ZAÑA AND ITS CONVENTS
The town of Zaña is located in the Lambayeque Region of the Province of Chiclayo and the district of Zaña, in a plains valley by the same name, somewhat distant from the immense western Andes Cordillera, at 6°55'15" southern latitude and 79°34'54" western longitude, at 46 meters above sea level and 51 km from the regional capital, Chiclayo ;its climate is dry and variable, with strong seasonal variations.
This town was founded by the Spaniards with the name of "Villa Santiago de Miraflores de Zaña", at a strategic entry point to the northern sierra through Cajamarca and also because it was an intermediate point between two major valleys, the "Jequetepeque" and "Lambayeque" valleys; two important roads that linked the coast to the sierra crossed the area. In addition to its geographical importance due to its location and linking function, this valley was attractive because its soil was exceptionally fertile.
The Spaniards also noted that the ancient inhabitants of this area had built an impressive irrigation system in the area to extend land surface for cultivation, and had also established a nearby administrative center. For these reasons they decided to take advantage of the existing infrastructure to found their city, displacing the local population to a low riverside area of a nearby hill called Mt Corbacho, which later turned out to have been a great mistake. In early March 1720 heavy rainfall, thunder and lightning terrified the local population, that panic-stricken escaped to higher areas seeking refuge from floodwaters because the river had already swollen and was overflowing its banks. On March 15th of that year, the floodwater entered the city at around 5 a.m., and by 6 a.m. was already rushing through the main plaza and all the streets, wrecking all the homes that stood in its way, leaving only the parish church and some convents standing. These facts were recorded by the notary Antonio de Rivera, who vouches for this destruction in a report signed by him and other reputable local inhabitants.
Zaña was populated by natives of Moche features, but the Spaniards brought with them contingents of another subjected race; African negro slaves to work in agriculture and household service. The local population also inherited its current physiognomy from the massive inflow of Asiatic farmhands to work on the big ranches as from the second half of the 19th century. The result of this racial mix over several generations was the current inhabitant of the area, with Asiatic, negroid and Moche features.
The town of Zaña celebrates three important dates in the year: the anniversaries of Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo (April 27th - Patron Saint of the Town), San Isidro Labrador (May 15th - Patron Saint of Farmers) and the central festivity of the town's foundation (November 29th): these are very suitable dates on which to visit this beautiful town and enjoy the fireworks, folk dancing, religious processions, horse-riding excursions, cock-fighting, and gastronomy festival, as well as different sports, serenades and dances. There are some lodging options providing basic services, as well as restaurants offering local food. However, everywhere you will find people who are friendly and attentive. It should be mentioned that the city of Chiclayo, offering a better service infrastructure is located 45 km from here, and has transport permanently available to this area.
This town was famous for its opulence, its fame having crossed national borders and got to the ears of the rapacious pirates who infested Pacific waters. Thus, on March 4, 1686 the British corsair Edward Davis, after disembarking in the port of Cherrrepe and covering the seven leagues to Zaña, invaded the city, taking it unawares and allowing his men to sack it and ravage it. An anecdote from this event was the kidnapping of Bella Mencia, a high-ranking aristocratic lady of great beauty and wealth, who was held to ransom until her family paid the sum of 50,000 pesos; the ransom was duly paid, but the lady fell hopelessly in love with her captor, leaving with him, never to be seen again in the town.
The architectural design of the temples was the work of Spanish artists and native labor at first, which was later replaced by the massive use of negro slave labor. To date there is still a strong controversy on the number of churches that existed in colonial Zaña - some say that there were 7, and others 14. However, this confusion has been shown to be due to changes in territorial extension of the district over time. Bearing in mind the distinction between the city and the province of Zaña, it can be concluded that the temples in the city were 7 and in the whole province 14. The city of Zaña used to be the head city in the whole province, bordering with the current Trujillo Region in the south and the current Piura region in the north. In colonial times the main religious temples were seven: Matriz Church, San Juan de Dios Hospital Chapel, San Francisco Convent, San Agustín Convent, La Merced Convent, Santa Lucia Indians Parish and the Annex Chapel to the house where St Toribio de Mogrovejo passed away.
Today, there are only remains of four of them:
San Agustin Convent
This is the most precious architectural piece, considered the archaeological jewel of gothicist architecture, which tends to ornament rather than to gothic reading.
The vaults stand on crossed arches, according to the Roman rule adopted by the Renaissance artists, due to which it is believed that this church would date from the late XVI century. Today only some wall and the main vault remain standing.
San Francisco Church
This was a highly ornamented one-nave church built between 1585 and 1590, some walls being all that remains of it at present.
La Merced Church
The "Mercedarios" (Brothers of Mercy) arrived in Zaña in 1637, building a classical Renaissance style church of which currently only the hastial and two bell towers remain standing.
This is a basilica-style church, with a high central nave and two lower lateral chapels with windows; to date only a few walls with fragments of mural paintings remain standing. Its construction probably took place between the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries.