Look for the Bare Necessities

The Prickly Pear is a Peruvian favorite, known here as the ‘Tuna’. The exotic fruit is plucked from a Cactus, and stocked in wheelbarrows along the sidewalks of Trujillo. These days, the Tuna is found in every fruit stand I pass along the street. The two most common colors are white and magenta, I am personally partial to the later.

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Pottery of the Moche People suggests they enjoyed the fruit almost 1,000 years ago

This dessert rose provides an abundance of micro-nutrients. Think endurance and self-sustainability. The Prickly Pear, the Tuna, or the Opuntia ficus-indica has developed a means to survive in harsh desert climate. Subsequently, the Tuna carries a strong mucilage that reserves water and calcium content at a cellular level during long droughts. The Tuna provides a complex cocktail of micro-nutrients such as Phytochemicals – flavonoids and phenolics. The Tuna is an impressive afternoon snack.

The Benefits:

These babies are stocked with Vitamins:

The Tuna is most appreciated for its content of Vitamin C. It also contains phosphorus, copper, calcium, potassium, selenium and zinc. All essential minerals which help create and maintain good health.

Good source of Carotenoids:

Betanin, the same red pigment found in beet root, reduces chances of cancer and lowers stress. Tuna also contains other carotenoids which are good for eyesight, possible anti-tumor properties, skin health, male fertility and the cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular system health.

The Tuna has been studied to control blood sugar levels. Soluble fibers found in its mucilage increase viscosity of food as it passes through the intestines. This slows down and reduces sugar absorption in the gut. Many studies have been done which test the power of Tuna’s impact on people who suffer from Type2 Diabetes.

Eases symptoms of diarrhea

IMG_4937If you happen to find yourself ‘mal de estomago’ grab a Powerade, and a few tuna and you will be back to good in no time. Research on plant extracts shows the plant acts as an aid to the gut lining through protecting gastric mucosal layers. Powerful stuff.

 Reduces cholesterol and promotes weight loss.

The watery fruit is full of fiber which provides a more satiable snack. While curbing the appetite, and reducing sugar intake, research shows participants of studies produced a higher fat count in fecal matter. This suggests the fruit is a good source of fat-binding fiber. It rids your system of the bad (LDL), and leaves it with the good (HDL).

Pharmaceutical studies show the plant extracts to have an arrangement of medicinal properties from anti-inflammatory disease to metabolic syndromes such as diabetes and obesity.

In short, this is a great fruit for building a healthy metabolism.

While on the inside, the fruit is soft and sweet, take caution if handling with a ‘raw paw’. If you have the chance, snag a bag of pre-peeled fruit, you’ll save yourself the angst of plucking hair sized needles from your fingertips.

“Now when you pick a pawpaw
Or a prickly pear
And you prick a raw paw
Next time beware
Don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw
When you pick a pear
Try to use the claw
But you don’t need to use the claw
When you pick a pear of the big pawpaw
Have I given you a clue?

The bare necessities of life will come to you
They’ll come to you.”

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Further Reading:

LR, Redacción. “La Tuna Y Sus Beneficios Para Nuestra Salud.” Larepublica.pe. LaRepublica.pe, 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.

Osuna-Martínez, Ulises, Jorge Reyes-Esparza, and Lourdes Rodríguez-Fragoso. “Cactus (Opuntia Ficus-indica): A Review on Its Antioxidants Properties and Potential Pharmacological Use in Chronic Diseases.” Natural Products Chemistry & Research. N.p., 16 Oct. 2014. Web. <https://www.esciencecentral.org/journals/cactus-opuntia-ficusindica-a-review-on-its-antioxidants-properties-2329-6836.1000153.php?aid=33317&gt;.

Chirimoya (Annona Cherimola)

I will begin my endeavor with one of my favorite fruits, the Chirimoya.

This fruit has been consumed for thousands of years. Clay pots from the Chimu people of Chan Chan depict a representation of what is believed to be the Chirimoya, or its close relative Guanabana (Annona muricata). Their ancestors, the Moche also have similar art which reflect their cultivation of the plant. The word Chirimoya comes from Quechua meaning Chiri “frio – cold” Moya “semillas – seeds” which reflect its ability to be planted at very high, cold altitudes – an important characteristic for the Incan people.

The Chirimoya ranges in size from a tennis ball to a child-sized football. Their scaly skin is thin but rough. The flavor profile is a delicious combination of those similar to Pear, Banana, and a hint of kiwi, or pineapple. The fruit can be found all over the streets of Peru. It is harvested during the fall and winter, which means it’s currently prime time to partake in the delicacy.

It has a very creamy texture – bear with me on this one – which is similar can of peaches; mushy and a bit slimy but perfectly sweet. The fruit is chock-full of seeds  so you will find yourself spitting them out as you would with a watermelon.

IMG_4982And make sure you do, the seeds if crushed and consumed will cause paralysis.

As any fruit vendor will tell you, the fruit will mature rapidly once plucked from the tree so it is important to enjoy it on your walk home from the market.

So what’s all the hype? It may be the next big thing in cancer research.

The Chirimoya, and Guanabana have been studied since the 1970’s as a powerful cancer fighter. It is stocked full of vitamins and minerals, and extracts of the plant have shown to selectively kill colon cancer cells. When it comes to the special fruit, think all things digestive. There are acetogenic bacteria found in the leaves of the Chirimoya plant, which interferes with the production of tumors in the colon.

IMG_4960The Chirimoya fruit is a good source of vitamins such as C and B, and minerals such as potassium. In Peru, it is recommended as a post workout snack as it resupplies carbs while building a healthy cardiovascular system. The Chirimoya is believed to help with the reduction of bad cholesterol, LDL while increasing the good, HDL. The balance of sodium and potassium is believed to have a strong effect on the heart. Aside from these miraculous properties, the Chirimoya is also a good source of Folate, Manganese, Phosphorous, Zinc, Copper, Iron & Calcium.

There has been a lot of focus on Chirimoya seed extract. Studies show the seed helps soothe symptoms of dysentery, gout, and kidney stones. It has also been used as a way to get rid of head lice.

This fruit can be found on occasion at your local Kroger. If you come across it, I highly recommend. Although keep in mind its natural essence is much more sweet and creamy than what is available as the imported fruit.

Further References:

Arrieta, Ziortza Martínez. “Beneficios Y Propiedades De La Chirimoya.” En Buenas Manos. Ebm, 11 July 2016. Web. 27 May 2017. http://www.enbuenasmanos.com/propiedades-de-la-chirimoya

Han, Bing, Tong-Dan Wang, Shao-Ming Shen, Yun Yu, Chan Mao, Zhu-Jun Yao, and Li-Shun Wang. “Annonaceous Acetogenin Mimic AA005 Induces Cancer Cell Death via Apoptosis Inducing Factor through a Caspase-3-independent Mechanism.” BMC Cancer. BioMed Central, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 May 2017. <https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12885-015-1133-0>

Red Light : Green Light

In route to Huanchaco today, myself along with the rest of the people on the Micro bus watched as the most talented street performer I have seen yet swung back and forth on his personalized makeshift bongo board. 

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There is a lot of money to be made passing through cars during the afternoon rush hour. All sorts of vendors take advantage of the few moments that cars are stopped at the red light to sell whatever they have to provide. They slide between taxis with hands full of anything from water and bitesized cane sugar, to cotton candy.  Personally, street performers are the ones that catch the most attention. They dart to the front of where the cars are lined up at the intersection and perform an impressive range of stunts.


Today was special, instead of the usual nineties style beatbox, the juggling balls, or acrobats – this guy had a table, a bongo board, and two hula-hoops. As the cars lined up at his intersection, the stuntman raced to the front of the idled cars. Within but a moment, he had set up the table, and a his bongo board. In one foul swoop he mounted and began his dance.

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As I video taped the street performer, Queen’s ‘I want to Break Free’ came on over the radio. That was just it, I could not have put it better myself. This guy was free. 

There is no class you can take, nor degree you can earn in such a skillful trade.

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This guy has broken free from social norm. He dances, balances, and uses his impressive talent to make a Sol or two before the light turns green.

And as he plays the protagonist in his red light green light game, the automobiles are at bay behind the traffic light. Each taxi, each Micro remain at the mercy of the light. They are stuck waiting on green so that they can continue down the same crowded street. All the while, this guy has mastered the traffic jam. He has in fact made a wage off of those stuck in route to their next destination. Me? I’m headed to the beach. 

The lost ruins of la Huaca del Sol y la Huaca de la Luna

IMG_4771The Moche Civilization, also known as the Mochica people, lived along Northern coast of Peru 100 AD to 800 AD, just a century after the death of Christ. While Europe was conflicted with the rise, the split, and the fall of the Roman Empire; the Moche grew to be one of the largest Pre-Incan Civilizations in South America. They were a people who tamed the desert climate with farmland, they crafted ceramic pots and golden adornments, had an impressive grasp of resource management, and a system which designed a complex social structure which functioned under a delegation of power. They were a culture fascinated with the afterlife, and lived for it. The Huaca del Sol y de la Luna are two temples built almost 2,000 years ago which sit at the base of the sacred mountain.

View of the Huaca de la Sol y la Huaca de la Luna

‘Huaca’ stems from the word ‘Huaccar’ – the grave in which the sacred were buried.

The Moche people designed a strong social heiracrchy. The Priests and lords made up the most elite status, leading religious ceremonies and human sacrifice. The Moche were obsessed with death, and believed their life on earth was to be spent preparing for the journey of the afterlife. Much like the ancietn Egyptions, the tombs of priests and social elite were found stocked with pottery and various adornments. Accordingly, the craftsmen and potters were an important part of the community as they were the ones to produce goods to be taken into the afterlife.

Work delegation and Resource management were impressive elements of the Moche civilization.

The Huaca del Sol served as the urban hub where administrators would entrust various responsibilities amongst the craftsmen. The social power of these administrators rose significantly during the last stages of the civilization. They acted as the middle man who filtered communication between the two separated classes, the workers and their Priests.


These crafts men or urban specialists were the bedrock of the Moche people. Their obligations were to cultivate crops for food, and craft sacred relics that were to be carried into the afterlife. These men, though socially powerless kept fields of cotton to provide clothing for their people, created molds which were used for their goldsmiths, silversmiths and potters. The ceramic skills of the Moche were remarkable. They dried their clay in kilns, and then used volcanic rocks from the river to buffer and smooth each piece. They used acilla – a volcanic mineral to extract pigment which was used for paint.

The Moche were trained in a large range of skills. They were architects, engineers, metal workers, potters, painters, gold and silver smiths, cooks, weavers and chicha or beer brewers.

All of these duties were delegated by the administrator and together supported a culture which thrived for centuries in the dry desert climate of Northern Peru.

The Priests, and religious officials were respected as the most powerful men within the society. They cued religious ceremonies like those of the coca leaf, deer hunts and seal hunts. They would dress in ceremonial gowns that signified the gods and would act in part of the Deity. Their costumes included Ocelots, Jaguar, the Condor and Iguana. The biggest responsibility of the Priests was to lead human sacrifice. While The Moche worshiped many gods, the primary Deity they worshiped had power over the rains. They believed human sacrifice, and the blood offerings of their strongest warriors was what would satisfy their god and bring the rains.

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The Primary Deity of the Moche People

IMG_4863The gravity of their sacrificial practices was discovered a few decades ago. Evidence of a mass grave was found on the outer part of the temple of la Huaca de la Luna. There, archeologists found 140 bodies which had been dumped into a pit. According to paintings on the walls of the temples, and pottery, the sacrificial process was taken seriously and was very involved. Human sacrifices were chosen through a gladiator like battle. The warrior who lost the battle was brought broken to the feet of the Altor Mayor (main altar) where they were given San Pedro to drink.

San Pedro is the nectar from a Cactus native to the Andes mountain range. It is a powerful hallucinogen which was thought to have purified the blood of the sacrifice while killing them slowly.

After the warrior died, they would slit his throat collecting every drop of blood in a sacred bowl. The priests would then pass the bottle and drink most of the blood, saving enough for the Principal Diety. The blood was given to bring fertility to the fields and thier people.


They were a people fascinated with the afterlife. Serpents and ciegos (see-YEH-gos) blind men  were seen as the connection to the world of the dead.

The ciegos were given eyes that could see into the darkness, and the long slender serpent acted as the bridge between the two worlds. The entire life of the Moche was spent preparing for a successful life after death. The work of the Moche people relied on preparation to send the Priests on their way through the journey of the next life. Only the most skilled laborers were chosen to create pottery, crowns of gold and silver.


IMG_4812The Huaca de la Luna consists of five levels of tombs. Every 80 to 100 years, the people would seal off the tombs of the deceased priests and their concubines, and then build a new level. They believed with each level represented the start of a new life, a new generation. The structure still stands and was discovered just a few decades ago. While had been sacked by the Spanish explorers, most of the ruins remain intact 2,000 years later.

The fall of the Moche people is one that could have been predicted. They worshiped a god who controlled the rains, one who was known to bring the wrath of flash floods and mudslides. During the final stage of the Moche people, the coast of Northern Peru was hit by a ‘mega Nino’ which destroyed much of the Moche society.

Their failed attempt to offer human sacrifice to stop the rain is believed to have been what lead to their ultimate demise. As the rains continued to destroy their lands, the Moche people continued to sacrifice, thus killing off the majority of their population.

With the falling of the rains, the people lost all faith in their God. They turned to the coast where they are believed to have merged with the Ware people of the mountains. There they established the City of Chan Chan. It is believed the mix of the two tribes created a newer stronger society who merged traditions. Meanwhile, the Moche left their temples and their God in the flood planes of the sacred mountain.




I Took a Moto to Chan Chan

Tuesday turned out to be quite an adventure. After my morning class, I confirmed with Miss Martha I would not have to be back until 5pm that afternoon for tutoring. I decided to take advantage of my time and make the trip to Huanchaco, and add a pit stop to the ruins of Chan Chan.

I boarded the bus which was crowded with people, and hopped off about a half mile before the bus reached downtown Huanchaco to walk along the beach. I made my usual rounds to the carts of shells and trinkets along the sidewalk and then paid the extra .50 soles to walk along the muelle pier.

IMG_4353I looked over the side of the muelle and saw slinder black ducks floating at the surface, that would abruptly turn upsidedown and dive underneath the water. I was facinated. While mezmorized by their disappearance, trying to hold my breath as long as they could, a man approached me and asked if I’d like my picture taken. I was in my ‘sure why not?’ mood, and told the man in Spanish exactly that. He took my picture a few times and then had me review all of them to see which I liked most.

A bit tickeled by his persistance, I chose the one I liked most. Suddenly, he whipped out a minerature printer from his fanny pack and taught me about the `submarine ducks`that dive for fish below the pier. All while he casually printed my picture. I asked if I could then take a picture of him, and thus returned the favor.

I asked him the name of the `submarine ducks`which he then wrote on his hand. So that I could see how it is written and read about them later. For those who are interested:


After I made my rounds, I flagged down the first bus I saw and hopped on.

My blue – green eyes and pale white skin promted the driver and his partner in crime, the cobrador, to chat with me about the grand United States of America.

Within but a moment we were on the outskirts of Huanchaco. We continued down Aveneda Masiche, as every trace of civilization began to disappear. We were in the middle of the desert with scattered adobo mounds on each side of the highway. Then all of the sudden the bus halted and the bus driver gave me a big grin and pointed down a dirt road and said ‘ Chan Chan! ‘


I didn’t see a Chan Chan, nor did I see anything that looked remotely like a ticket office, but his gesture was so sure, I couldnt doubt him. I paid the cobrador and hopped off walking in the direction of the ocean. After a few minutes of walking without an end in sight I became a bit nervous. I have learned to carry myself in a ‘dont mess with me’ sort of way in and feel completely safe alone on foot in Trujillo, but there was something about walking down a dirt path in the middle of the desert by myself which made me feel a bit out of place. I walked alone between the dunes – nothing but the dunes and the ghosts of Chan Chan.

FYI: The two things one must watch out for in Trujillo are yellow Taxis, and motos motorcycles

There I was about 1 km into the abyss, when I turned around to see a moto following me in the distance. I will admit I freaked – for a split second.  As the moto apporached I had analyzed every way out, and had a planned emergency escape route through the.. dunes..??

IMG_4406The bike was soon by my side, it was go time. The man on the bike looked at me and asked ‘vas a las ruinas?’ I shortly replied ‘si’ and grabbed my bag ready to run. He was dressed in formal wear, so I doubted my initial fear and let him speak before I bolted. He said ‘let me take you!’ I cautiously approached him as I asked politely for his documents. He pulled out his badge and with relief I hopped on the back of his bike. We rode down the path towards the sea through the oldest ruins in the world.

We pulled up to a group of tour guides who seemed to be on their afternoon break for almuerzo. They all laughed and joked with the guy who had kindly given me a lift. I hopped off and headed into the maze of what still stands as the adobo Palace of the Chimu people, built around the same time as the pyramids of Egypt.

Moral of the story? If you want to experience the ruins of an Ancient Civilazation all to yourself, take the risk and go without a group tour. I had the entire palace to myself.


El Cobrador

There are no bus stops in Trujillo, instead you will find locals leaning off sidewalks – toes tipping off the curb waving their hand to flag down the bus they need. It is then up to the cobrador the collector to signal to the driver to stop immediately by whistling and whacking on the side of the bus as loudly as he can. The driver will then plunge the bus to the side of the road as the cobrador hops off, guides passnegers onto the bus. He then hops back on to continue to the next group of hand waves a half a kilometer down the road.


Bus travel in Peru is by far the cheapest way to get around town. The streets are swarming with`micros`(mEE-crows) which swing between lanes dodging taxis and camionetas as they can. From what I have gathered, each bus driver keeps a twelve hour shift, and has the freedom to change routes anytime they feel necessary. You pay one sol every time you ride equivalant to ¢ .30, and that can take you as far as you would like to go, whether its to the central Plaza, or to Huanchaco ten miles down the beach front drag.


With such an inexpensive resource, the demand for a ride is high. There is no limit to the number of passengers that can board. The number merely depends on how many people the cobrador will squeeze on the bus at one time. Passengers are packed like sardines. To make sure passengers are aware of their surroundings, the cobrador will shout things like ‘farmacia!’ or ‘mall’ and a chorus of people will reply ‘bajo, bajo!’ or ‘I get off, I get off!’

I would like for you to keep in mind Newton’s first law of motion: Inertia – An object in motion wants to stay in motion.

..That goes for the bus and all of the passengers onboard. Coming to an abrupt stop will throw the bus and the 20 people standing behind you forward – you must hold on.


In riding the micro today, the cobrador and truck driver shot each other a glance of satisfaction as the bus bottomed out on a speed bump. While the passengers were tossed into each other, I could see the two were proud. Business was good.

Business relies on the number of rides they give in a day, the tighter the squeeze, the bigger the profit. Walking down the street can be just as rowdy as walking through aisles of vendors in the central market. Each table has their own goods to sell, each bus has their own vacancies.


Business relies on the number of rides they give in a day, the tighter the squeeze, the bigger the profit. Walking down the street can be just as rowdy as walking through aisles of vendors in the central market. Each table has their own goods to sell, each bus has their own vacancies. And so the cobrador becomes the seller, the driver provides the resource. A good cobrador shouts and whistles at pedestrians making sure if they’ve so much as thought of going to the centro, they know there is room on his bus and his bus will get them there faster than the one behind it.

The two must read each other, and read each other well. If the cobrador misses a step, he could end up getting trampled.. or worse, lose business.

If you have the chance to ride a Micro, savor the rush of grabbing a hold of anything you can find, planting your foot on the first step and hoisting your self onto the bus. Then imagine what it would be like to do that every minute of every hour for 12 hours straight. All for revenue, for both you and your driver.