Lima – Peru, South America
Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population fast approaching 9 million, Lima is the fifth largest city in Latin America, behind Mexico City, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Lima is home to one of the largest financial hubs in Latin America. It has been defined as a beta world city by GaWC international ranking.
Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as la Ciudad de los Reyes, or “the City of Kings”. It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today, around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area.
Lima is home to one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551 during Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas.
According to early Spanish chronicles the Lima area was once called Itchyma, after its original inhabitants. However, even before the Inca occupation of the area in the 15th century, a famous oracle in the Rímac valley had come to be known by visitors as limaq, which means “talker” in coastal Quechua). This oracle was eventually destroyed by the Spanish and replaced with a church, but the name persisted in the local language, thus the chronicles show “Límac” replacing “Ychma” as the common name for the area.
Modern scholars speculate that the word “Lima” originated as the Spanish pronunciation of the native name Limaq. Linguistic evidence seems to support this theory as spoken Spanish consistently rejects stop consonants in word-final position. The city was founded in 1535 under the name City of the Kings (Spanish: Ciudad de los Reyes) because its foundation was decided on January 6, date of the feast of the Epiphany. Nevertheless, this name quickly fell into disuse and Lima became the city’s name of choice; on the oldest Spanish maps of Peru, both Lima and Ciudad de los Reyes can be seen together as names for the city.
It is worth noting that the river that feeds Lima is called Rímac, and many people erroneously assume that this is because its original Inca name is “Talking River” (the Incas spoke a highland variety of Quechua where the word for “talker”. However, the original inhabitants of the valley were not the Incas, and this name is actually an innovation arising from an effort by the Cuzco nobility in colonial times to standardize the toponym so that it would conform to the phonology of Cuzco Quechua. Later, as the original inhabitants of the valley died out and the local Quechua became extinct, the Cuzco pronunciation prevailed. In modern times, Spanish-speaking locals do not see the connection between the name of their city and the name of the river that runs through it. They often assume that the valley is named after the river; however, Spanish documents from the colonial period show the opposite to be true.
The urban area of Lima covers about 800 km2 (310 sq mi). It is located on mostly flat terrain in the Peruvian coastal plain, within the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers. The city slopes gently from the shores of the Pacific Ocean into valleys and mountain slopes located as high as 500 metres (1,600 ft) above mean sea level. Within the city there are isolated hills which are not connected to the surrounding hill chains, such as El Agustino, San Cosme, El Pino, La Milla, Muleria and Pro hills. The San Cristobal hill in the Rimac district, which lies directly north of the downtown area, is the local extreme of an Andean hill outgrowth.
Metropolitan Lima has an area of 2,672.28 km2 (1,031.77 sq mi), of which 825.88 km2 (318.87 sq mi) (31%) comprise the actual city and 1,846.40 km2 (712.90 sq mi) (69%) the city outskirts. The urban area extends around 60 km (37 mi) from north to south and around 30 km (19 mi) from west to east. The city center is located 15 km (9.3 mi) inland at the shore of the Rimac river, a vital resource for the city, since it carries what will become drinking water for its inhabitants and fuels the hydroelectric dams that provide electricity to the area. While no official administrative definition for the city exists, it is usually considered to be composed of the central 30 out of the 43 districts of Lima Province, corresponding to an urban area centered around the historic Cercado de Lima district. The city is the core of the Lima Metropolitan Area, one of the ten largest metropolitan areas in the Americas. Lima is the second largest city in the world located in a desert, after Cairo, Egypt.
Lima’s climate is mild and comfortable, despite being located in the subtropics and in a desert. Although classified as subtropical, Lima’s proximity to the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean leads to temperatures much cooler than those expected for a subtropical desert, and can be classified as a cool desert climate. It is neither cold nor very hot. Temperatures rarely fall below 12 °C (54 °F) or rise above 29 °C (84 °F) throughout the entire year. Two distinct seasons can be identified: summer, from December through April; and winter from June through October. May and November are generally transition months, with the warm-to-cool weather transition being more dramatic.
Summers are warm, humid and sunny. Daily temperatures oscillate between lows of 18 °C (64 °F) to 22 °C (72 °F), and highs of 24 °C (75 °F) to 29 °C (84 °F). Skies are generally cloud free, especially during daytime. Occasional coastal fogs during some mornings and high clouds during some afternoons and evenings can be present. Lima summer sunsets are well known for being colorful. As such, they have been labeled by the locals as “cielo de brujas” (Spanish for “sky of witches”), since the sky commonly turns into shades of orange, pink and red around 7 pm. Winter weather is dramatically different. Gray skies, breezy conditions, high humidity and cool temperatures prevail. Long (1-week or more) stretches of dark overcast skies are not uncommon. Persistent morning drizzle occurs occasionally from June through September, coating the streets with a thin layer of water that generally dries up by early afternoon. Winter temperatures in Lima do not vary much between day and night. They range from lows of 12 °C (54 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F) and highs of 16 °C (61 °F) to 19 °C (66 °F), rarely exceeding 20 °C (68 °F) except in the easternmost districts.
As the major point of entry to the country, Lima has developed an important tourism industry, characterized by its historic center, archeological sites, nightlife, museums, art galleries, festivals, and popular traditions. Lima is home to an ample range of restaurants and bars where local as well as international cuisine is served.
The Historic Center of Lima, made up of the districts of Lima and Rimac, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988 due to its importance during the colonial era leaving a testimony to architectural achievement. Some examples of this historical colonial architecture include the Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral, Covenant of Santo Domingo, the Palace of Torre Tagle, and much more.
A tour of the city’s churches is a popular circuit among tourists. A short jaunt through the central district goes through many churches dating from as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, the most noteworthy of which are the Cathedral of Lima and the Monastery of San Francisco, said to be connected by their subterrestrial catacombs. Both of these churches contain paintings from various schools of art, Sevilian tile, and finely sculpted wood furnishings.
Also notable is the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas, the point of origin for the Lord of Miracles, whose festivities in the month of October constitute the most important religious event in Lima, and a major one of Peru. Some sections of the Lima City Walls still remain and are frequented by tourists. These examples of medieval Spanish fortifications were built to defend the city from attacks by pirates and privateers. Beaches are visited during the summer months, which are located along the Pan-American Highway, to the south of the city in districts such as Lurin, Punta Hermosa, Santa María del Mar (Peru), San Bartolo and Asia. Many restaurants, nightclubs, lounges, bars, clubs, and hotels have developed in said places to cater to beachgoers.
The suburban districts of Cieneguilla, Pachacamac, and the city of Chosica, are important tourist attractions among locals. Because they are located at a higher elevation than Lima, they receive more sunshine in winter months, something that the city of Lima frequently lacks under seasonal fog.
Lima is known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas. A center of immigration and the center of the Spanish Viceroyalty, Lima has incorporated unique dishes brought from the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and many waves of immigrants: African, European, Chinese, and Japanese. Besides international immigration—a large portion of which happened in Lima—there has been, since the second half of the 20th century, a strong internal flow from rural areas to cities, in particular to Lima. This has strongly influenced Lima’s cuisine with the incorporation of the immigrant’s ingredients and techniques (for example, the Chinese extensive use of rice or the Japanese approach to preparing raw fish). The genres of restaurants in Lima include Creole food, Chifas, Cebicherias, and Pollerias. Peruvian cuisine, widely represented in Lima, holds various Guinness World Records, for its diversity and quality.
Lima is served by the Jorge Chávez International Airport, located in Callao (LIM). It is the largest airport of the country with the largest amount of domestic and international air traffic. It also serves as a major hub in the Latin American air network. Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport is the fourth largest air hub in South America. The airport, however it is the base for the largest cargo hub in the continent. Additionally, Lima possesses five other airports: the Las Palmas Air Force Base, Collique Airport, and runways in Santa María del Mar, San Bartolo and Chilca.