Photo: Rodrigo Chavez Nestarez

There are many many things to love about Lima, Peru; among them, the daily caress of the metropolis’s mild cli­mate, the city’s Viceroyal and Baroque archi­tec­ture, its mid 20th Century archi­tec­ture, the fas­ci­nat­ing Barranco neigh­bor­hood, the rich­ness of read­ily avail­able indige­nous craft, the city’s pale and muted palette of urban col­ors, the city’s inter­ac­tion with the Pacific Ocean, and the aston­ish­ing cen­tral ceme­tery. But, for me, in Lima there is noth­ing as qui­etly exhil­a­rat­ing nor as daily calm­ing as its courtly Parque El Olivar, its Olive Grove Park, in the flour­ish­ing San Isidro dis­trict of the city. With fore­sight, Parque El Olivar was declared a Peruvian National Monument in 1959.

The real story of El Olivar dates from 1560 when Antonio de Rivera brought the first olive plants from Sevilla, Spain. Only three of these plants sur­vived their ardu­ous Atlantic jour­ney, but these three were duly planted and they thrived. El Olivar had its begin­ning. Just about two hun­dred years later, more than 2,000 olive trees were recorded in the olive grove. By the time Peru became an inde­pen­dent state in 1821, there were close to 3,000 olive trees in El Olivar. However, on their way out and as a part­ing ges­ture to their for­mer colony, some Spaniards chopped down and gen­er­ally muti­lated many of the olive trees of El Olivar.

Even though the grove sur­vived, to this day you can see the injury to the older trees in the park. Bosque El Olivar, (the Olivar Woods) as the park is some­times referred to, was once upon a time an exten­sive olive farm owned by the Count of San Isidro. El Olivar was located well away from down­town Lima, 6 kilo­me­ters from the cen­tral Plaza de Armas. In time, the Count found him­self immersed in finan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, and own­er­ship of the grove changed hands. And then changed hands again. And then again, until the 1920’s when the Count of San Isidro’s El Olivar was sub­di­vided into 41 lots for sale. Houses began to be built and the San Isidro neigh­bor­hood devel­oped around the olive grove Parque El Olivar.

Today there are some­where around 1,675 olive trees in the 57 acres of the orig­i­nal olive grove that were incor­po­rated as a park. And one of the present day attrac­tions of the park is the way in which is seam­lessly melds into the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood. Many older olive trees appear to have jumped the bound­aries of the park and show up in the gar­dens of the adja­cent houses. When these houses were built in the 1920’s, the 1930’s and later, their own­ers inte­grated the exis­tent olive trees into their front and back yards.

Parque el Olivar is an oasis in the city of Lima. The park is the per­fect place to laze away an hour or more mid-​morning or mid-​afternoon. Courting cou­ples come, many to pro­pose mar­riage it is said. Newly mar­ried cou­ples come to be pho­tographed among the olive trees. Nannies come to walk their wards. Older res­i­dents come to sit, walk and talk. The park is a haven for dog own­ers. And a wide vari­ety of birds make the park home; there are more than 30 species here. Placards through­out the park help iden­tify the birds. And you are allowed to feed the birds; you can buy bird­seed in the kiosks in the park.

Photo: Larry Farfan

And yes, the olives are har­vested. In 2011, there was an abun­dant olive crop in Parque El Olivar. Between one and two tons of olives were dis­trib­uted in the neigh­bor­hood, and some were pressed into gift bot­tles of olive oil.

The munic­i­pal­ity of San Isidro offers free guided tours of the park, “Conociendo el Bosque El Olivar” (“Getting to know the Olive Woods”). You can reserve a guided walk by call­ing locally 513 9000 exten­sion 1811, or by send­ing an email to [email protected] or [email protected].


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