Peru is one of the most interesting countries in the world. The climate is ideal. The sun shines all day long and the weather is always fine. Yet there is no lack of water, for the rivers are fed by the snow which dissolves on the Andes, the mighty range of mountains that runs parallel with the coast from end to end of this delightful country. All kinds of fruit grow to perfection on the slopes of the Cordilleras—fruits of every clime, and the ordinary necessaries of life can be obtained for next to nothing. Perpetual Spring prevails in the valleys.
Up to 1824, what is now called Bolivia was included in Peru. In consequence of Sucre’s victory over the Spaniards on the plains of Ayacucho, December 9, 1824, the country gained her independence, and was divided into two separate Republics, viz. Upper Peru, or Bolivia, and Lower Peru, now considered Peru proper.
The mention of Peru makes one’s thoughts naturally turn to Lima, accounted the most fascinating city of South America, next to Mexico, and well named the City of Kings. I became acquainted with it, in the first instance, when I brought some horses over from Chile for Zervallo, C. Watson, and A. B. Leguia. To visit Lima had been to me a long-cherished wish.
Among the many interesting objects that attract attention is the beautiful cathedral, built by Pizarro, so it is said, after he had conquered the Incas. Queen Isabella of Spain sent him a fine statue of Santa Rosa, the patron saint of Lima, to place therein. Adjacent to it were a barrow of silver, worth 1000 marks, thirteen arrows, equalling 1002 marks, and twelve lamps, valued at 732 marks. The altar front was of silver, worth 297 marks, and 411 marks’ worth of the same precious metal was used to make the Virgin’s throne. Santa Rosa is rather more than life-size, and is reputed to be made of pure gold. 39,500 ounces of silver were distributed over this wonderful figure, in addition to 1406 diamonds, 624 rubies, 1179 emeralds, and a bewildering galaxy of amethysts, pearls, and topazes. Many of these gems have disappeared, filched from their resting place. Pizarro fenced the statue round with pure silver, taken from the Incas at the time of Atahualpa’s murder, the space thus set apart being about 20 ft. square.
Pizarro’s remains are preserved in a glass case in the cathedral, the door of which is mahogany. The conqueror of the Incas is shown dressed in full uniform, the head being secured to the body with silver wire.
No visitor should miss Zervallo’s fine picture gallery, which was bequeathed to him by his father, a grandee who had to leave Spain, because his political views clashed with those of the Government then in power. In his will the old nobleman stipulated that his son should never part with the collection for a less sum than £100,000. He was not to sell one picture, or two, or three; it must be the whole lot, or none, the sum thus realized to be invested, and held in trust for the Zervallo family. The collection is housed in a large building. Some of the most interesting pictures refer to incidents in the conquest of Peru by Pizarro. One, fresh in my memory, represents Atahualpa being carried on a litter to Caxamarca. It is a matter of history, that his great ancestor, Huayna Capac, built a wonderful road from Cuzco to Caxamarca, a distance of 1500 miles, levelling mountains and filling up valleys to do so. In places it was 40 ft. wide, and is to this day regarded as affording incontrovertible proof of the astounding engineering skill of the Incas.
An American once offered Zervallo £600 if he would give him the first refusal of the paintings, and close the picture gallery six months, in order that he, in the meantime, might try to induce his people in New York to purchase the contents. Zervallo complied with the request, but, much to the American’s regret, the deal never matured.
The captain of the Ingomar, a vessel I frequently travel upon, told me that, however often he called at Callao, he never failed to visit the Zoo at Lima for the purpose of seeing what he deemed the most magnificent lion he had ever cast eyes on. I quite agree with him. I have seen many lions in various public and private collections—including those in the Zoological Gardens, London—and in their native state in South Africa, but none to compare with the Lima specimen. Doubtless the lovely climate has a lot to do with it, for it suits him down to the ground. This majestic creature has a most imposing head and mane. His skin is sleek as silk, and, although he must be very old, he exhibits not the slightest trace of mange. I have known him twenty-two years, and more.