Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jiron Quilca

This afternoon I headed back downtown, again to Jiron Quilca.

Quilca is a street that stands out in several ways.   One that is not very obvious from the ground -although it could become evident with a bit of thought- is that it does not conform to the grid pattern of downtown Lima, but rather comes off of Plaza San Martin at an agle.

In the photo below, Jiron Quilca can be appreciated in the foreground, approaching the plaza at an angle rather at odds with the regularity of the surrounding streets.


When Francisco Pizarro traced the layout for dowtown Lima, he followed the "damero" (checkerboard) pattern of manzanas (city blocks) separated by streets criss-crossing at right angles.  This pattern is repeated throughout Spanish America and is the reason that the core of downtown is sometimes referred to as the Damero de Pizarro.   Quilca, however, notably breaks that pattern, appearing almost as a gash in the city in the image above.

The story is that Quilca follows the path of an Inca road into the city, and that at the triangular plaza at the what is today the intersection of Quilca and Av. Garcilazo de la Vega (aka Av. Wilson) there was once a tambo, or Inca way station.

Quilca is also noted as a center of Lima's bohemian life.   For one thing, the stretch immediately contiguous to Plaza San Martin is lined with dive restaurants that come alive with at nightfall and spend the days sleepily puttering along, smelling of stale beer.

Quilca is, more meritoriously, also home to the Queirolo tavern, which was established in 1920 by relatives of the Queirolo wine and pisco-making family that owns the Santiago Queirolo distillery and Antigua Taberna Queirolo in Pueblo Libre.

The Queirolo, with its unchanged decor, is counted as one of Lima's classic bars and old-school eateries, and it fills up at lunch and in the evenings.

Quilca is also a locus of a more modern, youthful bohemian crowd, which tends toward the metal and punk "underground" scene.  Much of which is centered -spiritually, if no longer physically- on the El Averno cultural center.

The center, which housed gigs and promoted the arts in general, was a vibrant presence in Lima's "alternative" scene for more than a decade, but also a constant object of police interest, who regarded it as a locus of "delinquency", and as attracting "bad elements" and "pot smokers" (OK, so maybe that last one was true! LOL).  But, maybe even more than that, it was the fear instilled in institutional and bureaucratic conservatism by what is new, free, and transgressive.

The center was raided it on a number of occasions, with the cops -and on two occasions, hired thugs- tearing the doors out of their frames, looting the place, and sometimes violently attacking the young people they found inside. 

El Averno shut its doors for perhaps the last time last October, after losing an appeal against a municipal eviction order, but its building remains, vibrantly and wonderfully defiant.

And even though El Averno is closed, Quilca's punk and metal scene has hardly faded away, as tucked away among the many used bookstores that line the street, there are small shops selling CDs, DVDs, fanzines, and anarchist newspapers, and which serve as clearinghouses -as do the very walls of Quilca's buildings- of information on concerts and new releases.

No comments: