Paris has the Eiffel Tower and London has Big Ben. When you stroll the historic streets of Lima, Peru you realize the City of Kings has its Balconies.
As the city expanded during the Spanish Colonial rule of the 17th and 18th centuries, so did the distinctive Spanish architecture with its striking Moorish influences. One of the stand-out features of public and private buildings was the addition of balconies … but not just any balcony. They were “Jealousy Balconies.”
These astounding feats of workmanship, with their intricate geometric carvings, were designed so the ladies of the house could look out on the streets of Lima without being seen. Women were enclosed behind these elegant partitions so that no passerby could gaze upon their beauty; consequently the men of the house had no need for jealousy.
In the minds of many, the balconies became the symbols of seduction, whether with the city … or its citizens.
One of the most striking of these “Jealousy Balconies” is on the front of the Archbishop’s Palace. As to why the Archbishop needed a jealousy balcony … hmmm. I can only surmise.
Over the centuries, many balconies fell victim to neglect and fire. In the 1950s, significant structures were toppled by the wrecking ball to make way for modern architecture.
Luckily, clearer heads prevailed as the 20th century wound down. City planners, architects, and citizens realized the importance of the iconic balconies that made the historic center of Lima so distinctive.
At the turn of the new millennium, Lima Mayor Alberto Andrade launched a program to save the balconies called “Adopt a Balcony.” He reached out to businesses, private donors, and other countries to donate enough money to save, restore, or rebuild the balconies. And it worked!
And as for the tale of the Jealousy Balconies … fortunately for women, the styes and times evolved. Lima still retained her love of elegant balconies … where women could see … and be seen.
Happy to be seen,
Last updated June 14, 2019