December 29, 2001: The Mesa Redonda fire takes place in Lima, Peru. Peru is located on the western coast of South America. It is the 19th largest country in the world when comparing the total acreage under the flag. Because of the mountainous terrain, the population is not evenly spread throughout the nation and it is only 41st in terms of population. Of the approximately 31 million people who call it home, almost 9 million live in Lima and almost 10 million live in the greater metropolitan area. While New York City has a similar number of people living there, the Big Apple is less than half the size of Lima which covers 1,032 square miles to New York’s 469 square miles.
Lima has been occupied since pre-Columbian times. It was previously known as Itchyma after the original peoples who settled there. The Inca Empire was in possession of the region prior to the Conquistadors incursion and at that time, a famous oracle known as Limaq (which meant “talker” in the coastal Quechuan language) was built in the Rimac valley. When the Spaniards arrived, they destroyed the oracle and replaced it with their own church, but the name remained. The Spanish language doesn’t easily accommodate stop consonants in the last position of words and they pronounced it as Lima. When they settled there, they created their city on January 6, feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic Church. The feastday commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings and so they named their new city Ciudad de los Reyes or City of the Kings. But the official name was soon forgotten and the city was known as Lima.
Lima became the capital of Peru early on but gained in predominance after the Viceroyalty of Peru accepted the city as the capital of the Spanish holdings. Not only did he sanction Lima as the capital, but set up the Real Audiencia there which was an appellate court in Spain. The translation is literally Royal Audience and not only was the system the court, but the chancellery or office of official diplomatic residence. While the city has grown and flourished, it has not been without problems. The area has been struck by powerful earthquakes several times. These catastrophic events altered the history of the city, but could not take away her power and glory completely. Rebuilding took place, but other areas of South America such as Buenos Aires took over in economic importance.
On this day, a number of vendors at Mesa Redonda were selling fireworks to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The region is located in Central Lima and most of the narrow streets were lined with wooden or adobe houses. Officials realized the danger and Lima declared the shopping area an “emergency zone”. Around 7.30 PM, a spark from a fireworks demonstration landed on a stockpile of fireworks for sale. These exploded and a chain reaction quickly ensued. A “wall of fire” quickly grew and spread and it took several hours to bring it under control. A total of 291 people were killed in the fire with another 134 non-fatal injuries.
I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work. – Neil Armstrong
You may be a redneck if… your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand. – Jeff Foxworthy
Opposites generally create intense chemistry. There are more chances of fireworks when different people are together than similar personalities. – Sonam Kapoor
I love to go get fireworks, even though some of them are illegal. – Carmen Electra
Also on this day: The Awakened One – In 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha was consecrated.
Worst in America – In 1876, the Ashtabula Bridge collapsed.
Ooh-La-La – In 1721, Lady Pompadour was born.
Saintly Departure – In 1170, Thomas Becket was assassinated.
Itty Bitty – In 1959, Richard Feynman gave a speech at Caltech.
* “Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002” by Daniel Silva – Mesa Redonda, Daniel Silva, ganador del 2002. Licensed under GFDL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002.jpg#/media/File:Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002.jpg