Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.

Peru

A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

Past and Future Meet in Peru’s Navy

Lima’s Latest Warship Boasts Four Masts and Full Rigging

Today the Peruvian Navy’s newest ship, the BAP Unión, returns to its home port of Callao after an 8,900-mile tour at sea that took in eight countries over 98 days. But though commissioned earlier this year by then-President Ollanta Humala, the Unión isn’t some grey-painted stealth frigate but a four-masted, steel-hulled, full-rigged barque. Named after a corvette that saw action in the War of the Pacific, the Unión was laid down at Callao’s SIMA shipworks in 2010, launched in 2014, and was commissioned this past January as the primary training vessel of the Peruvian fleet.

The unimaginative might be surprised that such old-school ships are being used to train modern sailors, but the Unión’s Commander Roberto Vargas is unambiguous.

“On modern warships, working with computers and satellites all the time, we forget that we have to learn the essentials of sailing,” Commander Vargas told the Miami Herald.

“On a ship like the Unión, these cadets learn leadership, they learn cooperation, they learn group spirit. It’s impossible to work alone with these big sails — you have to work with other people. And most of the basics, like navigation and oceanography, are the same.”

Many other Latin American countries use tall ships as naval training vessels. Argentina’s ARA Libertad was the subject of an attempted seizure by foreign vulture funds seeking payments on debts defaulted upon in 2002.

While most date from the 1960s (Colombia’s Gloria), ’70s (Ecuador’s Guayas; Venezuela’s Simón Bolívar), or ’80s (Mexico’s Cuauhtémoc), Chile’s Esemeralda was launched in 1946. The grande dame of them all is Uruguay’s schooner the Capitán Miranda, launched in 1930 but docked since 2013 awaiting decisions on upgrades.

One analyst notes that even two-hundred years later the old imperial connections are still thriving in the strong Spanish influence on many of these ships:

The Peruvian state-controlled shipyard SIMA (Servicios Industriales de la Marina) constructed the Union in its shipyard in the port of Callao, but the Spanish company CYPSA Ingenieros Navales cooperated in the vessel’s structural design.

As for other ships, many were constructed by Spanish companies. For example Colombia’s Gloria, Ecuador’s Guayas, Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc, and Venezuelan’s Simon Bolivar were all manufactured by Astilleros Celaya S.A., while Chile’s Esmeralda was obtained from the Spanish government which constructed it at the Echevarrieta y Larrinaga shipyard in Cadiz.

One exception to the rule is Brazil’s Cisne Branco, which was constructed by the Dutch company Damen Shipyard.

Given the return to tradition in Peru’s army that we had previously reported on, it’s a pleasure to see this continuing in the country’s navy. Peru continues to show the world that another future is possible.

Entering the old harbour of Havana, Cuba.

Above and below, decked out for commissioning in Callao.

President Humala at the commissioning ceremony.

November 2, 2016 12:00 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

Best Foot Forward in Peru

A return to tradition for the Peruvian armed forces

One of the results of Peruvian voters electing the left-wing nationalist Lt Col Ollanta Humala as the president of their republic in 2011 has been a renewal of the traditions of the country’s armed forces – under this Excelentísimo Señor Presidente there has been a return to a much more traditional style of military uniform. A long decline in standards only accelerated during the first presidency of the liberal Alan García (1985-1990) who altered the Changing of the Guard at the Government Palace, while his populist successor Alberto Fujimori had the more pressing task of defeating an insurgency to turn his attention to such matters.

It’s often alleged that cultural trends in the Americas have long been riven by a conflict between one tendency favoruing European influences against another which favours national or indigenous inspiration. This dichotomy seems false, as the Americas are at their best when they take the finest in the European tradition and develop it in a new way with the addition of more local flavours.

In the nineteenth century, however, the European was in the ascendant, and particularly in South American militaries which relied upon European advisors to update and train their armed forces. Countries like Colombia and Chile imported Prussian advisors, which has given their militaries a Teutonic air to this day (viz. Colombia’s pickelhaube and Chile’s parada militar).

In Peru, however, it was the French who were brought in to bring the army up to speed, and that lasting influence is obvious from the uniforms seen here at a recent passing-out ceremony at the Escuela Militar de Chorrillos attended by the President. No pickelhaube here, the kepi reigns supreme.

It’s not turning the clock back: it’s choosing a different future. (more…)

October 28, 2015 12:12 pm | Link | 2 Comments »

The Order of Malta in Peru

A correspondent of this site sends these images of the Order of Malta in Peru. The Order of Malta has a long history in Peru: Manuel de Guirior, 1st Marqués de Guiror and a knight of the Order (right, baptised José Manuel de Guirior Portal de Huarte Herdozain y González de Sepúlveda) was Viceroy of Peru from 1776 to 1780, having previously served the King of Spain as Viceroy of New Granada.

More recently, in 2008, this investiture (above) was presided over by Fernando de Trazegnies, Marquis of Torrebermeja, the former Dean of Law at the Catholic University of Peru and now head of the Peruvian Association of the Order. The investiture took place in the eighteenth-century Church of the Magdalena, and the Mass was offered by the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani.

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June 16, 2009 8:09 pm | Link | 3 Comments »

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

New Spain never looked so good as in the 2004 film of Thornton Wilder’s novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. This is no doubt partly because it wasn’t filmed in New Spain but in Old Spain (specifically in Toledo and Málaga).

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June 18, 2008 7:46 pm | Link | 5 Comments »
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