Thursday, October 19

I'll tell the complete story of the Chicama Valley and Casa Grande in the book I am researching, but here is a summary.

The Chicama River runs through the desert a short distance north of Trujillo. The Chimu civilization (1100 - 1470 AD) built an extensive network of irrigation canals in the desert bringing thousands of acres under cultivation. Most of these were abandoned during the chaotic period after the Spanish conquest.

In the mid-1800s, a German sugar planter named Luis Albrecht realized that he could reopen the canals and put desert land back into use by using the old canals. In the 1880s Albrecht sold his holdings to another German, Juan Gildemeister, who then turned Casa Grande into a huge factory-farm. Peruvians did the heavy labor and Germans were recruited to run the machinery and manage the holdings. Everyone lived in company-provided housing and shopped at the company store. This came to an end in 1970 when the Peruvian government expropriated everything and turned it into a worker-run cooperative. That didn't work out in the long run. Today the Gloria Corporation owns a majority share and runs everythng from afar.

Click on any photo to see it in a larger size.

There are sugar cane fields as far as you can see.

The yellow building is the old Gildemeister hacienda. Unforunately it is inside the factory complex and visitors are not allowed in.

The factory belches smoke 24 hours a day.

This was the company hospital in the Gildemeister days. There is a more modern hospital a few blocks away now.

Me with Jannet Ramirez Lazo, head of the Casa Grande Office of Local Economic Development. Jannet spent nearly two hours talking with me on the history of the area and showing me old photos.

The Gildemeisters lived in the plantation house. German workers with families lived in a private neighborhood a block away. The houses are now occupied by Peruvians but the neighborhood still shows German roots. Single Germans lived in a dormitory, which no longer exists.

Located in the German neighborhood, this building served as a community center, with rooms for music and game playing. There was even a grand piano. And there was a dining hall for the single Germans. The second floor held bedrooms for visiting dignitaries and officials. Parts of the building are still occupied by at least one family.

The movie theater was built in the 1920s. Currently closed, there are plans to reopen it.

Statue to the cane cutter in the central plaza.

I came across this remant of long-ago while wandering town.

This is the bed of the Chicama River downstream from Casa Grande. It's the dry season now so all the water has been removed for irrigation. During the rainy season this will be filled up.

These murals show what life in Casa Grande was once like.