Arriving to Jorge Chavez airport always feels a bit like coming home to me. I’ve been returning to Peru almost every year since I was 18, and what started as a general interest has now developed into an academic career in anthropology with a research focus on the Peruvian people. Essentially, that’s a lot of time spent reading books about Peru! So sentimentally, and practically due to the amount of time I’ve spent here compared to other foreign destinations, Peru sort of is a second home to me. However, Lima has always eluded me. As I study the Andean region, I have always just been ‘passing through’ the city on my way to somewhere else and therefore can claim no intimate knowledge of the capital whatsoever. That really is a shame in this case,and hopefully this month that will change.
Although many capital cities tend to be poor representations of the rest of the country (I’m looking at you, Buenos Aires), Lima does not give that impression. After over 500 years of internal migration the city has developed diverse neighbourhoods that reflect the variety of people and cultures that can be found within Peru. For that reason, Lima is a good place to start on a Peruvian adventure, even if I myself have done things backwards in starting with the rural and ending with the urban. Whilst I will be ending my three month Peru trip in the mountains, May will be spent exploring Lima’s treasures, and sharing what I find along the way.
In previous trips to Peru I have always chosen to stay in the historic centre whilst in Lima. Not only is it closest to the airport, but also rich in beautiful colonial architecture and history. If, like me, you are a lover of the past, there is nothing better than a stroll around the Plaza de Armas and visiting the many colonial churches in the surrounding area. On a quiet day like today when not many other people are around, you can wander down the balconied streets and feel yourself almost transported back in time, imagining the ladies up behind the covered balconies watching the scenes unfold below. This is what I love about the old centre. The commercial centre of Lima developed elsewhere, leaving this neighborhood with a colonial charm unspoiled by modernity. Luckily the Karikuy volunteer house is only a short combi ride away from the Plaza, in the neighborhood El Planeta. Luckier still, Peruvian hospitality is alive and well so I have yet to track down my own transport as someone has always offered to help me find my way. I´m sure that after today finding my way from the house to the centre will be easy!
El Planeta (‘The Planet’) itself is a young neighborhood, Julio tells me. Located in the district of Cercado de Lima, as well as being close to the old centre it is also near the airport and the shipping port, making it well connected and developing quickly. Nearby there are a number of industrial factories, which I’m told produce building materials and equipment for construction, hence the rapid growth of the area. El Planeta is also a very lively neighborhood. Last night on my way out to meet a friend I passed two street fiestas, with everyone dancing and laughing on their doorsteps. This morning I noticed that the decorations were still up, although I suspect that the party-goers were in bed nursing hangovers! These celebrations were for El Dia del Trabajador (the day of the worker) I believe, although there is always something to celebrate here in Peru. Soon it will be the Peruvian mother’s day, so watch this space to see what customs exist here to celebrate this occasion!
Beckie is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru