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Our weekly learnings culminated in a field trip to Cono Sur, or the southern cone, which is the name for the outlying areas of southern Lima. Economic insecurity and violence over the past half-century caused intense migration from rural areas into the outskirts of Lima, and the population has soared in these areas to the north, east and south of metropolitan Lima. Though the more established areas of the conos now have water, electricity and some paved roads, the neighborhoods on the hillsides are still very poor and lack basic services. Much of what the students learned in their lectures about Peruvian history, natural resource distribution and the consequences of migration to urban areas are played out in the daily lives of residents in the conos. Over sixty percent of Lima’s population resides in these outlying areas.
Our first stop was a visit to an organic garden project in the district of Villa Maria del Triunfo. This initiative began over 30 years ago, when women living in extreme poverty in the community partnered with the power company to convert unused sandy spaces under the powerlines into vegetable gardens. We spoke with Señora Gregoria Flores, who is the director of this particular garden. She said that today over 1,500 people benefit from these community gardens, which were once crime-infested spaces full of trash. About 40% of the food grown is consumed by neighborhood families and the rest is sold for income in the more affluent areas of the city where organic produce will fetch high prices. While at the garden, students did a variety of tasks, including weeding, adding compost to the gardens, transplanting, and shoveling the sand to create terraces.
After working in the garden, we traveled just a few minutes away to the home of Alicia Taype, GC program assistant, who lives in Villa Maria. Alicia treated us to anticuchos, a popular Peruvian street food of grilled chicken and beef heart skewers.
After lunch, we drove to the neighboring district of Villa El Salvador, to the home of Corpusa Villavicencio Zela, sister of Willy Villavicencio, Service Coordinator. Corpusa gave us a first-hand account of her participation in an invasión — the process by which hundreds of people squat on unused land in hopes of eventually being allowed to stay. Afterward, we visited the grave of Afro-Peruvian community organizer and activist Maria Elena Moyano, who was killed by members of the Shining Path insurgency in the early 90s. While there, Gabe delivered a speech on Moyano to open our series on Artists, Authors and Activists of Perú. On our return to the church, students were dropped off by our bus at various points along the route and took public transportation home to spend their first full weekend with their host families. On Saturday morning, several students gathered at Casa Goshen to view the memorial service for Professor of Music Deb Detwiler and spend time together remembering her.