This morning we went to the biggest attraction in Arequipa, Monasterio de Santa Catalina. It´s a huge compound, a walled city within a city, with gorgeous colonial-style architecture, colours and plants inside. In some courtyards, the walls painted bright blue, bright red flowers in the center, there is a view of a snow-covered volcano in the distance.
This monastery has a bizarre history. Wealthy Europeans would send their daughters there for a high fee - the greater the donation, the posher the girl´s living quarters would be. These Dominican nuns were not allowed outside the convent, but each had her own lavishly appointed home, plus female slaves. The slaves had to follow all the convent rules, but were not allowed to become nuns.
This went on for about 300 years, until Rome sent a real Dominican nun to clean up their act. The slaves were freed, and given the option to remain as part of the order if they chose. The privileged nuns were put into dormitories and made to do their own cooking and cleaning, which, as you might imagine, was quite a shock. And the convent was ordered to help the poor people in the surrounding town, and in general, do what real Dominican nuns do.
The convent is still active today, the nuns living in the 30% of the compound not open to tourists.
Now we´re bumming around Arequipa until it´s time for our overnight bus for Nazca. It´s gorgeous weather here - warm and sunny, not a cloud in the sky - which we hear is the case every day, for 11 months. It would be perfect if it weren´t for those earthquakes.
See you from the other side of the Nazca lines.
A few photos of Arequipa and the monastery here.