Sightseeing in Trujillo
The Arab Castle
Atop the granite hill around which the town is situated is the nameless castle, built sometime in the 10th century by the Arabs and later expanded upon by the Christians after they’d taken over in 1232. The castle is striking in its simplicity. It is large but largely unornamented so that it is obvious, even to the casual tourist, that the lands of Extremadura were once a hotly contested frontier, a battleground in which the Moors came up from the south to meet the Christians descending from the north. Military function and practicality took precedence, a common feature of the Extremaduran landscape. For €1.50 you can climb around the castle, slip quietly into the sanctuary dedicated to the patron of Trujillo, La Virgen de la Victoria, peek through the crenels of its battlement or follow the steps up to one of the towers, from which the eye can see out over Trujillo and the flat scrubland stretching far beyond.
Plaza Mayor and Estatuo de Francisco Pizarro
To climb to the top of the town, you’ll want to start in the Plaza Mayor, a misshapen “square” that doubles as the center of activity in the city and as its largest parking lot. Somehow, the latter does little to detract from the plaza’s charm. Steps lead off in discordant angles and once served as bleachers when the plaza was walled off for bullfights.
A circular fountain occupies the center while a columned arcade wraps around the perimeter in places, creating shade that the commanding bronze statue in the middle of the plaza will never enjoy. It is the Estatuo de Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru and Trujillo’s favorite son; the conquistador is on horseback and decked out in full armored regalia, looking every bit the part of a man capable of conquering a whole country with an army numbering only a few hundred. The statue was created by the North American Carlos Rumsey and encourages a rumor that the sculpture actually is a depiction of Hernan Cortez that was intended as a gift to the Mexican government. Whether this is true or legend, whether the Mexican government actually refused the gift and left Rumsey with little choice but to pawn it off on Trujillo as Pizarro, remains to be seen. If this were the case though, Rumsey could just as easily have located the statue in Medellín just a short ways south and birthplace of Cortez, and thus avoided the trickery altogether (though they now have their own statue). One thing is for certain – an exact replica of the statue can be found in Lima, Peru, where Pizarro spent his last years.
Casa-Museo de Pizarro
In the generations to follow, Pizarro’s family lived in what is now the Casa-Museo de Pizarro, a home the conquistador likely only visited a few times without ever having lived there. Too see how the noble class might have lived in the 15th century, or to learn about the conquest of Peru that was occurring at the same time, stop in on the way up or down from the castle.
Palacio de los Marqueses de la Conquista
The Palacio de los Marqueses de la Conquista is another of the few sights in Trujillo that appear to have benefited from the immense wealth that flooded into Spain from the NewWorld and just as quickly filtered away to other countries, leaving Spain with much less to show for her efforts than one might expect. It was the palace of Hernando Pizarro, Francisco’s half-brother and only legitimate son of their father, Gonzalo Pizarro. Fernando was notoriously resilient. Where his brothers all met untimely, and often gruesome, deaths in the wilds of the NewWorld, he survived to return to Trujillo loaded with wealth and built this home for his family. He also brought with him Francisco’s daughter, his niece, whom he had married. Subsequent generations of his family would successfully petition to inherit the title first bestowed upon the conquistador, thus the lovingly convoluted family tree is realized in the huge shield of the palace.
Palacio de Juan Pizarro de Orellana
Just across from this palace is the Palacio de Juan Pizarro de Orellana, former home of the Trujillano credited with the discovery of the Amazon. The iron chain across the front signifies that Emperor Carlos V had granted the conquistador’s family, of which he was reportedly fond, immunity from taxes. Thus an already wealthy family got even wealthier while the vast majority of Extremadurans remained poverty-stricken, a pattern that is only now starting to unravel itself.
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