City of Kings

20 January 2012


Lima is a labyrinth of five million — more or less a labyrinth; more or less five million. The traffic is chaotic, with streets crammed with taxis and minibuses, rarely moving but continuously honking their horns at each other. Thus the city is both visually and auditorially overwhelming. It is also surprisingly clean.

What I had heard about the historic center of Lima was not flattering, but it also wasn’t terribly justified in light of what I saw today. There are as many street sweeps here as in Sweden, and as a result the historical core is very well swept and very clean. The center was bustling with people, but it never felt dangerous — not even mildly so.

Lima is also called the “City of Kings” — not because a succession of kings reined here (although the power of the Viceregent of Peru was probably king-like in many respects during the glory days of the Vice-Royalty of Peru, the largest and the richest of the Spanish political entities in the New World) but rather because the city was founded on Epiphany, i.e., the Feast of the Three Kings. Just earlier this month Lima celebrated its urban “birthday” on Epiphany.

Lima deserves its “City of Kings” moniker not only because of its foundation on Epiphany, but also because of the monumentality of the historic center. Like a king, the center of Lima is larger than life. The Plaza Mayor is built to a grand and imposing scale, and the Plaza San Martin is scarcely less impressive. The only other city I have seen that can compare to Lima is this sense of enormity is Istanbul.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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