Plazas (City Squares) in Lima
Plazas or city squares are known in every culture around the world. As long as there have been settlements, villages or cities, there have been mostly central located places where the citizens came together. These public places were the center of urban life. In many cities the most important buildings like the city council or the main church are located at these plazas. Very typical for Peru you'll find in the middle monuments, statues or fountains. The city squares used to be the place for official declarations, executions, coronations and gatherings, but as well for all kind of social activities like festivities, processions, games, spectacles and celebrations. Located around were shops where everyone could satisfy their needs. The plazas represented the town itself, its power, influence and reputation.
As everywhere in the world also in Peru they had an important role in the economical development of every town. Lima is no exception. Its main square, the Plaza Mayor, for example was since Lima's foundation in 1535 the place for all sort of political, economical and social activities important for the town and its population. Other great plazas and parks never reached the importance of the Plaza Mayor but still fulfilled similar purposes.
Lima's Plazas Today
Today Lima's many plazas are a constant reminder of the colonial and republican history of the city. Many are beautiful restored and looked after; they still represent what Lima once has been, an influential and wealthy city in the Americas.
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The Plaza Mayor or Plaza de Armas (as it was known until 1990), is the oldest public place in Lima. In 1535 the conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded on the area of an existing indigenous settlement the city of Lima. He designed a main square in the central part of the future city Lima with all important institutions built around it.
The Plaza San Martin, inaugurated in 1921 to honour the first centenary of Peruvian independence, is one the largest and most beautiful squares in Lima. It is dedicated to General Jose de San Martin, a key leader for the struggle of independence in Southern America and together with Simon Bolivar the second liberator of Peru. He declared Peru's independence on the 28th of July 1821 and was voted the Protector of the newly independent nation.
The Plaza Bolivar is also known under the name Plaza de la Inquisiciòn and Plaza del Congreso. The plaza has seen a lot of Limas history. The original site was until 1949, when the Av. Abancay was extended and the plaza reconstructed, much bigger and housed during Colonial times the Iglesia de Santa Maria de La Caridad (a charity for the poor including a hospital), the old University of San Marcos and the Santo Tribunal of the Inquisition.
In the middle of the 18th century, Viceroy Manuel de Amat drew up plans for the construction of a special bullfight ring in Lima. Since 1538, when the first bullfight according to Ricardo Palma, famous Peruvian writer, took place, most bullfights spectacles were held on the Plaza Mayor and later at a simple wooden construction built on the place of the Plaza de Acho. The Plaza de Acho we know today was inaugurated in 1766 near the Rimac river.
Before the arrival of the Spaniards in Peru the place known today as the Plaza Italia was a very important ceremonial temple or huaca. Unfortunately the conquistadores destroyed this ancient site and build instead a plaza on this piece of land. In 1550 the "Iglesia Santa Ana" (Church of Santa Ana) was erected, a once glorious church that is still standing but lost its colonial beauty - back then the place was called "Plaza Santa Ana".
Dedicated to the Pacific War hero Admiral Miguel Grau, who lost his life in the Battle of Angamos, the "Plaza Grau" was officially inaugurated in October 1946. At the statue build with granite and bronze every year Peruvian Navy Officials lay a wreath to honour this grand captain of the Navy and all comrades who died during this terrible war.
The Plaza Bolognesi was constructed in 1906 and is dedicated to one of the many heroes of the Pacific War, Francisco Bolognesi, who lost his life next to a lot of loyal Peruvians during the Battle of Arica. The statue of Francisco Bolognesi in the middle of the circle was erected in 1954 (the original one from 1905 can be found in the Museo Historico Militar Real Felipe).
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