Tuesday, January 18, 2011

World City-Zen: Lima


On this day in 1535 the city of Lima - currently the capital of and largest city in Peru - was founded by Francisco Pizarro (shown below, at right) in the fertile area at the mouth of the Rímac River. Following Pizarro's war against the Inca Empire, which came to an end after his defeat of the Inca ruler Atahualpa, he cast his eyes about for a suitable place to build a capital from which he could rule these conquered lands on behalf of the Spanish Crown. Although originally he wanted to build it at Jauja, he was convinced to find a place closer to the ocean to benefit trade, and he settled on Lima - which he initially named Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings) - forty miles north of the old Inca city of Pachacamac.

PhotobucketThe city was laid siege to in August 1536 by Manco Inca, as part of an abortive rebellion against Spanish rule; following heavy fighting in the streets of the new settlement, Pizarro's troops prevailed. In November 1536 the Spanish Crown confirmed the founding, and the city was granted its coat of arms by Spanish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in December 1537.

As the city flourished due to trade, it was granted a diocese in 1541* - the same year Pizarro was assassinated by Don Diego de Almagro there; in turn Lima became the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru and site of a Real Audiencia in 1543. Saint Mark University was established in May 1551, and the city's first printing press arrived in 1584.

The 17th Century held a mixed bag for Lima; growth and expansion tempered with total destruction following a pair of earthquakes in 1687 - one on October 20th and another on December 2nd. Still, the notion of a city is often stronger than its component parts, and so those residents who survived remained and rebuilt it. Ironically, the quake struck just as the Lima City Walls had been completed after three years of construction ordered by the city's viceroy Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull to protect the city and its residents from such external threats as pirates. The city was again destroyed by earthquake in October 1746, following which it was again extensively rebuilt by the then-viceroy José Antonio Manso de Velasco - who commissioned the foremost bullring in the country, the Plaza de toros de Acho of 1766, which is still extant.

The Bourbón Reforms - implemented by Charles III to strengthen Spain by more efficiently harvesting resources from their New World holdings - probably hurt more than they helped, and may have even hastened the end of the colonial era in South America. The transfer of authority of the mineral rich area of Upper Peru to the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata may have made economic sense, but was a deep humiliation to what was by then Peru's growing sense of nationhood. Although a royalist stronghold in the 1810s under viceroy José Fernando de Abascal y Sousa, as anti-colonial revolutions swept across Central and South America, during the Peruvian War of Independence of 1821-4, the city played an ambivalent role. By the time of the Battle of Ayacucho, though, while the country had gained its independence the city itself was just about defunct.

Owing mainly to blockades of the city by José de San Martín in the 1820s, after gaining its independence the city's economy was stagnant, although by the time of the War of the Pacific in 1879 the city was important enough - being the capital and all - to have been invaded and occupied by Chilean troops following Peru's lacklustre performance at the battles of San Juan and Miraflores. Oddly enough, it was massive exports of guano which returned the city to some semblance of prosperity.

In May 1940 Lima's old nemesis the earthquake made a return visit, reducing its many adobe and quincha dwellings to so much rubble; the rebuilding period coincided with an influx of people from the countryside, swelling the city's population, estimated at 600,000 in 1940, to 1.9M by 1960 and 4.8M by 1980. In 1993 the population stood at 6.4 million and is by now nearing 8.5 million, many of whom are housed in shanty towns called pueblos jóvenes. In fact, it is this image of so-called modern Peru which all too frequently pervades the North American media, but judging by the number of hits and the variety of search terms used, the truth is far more complex than that. Still, one-third of all Peruvians live in the capital; I imagine if 10 million people lived in Ottawa, things would be much the same there.

Nevertheless, following brutal dictatorships in the 1950s and 1960s through tremendous political upheaval throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Lima seems to have acquired some semblance of tranquility, and the city offers much to the sightseeing tourist, from the colonial architecture of the Monastery of San Francisco, the Cathedral of Lima and the Torre Tagle Palace to the more modern Museum of the Nation, all of which and more can be found behind the picture at the top of the post.

*Later upgraded to an archdiocese in 1546.

share on: facebook

POPnews (US) - January 18th

[It still boggles my mind that anyone could be stupid enough to believe terrorism in any form is even the slightest bit persuasive... Terrorism breeds defiance, not capitulation, you stupid fucks!]

1916 - A 611 gram chondrite type meteorite struck a house near the village of Baxter in Stone County, Missouri.

1964 - Plans for the new World Trade Center were unveiled.

1975 - Norman Lear's groundbreaking sitcom The Jeffersons made its television debut on CBS.

1993 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday was observed in all 50 states for the first time.

1998 - Matt Drudge broke the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal on his website, the Drudge Report; the Pop Culture Institute hopes to one day break a scandal regarding Matt Drudge on this website as a prime example of payback being a bitch.
share on: facebook

"Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins

Birthday wishes go out today to Tom Bailey - not merely one-third of Thompson Twins but also one of the first of those impossible celebrity crushes to which I am preternaturally disposed; there's just something about English guys, with their pasty skin and floppy hair, that makes me shudder like a jalopy on a gravel drive.

A n y w a y... Here we see the video for the band's biggest hit, Hold Me Now, which record I played so much I just about gave my mother a nervous breakdown. Fortunately her nerves were slightly more durable than vinyl and so she survived the ordeal*. The track originally appeared on the band's 1984 album Into the Gap.

Thompson Twins - Bailey, Alannah Currie, and Joe Leeway - had a few hits in the mid-80s, including Lies, King for a Day, and Lay Your Hands on Me, before disbanding in 1993. The band, of course, was named after Thomson and Thompson in Hergé's comic strip, The Adventures of Tintin.

*I'm only joking; it was having a gay son that just about gave my mother a nervous breakdown, and not his taste in music.

share on: facebook

Remembering... Al Waxman

Growing up (as I did) watching sitcoms, there simply weren't a lot of Canadian options out there; fortunately, one of the few was also one of the best. King of Kensington ran on the CBC during what would be my formative years - 1975-80 - and for at least a decade after that in reruns. Then, as these things happen, it simply disappeared into the vast wasteland of syndication never, or so I thought, to be seen again...

PhotobucketSo imagine my surprise when, one random day, I happened to be browsing at my local purveyor of DVDs and what should fall into my hands but Season One! As with any childhood entertainments revisited in adulthood, seeing the episodes again was a revelation. Their gentle humanism, paired with the low-key leftie idealism of the times, focused on the travails of Canada's burgeoning immigrant communities and obviously had a big hand in shaping my eventual attitude towards new Canadians; the episodes should still be considered mandatory viewing for those who feel the last good immigrant was whatever relative of theirs pulled up stakes in the old country in search of a better life in the new.

The show starred Al Waxman, a much-beloved figure wherever he went; the show traded on his good-guy persona, and would never have been the success it was without him. Waxman, of course, went on to star in Cagney & Lacey, for which role many Americans will remember him still. (He also appeared in Louis Malle's 1980 film Atlantic City, and numerous other films besides.)

When Waxman died suddenly, on this day in 1991, the Canadian press was filled with tributes, as will happen; even more telling of his popularity is the monument to him erected at Bellevue Square Park in Toronto's Kensington Market, the neighbourhood in which he was born and later reigned as King.
share on: facebook

In Memoriam: Cary Grant

Cary Grant was the quintessential movie star: suave, poised, utterly commanding of every scene and shot he was in; for more than thirty years and over the course of dozens of movies - many of which are still fondly remembered and those that aren't just waiting to be rediscovered - he was the pinnacle of male glamour on the American screen.

PhotobucketBorn on this day in 1904, he was originally a circus performer, walking on stilts for the impresario Bob Pender; he jumped troupe in 1922 when they returned to England, and by 1931 was a sought-after romantic lead (or 'juvenile') on the New York stage.

Having honed his unique persona and voice on the stage, he did what most well-honed stage performers did in those days, and went to Hollywood. Although not his first movie, the one that first brought him attention was 1932's Blonde Venus, with Marlene Dietrich. His career was given a further boost when he was cast opposite Mae West in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (both 1933) which at the time were credited as having saved Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy.

With that he was off, and nothing - not even the occasional clunky script or chemistry-free costar - could stop him. Thereafter his resume reads like a master-class in Hollywood cinema: Bringing Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell, and The Awful Truth with Irene Dunne are just three of his great roles and onscreen romances.

Offscreen, of course, the romances didn't always wrap up nicely in the third act; he was married to Virginia Cherrill, Barbara Hutton, Betsy Drake, Dyan Cannon, and in turn divorced from all of them. His fifth and final wife Barbara Harris was with him when he died, in November 1986.
share on: facebook

Pop History Moment: Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York


Shortly after the Duke of Richmond became Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, the Lancastrian usurper sought to heal the deep divide in England caused by the Wars of the Roses by marrying the Yorkist Princess, Elizabeth of York. In uniting the red rose of the Lancasters with the white rose of the Yorks was the Tudor Dynasty born.

The Princess was already with child when, on this day in 1486 she and her King approached the altar of Westminster Abbey; the promise he had made at the altar of Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day two years earlier - that if he should become King he would marry her - was made good. As was his promise to crown her Queen once she had borne him a son, which she duly did in September of that year.

Though theirs was a dynastic marriage it seems to have coalesced into a love bond; unlike most Kings, Henry VII had no mistresses, attended Mass thrice daily, and used the vast wealth of his Nation to aid the indigent and support the arts. As his was a throne by right of conquest (as opposed to inheritance) Henry knew he was treading on unsteady ground, and so sought in all ways to secure the good graces of the nobility and the people throughout his reign.

Although he briefly considered remarriage when Elizabeth, worn out from her eighth childbirth, died in February 1503 he did not; at his own passing in April 1509 he joined her in the gilt-bronze tomb he'd commissioned for them (from the Florentine sculptor Pietro Torrigiano) as the centrepiece of the Henry VII Chapel in the selfsame Abbey where just two dozen years earlier they'd been joined in life.
share on: facebook

POPnews - January 18th

[Normally Tagish Lake in Canada's Yukon is as tranquil as this picture would suggest; certainly it was just before it was struck by a meteorite on this day in 2000, and indeed it would be again after more than 500 fragments - most the size and with the appearance of charcoal briquettes scattered over the lake's Taku Arm - had been gathered up and analyzed. Initially as large as 4 metres in diameter and weighing 56 tonnes, less than a quarter of the meteorite was ever recovered, suggesting it had experienced significant vaporization upon entering the Earth's atmosphere.]

474 CE - Leo II became Byzantine Emperor following the death of his grandfather Leo I; his reign would last just ten months, and after his suspicious death there were rumours he'd been poisoned by his mother Ariadne so her husband Zeno could become emperor, which he did.

1126 - Emperor Huizong abdicated the throne of China in favour of his son, Emperor Qinzong.

1213 - Georgia's Queen regnant Tamar died; she was succeeded by her son, George IV.

1471 - Japan's Emperor Go-Hanazono died; he'd already abdicated in favour of his son - who reigned as Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado - in 1464.

1591 - King Naresuan of Siam killed Crown Prince Minchit Sra of Burma in hand-to-hand combat - albeit while riding war elephants - which event is now observed as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day.

1701 - Frederick I, formerly the Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, crowned himself the first King of Prussia - although to soothe the nerves of the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, he styled himself King in Prussia instead.

1871 - Wilhelm I was proclaimed the first German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles near the end of the Franco-Prussian War; the empire he commanded became known as the Second Reich.

1915 - Japan issued the Twenty-One Demands to the Republic of China in a bid to increase its power in East Asia.

1919 - The Paris Peace Conference - whose mandate was to divvy up a world recently devastated by World War I - opened at the Palace of Versailles. The story of the conference, and the numerous egos that ran it, is brilliantly told in Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World.

1943 - The first uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto - oddly enough, known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - took place.

1955 - The Battle of Yijiangshan occurred on the Yijiangshan Islands, pitting the National Revolutionary Army of Wang Shen-Ming against the victorious Zhang Aiping's People's Liberation Army during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis.

1958 - Canadian Willie O'Ree, the first black player in the NHL, made his debut when he took to the ice for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens.

1977 - The worst rail crash in Australian history occurred at Granville, near Sydney, killing 83.

1990 - Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry was arrested for drug possession during an FBI sting.

1994 - During the Cando Event - a possible bolide impact over Cando, Spain - witnesses claim to have seen a fireball in the sky lasting for almost one minute.

1995 - Cave paintings estimated to be at least 17,000 years old were discovered at Vallon-Pont d'Arc in France.

1997 - Norway's Boerge Ousland became the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided.

2000 - The Tagish Lake Meteorite impacted the Earth at Tagish Lake in Canada's Yukon.

2003 - A bushfire killed 4 people and destroyed more than 500 homes in the Australian capital of Canberra.
share on: facebook