Anyway, days are warming, flowers are blooming, and there's an occasional sunny afternoon. Mornings are still foggy and grey, however, and evenings get quite cool. We definitely need a jacket or sweater much of the time. But we've been spoiled by our twenty-something years in the Caribbean, so what can I say.
We decided to go to the Museo de la Nacion, the Museum of the Nation. This is over in the eastern part of Lima, and our hotel is in the western part, so it was a taxi ride away.
The building is this severe concrete block of a tower, looking rather penitentiary-like. Very austere.
The whole place is run by the Ministry of Culture. It turns out that this is a large complex including not only the museum but also a theatre, a movie theatre, and "salas de exposicion," exposition rooms. (Show rooms? Conference rooms? Meeting rooms? Various exhibits? We still have no idea.)
The museum was in the midst of changing exhibits, so most of the floors were closed to the public, and staff members were rolling showcases back and forth.
But the exhibit on the sixth floor was open, and that's the one that Richard wanted to see. This is a permanent photographic exhibit, titled Yuyanapaq. We aren't sure what that means, but the exhibit is about the Reign of Terror in Peru, which lasted from 1980 to about 2000.
You might remember the news coming out of Peru at this time. The Shining Path was a group of rebels who wanted the country to become Communist, and refused to vote - they initiated an armed struggle against the government and newly elected president. Then another rebel group, MRTA, started their own rebellion. And the Sandinestas from Central America somehow ended up in Peru as well. Of course, the police and government and military retaliated. Arrested people to get information.
The indigenous people, living in rural areas, were mostly caught in the middle of this struggle. Which turned into an all out war, with people being tortured for information, arrested for suspicion of crimes against the state, disappeared, or killed.
Yes, the exhibit was just as depressing as you might imagine it would be.
The information for each photo was in Spanish and English, and told story after story of individuals who were killed, or arrested, or whose family members were killed, on and on, room after room.
While I understand the need to make sure people know about the atrocities of war, to know their history and to try to prevent such events from ever happening again, I also have problems with these exhibits. I can't detach emotionally. I always think of how these people in the photographs must have felt, the fear, the pain, the horror. I can't separate my emotions and be intellectual about what I'm seeing.
Plus the Shining Path is still out there. The peace here in Peru is somewhat tenuous. The reconciliation has only gone so far. The various rebel groups, now referred to as terrorists, are the reason travel for tourists is somewhat limited or restricted here. I can't even imagine how it is for innocent civilians trying to live and raise families in some of these areas.
It was similar to visiting the Killing Fields of Cambodia. Just too much, too depressing, too fatalistic, too similar to what still is going on all over the world.
I think I might have done better if the other exhibits had been open - they trace the history of Peru, often through the arts and crafts as an expression of the culture and natural resources. At least then there would be something more uplifting.
So I finally went down to the lobby and just waited until Richard came downstairs.
And then I said we needed to go to the cat park (Parque Kennedy) so I could get some kitty therapy. I found a few cats who were okay with being held. They purred and snuggled, and definitely made me feel better.
So, we leave for Cuzco tomorrow, armed with our altitude sickness medications, as well as raincoats and hiking shoes.
And we'll explore more of the Incan culture here in Peru!