The Miguel Grau Museum in Piura, Peru

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Calm and silent, the Casa Museo Gran Almirante Grau exudes an air of noble peacefulness, a far cry from barked commands and the blast of cannons. For Admiral Miguel Grau, Peru’s hero of the millennium, it was a place of childhood tranquillity, a family home of comfort and wealth.

Born on July 27, 1834 in Piura, Peru, the young Miguel Grau Seminario grew up in this colonial home before he took to the sea at the age of ten. After learning the ropes in the merchant navy, Grau moved to the military fleet and eventually took a command. The War of the Pacific gave him a hero’s death, making a legend of the man and a monument of his former home.

piura-miguel-grau-museum-peruThe Making of a Monument to Miguel Grau

In 1906, the Peruvian authorities placed a simple plaque in honour of Grau on the building’s street-facing wall. When the Piura earthquake of 1912 turned much of the city to rubble, the house was all but ruined.

The Peruvian government declared the building a Historical Monument in 1944, despite the general state of disrepair. Reconstruction work began almost twenty years later – after the building had been placed in the hands of the Naval Ministry.

By the end of 1946, the Naval Ministry had returned the Casa Grau to its former glory. The building was soon designated the Casa Museo Gran Almirante Grau and opened to the public as a museum and monument to the life of Peru’s greatest naval hero.

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 WiFi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travelers.

Admiral Grau and the Monitor Huascar

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The museum is a mix of preservation, patriotism and personal artefacts. It is still very much a home, despite the long-dead residents. The elegant dining room is a ghostly space of polished wood, the former diners now portraits hanging from the whitewashed walls.

Artefacts include buckles, belts, guns and medals once owned by the honourable Grau, carefully laid in glass cabinets. You will also find a scale model of the monitor Huascar, the small ship in which Grau hassled and harried the far stronger Chilean fleet.

As great an icon as the man himself, the real Huascar currently floats on Chilean waters, a consistently controversial prize of war.

While the Peruvian public may clamour for its return, the naval recruits on duty in Piura, and in the museum itself, tend not to agree: “They won it fair and square; the winners take the spoils.”

Visiting the Miguel Grau Museum in Piura, Peru

The Miguel Grau Museum, known locally as the Casa Grau, is located on Tacna 662, not far from Piura’s Plaza de Armas.

Opening times vary, but the museum is normally open from 9.00 am to 12 pm and 3.00 pm until 6.00 pm Monday to Friday, and 9.00 am until midday on weekends.

There is no admission fee, but it is customary to sign the guest book and leave a donation at the end of your visit.

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Scale model of the monitor Huascar

  2 comments for “The Miguel Grau Museum in Piura, Peru

  1. Samantha Bangayan
    May 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    What a cool site, Tony! A must-see. I prefer these smaller, cozier and more personal glimpses into history. I have a couple friends here from Sullana and hope to take a trip with them back to their home when the second round of elections come up in June! Do you have a Piura Travel Guide lined up? =)

  2. May 17, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Hi Samanatha! I’ve developed a bit of an obsession for Miguel Grau! He’s my favourite figure from modern Peruvian history, so I was very happy in the museum. I was only in Piura for a few hours, so I’m not planning a travel guide yet – I need to explore the city more. If you spend enough time in Piura (or Sullana) to write a guide, you can always guest-post it here!

    Cheers!

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