El Muro de la Vergüenza

During these last years, the whole world speaks more and more about social segregation, physical barriers to place between the boundaries and division between human beings. Many people think that building barriers is the best solution to solve the political and social problems that plague our time. In the South American continent, one of the main social problems is undoubtedly the demographic increase of its population and consequently the expansion and crowding of the main cities, which over time have turned into real metropolises.
In Peru, this problem is more than ever present in Lima, which with nearly 11 million inhabitants is one of the most populated cities in South America. Most Peruvians moved to the capital in search of better job opportunities in order to satisfy the needs of their families, others to start their business in the economic center of the Country. Over time, this phenomenon has led to the intensification of a latent social problem in every major city: the coexistence between people of different socio-economic classes. It is well known that in most of Latin American Countries the difference between the richest and the poorest social class is significantly greater than the European Countries where this gap is depreciated by the middle class. Due to the lack of physical space and the constant growth of demand for new housing, it happened that these two social classes with completely opposed lifestyles have seen increasingly thinning the distance that separated them, up to share the same area. This phenomenon caused that the inhabitants of the wealthiest area of the city, feeling threatened by such closeness, have developed the desire for detachment towards the most humble people, due largely to the delinquency and the risk of being a victim of it, deciding to take a position and detach themselves from that part of the city, which according to them, did not reflect their lifestyle. The most singular case of this phenomenon occurred between the district of Santiago de Surco (one of the most exclusive of the city) and the district of San Juan de Miraflores (one of the most humble of the city) where because of this segregation, a concrete wall was built in order to physically divide these two opposite realities. The differences between these two districts are visible to the naked eye. On the side of Santiago de Surco, there are luxurious residential complexes with access controlled by semi-permanent vigilance through places of fenced controls, green parks, paved roads and the best municipal services such as daily cleaning of their own roads. On the side of San Juan de Miraflores however, most of the residential areas in the vicinity of the hills are formed by “Asientamentos Humanos” or favelas, almost all the secondary roads are without asphalt and the public services as for example the garbage disposal is precarious. In order to understand why this wall was built, it is necessary to analyse the events which occured in 1971 in the area of Pamplona (San Juan de Miraflores). On May 28, 1971, approximately 200 families invaded a land owned by the state in Pamplona Alta, looking for a place to establish their homes. As time passed, the number of these families increased, occupying the land owned by the building cooperative “Monterrico”. Feeling increasingly threatened by these invasions, the landowners of these areas sought support from the state, asking to defend their private property. The president of Perù (Gen. Velasco Alvarado) decided to legalize the invasions in non-private land to solve this problem, and move the families who invaded the private land to the area of Tablada de Lurin, to constitute the community of Villa El Salvador. This relocation of the families in Villa El Salvador doesn’t mean that all the people who invaded Pamplona left the area. After 14 years they began to populate the hills further up to the border with the exclusive College of “La Immaculada”, which without requiring permission from the jurisdiction of belonging (San Juan de Miraflores) decided to build a wall all along its perimeter in less than 5 days. The former mayor of San Juan de Miraflores, Adolfo Ocampo, denounced this fact by saying: “Here we have an example of distancing and social discrimination, hidden in the eyes of most of the population and that it is necessary to overcome to build a society with harmony, peace and fraternity as Jesus Christ has taught to us. “
The aspect of this wall, in fact, similar to a small fortress, leads to think that it hasn’t been built only for matters of demarcation, but also for issues of “social separation” since its height varies from 3 to 4 meters, and is equipped with barbed wire. It could therefore be deduced that this segregation is the result of the conflict between two social antagonistic classes, where the state and the Church played a decisive role in not undermining the private interests of powerful companies such as building companies, real estate and private colleges, giving permission through the municipality of Lima to the construction of this wall. Over time they began to increase the “Asientamentos Humanos” in the area of Pamplona and simultaneously the luxurious residential complexes in the area of Casuarinas and Monterrico began to develop.
The construction company that had urbanized Casuarinas, located on the border with Pamplona, decided to buy further land and block the road that connected the two quarters, accumulating large amounts of debris with the purpose of protecting the land necessary to develop its urban projects and separate the invasions from what would become one of the most exclusive urbanizations of Lima. Once the urbanization of Casuarinas Sur was finished, the construction company began to build towards the top of the hill, where it was already possible to see the invasions of Pamplona. This constituted a problem for the sale of houses and a consequent price reduction. To prevent further problems, the management of Casuarinas together with the construction company decided to build another wall connected to the previous one, in order to prevent another expansion of the invasions, blocking definitively the free transit between Pamplona Alta and Casuarinas Sur. This decision created a bitter conflict between the management of Casuarinas and the residents of Pamplona Alta who protested against the construction of the wall. For this reason the landowners pushed the government for positioning the army along the perimeter until the completion of its construction. Over the years the invasions continued until the wall, which in the meantime was called “Muro de la Vergüenza” due to the discrimination suffered by the population of Pamplona Alta. One of the last invasions of Pamplona Alta, concerns the Asientamento Humano which bears the name of “Nadin Heredia” founded on March 8, 2011. After a tumultuous period, the families of “Nadin Heredia” have begun to establish a directive group, starting to organize the distribution of lots to families, to ask for external aids for the construction of basic plants such as water, light and sewers, but above all to request that the community could be registered to the municipality of Lima, to legitimize the ownership of the lands and the right to live there. The complex bureaucracy makes it that, only after two years, in 2013 thanks to an NGO, have begun to realize the first work, the stairs leading to the highest houses of the hill, which otherwise in the rainy periods would remain further isolated due to the muddy and rough terrain. Subsequently, in the last two years they have begun the plan of “Electrificacion Masiva” for the installation of electricy. They have also demanded the “costancia de posicion” to push the municipality of Lima to recognize the title of ownership of the lands to the population of ‘ Nadin Heredia ‘, but unfortunately without obtaining any results. Nowadays the population of these areas of the city has not yet gotten the installation of the basic services. The water is still carried by tank trucks that fill the tanks on a weekly basis, tanks which are situated at various levels of the hill. The price of the water is higher compared to the other quarters of the city due to the difficulty to reach the Asientamento Humano deprived of roads in good conditions. The sewer system is formed by giant holes under the houses called “silos” which must be emptied manually when full. Because of these shortcomings, the development of infrastructure is almost impossible, starting from the schools for children. The lack of recreational spaces and social culture bring many young people to be a part of delinquency, increasing the crime rate of the area, while developing a feeling of injustice. The proliferation of bacteria due to the problem of waste disposal, the lack of the sewer system as well as the absence of a medical presidium, makes the people who live in this place fall ill much more easily and frequently. Besides that, the free transit to the people of Pamplona Alta who work in the district of Santiago de Surco is hampered by the wall. These many families feel completely forgotten and discriminated by their own state and from people who do not want to be aware of their living conditions. Despite all this, almost the totality of the inhabitants of Pamplona Alta does not ask the Peruvian government for modern infrastructure or luxuries difficult to obtain. They simply would like the installation of the basic services for a dignified life, especially the water and sewage systems. That they can descend from the hill without having to travel more than 2 hours to go to work in the center of the city and the creation of a small recreational spaces for children. Their greatest desire is being able to give a better future to their sons, different from the childhood that most of the people of Pamplona Alta had. Give them the same hope of every children, let them understand that they have the same opportunities to realize their dreams.
 But all this is very difficult when a wall has been built between you and your ambitions, and that this wall that doesn’t even allow you to see that another reality is possible. Today the aspect of this area of Lima is surreal and reflects the division of modern society. On the one hand, the wealthy social class, with luxurious houses, swimming pools, green parks and state-of-the-art infrastructure and on the other side, separated by a few meters, the most humble social class deprived from even basic services to lead a dignified life. The fact that the division of these two realities is not a geographic boundary, but rather a wall of reinforced concrete and barbed wire built by the will of man, is the symbol of how today’s society is divided. All people have the same rights, however their lifestyle can be different, their social extraction and their philosophy of thought as well. Ignoring the problems or erecting barriers to separate and not seeing the other realities will never help to create a cohesive society where everyone has the same opportunities, but would only help to increasingly widen the gap between human beings.