Arriving in Lima, Ernesto compares the city to Cuzco, saying it’s much more modern and less reminiscent of the ancient past. Ernesto is moved by the beauty of the cathedral in Lima, which is more airy than that of Cuzco and shows off the best of Spanish baroque architecture. Overall, he finds Lima to be the epitome of a society which “has not developed beyond the feudal condition of a colony.”
While Cuzco represented the arrival of Spanish conquistadors in South America, Lima shows Ernesto what society was like during the early colonial period. Visiting these Peruvian cities helps him understand how South American cultures transformed through history and colonization.
Of everything he sees in Lima, Ernesto is most captivated by the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, which preserves art and artifacts from pre-Columbian Indian societies. Ernesto has never seen Indian cultures afforded the same respect and rigorous academic study as European cultures. He spends a lot of time examining the collection and library, and comes to admire Julio Tello, the “pure blood Indian” museum director.
While the archeological museum in Cuzco was a sad illustration of general disrespect for indigenous culture, the museum in Lima establishes a more general sense of equality between Indian and European culture. This is important, because perceiving the cultures as equal will eventually lead to perceiving indigenous and European people as equals.
Ernesto and Alberto also make the acquaintance of Dr. Hugo Pesce, a renowned leprologist who takes them under his wing and tells them of his many years treating the disease. He takes the young men to visit the leper patients in his hospital; Ernesto and Alberto play football with the patients and befriend them. He’s also a great host, providing long dinners every night where he introduces them to other notable doctors in the city. With their material needs taken care of and so much to stimulate their minds, Ernesto and Alberto start to really enjoy Lima.
Erudite, energetic, and socially conscious, Dr. Pesce is exactly the kind of doctor Ernesto would like to become. After becoming very disillusioned with the life paths offered to young bourgeois professionals, he finally sees one he would be happy to emulate. This suggests that perhaps Ernesto will not find it necessary to turn his back on his upbringing, but rather will find a sense of balance between his past and the future he hopes for.
At one point, Ernesto and Alberto go to see their first bullfight. Although Ernesto is extremely excited at the prospect, he discovers that the actual bullfight involves little “art” or “courage.” For the most part, it’s just an unappealing spectacle of killing.
The bullfight is a Spanish custom, imported during colonization. Perhaps for this reason, it doesn’t appeal to Ernesto as much as authentically South American art forms and cultural practices.
When it comes time to depart Lima, the patients at Dr. Pesce’s hospital give Ernesto and Alberto some money they’ve cobbled together and an “effusive” farewell letter. They are grateful that the men shook their hands without gloves and played sports with them, treating them with dignity and humanity rarely accorded to leprosy patients.
Traveling away from Lima, Alberto initiates a long night of drinking pisco (a Peruvian liquor) which the men can’t actually pay for, and they have to leave town quickly the next morning. They continue to hitch rides away from Lima for several uneventful days, sleeping in local hospitals at night.
After being momentarily reabsorbed into bourgeois life during their sojourn in Lima, Ernesto and Alberto return to living as the working class lives. By this time, they’re just as accustomed to this lifestyle as they are to their former lives.