What does a 13 year old sacrificed Inca girl and a canonized Catholic nun have in common? They were both female, their remains reside in Arequipa, Peru, they devoted themselves to their spiritual beliefs and they are recognized by the world for their sacrifices between 300 and 500 years after their deaths.
In 1995 mountaineers and an archaeologist retrieved Juanita- The “Ice Maiden” from Nevado Ampato (6310 m/20,696 ft) where she was sacrificed to the gods at the summit and entombed for about 500 years. For the Incas, mountains were gods who could kill by volcanic eruption, avalanche or climatic catastrophes. These violent deities could only be appeased by sacrifices from their subjects, and the ultimate sacrifice was that of a child. Juanita trekked with her entourage for weeks to the summit all while knowing her inevitable fate. It would have been a bitterly cold and extremely difficult trek (in sandals no less). Once reaching the summit where she would have been quite delirious from the altitude, she was possibly given a hallucinogenic drink before receiving a blow to her right eyebrow. The mummy was given her own museum in 1998 and in total almost two dozen similar Inca sacrifices have been discovered on top of various Andean mountains since the 1950s. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the Museo Santuarios Andinos where Juanita’s frozen body is on display.
Sister Ana de los Angeles Monteagudo, was a nun who lived in the Monestario de Santa Catalina in Arequipa during the 1600s. Founded in 1580 by a wealthy widow, the monastery is a walled citadel occupying a 5 acre block inside the city. Sister Ana wore the veil for 68 years. She was known for miracles she has been said to perform and for accurate predictions about the future. Her family sent her to live in the monastery at age 3 through age 12. When her family expected her to return home to prepare for marriage, she refused. Her father refused to pay her required dowry, but her brother, a priest, paid for her continued residence. There she led a voluntary life of extreme fasting, self-flagellation and prayer. In 1985 (299 years after her death in 1686) she was beatified a saint by Pope John Paul II. It makes one wonder- self mutilation in the 1600s could result in sainthood while today it could result in psychiatric care.
Arequipa, the second largest Peruvian city with about 1 million is only one tenth the size of Lima yet in terms of cuisine, historical significance and confidence it is impressive. The beautiful central area ‘Ciudad Blanca’ as it is called due to the prevalent use of the white stone sillar is surrounded by three volcanoes and the region is regularly wracked by earthquakes. At 2350m/ 7708ft, it was brightly sunny and pleasantly comfortable for our week there.