Friday, November 19, 2010

New life for a Glorious old Town

Walking through the town during my first visit in 2005 it was difficult to imagine that Zaña at one time rivaled Lima in wealth and grandeur and was being considered as the capital of Peru. Of course that was some 400 years ago, before pirates repeatedly looted and ravaged the city in the late 1600s, and a flash flood in 1720 completely destroyed the city, leaving only the massive Saint Augustine church standing.

Five years ago Zaña was the stereotypical ‘sleepy little village.’ Located 30 miles southeast of Chiclayo, burro drawn carts, sheep and cows competed with what little motor vehicle traffic there was for room on the dirt streets. The only sounds to be heard were the voices of playing children and barking dogs, along with the oohs and aahs of the occasional bus load of tourists appreciating the grand scale of the church ruins.

These days there is a different sound to the city. Dozens of pieces of heavy construction equipment bearing the name plates of Caterpillar and John Deere are the dominant sound as they tear up the dirt roads in preparation for concrete and asphalt. We were told that of the $15,000,000 allocated to the District of Zaña, a significant portion of that money is being used to replace the city’s dirt streets. And we can testify that every single square foot of every single street is under construction. In great wisdom or folly, the city administration decided to do the entire town at once. The work began last June and is on schedule to be completed by the end of December.

We were also told that $1,700,000 has been allocated to remodel and add on to the existing school – already large compared to schools in similar sized communities. While I have a hard time believing the financial numbers given to us, there is no doubt that the school has been upgraded substantially.

And it’s not just the school and roads getting attention. The city hall has also been remodeled. As we toured the offices we noticed that all of the furniture including desks, chairs, and file cabinets are new…very different from the typically dilapidated furniture usually found in village municipal offices.

The renovation is being done to bring needed modern services to the city, and also to encourage new commerce and increase tourism. I’m not sure that new business and increased tourism will result from modern roads, but there is no doubt that traffic will increase and soon the horns and engines of mototaxis and taxis will dominate the senses. I guess that’s progress. For me…I’m going to miss the sound of the little bell on the lead goat’s neck and the sight of the young child directing the procession of animals down Main Street.


1 comment:

  1. Tom - I have always enjoyed reading your blogs
    I have recently found some very interesting stories that you might also enjoy. They are blogs from Peace Corp volunteers in Peru (and all over for that matter). These kids are usually the only gringo in town (sound familiar) and the stories they tell are a great read.

    maybe some day for a little road trip you might go out and meet them - they are in some far out little villages