Lima frankly took me by surprise. The unbelievably delicious cuisine, colorful cityscapes and bloody history were all unique impressions I came away with. Lima has almost doubled in size over the last fifteen years as people from the countryside have flooded into the city in search of better jobs and opportunities. The chaotic traffic and congested streets are a constant reminder of the growing pains the city is currently experiencing. Peru as a nation started a slow march of healing and improvement after the year 2000 when a long era of terrorism was quelled. From 1980 to 2000, a communist revolutionary group known as “The Shining Path” raged guerilla warfare engaging in mass killings and bombings throughout the country. The struggle between the government and The Shining Path claimed over 70,000 lives and it is purported to have held Peru back in its economic development by almost fifty years.
Since Lima is a sprawling city of over 10 million, we limited our short trip to the financial district Miraflores and cultural bohemian district known as Barranco. These areas arose as new centers of business and contemporary culture in the last fifteen years as the previous downtown and cultural centers were abandoned as they were prime targets for the bombings and killings of The Shining Path. I have never seen a city shift its social and financial centers in such a short period - it is astounding to me. In Barranco, previously abandoned late 19th century estates are artfully restored into galleries, restaurants and hotels. These homes were built by European expats who immigrated to the country in droves in the late 1800’s. However, after Peru lost to Chile in the Pacific War, many of these homes were abandoned in 1883. These houses fell into disrepair and obsolescence until the fear caused by the terrorism of The Shining Path movement in other more prominent areas of town shifted Barranco into an upscale neighborhood once again. Coming from a city as young as Phoenix, it is a novel concept for me, a prominent neighborhood that falls and is forgotten, only to be restored to a new prominent identity 130 years later.
Our first day was spent exploring Barranco, enjoying some of the amazing restaurants, viewing art in the streets, and touring an exhibit of the Peruvian contemporary photographer Mario Testino. Our last day was spent on a bike tour – learning more about the history and landmarks of the surrounding area. Our time spent was much too short but we came away with so much. It is without a doubt that we need to plan our return soon. Lima is so much more than a beachside city, it is a confluence of European and Incan culture and a tug of rope between progress and the scars of past conflicts. // Jeff