Monday, June 29, 2015

A Sunday afternoon in the city of Eten

This was a good weekend. Saturday we had dinner at the home of some old friends and met one new friend. We hope to see you again soon, Dustin. And then there was the question of what to do with Sunday. We’ve been to Eten a couple of times for specific reasons but never really looked at the city. Although winter has officially arrived in Peru, the temperature in Eten on this day was in the high 80’s with a brilliant, blinding sun. The breeze from the Pacific Ocean brought no relief.

A Wikipedia article places the population of Eten at about 2500 inhabitants. I would guess that it’s probably twice that figure. The area has been inhabited for many years. Moche and Chimu descendants were there to greet the conquering Incas and a century later the colonizing Spaniards.

In 1660 a Tsunami destroyed the town, probably not for the first time. Most of the survivors moved to higher ground a mile to the northwest and rebuilt the town. All that remains of the old Eten are the ruins of St. Mary Magdalene church.

A very short distance from the old church is the chapel of Divino Niño del Milagro, a site that is revered throughout all Peru. It was widely reported at the time and is firmly believed to this day that the child Jesus appeared twice at this site in 1649; first on June 2nd and then again on July 22nd. There was a steady stream of believers to visit the chapel on this Sunday afternoon. In 2009 a cemetery was discovered in front of the chapel containing the remains of 500 burials dating back to the mid 1500s.  The site was excavated from 2009 through 2011.

And speaking of burials, Maribel was told she has relatives buried in the city cemetery so we checked it out. Like most small town cemeteries it has islands of elaborate family mausoleums like this one…

…scattered among burials in community mausoleums; most of them ancient and no longer maintained. This section with burials dating in the 1920s and 30s appears to have collapsed some time ago but there has been no attempt to clean the area or deal with human remains, as evidenced by the rib cage, craniums and others bones mixed in with the rubble. The coffins were of metal, wood, or simply woven baskets. This is not the first time we’ve seen these conditions and it puzzles me. This culture has a strong reverence for the dead and yet these remains are left to lie there.

On a less somber note, in addition to the chapel of Divino Niño del Milagro, Eten has another claim to fame…the world’s largest straw sombrero that I am told is in the Guinness book of records but haven’t been able to substantiate. The sombrero is kept in a private home that we were told was closed on Sundays. The principal park has a large concrete sombrero as a center piece but it’s not an attention grabber.

Eten has a large produce market under roof and also an artisan park on a boulevard running the length of four blocks, unfortunately also closed on this day.

We’ll be going back to Eten soon, only this time on a weekday. We want to see what the artisans have to offer, and I know I won’t be at peace until I’ve seen the world’s largest sombrero.

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