The first inhabitants of present-day Chiclayo were Indians forced to settle here as part of a Spanish reducción. Religious conversion began here in 1559 when Franciscan friars from Trujillo founded El Convenio San María. The remains of this convent, all but ruined by El Niño rains, can be seen on Calle San José at the Parque Principal. Most of Chiclayo’s streets were once dirt lanes that led to the convent and are named after saints.
Chiclayo does not have a Plaza de Armas but rather a Parque Principal, which was inaugurated in 1916. Historians believe this park once served as a goat corral for José Domingo Chiclayo, the town’s namesake, who came here after Zaña was destroyed in a 1720 flood. (The city may have been named for him, though the word also means “place where there are green branches” in the all-but-lost Mochica language.)<
Near the Parque Principal is the historic municipal building that was set on fire September 4, 2006. Also on the main park is La Catedral, built in 1869 by José Balta, Chiclayo’s most famous citizen, who launched a coup in the 1830s and briefly served as president of Peru. The other main churches in town are even more recent: Iglesia La Verónica, at Torres Paz and Alfonso Ugarte, was built in the late 19th century; and Basílica San Antonio, at the intersection of Luis Gonzáles and Torre Paz, was built in 1946.
If you have spare time in the evening, head to Paseo Las Musas (José Balta and Garcilazo de la Vega), an odd promenade with Greco-Roman statues and a triumphal arch sustained by armless Egyptian beauties. It is a charming Chiclayan invention, often filled with wedding parties emerging from the cathedral, five blocks away.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition