It is the birthplace of Caral-Supe one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and the Incan Empire that flourished into the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. Peru is situated along the western coast of South America. It is approximately 1/6th the size of Australia and is the fourth most populous country in the continent, with a population of nearly 28 million. It may not be an economically wealthy country, but thrives in diversity.
Geographically, Peru is divided into three regions La Costa, La Sierra and La Selva (the coast, the mountains and the jungle). The coast is a narrow desert plain, with occasional valleys that served to establish numerous cities and ports. The mountains, or highlands, are the cradle of the Incan Empire and reservoir of the country’s major assets, minerals and agriculture. The jungle is the largest region and is covered by the Amazon Rainforest, which protects a large number of rare species of flora and fauna.
The variety of societies and cultures this geography has produced was further enriched by the arrival of the Spaniards in the 16th Century. Under colonial rule, Africans and Spaniards arrived in large numbers.
After the country gained its independence in 1821, there was a gradual immigration from other European countries, and later, in 1850, by the Chinese. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide array of orders; social, spatial, and organizational; which can be infinitely explored in Peru’s capital city of Lima.
Lima was founded by the Spaniards in 1535, and consequently a typical European rectangular grid was established; a grid that didn’t expand or swell with the city, but morphed and sprawled with its people.
The authorities have always been unable to control or direct urban growth and the city constantly expands in every direction, shape and form, inevitably producing the best and worst urban environments.
This expanding city is the home of nearly 13 million people, and is roughly half the size of Metropolitan Melbourne. Unfortunately it is often described as chaotic, cluttered, unsafe grey and horrible; hasty perceptions for the fascinated spectators of urban drama, who might agree that this juxtaposition, overlaying and overlapping of social, cultural and spatial orders indicate a complex multiplicity. It is this diverse fabric which has produced different layers in the city and on its dwellers, enriching the streets, public life, and artistic expressions.
The city’s and nation’s wealth lies in the complexity and coexistence of these differences, more often than not overlooked and denied by the general population and authorities which, in a struggle to define themselves, draw boundaries between each other encouraging isolation.
Evidence of this is the eternal proliferation of informal settlements, the forever pueblos jovenes, or ‘’young towns” occupied by the less fortunate; the enclave within enclaves of enclaves occupied by the more affluent classes; the rapidly vanishing middle class; and the uncontrolled sprawling.
Consequently, Peru will cease to be a vagabond the day we realize the value of a golden stool; the day we no longer find it, uncomfortable, or a burden; but rather a unique, useful and beautiful commodity. The day we notice how it sparkles under the sun.