George reporting from Arequipa, Peru
16.05.2018 - 18.05.2018 71 °F
Arequipa is a very walk-able city except for when you have to
cross the street. Then you have to do what I've seen a few of the
senoras do, which is make the sign of the cross before stepping
off the curb. Some areas do not have as many cars and there
are interesting things to see. Near the Plaza de Armas, I visit
the Museo Santuarios Andinos which holds the 500 year old remains
of Ice Maiden known as Juanita. No pics are allowed but you can
google it. I hired a private tour guide for about 20 sols and learned
quite a lot about the events leading up to her ritual offering to
the volcano gods and was impressed with the level of detail in the
clothing and metal objects that were found along with her body. I
got to see the glass-encased Juanita up close and wondered if she
is a very distant relative though she would not be a direct one.
She was found on Mt. Ampato near Arequipa. By the way, do you know
where the name 'Arequipa' comes from? There are few theories but
the most popular is that it is Quechua/Aymara for "Let's Stay Here".
It is attributed to the ancient Incas who went from place to place
The next day I rented a car to visit Sabandia and later I suddenly
decided to drive up to the Arequipa Municipal Cemetery at the base of
Mt.Misti. It's a very big cemetery and it appears that the majority
of names seem more indigenous than Spanish in origin. As I walked
around and gazed up at the mountain, I could picture a procession
of priests leading little Juanita up the mountain to her ultimate
Ancestral Hiking to Sabandia
Today is another gorgeous day. A high of 71 degrees means it's
ideal weather to take a nice long walk from Arequipa into Sabandia to
pick up my father's official baptism document and to visit
the local attraction and the only cemetery in town.
I began my journey around 9am, catching a bus for 1 Sol (30 cents)
to the Iglesia de Santa Ana across from the Plaza de Paucarpata
located in the Jose Luis Bustamente District. From there, walk
down the small, cobblestone Calle Bolivar which has very little
traffic and seems to be one of the older streets in town. The
walk gives you a grand view of Sabandia, the terraced land and
the mountains which dominate the scenery.
The road winds through rural snapshots of cornfields and cattle land and you will
see some pretty old houses too.
The road eventually brings you to the main road into Sabandia and
to the welcome sign and fountain. Once you've entered into town,
it's about 5 minutes to the Molina de Sabandia sign which points
to the right towards the only attraction in this still very small
rural town. Sabandia (and Arequipa for that matter) looks pretty dusty
and desert like but as you get closer to the Molina/Mill, the
surroundings get lush and cool as you notice several canals carrying
water from Mt. Misti irrigate the entire area.
In about 15 minutes, you've reached the entrance to the Mill which
was renovated in the 1970s and would have appeared as a complete
ruin to my father when he was growing up. The mill is a quaint oasis
of water sounds, trees, grass and a little history about the mill. You
may need only 15 minutes to stroll and see it all but I see that it's
really an ideal place to bring a lunch and have a picnic. The also
have animals you can pet except for the one mean Vicuna which went
out of its way to spit at me! I spat back at it, "Take that Pishtaco
Vicuna!". There are small places to eat outside the mill and I make
a mental note.
Directly next to the Mill is a dirt road which you winds across a
small stream and takes you along a backroad through a couple of
horse corrals and past some huuugggeee bulls. These mammoth beasts
are fortunately chained for our protection but they represent a
major part of Sabandia culture--bullfighting. <>
10 minutes later you are back on the main Sabandia road. Turn left
and you will then be in Sabandia plaza where the municipal offices
are located adjacent to the Nuestra Senora del Rosario church
where Pedro Silverio Aguilar Flores was baptized on Nov. 24, 1924
by Father Jose Rebes. His godparents where Manuel B. Morales and
Dominga Bejarano. This event was witnessed by Francisco Guillen
and Juan Vaiza. Here is the official document I picked up there
along with a digital copy from the old book.
I was able to obtain this information the previous day with the help
of Onno, who runs the Happy Dreams Hostel I was staying at. He is
the adopted son of Oscar, the man I happened to meet while staying
at Casa Robles in LaPunta. I learned from Onno that Oscar had once
been mayor of the Bustamente district of Arequipa some 8 years ago.
What a connection to make!
Along with Onno, I was helped by Hermano Odo, the secretary of the
records at the church and he and Onno helped me scour the book
until we found Pedro Silverio's baptismal record which lists
his father as Tiribio Aguilar and mother Eduviges Flores. These
names match the few other documents my sister has so we are certain
this is him.
I was nervous and excited at the same time as we scanned these books
with the horrible handwriting and was worried we might not find anything.
But there it was! So for about 40 sols, Senor Odi retypes a new
document and affixes an official seal to it. Onno and I left in
my rental car and he decides we should just ask local people if
the know the Aguilar Family in town. We asked several folks and
even went door to door but the Aguilar name seemed to draw mostly
blanks from people. Everyone was really nice and as helpful as
possible but after awhile it felt like a wild goose chase. So, I
take us back to Arequipa and decide to come back the next day
to get the document and hit the only cemetery in Sabandia.
(Tip: If you rent a car in Arequipa, keep in mind that driving here
is a little like playing a videogame. Not only are street signs
non-existent and there is no posted speed limit, the driving mindset
is videogame-ish. At a typical four-way street with no stop signs, the
person "who is the strongest" has the right of way. I think in Lima,
the attitude is "person who is the craziest" has the right of way. So
driving in Arequipa is different than Lima in that regard.
So now I am back hiking and instead of going to pick up the baptism
record I turn right and walk about 10 minutes to the sign that
reads Cemeterio Sabandia. It's a short but steep walk up a cobblestone
road and right through the gates of the cemetery. The cemetery
has a beautiful view of Sabandia and the mountains but it is very
small. There are maybe less than 600 markers in the entire area so
I am able to look at each and every marker hoping to find a name
After awhile, I started to feel like a wild-eyed Eli Wallach
madly running to see every name in the cemetery where the
treasure is hidden in the movie The Good The Bad and The Ugly.
What I saw was these surnames appeared the most (the asterisk
represents surnames that appeared on some matches from our various
DNA testing services:
There were a handful with the names:
Here is the Translation of Pedro Aguilar's Baptism.
"In this holy parish church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Sabandia of
twenty-six November one thousand nine hundred and twenty four. I the
undersigned parish priest (Father Jose Rebes) baptize a child of two in the streams
declared maternal son of Toribio Aguilar and Eduviges Flores.
Precede by names Pedro Silverio and his godparents were
Don Manuel B. Morales and dona Dominga Bejarano. In order for this
creature to enjoy the privileges that Peruvian law grants to this
class of children, the father recognizes it and signs at the bottom
with the witnesses and the parish priest. In faith of which I sign.
Toribio Aguilar, Francisco Guillen, Juan Vaiza, Father Jose Rebes"
I believe I found the grave marker of one of dad's padrinos but did
not see a Tiribio or Eduviges as I had hoped. Perhaps they were
buried somewhere in Arequipa or another place? So far, I'm asking
myself more questions about why and when they came to Sabandia and
how long did they stay? Sabandia is (and was) primarily an
agricultral area utilizing pre-Inca farming methods. Could they
have been migrant workers? Did they live in Arequipa and have a
separate casa in Sabandia? The previous day, I learned (with the
help of Onno) that the municipal of Sabandia has no records prior
After leaving a small offering for Senora Bejarano (and a few others)
I head back down to pick up the new document only to find it closed
and won't reopen for 3 hours. I remember the food offerings at the
Mill and walk back down the dusty road and stop for food, drink and
a little rest in the nice sun of Sabandia.
I eventually get my official document and take the 1 sol bus ride
(about an hour) which drops me a block from hotel. I need to focus
a bit more on Arequipa now I think. xoxoox