Secret Slave Tunnels

Chincha Slave Tunnels

Hacienda San Jose was built at the end of the XVII century. It used to be one of the main haciendas across the Peruvian coast. Not just because of its important sugarcane production but also for the number of slaves that worked there who turned it into the most prosperous plantation at that time. Nowadays it is used as a tourist hotel and resort, where many histories and vestiges show how Afro-Peruvian immigrants used to live in this part of Peru. However, in all honesty, it is not what is in the Hacienda or what surrounds it that makes it such an interesting place, it’s what is below the Hacienda that is simply amazing!

After entering a secret hidden staircase going down some tiny and narrow stairs, you’ll go underneath the Hacienda to find an underground secret slave tunnel, connecting Hacienda San Jose with four other Haciendas in the region, and connecting them all to the port about 17 km away.

Quick Tip: If traveling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as free Wi-Fi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travelers.

What’s the story behind these slave tunnels?

By the XVIII century, the Hacienda had vast quantities of land where they grew good quality cotton and sugar so needed cheap labour and therefore paid for slaves to come from Africa and forced them to work the land, picking cotton and other agricultural products. Slavery was legal in Peru at that time, and to avoid paying import taxes to the government, the Hacienda owners created an underground tunnel linking the house to the port. Slaves would arrive late at night to be smuggled into the hacienda via the underground tunnel, meaning that the government would have no registration of the slaves in its system and the tax could be avoided. Due to a big number of thieves and pirates sailing the Pacific Ocean, the secret slave tunnels were therefore expanded to create a number of secret escape routes throughout the house, linking the owner’s bedroom, the local church, and various other rooms with the tunnel system beneath. In the church, the tabernacle – a box-like vessel normally used for storing bread and wine for the consecrated Eucharist – opened up to be used as a secret entrance to the tunnels.

When Ramon Castilla abolished slavery these tunnels where used as burial places for some of the workers who died on the land or from the punishments dealt out by some of their notorious owners. In the 2007 Pisco and Chincha earthquake a new entrance to the underground tunnels was discovered after part of the floor collapsed. Two groundwater deposits were also revealed.

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Timeline:

    • 1688: The hacienda was just a sugarcane plantation land with 87 Afro-Peruvian slaves working.
    • 1811: More than a hundred years later, almost a thousand slaves where working on the sugarcane and cotton plantation.
    • 1821: During the independence battles, hundred of slaves ran away and joined Don Jose de San Martín (Argentine general and the prime leader of the southern part of South America’s successful struggle for independence). Fernando Carrillo de Albornoz, owner at that time, ran away to Spain leaving his wife and younger child, Julio and the government expropriated the hacienda.
    • 1827: Carrillo’s wife recovered the hacienda
    • 1854: Slavery was abolished but many slaves kept working in the hacienda.
    • 1879: The last heir of hacienda, San Jose, was killed by one of the slaves during the “War of the Pacific”.
    • 1913: The hacienda was put on sale and the Cilloniz family became the new owners
    • 1960: Since then, Angela Cilloniz became the  owner of the hacienda
    • 1970: Hacienda San jose was declared as a Cultural Heritage by INC (Cultural National Institute)
    • 2007: The Pisco and Chincha earthquake devastated the place. Most of the chapel structure had to be repaired. The house walls and decorations were ruined so everything had to be fixed, because of its value as Cultural Heritage, they had to be extremely careful at repairing it and it took them 5 years to do this.
    • Nowadays: Only the big house (Casa Hacienda) has been preserved but as a tourist hotel and resort with a wonderful restaurant pool and gardens, without the big land extensions it used to have.
Did you know?
Peru Hop is the only company that organizes guided tours of Hacienda San Jose and the slave tunnels underneath.
Secret slave tunnels tour
Regular Price With Peru Hop
S/.35 soles (without transport) FREE

 

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