Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Santa Catalina Monastery

Fun Fact: Arequipañan garbage trucks will blast a steel-drum version of ¨Under the Sea¨from the Little Mermaid.

View inside the Santa Catalina Monastery.

After class we headed to the Santa Catalina Monastery, a nunnery from the Spanish Conquest. Once initiated into the nunnery, the junior nuns, some as young as 12, were locked in their holdings all day, every day. They were let out twice a day, and a small window was opened to allow for the exchange of food and chamberpots. As many as 500 nuns lived in this mini-city at one time, and the monestary was opèned to the public in 1970. Now only 20 nuns occupy a newly renovated space, and they do not practice the fasting, self-flagellation, or such complete isolation as in the past.

The women had slaves until 1878, at which time the Popè outlawed individual rooms, at which time all of the nuns slept and worked communally. The laundary would be hung from the roof, which affords a wonderful view of the mountains.

The whole complex is in great condition although the reality of the conditions underwhich these girls lived under seems quite alien to my American conceptions of happiness.