Santa Rosa de Ocopa
There is a lot to see at Santa Rosa de Ocopa (9 a.m.–noon and 3–6 p.m. Wed.–Mon., US$1.25), a San Francisco convent founded in 1723 that is near Concepción, or about 25 kilometers northwest of Huancayo. As evangelical churches have grown, Santa Rosa has withered, and now only six monks are left. But the story behind Santa Rosa is fascinating. Franciscan missionaries embarked from here to proselytize in the Amazon jungle, and 86 were killed in the process, according to a commemorative plaque inside.
Baroque altars adorn the chapel, and it is usually possible to descend into the catacombs. The newer convent building has a museum with stuffed jungle animals, paintings from the Cusco school, and gruesome paintings of missionaries being tortured by Amazon natives.
The highlight of the convent, however, is a library that contains more than 25,000 volumes from the 15th century onward. The oldest book in the library, published in 1497, is St. Augustine’s reflections on the Bible (the convent used to have a 1454 catechism in Aymara, Quechua, and Spanish, but it was stolen in a 2002 armed robbery, along with a painting from the Flemish School). The original adobe cloisters include a stone courtyard, a metal shop, and other rooms.
The best lunch spot nearby is Ingenio, home to Peru’s largest fish farms, which produce approximately 50,000 kilograms of trout per year. Most visitors tour the state-owned trout farm before sitting down to lunch at either Ávila or Llao Llao, small restaurants that serve trout heaped with local artichokes. Afterwards there is a pleasant, hour-long walk up a dirt road alongside the river to a set of waterfalls.
Most Huancayo agencies visit Ingenio and Santa Rosa as part of a Mantaro Valley tour, though it is easy to arrive at both places via public transport. Combis for Concepción leave every 30–40 minutes (US$0.80) from Pachitea in Huancayo. In Concepción, there are nearby colectivos and combis that head to both Ingenio and Santa Rosa de Ocopa.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition