Alternative Peru – english version

Lima grows and grows and grows and probably „rampant growth“ would be a much more exact choice of words. According to the German Department of Foreign Affairs the average yearly growth of population is around 1.13 percent. Within the last 50 years the population of the inner city octuplicated and two-thirds of the overall population of the administration district Lima live in the so-called shanty towns, the “pueblos jovenes”. A big part of this quite extreme growth is causal to the civil war in the 1980ies, when, especially in the andean region Ayacucho, the maoist terrorist organization “Sendero Luminoso” troubled the country. Current official numbers state 70.000 murdered victims, in equal parts indebted by the “Shining Path” and the governments army.

But enough for now with the dry and sad facts. A lot of this knowledge can be googled or found in these ancient things called „books“. At this very moment I am in a van with a small group of randomly mixed tourists and we are rumbling our way to one of the younger “pueblos jovenes”. Our grouplet consists of a Peruvian driver, our Belgian guide, an elderly couple from Australia and a young Korean man, who, having just finished his 35 hour trip, is dangerously close to seriously bumping his head out of tiredness.  The only names that I do remember, are Carolien, our Belgian guide and one part of the Australian couple: Kevin. I`m just going to blame this little rudeness on my continuing jetlag.

We have just finished our first step of today´s trip: a visit to a little artisanal fish market, which is populated by huge Pelicans, that seem all too well trained in escaping my camera just in the moment that I am ready to shoot. Prior to that I have been quite neutral towards pelicans but now I feel a slight aversion rising. But of course the market has more to offer than just big annoying birds. Situated in the district Chorillos, it is a hotspot for locals to buy fresh and low priced fish, as well as to enjoy the delights of a day at the beach. If desired there is also the possibility for a little more luxury. Next to the market, at the end of a pier, a Yacht club has set up its mansion. Access is only granted to those, who can afford a yearly fee of 50.000 dollars. The fish on the market costs around 3 € each. Carolien ensures us, that very soon we will experience an even greater gap of class differences.

Finally, we arrive at our second stop at Sra. Balvinas home. Like many Peruvians in the 80ies, Balvina had to flee the terror in the region of Ayacucho as a teenager and has lost a brother to the civil war. Today she is in the lucky position to provide for herself and her son by producing handmade products for Bridge of Hope. This work also gives her the possibility to keep an eye on her son, who all too often „forgets“ his homework, when mama is not looking. If interested, you can find more info here: Sra Balvina has a lot to tell, but when the musical sound of the garbage truck rings, it is time for her to shoo her son and time for us to leave.

After another bumpy ride of 20 minutes on steep roads, we arrive at Sra Ninfas home. She has lost her father in the civil war and now lives with her mother and her 4 children Sandra (24), Christian (15), Ronald (11) and Samantha (2) in a very confined space in a little hut. They just recently started to officially receive electricity and in winter time, when roads become impassable, it is very likely that the tank wagon with water will not come. Water here is 6 to 10 times more expensive than in the richer barrios like Barranco or Miraflores. By now the Pueblos Jovenes are stretching into the periphery of Lima, which means upwards, into the meager, dry foothills of the Andes.

Sra. Ninfa is a great host and provides us with the same food that she provides for her family. An incredible tasty dish of chicken, rice and lentils, which comes in such large sizes, so at the end we all leave Ninfas house rolling through the door. Ninfa’s personal story is symptomatic for live in the Pueblos Jovenes. Many of the local families are led and cared for by women. At the moment Ninfa works day and night to afford a new roof for her house, which she had to build not only once but twice from scratch, after a fire burnt it down. Along the way she founded a soup kitchen and, additionally to her work as an embroiderer, she is the chairwoman of a local initiative of women, that prepares breakfast for children and seniors. Indeed, there are very few men present on our little trip. Maybe it is just a small little excerpt from a reality that we are able to see here, but men seem be get into trouble fast and a lot, so women have to take care of the essential. The current occupation of the father of Sra Ninfas children is not known. Apart from these women we, of course, have met many more great people, all of them inventive, fierce and enterprising. Therefore it would not do justice to this city and its people to solely write about Barranco or Miraflores and praise the manorial colonial buildings of the Conquistadores. The actual heritage of Peru is more than Pisco and Ceviche and definitely not a colonial-spanish one.

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