Chapter 9 - Peru: Chiclayo (Lord of Sipan), Trujillo (Moche, Chan Chan)

The Moche (or Mochica) culture existed between AD 1 and 700 throughout the coastal valleys of northern Peru.
Ai Apaec (Ayapaec), the god of creation, is one of the most important deities in the Moche pantheon, and the precursor to the Inca god Viracocha. He is a distant and impersonal god of the sky and mountains, and features prominently in Moche iconography. Ai Apaec is often pictured in fearsome warrior mode, with slanted eyes, a fanged mouth, and a belt and headdress made of snakes.
Si is the Moche word for moon, and is the name of the unisex moon diety, who was also in charge of fertility, rain, and the sea. Unlike Ai Apaec, who was fairly remote, Si seemed to be more involved in the activities of mortals. The Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) was built in honor of Si.
In Moche culture, the moon was more important than the sun. The harsh desert sun was seen more as an enemy than a friend, and many of their religious ceremonies were performed at night.
The most feared and bloodthirsty Moche deity goes by the name of Decapitator God. He is portrayed as half-human and half-spider, or half-human and half-jaguar, and his likeness is seen on every type of artwork, especially around ritual sites. He has four sharp fangs protruding from a contorted mouth, piercing eyes, and a beard.
Unfortunately, no myths or stories seem to have survived from this interesting era.

Mythology: Myths, Legends and Fantasies by Janet Parker, Alice Mills, Julie Stanton (p. 495)

Our bus from Loja rolled up to the Ecuador-Peru border crossing at Macara as the darkness of night descended on us. We exchanged our Ecuadorian US dollars for Peru’s Nuevos Soles (Spanish, “new sun”). We paid our fees and had our passports checked. Then we boarded the same bus on the Peru side of the border and continued onwards to Piura. When we arrived in Piura, we were so tired that we checked in at the Peru hostel and replenished our energy with a good night’s sleep. Early the following morning, we boarded a bus for Chiclayo. We watched the Northern desert – part of which was the Sechura Desert – stretch out as far as the eye could see, from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Susie worked out the logistics for the next three days as I watched the endless desert pass by. She figured we could stop at Chiclayo and find a bus or taxi to take us to the Lord of Sipan site. Afterwards, we would take a bus to Trujillo, where we would stay for three nights and see the sites of the ancient Moche and Chimu civilizations. She convinced me that she needed a day of rest at the beach of Huanchaco after visiting the archaeological ruins. I realized that I would have to sacrifice a trip to the ancient sites of Chavin de Huantar and Caral. I had no choice because I had already reserved two seats on a flight from Lima, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia on the fourth day.

When we finally arrived at the bus station in Chiclayo (capital city of the Lambayeque region) – after traveling about 214 km / 133 miles – Susie found out that there was a local bus heading to Sipan shortly. The lady in the office of the small local bus terminal told us we could store our luggage in the office. We bought two tickets for a late afternoon bus ride to Trujillo, and we stored our luggage in a secure place at the back of the office. Then we hopped on a small local bus for a trip to see the Lord of Sipan. Everything was moving so fast that we barely had a chance to grab a bite to eat. That’s how it is when you arrange a schedule on the run.

The streets of Chiclayo were very busy, with buses, cars, trucks, people, and even motorcycle-taxis (motos) vying for space. We saw several large sugar cane haul trucks transporting sugar cane to the factories in the city. Along the road to the Sipan archaeological site, there were sugarcane plantations as far as the eyes could see. Harvest season was in full swing, with harvested fields alternating with green fields of tall sugarcane stalks.

Within half-an-hour or so, the bus drove under a sign saying, “C.P. Sipan, Distrito de Zana.” Another sign further down the gravel road greeted the tourist with Spanish and English text: “Sipan, Discover the Funeral Tombs of the Moche King; Bienvenidos a Huaca Rajada.” A word on top of that sign – that I had seen before – caught my attention: Naylamp (also spelled Naymlap). That was the legendary (or mythological) founder of the pre-Chimu dynasty of the Sican (aka Lambayeque) culture. The image of the face on the Tumi flashed in my mind.

The museum at the site had the mythological Naylamp depicted on a wall in a very complex anthropomorphic figure: a condor-like bird was perched on his head, with a Tumi ceremonial blade protruding from the back of his head; a reptilian tail trailed behind him; and his muscular legs had claw-like feet.

Who was this Naylamp? It was a question that had haunted me from the moment I had set eyes on the Tumi woven rug that my son had given me. I was about to find out who this legendary god-like Naylamp was as I stepped up to my first encounter with the skeletal remains of a warrior-priest.

“What does the sign say?” I asked Susie. We were on a self-guided tour in the museum, and I had to depend once again on my daughter’s Spanish language skills.

“It says the bones of the priest soldier were in the center of his disintegrated wrappings of fabric and surrounded by the ornaments, ritual attires and metallic emblems of rank that were used while still alive. Some of the goods are conserved, like emblems of assault weapons. To the sides appear the offerings and companions: the bones of a young woman, and tapes of copper that bordered the coffins. Major ornaments are preserved in the exhibit.”

There was an impressive mannequin dressed up as a warrior-priest (or a lord), complete with royal regalia. The ceremonial outfit gave the impression that the mortal person was identified with an immortal deity. It was as if the mythological Naymlap (Nam = bird, la = water) or “Great Bird of the Sea” had incarnated as the legendary ruler Naylamp, who arrived on the North Coast of Peru to establish a dynastic rule. The archetype existed throughout all ages, whereas the image of the archetype (in this case the Bird-Spirit or “Spirit above the Waters”, i.e. Nam-la) took on a temporal existence in a specific place and time (i.e. cultures of Moche, Lambayeque, Chimu, etc.).

Wall charts with pictures depicted the various aspects of Huaca Rajada: (1) the story of the architectural components, complete with a design of the platforms, accompanied by a model of the levels of the tombs and the layers of the pyramid; (2) a chart of the various adobe brick symbols, accompanied by original adobe bricks with the individual workers’ brands (or symbols).

“This chart about the adobe tricks explains how the clay soil was excavated and prepared in pools, then gravel was added to avoid cracking,” translated Susie, quickly scanning the salient points of the display. “Afterwards, the clay was transported in thick blankets to a level place where it was emptied into wooden molds. The bricks were marked with a brand (or symbol) and left to dry. Later, they were stacked and carried to the construction site.”

We walked past the wall chart describing Sipan after the Mochicas, and we walked past the wall chart describing the effect of rainfall and the impact of “El Nino” on the periodic cycles of drought and floods in the river valleys where the Moche civilization thrived for hundreds of years. We stopped for a while at the wall chart of the Lambayeque culture and looked at an adjacent replica of a Lambayeque burial.

“The Sican or Lambayeque culture came about as a result of the Moche and Wari influence,” translated Susie. “It was a regional culture from the year 900 AD, and it expanded the agricultural land through irrigation canals to form a multi-valley civilization. It mentions the legendary origins of their kings, beginning with the civilizing hero Naymlap and ending with a huge flood that ended his dynasty or lineage of rulers.”

The next sign (or wall chart) was about the Chimu culture, and the adjacent skeletal remains were positioned in a fetal position, with the limbs bent and drawn up to the torso. I had read somewhere that this position was an affirmation of the culture’s belief in rebirth.

“The Chimu culture emerged as a result of the native cultural traditions of the Moche and the Wari people,” translated Susie. “The mythical explanation of its foundation is attributed to the legendary Lord Taycanamo, who landed on their shores to build this culture. The big Chimu capital was Chan Chan, which is considered today the largest mud (adobe brick) city in the world. It was organized into walled fortresses, with palaces and temples richly decorated with friezes and reliefs.”

I was already looking forward to seeing that magnificent ancient city near Trujillo.

There were other wall charts, including one about the transition from Chimu to Inka, and another one about the other great architectural wonder at Pampa Grande. However, by now we really wanted to get past the wall charts and artifacts in the museum and get out into the actual archaeological site.

A large billboard with a picture of the original splendor of the archaeological monument of Huaca Rajada-Sipan welcomed us as we stepped out into the sandy desert environment. What looked like a heavily eroded hill loomed before us. The eroded hill was actually part of the complex of Huaca Rajada (Split Huaca, or “the cracked pyramid”), which consisted of two pyramids and a platform. A road “split” the site, with the two pyramids on the east side and the platform on the west side. The platform was a mausoleum for burials of people of the highest rank within Moche society.

The first excavated tomb that we encountered on our self-guided tour of the site displayed an enormous cache of ceramic pots, three open wooden coffins with replicas of items found inside the coffins, and segments of wooden beams that previously covered the tomb. The reconstruction of the tomb was set up to give the viewer an idea of what it looked like originally. A second, smaller tomb had two coffins with partial skeletal remains and insignia appropriate to their high rank in society. There were no signs at the site to explain what we were seeing, so we had to make our own observations, conclusions, and visual photos for later study, and comparison with published research.

I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the next burial chamber. It was the prominent Moche leader known as the Lord of Sipan, the warrior-priest, who seemed to be for the Moche people what the semi-divine pharaoh was for the ancient Egyptian people. The replica of the royal ruler’s room-sized burial chamber looked so realistic that I had a momentary suspension of disbelief and thought I was seeing the real ancestral Lord of Sipan staring back at me. The warrior-priest was flanked by two warriors, and the bodies of two women were in cane coffins at his head and feet. A dog was buried with one of the warriors. Above the tomb was the skeleton of a guardian.

“El Senor de Sipan,” said a voice that suddenly appeared behind us. We turned around to see a young man in his late twenties and his female companion. “This is a good reproduction, but the best replica, with lots of the original treasures, is at the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan in Lambayeque.”

“We won’t have time to see it,” apologized Susie. “We have tickets for the bus to Trujillo after we return to Chiclayo.”

“Do you need a ride back to Chiclayo?” offered the young man, who was called Jonathan.

“We were going to catch a local bus,” replied Susie.

“The buses are not regular, nor are they dependable,” said Jonathan. “I can give you both a ride for a reasonable price in my motorcycle-taxi.”

It seemed like Jonathan needed a few passengers to help pay for his expenses of bringing his female companion to the site. He seemed like an honest person, and he tagged along with us the rest of the way, stopping sometimes to take a picture of us or to explain something about the diggings or tombs.

I checked my guide book from time to time, and there was some information about the Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva that intrigued me. Here was a man who had dedicated his life to protecting the monuments of Peru. His diligent work in protecting the Sipan archaeological site from huaqueros (grave robbers) brought him the discovery of a lifetime – the tomb and treasures of the Lord of Sipan. Further excavations brought to light an even more ancient Lord of Sipan from the first century AD. According to Walter Alva, there were probably at least three more Moche rulers still entombed somewhere in the adobe mound platform – waiting to be discovered. A collage of pictures told the story: 20 Anos del descubrimento (20 years of Discovery), archaeological excavations from 1987 to 2007.

Later, I discovered several National Geographic magazines with Walter Alva’s stories of his discoveries: (1) “Discovering the New Worlds’s Richest Unlooted Tomb” – October 1988; and (2) “The Moche of Ancient Peru: New Tomb of Royal Splendor” – June 1990. Another discovery of mine, a book by the name of Lords of Sipan: A Tale of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime, by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, retold the entire story with an intriguing narrative of detective work and stopping the smuggling of pre-Columbian art. The entire story revealed that Walter Alva’s great discovery at Sipan was not of a burial place of a single Moche lord, but a necropolis containing many lords, something like the Valley of Kings of ancient Egypt.

We followed Jonathan and his female companion to the “area of archaeological excavations,” where exposed areas showed where the workers had been digging for more treasures from the past. As I walked past the eroded pyramid, I saw several holes where ongoing archaeological excavations were attempting to find out more about the Moche culture.

Just before we left the archaeological site, I spotted the Lord of Sipan insignia lifted up on a pole. It was the emblem of the shaman-like man of turquoise and gold, the semi-divine warrior-priest, who was flanked by two attendants; a crescent-shaped headdress, reminiscent of a Tumi, adorned the crown of his head; a war club and shield in each hand, weapons used to fight the forces of evil in the supernatural world; a moveable nose piece to sense the flow of breath (spirit) in all directions; and an owl’s head necklace as an all-embracing talisman of wisdom to guide the shaman warrior-priest to other worlds in his quest for wisdom and knowledge to guide his people. His officiating role in the Moche Sacrifice Ceremony was something that I was to learn about at the archaeological complex Huacas del Sol y de la Luna near Trujillo.

At the end of our visit to the Huaca Rajada of Sipan (“House of the Moon”), Jonathan ushered us into his motorcycle taxi (motokar) for our ride back to Chiclayo. I was impressed by the motorized vehicle that had been adapted to accommodate at least three passengers. It was amazing how the ingenuity of the human mind could take a motorcycle and attach a cabin with a canopy to it, and create a tri-wheeled vehicle to transport passengers and/or cargo.

Jonathan put on his vest with his own badge and certification, which allowed him to legally transport passengers, and he drove at a speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour down the dirt-and-gravel road, skirting around and dodging the numerous potholes. We crossed a river and were half-way to Chiclayo when the motor sputtered and stopped. We had run out of gas! What a predicament to be in. Jonathan assured us he would bring back some gas as he hitched a ride back to the small village of Sipan. Sure enough, within fifteen minutes he was back with a can of gas. We thought that would get us back to Chiclayo. However, Jonathan must have picked up some cheap gas, for the motor sputtered again and again, and it sounded like we wouldn’t get very far going at half the speed.

Susie and I told Jonathan that we were thankful for his attempt to give us a ride back to Chiclayo, but we informed him that we would catch a ride with the first vehicle that came along. Lucky for us, it was a local bus. We still paid Jonathan the amount we had agreed on, and we parted ways. It was one of those unforgettable adventures that you encounter when you’re in a foreign country – we told ourselves.

The bus ride from Chiclayo to Trujillo took us over the same desert terrain that we had seen before. Several river valleys broke up the monotony of the desert landscape. We watched as the sun set between two distant hills that looked like the pyramids that the Moche and other civilizations had built up and down the river valleys of the northern coast of Peru.

Our 211 km /131 miles trip ended at the doorstep of the El Embajador (the Ambassador) hostal, where we checked in for a good night’s sleep. The hostal was conveniently located a block from the Plaza Mayor on a street named Diego de Almagro, the founder of the city in 1534. The second largest city in Peru was named in honor of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s birthplace in Spain.

After a good night’s rest, we were ready to explore the two major archaeological sites in the vicinity of Trujillo – Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and the Moon) to the east, and Chan Chan to the west.

The Sun and Moon Monuments (Huacas del Sol y de la Luna) were first on my list. A sign and a pyramid-shaped mountain welcomed us to the center of the Moche world. This was where the people of the river valleys along the northern coast of Peru created their ceremonial center during the first millennium of the common era (CE). The aptly named Moche River flowed nearby. Modern archaeologists have christened this ancient Moche capital city “Cerro Blanco” (White Mountain or Hill) in honor of the sacred mountain (apu) that rises heavenward as it reflects the light of the moon – which reflects the light of the sun – upon the massive man-made representations of the sun and the moon.

Our guide at the archaeological site was a young Peruvian named Wilmer, who was an excellent linguist with the capacity to speak several languages with the tourists. Our small group chose English. Susie wouldn’t need to translate for me this time around.

“This map of Peru’s north coast shows where the Moche or Mochica culture and people made their home in the river valleys that formed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean,” said Wilmer, introducing us to the long stretch of territory along the coastal desert. “The Moche culture extended over 250 miles, with the northern section going north as far as the Piura Valley, and the southern section extending down to the Nepena Valley. We are here in the southern section.”

(similar map)

Wilmer led us up a wide gravel path to our first viewpoint.

“The Moche civilization developed when the separate river valley settlements began to communicate and trade with each other, starting from about 100 AD and ending sometime around 800 AD, when the Chimu civilization began to spread across the coastal region,” said Wilmer. “From this viewpoint you can see the vast level area between the pyramids where there used to be a settlement of at least 20,000 people. The covered areas you see are to protect the excavations that are going on there. In the background – looking west – is the Huaca del Sol (Pyramid-temple of the Sun). The pyramid towers 135 feet above the plain, and it has an area over 12.5 acres, which is almost as large as the area of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Archaeologists estimate that over 130 million adobe bricks were used to build the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure in the Americas.”

Wilmer led us to the lower slope (or western flank) of the Cerro Blanco (White Mountain), where the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) awaited us. He stopped at the edge of the monumental structure and showed us another picture from his binder of diagrams and pictures.

“As you can see from this picture,” began Wilmer, “the Huaca de la Luna is an enormous complex composed of three large platform mounds, which are connected to four plazas. The main platform (number one) is at the top right (or southwest corner) and the great plaza is at the bottom right (or northwest section). The entire area of the Huaca de la Luna measures about 290 meters (950 feet) from south to north, and 210 meters (690 feet) from west to east. You have to imagine the construction and development of these platforms and plazas over a period of hundreds of years, with various levels added on during special religious celebrations, or when tombs were placed in the construction to commemorate the death of a ruler or warrior-priest.”

A sign that we would encounter later on our tour had an artistic rendering of the Huaca de la Luna complex, and it also gave a detailed description of the four quadrants (ceremonial patio, several pillared halls, and great altar) of the main Platform 1.

[Note: Later, I found a diagram of the Huaca de la Luna site plan in a (google) book called Moche Art and Visual Culture in Ancient Peru, by Margaret A. Jackson, p. 24]

Wilmer led us along a gravel path through a protective covered area with roped off sections where workers were refurbishing an excavated area. He stopped at an excavated section of plaza number three, which was adjacent to Platform 2, and he showed us a picture of a reproduction of the sacred sacrificial rock.

“This is the area where the sacrifice rituals would take place,” said Wilmer. “There is a sacred rock behind here that you will see in a short while. First, you need to know that warriors would battle other warriors in ritual combat, and the sacrifice ceremony would be the end result of that combat. It was part of the drama of renewal, when agricultural cycles and fertility rituals were interconnected in a grand ceremony that would be played out in this Temple of the Moon and in the plaza of the sacrificial rock. Here is a picture of the warriors in their various ritual costumes, and there is a scene where a naked prisoner (or combatant) is taken to be sacrificed.”

A nearby bilingual (Spanish, English) sign explained what the sacrificial area was all about: Los Recintos de Los Sacrificios (The Sacrificial Enclosures)
The enclosures located between the Platform of the Sacred Rock and the Ceremonial Patio contained distinctive, roofed structures that were apparently associated with activities related to sacrifice rites. One of these structures was decorated with painted reliefs portraying a feline attacking a woman.
The evidence for these sacrifice rites is provided by human skeletal remains as well as unfired clay effigy bottles portraying prisoners. These pots had been intentionally broken, a signal that they served as symbolic sacrifices, replacing the human lives.

The bottom of the sign had a picture of the chamber inside Plaza 3 that had repeating images of a feline atop a reclining figure, suggesting a link to a religious practice that took place there. I recognized the image as the male “jaguar-shaman” and the female that I had seen as a stone statue at the San Agustin archaeological site. It dawned on me that this was all about ritualized copulation, as was practiced in Tantric circles to raise the serpent-power of the kundalini.

Wilmer took us to see the black rocky outcropping behind the excavated area. This was the sacred ritual space where the dramatic sacrifice ceremony came to its climactic end, where the life essence of the victim was exchanged for supernatural assistance in bringing about fertility, good crops, and social stability. The image of a Tumi knife appeared in my mind’s eye, and I realized that the concept of “life begets life” was a universal idea whose corollary was “the sacrifice of one for the many.” As I looked at the black formation of living stone, I saw that it resembled sculpturally the large Cerro Blanco behind it. I thought of the biblical story of Abraham and the impending sacrifice of his son on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount).

“Now I am going to introduce you to the major deity of the Mochica people,” said Wilmer, opening his binder of pictures and displaying an image of the Degallador (“Decapitator” or Executioner). “Ai Apaec, the supreme god of the Moche culture, also known as the Deity of the Mountain, Serpent demon, fanged god, and decapitator. In his role as decapitator, he is associated with human sacrifice; as mountain god he brings water; and in his other roles he brings about agricultural bounty, fertility, and power to dominate the forces of nature. When he is shown with a body, he is holding a Tumi knife in one hand, and a decapitated head in the other hand.”

Wilmer showed us a wall where a repetitive pattern of large rhomboids and triangles framed the face of Ai Apaec (Ayapaec), who had bulging eyes, double ear spools, and a feline mouth with fangs. Twelve wave-like spirals surrounded his head, which seemed to associate him with water and marine life. It was evident from seeing the images on the wall that some of them had been badly damaged, whereas others had been meticulously recovered and conserved.

We passed several signs that gave further information about the conservation efforts to restore the reliefs and murals in the buildings. One sign described the “Construction Materials and Techniques”:
Mud is the raw material of Moche . . . Moche builders fashioned adobe bricks . . . mud as a mortar to bind bricks and applied it as plaster to finish walls, floors and roofs.
The adobe bricks of Huaca de la Luna are typical of the Moche building tradition. They are rectangular and mold-made, some in cane molds, while the majority were manufactured in smooth, wooden molds. In this fashion, Moche builders could mass-produce their construction materials and standardize brick size. This may have allowed them to estimate the quantity of adobe bricks required for large construction projects. There is evidence, especially from Huaca del Sol, for the tradition of impressing adobe bricks with distinctive marks, perhaps to identity distinct groups’ tribute or labor contribution in the construction of this monumental edifice.
The adobes were arrayed in column-like segments creating construction blocks that served to fill in the platforms. Similar construction methods were used to create the walls of the structures.

Another sign, with descriptive drawings, talked about “The Tomb of the Officiant”:
This tomb corresponds to an officiant of the Moche religious cult, probably a mid-level official in the complex priestly hierarchy. The priestly class enjoyed wide-ranging power in Moche society. As if to underscore their privileged position, members of the priestly hierarchy were usually buried in tombs placed in the construction fill of a monument’s most sacred buildings.
The funerary rites included the preparation of the body, which was placed, along with his accoutrements, in a cane coffin. Funerary offerings included ceramic vessels and other objects placed inside and outside of the coffin. The quality of the grave goods allows us to identify the role and social position of the deceased. The individual interred in this tomb, for instance, was accompanied by the trappings and emblematic objects, such as a container for holding lime (mixed with coca leaves), that identify him as a protagonist in coca ceremonies represented in Mocha art.

Wilmer took us next to another part of the ceremonial patio on the main Platform 1, where a series of polychrome reliefs depicted complex scenes featuring maritime themes.

“The painted reliefs in this enclosure next to the ceremonial patio show heads of stylized fish or serpents and birds of prey,” said Wilmer, showing a picture to compare with the textile-like designs on the walls. "This other rectangular panel has bilaterally symmetrical ocean waves painted white, red, and black.”

We spent some time looking at the stylized designs that were artistically portrayed in colorful inorganic pigments. The symmetry, the geometric lines, and the images all had a profound hypnotic effect on the eye of the beholder, causing the mind to swim in an ocean of Mochica culture and mythology.

When we left the area of excavations and stepped into the open air to view the nearby Huaca del Sol, I had the impression that I was standing on a mountain top and looking at a sphinx-like formation which metamorphosed into a puma (or jaguar). I also thought of the Sun god and Moon goddess juxtaposed, like in so many other Andean and Mesoamerican places.

“The Huaca del Sol, according to archaeologists, is now only a third of what it was originally during the Mochica epoch,” said Wilmer. “Two-thirds were either eroded by natural forces like wind and rain, or washed away when Spanish treasure hunters diverted the Moche River so that it would flow through the pyramid and expose the treasures that they thought were concealed inside. So what you see now are only the southern and eastern sides of what was once the largest adobe structure in the Americas. It has been determined by archaeologists that the vast platform of Huaca del Sol was originally cross-shaped, and that it was an imperial palace and a mausoleum for Mochica rulers. The platform measures 340 by 160 meters (1,115 by 524 feet) and stands over 40 meters (131 feet) high.”

Wilmer led us toward the grandest part of the entire complex – the murals of the north façade in the main ceremonial plaza.

“The sections of the walls that you see here are part of the thematic images that begin at the great wall of the north façade that I will show you after this,” said Wilmer, opening up his binder to show a picture of a deity with red, blue, and yellow appendages that matched the image on the wall. “The deity shown here has appendages that emerge from his head, six of them having snake heads, and two with bird heads.”

I thought of the six chakras (energy centers) of the human body and the winged (bird-like) ajna chakra in the forehead. It appeared that the Mochica culture knew of the energy system that flowed in and out of the human body.

“The Mochica people also borrowed an image from the Chavin culture,” said Wilmer, stepping up to an image of the Chavin staff god and showing a picture that corresponded to it. “This is the Personaje con Baculos (the Staff deity), who holds double-headed serpents in each hand. The image on the wall is badly damaged, but you can see what it looks like from the picture. A smaller image to the right of it has the same deity with a single-headed serpent in each hand.”

I recognized the Staff deity as a representation of the kundalini serpent-power in the human body, and in the universe. The left and right snakes (single or double) represented the masculine and feminine (positive and negative) currents that flowed up and down the central nervous system of the spine.

“Here at this great altar is where the supreme Moche priest or officiant of the ceremony would sit,” said Wilmer, showing us the Great Altar, a small stepped platform. A nearby sign showed artistic representations of the “El Altar Mayor” and the murals that were painted on the walls around the altar. I thought of the three steps leading to the top of the platform as representative of the three Andean worlds (celestial Hanaq Pacha, terrestrial Kay Pacha, and ancestral Uku Pacha).

When we finally stepped out into the ceremonial plaza and saw the monumental wall of murals (of the north façade), I was awestruck. Never in all my journeys in Mesoamerica had I seen such an artistic display of colorful imagery. I imagined the ancient participants in the ceremonial events that took place here, how they must have stood reverently at the foot of their spectacular temple with all of its symbolical representations of their divine cosmology and images of their deities.

Wilmer showed us a picture that corresponded to the gigantic, sculpted adobe friezes (or reliefs), with horizontal terraces (or levels) of repetitive iconic representations.

“As you can see by the picture and the north façade of the main platform (or temple area) above the ceremonial plaza,” said Wilmer, “there are seven terraces or levels of murals. The lower ground level mural shows a procession of warriors leading their prisoners toward the ramp leading upward to the main platform and place of sacrifice. The second terrace shows dancers or dignitaries that perform or participate through dancing and chanting in the sacrifice ceremony, and they wear headdresses, ear ornaments, and red tunics with twelve yellow dots which probably refer to the agricultural cycle. The third terrace has images of the spider decapitator, a reference to bloodletting and another manifestation of the supreme deity Ayapaec. The fourth terrace represents the marine deity as a fisherman (pescador), who has the attributes of a shaman. The fifth terrace shows an image of a two-headed feline decapitator with the head of a sacrificial victim in his paw. The sixth terrace is a continuation of the ascending ramp with an undulating image of a giant water serpent; after the ramp ends, Ayapaec’s disembodied face appears, and his extremities end in the faces of birds of prey. The seventh terrace is the God of the Mountains (or Ayapaec) in his supreme manifestation with a Tumi in his left hand and a disembodied head in his right hand, and four appendages that end in condor heads which represent the upper Andean world.”

Wilmer thumbed through several pictures that portrayed the terraces (or levels) as he spoke. I managed to take pictures of several of those images. As I contemplated the gigantic wall of sacred imagery, I began to see the entire pageantry and procession from the lowest to the highest terraces as a spiritual progression through religious practices (rituals) that brought the participant in the mysteries (or ceremonies) to a transcendental level of spiritual consciousness, where his mind (head) was freed from the body (beheaded) and he experienced a vicarious sacrifice that allowed him to travel into the supernatural (condor) world like a shaman – and become at-one with the universe.

Wilmer showed us a polychrome relief at the plaza’s southeastern corner that was the crowning achievement of Mochica artistic expression – a cyclical ritual calendar keyed to agricultural and celestial events. It was like looking at a masterful depiction of a pictorial almanac with astronomical, agricultural, and calendrical information, interspersed with iconic representations of Mochica social and ceremonial life.

As I studied the complex pictorial and iconographic mural, I tried to decipher its contents. I noticed three figures casting long ropes, with the longest one being an overarching line near the top of the mural that connected to a chakana, symbol of the Andean cross and the Southern Cross constellation. The other rope connected to a puma and a nearby snake, and a hunter with a spear pointed at the puma. My hunch was that there were correspondences here to the celestial sky, especially with the numerous starbursts and solar orbs scattered everywhere. However, as I began to look at the small clusters of figures engaged in various activities, like fishermen casting a square net and boat men riding in a reed boat (caballito), I realized that this was an interactive mural, where the individual participated in the various activities of his world. And this world was filled with birds, felines, trees, monkeys, crabs, scorpions, and other life forms. Humans with staffs or scepters seemed to direct the various activities. An egg-shaped oval near the top of the mural seemed to suggest a cosmological view of the universe as an egg shape. Pachamama – I thought.

I looked at the Moche calendar from several viewpoints, and I noticed that there was a rectangular panel to the right of the calendar which had similar iconic representations. Whoever deciphered the two murals would definitely deserve recognition for revealing the hieroglyphs (sacred glyphs) of the Mochica writing system. And, perhaps, the non-linear detailed narrative of the Moche calendar would become the new Rosetta Stone of the world.

I watched as a worker patiently and painstakingly worked on a restoration project. It appeared that many hours were devoted to reveal the friezes and murals to the public. I felt privileged to have seen the murals of the Temple of the Moon. This was definitely a picture that I would remember in my mind for a long time.

When I moved away from the murals in order to get a wider view of the north façade and the ceremonial plaza, I began to see the grandeur of the sacred temple-pyramid. The man-made pyramid was a replica of Cerro Blanco (White Mountain) – the living mountain spirit, which lived through the ancestors of the Moche people. When the mountain reflected the light of the moon, it was the moon goddess whose presence appeared in the Temple of the Moon to facilitate the cycles of agriculture, water, and fertility during the ceremonies and rituals. As I looked one last time at the White Mountain, I noticed a unique black andesite arch embedded in the living stone at the edges of the cone shape, which seemed to form a double-headed serpent outline that connected the sky and the earth. Pachacamac (father sky) and Pachamama (mother earth) were united at this sacred landscape.

Before our tour with Wilmer ended, he wanted to share a chart with us. It showed the chronological development of Andean society, from roughly 18,000 years BCE to 1532 CE, when the Spanish arrived. It showed the stages of societal development and the various cultures that evolved along the coastal regions, the sierra regions, and the high plateau of Lake Titicaca. It was a good reference whenever a question arose about the major cultures that existed in Peru.

When we returned to the entrance, Wilmer was about to say goodbye to us when a Peruvian dog ran up to him. Wilmer told us that the hairless chocolate-brown dog, with pink marks on its underside, was known for its warmth and healing qualities. We touched the friendly dog and felt its unusual warmth. There was also a subtle flow of energy from the dog that seemed to impart a feeling of well-being to the person who connected with the dog’s energy.

“This Peruvian dog has been around since ancient times,” said Wilmer. “The Moche and Chimu cultures kept them as pets.”

I thought of the dog that accompanied the Lord of Sipan into the afterlife.

The memory of the Peruvian dog and our excellent English-speaking guide Wilmer Rodriguez was the last picture that was imprinted in my mind as we said goodbye to the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) and the Apu-spirit of Cerro Blanco (White Mountain).

You Tube video - Peruvian Hairless Dog

After our return from the Moche tour of Huaca de la Luna, Susie found a taxi driver who agreed to drive us to Chan Chan. The man was so anxious to have us as customers that he was willing to drive us there and back to Trujillo for a reasonable amount; in fact, he informed us that he would do the complete tour to Chan Chan and two other smaller sites nearby for a small additional charge. He would be our private driver and wait for us at the sites. It was a good deal for us, and for him.

Our guide at Chan Chan (“Sun Sun”) was an English-speaking lady named Lucy. She wore sun-glasses throughout the tour, even though there was a high coastal fog that enclosed the area during the entire day. Later we learned that the coastal fog (called garua by the coastal residents) blocked out the sun for six months of the year (April to November). This was a phenomenon that occurred when the warm air masses of the desert drifted over the cold Humboldt current that circulated along the Pacific Ocean.

Lucy showed us the resource book that she used: Trujillo, a Treasure in Mud and Color, by Alfredo Rios Mercedes. The cover of the book had an image of Ayapaec, the Moche deity that we had seen at Huaca de la Luna. She shared a chart from the small guide book of Chan Chan.

“This chart shows the nine citadels or palaces of the Chimu kings that ruled during the time of the Chimu civilization,” said Lucy, brushing her long black hair from her face. “Previously, the names assigned to the palaces were the names of archaeologists who studied them, like Uhle, Tschudi, Bandelier, and Rivero. But in 2006, the Peruvian government decided to use names from the Mochica (or Yunga) language that had meaning for the Chimu culture.”

Lucy displayed a chart from her resource book that revealed the correspondences between previous names and Mochica/Chimu names, with Spanish meanings (I added the English translation):
Previous name -- Mochica name -- Spanish meaning -- English
1. Chaiguac -- Chayhuac An -- Casa de Chayhuac -- House of Chayhuac
2. Uhle -- Xllangchic An -- Casa del Este -- House of the East
3. Laberinto -- Fechech An -- Casa del Oeste -- House of the West
4. Cran Chimu -- Utzh An -- Casa Grande -- Grand House
5. Squier -- Fochic An -- Casa del Norte -- House of the North
6. Velarde -- Ning An -- Casa del Mar -- House of the Sea
7. Bandelier -- Nain An -- Casa de Las Aves -- House of Sea Birds
8. Tschudi -- Nik An -- Casa del Centro -- House of the Center
9. Rivero -- Chol An -- Casa Nueva -- New House

One name was untranslatable – Chayhuac – and I was curious to know why the first built palace was named Chayhuac. I found out Antonio Chayhuac was a descendent of the last Chimu ruler, Minchanzaman, who was captured by the Incas and taken to Cusco. Antonio Chayhuac was a local cacique (chieftain) when the Spanish arrived.

Another observation that occurred to me was that the cardinal directions – denoted by palaces 2 (east), 3 (west), and 5 (north) – appeared to point to palace (or house) 8 as the south. However, it was named House of the Center (Nik An), which seemed to specify south as a sacred direction (center of the Chimu-Moche universe). It also occurred to me that south was the realm of the ancestors (Ukhu Pacha) in the Andean cosmology, with the snake as the totem animal. Chan, as I learned later, meant serpent in Maya, which indicated an ancestral linkage to the Mesoamerican culture of the Quetzalcoatl or Snake clan.

“The Nik An, or Tschudi, palace is the only one open for tourists,” said Lucy, as she led us past the 26 feet high outer wall through the single entrance from the north into the walled citadel. “Each palace or royal compound in the ancient city of Chan Chan had an entrance from the north that had a corridor leading to inner plazas, halls, audience areas, storerooms, administrative buildings, temples, and a burial platform for the ruler. The single entrance was a security measure to control who entered the royal compound, and the corridor we’re walking through was one of many long, winding passageways. The area of the nine palaces is estimated to be about six square kilometers, while the entire surrounding area of the residences, fields, and valley of the Chimu is estimated to have been about twenty square kilometers. It is estimated that about 30,000 or more lived in this, the biggest, city in pre-Hispanic America. Historians say the city was established by the legendary Taycanamo, whose arrival on the shores near here are similar to the arrival of Naylamp near Chiclayo. The dates given for the Chimu civilization, which followed and was built upon the Moche civilization, are from 870 AD to 1470 AD.”

Lucy led us to the first ceremonial plaza, which had two guardian figures at the opposite end.

“This walled plaza is where religious ceremonies were held,” said Lucy after she gave us a minute to look at the vast area and absorb its ancient ambiance. “A king would sit on a throne – probably between those two guardians – and hundreds of priests and court attendants would stand to each side as they awaited the ceremonial sacrifice in the center of the square. When we walk beside the walls to the other end, you will see that the adobe brick walls are carved with sea otters. Some say the designs represent a squirrel. Either way, they both were fertility symbols.”

We passed the intricate designs, which looked like realistic animals with tails that curved upwards like waves on the ocean. A symmetrical design near the altar area looked like an upside down stepped pyramid with three steps. That familiar pattern always made me think of the chakana or Andean cross, which symbolized the three worlds of Andean cosmology. As we walked past the two guardians, I thought of the Chinese guardian lions at the entrance of temples and palaces. We entered another corridor where a pelican design was carved along the lower part of a wall

“This corridor is famous for its stepped design of fish,” said Lucy as we approached a model of the corridor with a bilingual sign explaining what the corridor of fish and birds (Peces y Aves) was all about. “You will see five of these clear plastic covered models on this tour. The map of Nik An shows in yellow, with a line pointing to it, where we are inside the palace. You can read in English.”
Along the middle of this corridor the Chimu lords would have had displays from the Principal Plaza up to the audiencias or little temples. The main part of the corridor was covered and was decorated with temple reliefs in the form of fish nets followed by pelicans and stepped designs that included swimming fish. The birds were painted yellow and black.

I let Lucy know when I had finished reading the short descriptive paragraph. She led us to the stepped design, which looked like fish swimming up and down a fish ladder. However, as I reflected on the stepped design, I saw the three steps of the Andean worlds, again. That chakana cross – in its many forms – was ubiquitous.

“The fish that you see carved on this wall relief can be representative of the two currents that cross along our Pacific coast,” said Lucy, pointing to one current (of fish) going up and the other current (of fish) going down. “The Humboldt or cold current comes from the south and flows in a counter-clockwise way; the El Nino or warm current comes from the north and flows in a clockwise way.”

I noticed the bird designs near the ground. However, my eyes were drawn back up to the stepped design of the chakana. There were two stepped designs, one on top of another, with the fish swimming in between. It almost appeared to portray the concept of superimposed pyramids, which was a common occurrence in Mesoamerican and Andean pyramid building, where a newer pyramid was built on top of an older one. As I walked along the corridor and kept my eyes riveted to the fish swimming up and down the three Andean worlds, I realized there was a third stepped design – an inverted one in between the other two. In fact, if I viewed the design from above – instead of from below – I could see the same superimposed pyramid pattern. My mind was swimming.

We came to the second domed model, which was titled “Sala del Altarcillo” (Small Altar Hall):
The sunken ceremonial patio was antechamber to the entrance of the audiencias or little temples leading into the Principal Plaza or to the Corridor of the Fish and Birds. Traffic circulated on ramps and high gallery that had a roof supported by columns. All of the walls were decorated with representations of fishnets in relief and were painted white.

“This small square used to have a ceremonial altar,” said Lucy, pointing to the model and to the space in which we were standing. “But now it is covered in adobe to preserve it. From now on you will see the fishnet designs all around you.”

Lucy pointed to all the lattice-like fishnet designs, a motif that represented the ocean and the life-sustaining substance (fish) which was caught in the fishing nets that the fishermen cast into the waters.

“Fishing was one of the main activities of the Chimu people along the coast,” said Lucy. “Agriculture was dependant on irrigation canals and good crops, but fishing was a daily activity that always put food on the table. The ocean or sea was worshipped as a divinity called Ni, and Nik An was totally dedicated to the ocean as the origin of life. That is why it is called the House of the Center.”

Lucy led us to an area where diamond-shaped fishnets adorned the wall on both sides of a centrally placed throne, where a fisher-king sat and presided over a ceremony where sacrifices were brought for the sea-god in hope of a bountiful catch of fish.

“Offerings of white maize flour and red ocher pigment would be brought to satisfy the sea-god Ni,” said Lucy, although I imagined fish would have been a better offering.

We came to the next model, which was titled: "Audiencias o Templetes."
These rooms were spaces dedicated to the cult and for offerings or tributes to the divinities, inside each space there was a construction in the form of a “U” with niches that contained wooden idols. The elaborate and rich decorations (including birds, stepped crosses, circles and nets) are testimony to the sacred nature of these temples.

“These audiencias or little temples are said to be administrative offices of the Chimu elite,” said Lucy. “There was a team of archaeologists in the late 1960’s who worked at Chan Chan and discovered that these audiencias, as they called these chambers, were storerooms that held valuables such as textiles. They based their conclusion on ceramic pots that showed a man in a similar enclosure conducting business or holding an audience with people.”

Later, I found the National Geographic article that published the story of the archaeologists that Lucy mentioned: “Chan Chan, Peru’s Ancient City of Kings,” by Michael E. Moseley and Carol J. Mackey. [Vol. 143, No. 3, March 1973] The story of their discovery that Chan Chan was a major center of master weavers, who produced the finest textiles on their looms, was worth reading.

As we walked around the audiencias or storerooms, I imagined a center of commerce that produced valuable fabrics with colorful embroideries that had the same marine designs we were seeing all around us, sculptured into the clay plaster: pelicans, gulls, cormorants, crabs, and starfish. Everything connected with the ocean was an object of worship, veneration, artistic representation, and reproduction. I even visualized that perhaps the diamond-shaped openings (or pigeonholes) could have been storage space for textiles and other manufactured goods in a shop.

When we came to the next model, I took some time to admire the sight of the large pool (or reservoir) with marsh reed before I read what the sign said:
"Pozo Ceremonial" (Huachaque) – “Ceremonial Well”
This impressive well was the setting for ceremonies dedicated to a water and fertility cult. In an earlier phase the ceremonial well was oriented to the south. Later, the northern part was buried and the well was enlarged on the west side in the direction of the sea. In the south part the Chimu constructed a wide terrace possibly designated for religious functions. After the abandonment of Chan Chan they placed burials and offerings to the gods here.

“Some archaeologists say this was a pleasure garden for royalty, and a place to worship the moon as it reflected its light on the water,” said Lucy, “but it also served a more practical function of providing water for the people. You can see from the reeds in the pool that they also cultivated totora reeds to build their small boats for fishing.”

We arrived at the fifth and final model, the “Recinto Funerario” (Funeral Precinct):
This was the most important and sacred enclosure in the palace for it was here that the tomb of the senor Chimu was located. The tomb was placed in the center of a great funerary platform and was surrounded by 44 secondary tombs. In those secondary tombs were placed burial items including concubines, officials and many other goods meant to accompany the Chimu lord in the next life. Ceremonies for the dead were carried out here with great pageantry and color in the plaza and on the platform.

“Here at the south end of the royal complex was probably the most important place,” said Lucy, “the king’s burial chamber. It was constructed as a T-shaped platform, which some say was linked to the legendary Taycanamo. Every king that followed the legendary founder was considered a god-king just like Taycanamo. So the T-shape was a symbolical way of honoring the founder. Archaeologists conclude that when a king died, the heir or new lord of the Chimu built his own high-walled citadel, demonstrating the expansion of the Chimu (or Chimor) empire.”

“And so we have come to the end of the tour,” said Lucy. “I hope you enjoyed seeing a small part of the great city of Chan Chan. Today it is on the list of World Heritage sites, so it is protected for future generations.”

We thanked Lucy for her guidance through the labyrinth of Nik An, and we started to head for the exit (the entrance from the north) when we saw an artisan selling some hand-carved stones with various marine designs. Although I was impressed with the larger stones, which depicted a sea-god running over the waves and a double-headed serpent with waves on its arched body, I bought the smaller pelican stone.

We took several minutes to quickly peek into the museum. We did not want to keep our driver waiting too long. I saw a well-organized chart that showed the layout of the land and the citadels (or royal compounds). There was also a model of the Tschudi palace (Nik An), which we had just visited. There were also artistic representations of Chan Chan, and even a portrayal of what a royal ceremony might have looked like. An aerial view of Nik An and its surroundings was my favorite.

It was well past lunch time when our driver drove us to El Sombrero restaurant for a bite to eat. The waiter recommended the soup of the day, Shambar soup, which was served only on Mondays. It was the most traditional meal of Trujillo. The blend of flavors from the many ingredients and seasonings of Spanish, Criollo and Andean cultures made the soup of legumes, wheat grains, fava beans, green peas, and chickpeas a very sumptuous meal.

The two smaller sites that were part of the combined ticket that we bought at Chan Chan were: (1) Huaca el Dragon, also known as Huaca Arco Iris, and (2) Huaca Esmeralda. Both of them seemed to be located on the outskirts of the ancient city of Chan Chan – Huaca el Dragon to the north and Huaca Esmeralda to the east.

Huaca el Dragon was located in the suburb of La Esperanza (Hope). A perimeter clay-adobe wall about 2 meters (6.5 feet) thick surrounded the ancient House of the Dragon, and the single entry gave the visitor access to well preserved platforms with adobe panels carved with dragons and rainbows. We did not ask for a guide, but the guardian of the restored huaca (or sacred place) told us that the legendary Tacaynamo stayed here when he arrived from somewhere across the ocean. When I saw the double-headed rainbow-arched serpent (or dragon), I realized I was looking at the ancient wisdom of the kundalini anthropomorphized into a Chimu-Moche motif. The serpent-power or energy of the spinal fluid in the curved (arched) spine flowed through two currents (masculine and feminine), represented by the heads of the dragon swallowing two human-like figures. This symbolic design of the double-headed dragon (kundalini) is repeated seven times on one wall of the temple, signifying the seven energy centers (chakras) through which the creative energy (kundalini) travels in the human body. This temple was definitely a place where the ancient Serpents of Wisdom (the Amarus) practiced the ancient dictum: “Be Wise as Serpents.”

What I loved about the anthropomorphized kundalini design was that it seemed to be a teaching tool that the shamans or priest-kings probably used when they taught initiates how to contact the mystical serpent-power of the Andean underworld (the ancestors and the inner world). Symbols of the dual current in the human body seemed to be repeated; a two-headed character under the rainbow-arch represented the warm and cool currents of energy that formed the duality within man – and within the Peruvian coast, where the physical cool and warm currents were manifest. The waves of energy on the rainbow-arch curved to the left and the right, signifying the flow of energy on both sides of the body.

The Huaca Esmeralda (Emerald) also had a protective perimeter wall. The huaca was made of two superimposed platforms. Even though the friezes at this temple had not yet been restored, it was clear from the original reliefs that the same fishnet designs and marine animals, like the sea otter, were sculpted here as they were in the Nik An (Tschudi) palace in Chan Chan.

I had fun playing with the Peruvian hairless dogs that greeted me at the entrance. One of them wanted to wrestle with me, and I didn’t mind putting that warm dog in a playful wrestling hold. I was glad to hear that the Peruvian dogs had been declared a national heritage in 2000 and were encouraged to greet the tourists at the national cultural sites.

The next day was a day of rest and relaxation for us. Susie got her wish. We took a local bus for a fourteen kilometers ride to the famous beach at Huanchaco. Huanchaco still had the look and feel of an ancient fishing village. The famous “Caballitos de Totora” (small horse reed boats) were on display along a stretch of the beach. They were standing upright against the seawall in order to dry out and make them buoyant when they were put back into the water. Fishermen, standing beside the caballitos, were spreading out their fishnets and mending them. Susie sat on one of the caballitos, and she tried to convince me to take a ride on one of them out in the ocean. I didn’t feel adventurous.

However, I remembered a book I had read about an adventurous man named Gene Savoy, who built a boat of totora reeds and bamboo at Huanchaco with the help of expert Peruvian boat builders. Gene Savoy wanted to prove he could sail the boat from Peru to Mexico in imitation of ancient seafaring people. He believed there had been contact between the civilizations of Mexico and Peru in the distant past. He saw the stories of Quetzalcoatl and Viracocha as evidence for long seafaring journeys. He could have added the stories of Naylamp and Tacaynamo to that list of legendary seafaring journeys. The story of Gene Savoy’s seafaring journey is told in his book On the Trail of the Feathered Serpent.

Our relaxing day at the Huanchaco beach resort included a long walk along the semicircular beach to watch the waves and surfers roll in, a stroll on the town’s malecon (boardwalk) to see the shops and colonial-style buildings, and an excursion out on the 108 meters long “El Muelle” (pier) to watch the fishermen. From the pier we could see the prominent white church of the Virgin of Candelaria on the hilltop.

The highlight of the day was probably our meal in one of the restaurants with a view that lined the malecon (boardwalk). Susie was determined to try the local favorite – ceviche – even though she usually was strict about her vegetarian life-style. The dish of ceviche she ordered for us had chunks of marinated-in-lime sea bass along with yuca (manioc) and Andean white corn. There were other dishes that the chef had us sample, including an appetizer plate of roasted corn nuts. We probably spent over an hour savoring our food and looking out at the beautiful view of palm trees, ocean waves, and street activity from the second-story outdoor patio. It definitely was a pleasant way to spend a relaxing day at the beach, with the soothing sound of the ocean in the background.

When we finally were ready to leave the ancient fishing village of Huanchaco, where the Moche and Chimu civilizations had their golden age, Susie wanted to make sure we took a ride in one of the colorful buses back to Trujillo. The red and yellow colors of a fiery sun adorned the bus that arrived for Susie’s photo opportunity. She stood on the first step of the bus entrance while the cordial ticket collector waited for Susie to have her tourist-photo taken.

Back in Trujillo, “the City of Eternal Spring,” we revisited the city center, Plaza Mayor, and made our final walk through some of the familiar streets. The Plaza Mayor had a giant marble and bronze monument dedicated to the heroes of the wars of independence (from Spanish colonial rule). The stepped-platform led to an eight-directional sculpture of eight figures which represented art, science, agriculture, husbandry, commerce, education, slavery, and liberation. An obelisk in the middle of the monument was crowned by a young man standing on a globe and holding a torch of liberty.

A sight-seeing walk through the streets was always exhilarating, with unexpected visual and auditory stimulations at every step. It was a new world and an old world simultaneously, where the Peruvian-Spanish culture and history mingled with the Moche-Chimu culture and history. The faces of the people we looked at were descendants of ancient cultures. The memory of the ancestral past was their inheritance.

One face that seemed to jump out at us from an artistic portrayal on a sidewalk was the face of “Che” – the controversial revolutionary of Latin America. A young artist proudly displayed his chalk drawing. He was glad to get a small tip for his effort. The realistic portrayal of Ernesto “Che” Guevara caused Susie and me to reflect on our divergent viewpoints of a person who seemed to embody all the characteristics of the ancestral past and the contemporary man of Latin America. Both of us had seen the movie about Che’s journey through South America – “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Susie saw him as a hero of the poor and the oppressed workers, a freedom fighter fighting against capitalistic exploitation and for workers’ rights. I saw him as a rebel, and a visionary, who rebelled against the present conditions and world order and instigated his fellow comrades to create a new world, where a united Hispanic America would become an empire to rival the United States of America. It was as if he wished to resurrect something similar to the Inka empire, which would expand its power and influence throughout the four quarters of South America.

As our time in Trujillo was winding down, we paused one last time at the original entry to the city, where a restored arch with two side arched walkways stood in its majestic glory. This was the same arched entryway through which the Spanish conquistadors Diego de Almagro and Francisco Pizarro marched. Their names were carved on the monument wall to the left of the central arch, as was the mention that this happened during the time of the Chimu Kingdom. The date to the left of the city of Trujillo coat of arms said MDXXXIV (1534). The coat of arms showed a mythological creature – an eagle (top part) and a lion (bottom part) – holding a shield with a jeweled gold crown on top of two white columns, and the letter K (for King Karolus or Charles) on a blue background. A lot of history had passed by since then, with the Spanish empire crumbling after the call for independence in 1820. Kingdoms come and go, and empires come and go, but their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of the descendents.

In the morning we got on a bus and began our long 553 kilometers (344 miles) journey to Lima. We would sleep overnight in Lima and fly out the next day to La Paz, Bolivia. We would not have time for any sight-seeing in Lima. That would have to wait for our return to Lima after our four-day hike on the Inka trail to Machu Picchu – the peak of our pilgrimage.

Map of Trujillo and archaeological sites

Lord of Sipan
Moche slide show
Chan Chan