In the middle of an area that is no longer present in the passage of travelers, there is a true architectural jewel, which in addition to still reflecting the air of its primary beauty, keeps interesting data on the way in which the Lima society lived in the last century.
It is in Jirón Junín 1201 Cercado de Lima, right in the Barrios Altos area where the Quinta Hereen is located. A property complex that is recognized today as the first condominium in the city of Lima, and that years ago was a place that fostered the meeting of cultures and welcomed foreigners.
This space of about four hectares in size is located on the remains of indigenous shrines from pre-Hispanic times, according to archaeological findings. Its epicenter "the garden of remedies" was owned by the Convent of Mercedarias, and over the years, the place ended up being owned by an Italian named Pietro Denegri.
It is in 1885 when the German engineer Oskar Augusto Heeren buys the site and around 1890 begins the construction of a set of residences in the neoclassical style that evokes old Europe, giving it the architectural identity and the name by which it is known.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Quinta Heeren experienced its period of greatest splendor. It was one of the most exclusive places in Lima, gathering between 1901 and 1920 some of the most outstanding families in society and diplomatic personalities who lived in the embassies of countries such as Germany, the United States, France and Belgium.
The last legion of diplomats to settle in the housing complex came from Japan, staying during the third and fourth decade of the century. This community and its culture had an important impact on what Quinta Heeren was.
According to some historians, Oskar Heeren himself brought gardeners from Japan, who had the mission of recreating and beautifying the green areas of the Quinta, emulating the landscape of the gardens of the East.
It is due to the relationship of assets and marital inheritance that the condominium becomes the property of the descendants of the family of former president José Pardo y Barreda, who married the daughter of Oskar Heeren, Mrs. Carmen Heeren Barreda, retaining its ownership until today.
Referred to by oral history as a mysterious place, Quinta Heeren has preserved some myths or urban legends within its walls. It is said, among other things, that the land may be part of the properties and treasures of Catalina Huanca; and that exotic animals that were once part of a zoo inside the complex still roam.
Versions of passers-by witnessing the appearance of ghosts and wails that are heard at night from the windows of some of the properties that make up this condominium have also become popular.
What has been documented as a true fact is the story of the Japanese Seiguma Kitsutani who lived in the Quinta and was a prominent figure in the community. This character dedicated to commerce had economic debts and felt that his name was tarnished. After paying his bills, he decides to take his own life to clear his name and that of his children, following a ritual known as bushido, of which he was a follower because he was a descendant of samurais.
Deterioration. The spaces of the Quinta Hereen exhibit the punishment of the passage of time and the disinterest of the authorities.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the families that occupied this space moved to other much more prominent districts of Lima, and the complex began to be occupied by families who stayed there in extremely poor conditions.
In 1996, the Pardo family began a series of legal proceedings to obtain their eviction, and ten years later the vacancy occurred. Since then, no family lives there.
Despite the efforts of some groups of stakeholders, mainly linked to culture and the rescue of heritage, these mansions do not escape the reality that today characterizes the Barrios Altos area, which looks neglected and dangerous.
Some initiatives of night tours, cultural gatherings and Creole music independently enliven once in a while a calendar that leads travelers and locals to discover this architectural jewel that remains standing.
However, to date there is no preservation plan for Quinta Heeren that has the joint action of authorities, the private sector, owners and residents of the area. Perhaps a unique opportunity to add a landmark of tourist interest to a city as full of contrasts as our capital is about to vanish.
In 1928, the president of the Japanese Colony in Peru, Seiguma Kitsutani, decided to take his own life at the entrance to chalet No. 3. The merchant made use of harakiri, a samurai ritual that consists of drinking sake (rice-based liquor), writing a farewell poem, and finally stabbing himself with a dagger. Starting in January, you can sign up for the night tour that lasts two and a half hours and includes a show of classical and Creole music.
It is guided, it is worth S/20 and it takes place on some Sundays at 10 a.m. The exact date and meeting point are announced on the Quinta Heeren Facebook page.
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