Slave tunnels in Chincha, Peru

By Erin Hancock

So after spending a month in Lima studying Spanish, finding our local hangouts, making some new friends and making the most of our membership at Gold´s gym it was time to see more of the country.

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Gold´s Gym, Miraflores, Lima

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Peruwayna Language School, Miraflores, Lima (Gracias Melisa! Tu eres una buena profesora!)

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So Erin and Julia bid farewell to Jackson (who landed a chiropractic gig in Huancayo, northeast of Lima!) and the girls headed south.

 

Chincha Slave Tunnels

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Heading 200 kms south of Lima, you arrive in Chincha. The town is most known for a gorgeous property named Hacienda San Jose with an important history (in fact just on the outskirts of Chincha). Underground, beneath Hacienda San Jose is home to what tourists call the ‘Chincha Slave Tunnels’ — a series of nearly 20kms of tunnels accessible from the property. By this name one would hope that some amazing history exists – perhaps of slaves digging a tunnel to escape their slave masters and making a new, free life. That was what we hoped to learn when visiting the plantation (now an upscale hotel hosting some of Peru’s fanciest weddings). However, the story is a much sadder one.

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Starting on a tour through the home and adjoining church, one sees the opulent life of the plantation owners (cotton and sugar were the main crops). The hacienda has been set up to showcase how the property looked in the 18th century, at the time when the property hosted a huge cohort of African slaves.

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After heading to an entrance to the underground tunnels, you can explore a portion of the tunnels….enough to lose your tour group! The reason why they are so long – mainly to bring slaves from the shore at night (who arrived by boat) to the hacienda 17 kms from shore, thus avoiding the port authorities charging a tax on the slaves. The other reasons include providing a safe haven for the slave owners if they needed to escape danger, a safe place to store riches if needed as well as catacombs to bury the bodies of slaves (again, thus under-reporting how many slaves were actually on the property). One gets a chill when entering the dusty, dark tunnels so it’s imperative to have a reliable light. Your mind can run wild with you as you think about the history, while listening to the echoes of others in the tunnels and finding shadows at every turn.

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Knowing this history, you might think it would be hard for someone to want to vacation on the property or give their wedding vows, but the vacancy rate is very low. The beauty of the property wins people over. At times you might even think you´re on a plantation in Georgia. Today the town/region remains a hub of Afro-Peruvian culture and history.

 

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