Secret Slave Tunnels Guide: Below is our extensive 2018 guide to the secret slave tunnels in Hacienda san Jose containing information on everything you need to know from its history to what they're used for today!
Built at the end of the 17th century, Hacienda San Jose used to be one of the main haciendas across the Peruvian coast. Not only famous for its sugarcane production, the number of slaves that worked at the hacienda turned it into the most prosperous plantation at that time. Today, the hacienda is used as a tourist hotel and resort where many vestiges and artefacts show how the Afro-Peruvian immigrants used to live in this part of Peru. However, it isn’t the Hacienda or what surrounds it that makes it such an interesting place, it’s what is found below the Hacienda that is simply amazing and makes it such a unique place.
After entering a hidden secret staircase, you will go down some tiny and narrow stairs underneath the Hacienda to find underground secret slave tunnels. The tunnels connect Hacienda San Jose with four other Haciendas in the region, as well as connecting the hacienda’s to a port about 17 km away.
By the 18th century, the Hacienda had vast quantities of land where good quality cotton and sugar was being grown. Cheap labour was needed so the families living in the hacienda’s paid for slaves to be brought over from Africa and then forced the slaves to work the land, picking cotton and other agricultural products. At the time, slavery was legal in Peru, so to avoid paying import taxes to the government the owners of the Hacienda’s created underground tunnels linking the houses to the port. The slaves would arrive in late at night to be smuggled into the hacienda via the underground tunnels, meaning the government would have no registration of the slaves in their system and the slave taxes could be avoided. Because of the large number of thieves and pirates sailing the Pacific Ocean at the time, the tunnels were expanded to create a number of secret escape routes thoughout the house. These links the owner’s bedroom, the local church and various other rooms with the tunnel system found underneath. The tabernacle in the church - a box-like vessel usually used to store bread and wine for the consecrated Eucharist – was opened up to be made into one of the secret entrances to the slave tunnels.
When slavery was abolished by Ramon Castilla, the tunnels were used as burial grounds for some of the workers who died on the land. Most of the deaths were caused from the harsh punishments dealt out by the 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.