Doug and I recently traveled to Trujillo to get new glasses. While there, we visited with friends and, inevitably, the conversation came around to the devastating rains from the El Ñino event of recent months. Trujillo suffered greatly, with much of the city flooding. Homes, businesses, land parcels and cemeteries were destroyed and left thousands of people homeless. In Trujillo, 1400 homes were destroyed and more than 100 people were killed. Our friends joined others in bringing water and essentials such as food, diapers, and clothing to those effected. Even though many were just trying to survive each day and sleeping in the mud, the thing they asked for the most was clean drinking water.
I kept hearing the word ¨huaico¨in conversations about the rains, and had been trying to figure out what it meant. It wasn´t in my Spanish-English dictionary and Google searches yielded nothing. Initially, I thought it must be a landslide as people would often point to the hills when referring to the huaico. It refers to a watershed; starting in the mountains and gathering throughout various gullies leading down into the relatively flat terrain of the coast. Huaico refers not only to the mudslides, overflowing rivers, and flooding but the cumulative effect of all the torrential rains flowing toward the coast in the watershed system. Huaico is a Quechua term used to describe the flash floods that bring water, mud and rocks down from the mountains with tremendous force and speed. The huaico drags down everything in it´s path causing damage and destruction. The phenomenon is not unusual during the rainy season in the Andes mountains averaging less than 60 a year throughout Perú. This year the rains have caused at least 600 huaicos.
The city of Trujillo is built within the path of a huayco. It is the reason why the rains were so devastating to the city. Interestingly enough, ancient ruins of the Chimú culture were virtually untouched and unaffected. Our friends told us of a legend which claims the Chimú people were influential in the Spanish conquistadors locating the city of Trujillo. The Chimú had been conquered by the Incas by 1470. The Spanish conquistador, Pizarro, came into Perú in search of gold and riches and had conquered the Incas by the mid 1520´s and early 1530´s. At the time, some Chumú were still living and were able to inform Spanish chroniclers. The punchline of the legend is the Chimú people, knowing full well the location of the huayco, recommended the site to the Spaniards who they saw as conquerors.
My next post will give a brief history of the Chimú whose capital city, Chan Chan, is Doug´s favorite historical site in Perú.