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La Punta: A Magical Era

Photo: Humberto Currarino



Photo: Humberto Currarino



Photo: Humberto Currarino

There are few places along the Peruvian coastline that have been the center of as much grace and elegance as La Punta in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. But La Punta´s real appeal did not come from the beautiful people that populated it, but from nature. The Jesuit writer Bernabé Cobo, who wrote of it in 1636, said it was "a beach free of stones, rocks or flooding." It was a great compliment.

Despite its charm, La Punta did not become really famous until about two hundred years after Cobo described its beauty. In the middle of the 19th century a bathing pool was built there and was so popular that the Public Welfare Office in Callao received a donation of railway ties in order to build an animal-powered streetcar to more easily transport people to the summer spot.

In 1894, the English Railway Company was authorized to extend its service to the hamlet at La Punta and one year later, the first train arrived. The area offered clean water, streetcar service from Lima, a pleasant maritime breeze and elegant buildings overlooking its central plaza. With all of these benefits, the area was designated as a district in 1915.
The esthetic improvements didn't stop there. Years later, La Punta began to reflect the splendor of Limeñan architecture, which was developed during the second presidency of Augusto Leguía.

It was easy to admire the beautiful homes, inhale the gentle perfume of the abundant jasmine flowers and glance at the streetcar as it ran along the town's main streets. Distinguished looking gentlemen would arrive with finely dressed ladies during the bright summer mornings. The ladies would later appear from the changing rooms modeling the latest swimming suits of the era, setting the imagination of the young men on fire.

On the streets it was possible to hear the faint echo of costume parties, and to see children running along the pier and couples shying away from the gaze of strangers.

Many of the attractive buildings from years ago are still there today, having successfully won the battle against time. To visit them is to feel a warm welcome and a warm breeze. As Guillermo Chirinos Cuneo wrote, "It is an esthetic world, full of mystery, which will cheer the visitor and leave a feeling of satisfaction."

By J.D. Hoefken
Volume II/Issue 9, Page 54 51
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