Monday, July 12, 2010

Southern Cone

Visitors to Lima might at times be perplexed to hear residents refer to the city's "cones".    A glance at a Lima map reveals that, as it has grown, the city has formed a rough triangle, with vertices extending along the Panamerican Highway to the north and south, and east up the Rimac Valley and along the Central Highway.  Those points of the triangle are referred to as the "Cones."

Fourty, thirty, even just twenty years ago, many of those neighborhoods -if they existed at all- were  haciendas or small isolated settlements surrounded by agricultural fields.  Many, if not most, of the rest were no more than open desert.  Just dirt, sand, and rock.

Over time those areas were taken over by migrants, fleeing poverty, and later, war, in the interior of the country, desperate for a place to establish a home.  (At one point, in 1988, it was estimated that Lima was receiving 1,000 internal migrants per day.)   To that was added the growth in Lima's own population, particularly among the poor, who -unable to buy into the rising apartment buildings- have no option but to expand the city horizontally into the desert and up steep, rocky hillsides.   There, they built their homes and businesses, bit by bit, as means allowed.

 From Casuarinas, looking south toward Villa Maria del Triunfo and San Juan de Miraflores in the distance.

Distance -and not only geographically- means that much of the time the Cones and their inhabitants are absent from the thoughts and lives of middle class Limenos who live in the central part of the city.   There is, on the one hand, the not unfounded impression of those areas as dirty, unpleasant, and crime-ridden.   On the other hand, the simple fact of the distance and the availability of so much throughout this huge city, means that it's poor suburbs -as much as it's wealthy ones, of which there are a few- are areas that by and large a resident of Jesus Maria, Lince, Miraflores, San Miguel, etc., would not have reason to go to save in rare circumstances and for specific reasons - usually business.   

San Juan de Miraflores.

This morning, Willy, Diego, my dad, and I, ventured out to the Southern Cone in search of the home of one my grandmother's maids, Lucha.    My grandmother had grown very fond of Lucha and her son, and they of her, and the family has kept in touch with her since my grandmother passed away and  helped her buy construction materials.  However, because the area where she and her family managed to settle is so remote and steep, services have yet to be established there, nor does it even have an official name.  There is no sewage, nor  electricity or phone service, which means that the only way to actually get ahold of Lucha is to navigate the unpaved, unrmarked streets of the shantytown and find her home amid the shingle of the hillsides.

We tried.  Made a number of wrong turns through Villa El Salvador, and finally having located what we thought might be the right hill, realised that we had not the time to visit with her and make our lunch appointment at my aunt's home.  So, frustrated in our designs, we gave up and headed back toward the paved and electrified parts of town.

 Villa El Salvador.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pucha que pena que no encontraran la casa. Yo ya me estaba emocionando a medida que iba leyendo el post. Lo intentaran de nuevo?