Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Trujillo: Homeland Of Conquistadora The Explorer

Trujillo, Spain (Trujillo, España)
November 2015
You may have heard of a Trujillo in Peru as it's the third largest city in the country. With a population of over 800,000, it stands in stark contrast to old Trujillo in Spain.
In the early 1500's, adventurers seeking their fortune known as conquistadors set out on the long sea voyage to the New World. One of the most well known was Francisco Pizarro from Trujillo, who decided to conquer the Incan Empire and steal all of their precious metals. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he appealed directly to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V for funding and soon was gathering a horde of family and friends to take on Peru afresh. Unfortunately, their plan largely worked - with some setbacks. Pizarro abducted the Incan emperor, but went against the rest of his party's wishes when he executed him. Hadn't he heard of a bargaining chip?! No matter, the empire fell even with Pizarro's uselessly deceased hostage. They named a settlement after their hometown, and Pizzaro even founded the capital, Lima.

Back in the present day, the Trujillo of Spain is home to less than ten thousand inhabitants. Though it is small, the riches brought back from Central and South America mean that palaces litter the old town. Everywhere you look, there's a palace or church or statue (or castle, but we'll get to that later).
The most prominent statue on the main square is that of - guess who! - Francisco Pizarro, who brought much glory of conquest for Spain. The story goes that the American sculptor actually was representing Hernán Cortés (a distant cousin of Pizzaro who conquistadorially caused the downfall of the Aztec empire - what a duo). Allegedly the artist tried to gift the statue to Mexico, but you can imagine that didn't go down well, so he rebranded and sent the statue to Trujillo with the plaque reading Pizarro.

Passing through the tightly packed cars parked all over the plaza, we found a little restaurant serving a €15 three-course menu on a quiet street and relaxed a while sipping red wine.

We were feeling very sleepy post-meal, so we sluggishly traversed a few streets, wondering at the many fortified residences that had been built by powerful families (who were prone to a good feud every now and then). We climbed atop one and dangled our legs over the side, basking in the warm sun. The roof we had commandeered had three wells so that the inhabitants didn't have to leave the safety and comfort of their mansion to relieve their parched lips.


Many of the streets were of medieval size (i.e. almost too narrow for modern cars). At one point we flattened ourselves against a wall as a van navigated an acute turn and then hurtled down the street towards us, its driver talking on the phone with one hand and holding an interrupted cigarette in the hand that controlled the wheel. Mad skillz.

A strikingly piratey image of Francisco de Orellana shows that conquistadoring is a sure cause of premature ageing as he was only 35 when he died (though historians debate this, some putting the birth year closer to 1490). Having ventured to the Americas with Pizarro, Orellana led the first full navigation in recorded history of the Amazon River. He had fifty men with him, whom he ordered to build the boat, and from start to finish the trip took about ten months. The river was named Rio de Orellana for his troubles, though we know it as the Amazon today due to his exploits as well. At some stage along the journey, his men were attacked by a Tapuya tribe which had traditionally always had women fighting alongside men as warriors. Taking a cue from Herodotus, he referred to these women as Amazonas.

Feeling just barely more awake, we managed to walk up to the 10th-century Moorish castle on the hill. The original style and structure has been kept mostly the same, though it was rebuilt by the Christians in the 13th-century.

Now it's not the most beautiful castle I've seen (cough château de Belcastel cough), but it is intimidating.

Because it stands at the highest point in the town, views over the surrounding rooftops are well worth the walk up. From here we could even see the enormous stork nests that sat like shoulder pads on nearby towers.

The ramparts, archways and buildings constructed on top of solid rocky cliff foundations made the whole town charming. It felt even more untouched and authentic than Cacéres. I sat with drooping eyelids by the Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor for a bit and pondered why the rest of the world hasn't adopted the idea of the siesta.

Today's post was almost called: The Curse of Trujillo - Incantations of Devastation