On October 28, 1746, at 10:30 p.m., a massive earthquake struck Lima, the capital of the viceroyalty of Peru, and swamped the nearby port of Callao, shattering areas up and down the coast. One account claimed that if “the most astute man attempted to create the perfect calamity, he could not have imagined the horrors inflicted on Lima and Callao.”1 The earthquake damaged almost all of Lima’s houses, and shook to their foundations most of the city’s 74 churches and 14 monasteries as well as the public buildings that adorned the city’s central square, the Plaza de Armas. Estimates of the number of dead varied from 1,200 to 6,000, out of a population of 55,000. Callao fared even worse, as a tsunami killed almost all of its 10,000 inhabitants and leveled most of the buildings. In an anonymous report prepared for the...

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