The San Lázaro neighborhood in Arequipa
The San Lázaro neighborhood is the oldest group of houses in the city of Arequipa. These houses, streets and squares are made mainly of ‘sillar’, a white volcanic stone widely used in most temples and mansions in the city. Approximately 40 families lived there, who were the first inhabitants of the city. Visiting this place is completely free. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the ‘white city’.
Everything about the San Lázaro neighborhood
The San Lázaro neighborhood is the first set of streets and houses that were born in the city of Arequipa. Its origin is prior to the founding of the city, on August 15, 1540. It is made up of several narrow and cobbled streets as well as houses made with ashlar, a volcanic stone widely used for the construction of temples and palaces in Arequipa. The neighborhood is made up of the alleys Violín, Cristales, Desaguadero, Ripacha, Calienes, Naval Combat, Bayonetas and more alleys.
In the San Lázaro neighborhood there is a small chapel considered one of the oldest in the city. The narrow cobbled streets, the white walls made of ashlar and the silence of the place provide an indescribable atmosphere that attracts visitors. There you can buy the famous ‘Ripacha’ (wheat-based) bread. Because it belongs to the Historic Center of Arequipa, it is considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Likewise, the National Institute of Culture of Peru (INC) declared the neighborhood as ‘Monumental Urban Environment’.
The San Lázaro neighborhood is located in the Historic Center of the city of Arequipa, about 850 meters from the Main Square. It is located on the banks of the Chili River, between Juan de la Torre, Puente Grau and Jerusalem streets.
There is a belief that the origin of the name of the San Lázaro neighborhood is due to the death of one of its inhabitants. In a short time, the deceased returned to life, just like Lazarus, the famous biblical character. The name of its narrow streets also has to do with its illustrious inhabitants, such as Camporredondo street in homage to the Spanish general of the same name. Today this street is called Matorral.
How to get?
To get to the San Lázaro neighborhood, you only have to walk approximately 15 minutes, from the Main Square in Arequipa.
The history of the San Lázaro neighborhood is very old. In pre-Inca times, the site was occupied by the Yarabas cultures as well as Collas, Lupacas, Tiahuanacos, Carumas, Ubinas and more. At that time the site was probably called Llallinhuayo. After the Inca occupation, the Spanish arrived and founded the city of Arequipa in 1540. Then, the first large houses that were born in the city were located in this neighborhood. It is believed that its name is due to the chapel of ‘San Lázaro’, in charge of the Dominican order. Others believe that it is due to the resurrection of one of its inhabitants.
In its beginning, the neighborhood was home to Spanish and Dominican monks. It also served as a market. Some houses and streets in the neighborhood were damaged by the successive earthquakes that occurred in 1555, 1582, 1784, 1821, 1948, 1958, 1960, 1979 and 2001. In the 20th century, the neighborhood was preserved and protected. In 1972, the INC declared it a Monumental Urban Environment. Because it is part of the Historic Center of the city, it is considered a World Heritage Site (2000) by Unesco.
The streets and squares
The streets of the San Lázaro neighborhood are narrow, paved with black cobblestones and white walls made of ashlar. Some of the most famous streets are the Callejón Bayoneta (with a narrow passage), the Callejón de los Cristales (which has no sidewalks) as well as the Calleja del Combate Naval. Also noteworthy is the Camporredondo square (in homage to the Spanish general who lived in the place), which was a market and today is called the Matorral square.
Sillar is an abundant volcanic stone in the Arequipa mountains, which was widely used for the manufacture of temples, palaces and houses in the city of Arequipa during the colonial era. Most of the houses in the San Lázaro neighborhood are made of this material. There is a bridge made entirely of ashlar, which connects the hermitage and the square with the other streets. Due to the proliferation of constructions with this material, Arequipa is called ‘White City’. There is even a tour called ‘The sillar route’.
How much does it cost to go?
The visit to the San Lázaro neighborhood is free. You walk through its streets and squares have no cost. It is also possible to hire the services of a tour guide who will explain to the visitor everything they need to know about this historic place.
There is a belief that the city of Arequipa was founded in the San Lázaro neighborhood. However, this belief is not true. The founding of the ‘White City’ actually occurred in the current Main Square.
Ripacha is the name of one of the streets in the San Lázaro neighborhood. This name is also given to a traditionally baked wheat bread, which stands out for its delicious flavor and the custom of eating it for breakfast accompanied by ‘adobo’ (traditional Arequipa dish).
In addition to the San Lázaro neighborhood in Arequipa, don’t miss the opportunity to get to know some of the most traditional neighborhoods in the city, such as the Yanahuara, Cayma, Selva Alegre, Vallecito neighborhoods and more.
In the traditional neighborhoods of Arequipa some of the most famous celebrations of the city take place, such as the ‘Burning of Judas’ This religious festival is celebrated every Resurrection Sunday by burning a doll that represents Judas. Before being consumed by the ashes, a will is read where the errors of society are criticized.