Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 17, 2009

Trujillo’s Casonas Antiguas (Antique Homes)

We’ve been living on the outskirts of Peru’s third largest city for a few weeks now, and although we go into Trujillo to teach, Fairmail’s office is in the suburbs. So we don’t ever have to really go into Trujillo.

Pizarro, Trujillo's main shopping street

In Av. Pizarro the colonial buildings are only painted halfway up.

It’s big, and noisy. There are taxis honking, and cars veering to hit you, and it can be smelly, smoggy, and crowded. But yet….

Trujillo’s starting to grow on me. We’ve made a few trips in to see the old Colonial and Republican houses, the Casonas Antiguas, and I’ve become fascinated by the old city. Some cities tear down their history and replace it with condos (Seattle), some enshrine it by sealing off old homes and turning them into museums. Trujillo lives and works in its history.

You can see the history, painted on in thick layers that crack and peel, revealing intriguing glimpses of the past.

In Caja Nuestra Gente on Independencia 527, for example, although it’s the working offices of a bank you can walk through the centuries-old doorway and see frescoes painted on the wall, cracked but preserved.

Overlapping frescoes at Caja Nuestra Gente in Trujillo

Overlapping frescoes at Caja Nuestra Gente in Trujillo

Inside, the stuccoed and painted walls were replastered several times, and they have been restored as much as possible so that you can see the changing styles over the years—Grandmother had a preference for geometry, but the granddaughter prefers a simpler floral pattern.

Bankers in business suits bustle through on their way to lunch break, and customers wait in hundred-year-old rooms beneath antique cornices.

The courtyard of Palacio Iturregui

The Palacio Iturregui, now an exclusive club

Just up the road at 630 Independencia is Casa Ganoza Chopitea, which must have been stunning to see when it was at its peak. Its entire front would have been painted with a black and terracotta mudejar geometric design, only a few patches of which remain. The paintings on the facade are still mostly preserved—lovely pastel renderings of a feminine pair—and two lions perch high above the massive black doors.

The more I learn about these houses the more I want to know. Who lived there originally? Who sat on that windowsill? In my wanderings on the internet trying to find out more I came across this blog: Truxillo Daily Photo by a resident named Guice. She has some amazing photos of Trujillo’s old buildings and life there in general, and she documents her city with a curiosity that is gentle, playful, and lovely.

Slowly, I’m beginning to understand what it is she sees.




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