20 September 2012

Trujillo day three: prancing horses and faded puppets

Holidays can be times of blissful relaxation or of intense activity; mine in northern Peru was mostly the latter, as we tried to see as much as possible in the little time we had. But, on this one day, there was no annoying alarm to wake us up, no early morning bus to catch, no reason to scramble quickly out of bed and into the shower, which was heaven!

After a leisurely breakfast at the cafĂ© next door and a wander to the plaza for Sarah to top up her money from an ATM, we popped in to the tour agency adjacent to our hotel to see what other tours were on offer around Trujillo. We’d already done the main touristy things – the archaeological tours – but there was one other short tour available, to see the world-famous-in-Peru pacing horses.

So, off we headed. Unfortunately, the whole thing was in Spanish and, as our vocabulary didn’t include anything remotely equine, it wasn’t easy to follow what exactly was going on, though one of the other tourists kindly helped out a little. It started with an explanation about the horses themselves: they are quite small in stature and their claim to fame is that they run/walk like pacers, with both legs on one side moving at the same time as opposed to right front and left back, followed by left front and right back like normal horses. This gait makes their movement look very elegant and means that the rider doesn’t bob up and down as much as on a normal horse. Horses are not native to Peru – they were originally introduced to South America by the Spanish – so I’m not sure why or how their special gait developed.

There followed an explanation of the equipment used: a blanket; a rather rigid-looking saddle; eye pieces to calm skittish horses; a piece that sits over the horse’s rump and tail, with long straps that hang at the back; two bridles – not sure why – that bit was lost in translation; and two big wooden-box-like stirrups. To be honest, it all seemed quite heavy for the poor horse to carry around as well as its rider.

The rider normally wears a poncho and a sombrero, and the other tourists who decided to mount and walk the horses around all donned the full kit for their photo shoots. Sarah and I refrained. Next, the rider presented a riding-around-to-music display, then out came two dancers in traditional costume. These were the renowned Marinera dancers, a Peruvian coastal speciality with a national contest held in Trujillo every January. The girl was wearing a beautifully embroidered blouse/shirt dress (white with many colours, including peacock designs) and an over-skirt of purple satin, which was very full for flouncing around when dancing. She had traditional earrings with Moche designs and wore her hair in two braids, decorated with flowers, She said something about the meaning of the hair – maybe one particular style design for married women, one for single, one for having a boyfriend? I think the stripes on the girl’s belt also had a meaning but, again, there was much I couldn’t understand.

The youth was more plainly dressed, in a white ruched shirt, plain trousers and wide sash-type belt. The pair danced together, and with the horse and man also prancing around. It appeared that the girl was making amorous advances towards both her partner and the rider; her gestures were certainly flirtatious. The whole performance was charming but I wish I could have understood more of the meaning behind what was happening.

After another hearty lunch back in Trujillo, we wandered the streets taking photos and then visited the local toy museum, El primero museo de jugete en Latinamerica – truth be told, probably the only toy museum in South America. It was small, but interesting, and a definite blast from the past for older visitors like me. I recognised a Singer sewing machine and a tin whistle that I had as a child. There were lots of dolls, some very old, dating from the sixteenth century, and a doll’s house furnished in the style of the 50s and 60s. There were also lots of metallic model cars and trains – I’m sure collectors on The Antiques Roadshow would give their eye teeth to get hold of those. I recognised an old Meccano set, like one my brother used to have, and enclosed in a large glass case was a huge display of toy soldiers from England and France, dating from 1920-25.

The museum also had a separate display room for ancient, indigenous children’s toys and there was a skylight in the ceiling, from which hung many types of puppets, many old and dirty and in a sorry state of repair, not helped by their exposure to sunlight. Many of the exhibits were in poor condition and deserved to be restored and conserved but, as this is a private museum with a mere 5-soles-per-person entrance fee, the chances of the collection being properly cared for are probably quite slim.

Next came the afternoon’s cake treat, followed by more wandering to burn off all those calories! Trujillo has such a delightful and photogenic inner city that it was a pleasure to just walk and click the afternoon away.

Trujillo Cathedral at night


  1. More fabulous writing and photos Annie, love the one of the dancer!

  2. Thank you, Shelley. Glad you enjoyed it.