First on-site post: Ethnographic study of migration to Lima

My trip so far has been extremely insightful. Though i’ve visited the city before, upon my arrival to Lima I was filled with a lot of emotion as I saw all the poverty around me. Lima has a population of seven and a half million people and it takes about three hours to get from one side of the city to the other. I am staying with family on the northern outskirts of the city, coincidentally a perfect location to begin my ethnographic study. I’ve learned that the migrants of indigenous populations whom are the focus of my study come from “la sierra” and “la selva”, the Andes mountain range and the Amazon rainforest. When they move to Lima, they settle mostly on the outskirts of town where property is cheaper or they can find land to build a shanty home. Within these communities are the poorest schools and clinics,  a lack luxuries including hot water, safe transportation, movie theatre’s, etc.

Immigrants living in Lima are easily identifiable by their physical characteristics. Their ethnicity portrays itself in darker skin tone and distinct facial features. Though there are many mixed couples, most tend to marry and procreate within their ethnic group a lot of this has to do with class and the taboo of mixed class relationships. I will talk more about class relations in another post. The fact that migrants and their children are easily identifiable makes them more suseptable to discrimination. Apart from insulting terms for indigenous migrants that I have heard, I have also been told stories of indigenous people being forced to move from their seats on buses, allow others to cut in front of them in lines and be denied services in restaurants.

Initially I assumed that the forces causing migrants to come to Lima were mainly economic opprotunities. Many children including my mother, are sent from the provinces in the mountains or jungle to Lima to attend high school and go to college. If there is no family member for the student to stay with, the entire family moves to the city.  The smaller provinces have universities but their quality is not in comparison to the schools in Lima.

But what I have found is another major reason for migration to Lima. The largest exodus of migrants from their homelands took place in the 80’s and 90’s. In the late seventies guerrilla leftist movements began to grow in power and decided that they would need to resort to violence in order to achieve a revolution for social and economic equality. The state refers to them as terrorists. Members of this movement began to sweep through the rural areas of the andes and amazon in order to convince the people living in this area to support them and join their cause. The state, the Peruvian government and military responded by exercising  a lot of state violence, they would unjustfully capture, question and ‘disappear’ rural peoples who were suspected of helping the guerillas in any form, even keeping arms.

As the battle between the military and the leftist ‘terrorists’ escalated, narcotics trafficking began to tie in and it became very dangerous to live in small communities where one of the mentioned sides could take over and use the people as hostages or threateningly force them to join their side. This caused vast migration to Lima.

I have found through casual conversations that many blame terrorism for scaring away rural peoples from their homelands but they dont go as far back to think what caused this political action. A change in the country’s economy, incited by a North American demand of resources and other forces of globalization caused the cost of living to rise and farmers to be exploited. Many University professors and students in Lima began to think in a leftist way and attempted to launch the same type of revolution within the city. Most desired a peaceful strategy but as bombing and attacks aimed at Limas infrastructure occured, the state responded to these students in the same repressive way.

La Cantuta Massacre, where a professor and nine students (first and second generation indigenous migrants) were killed

Violence at San Marcos University 1992

My future blogs will include research done within a city in the Amazon and much more about migration, ethnicity, and class within Lima…stay tuned.

Also, enjoy this video about the cumbia chicha movement (music from the Peruvian jungle)

Translation of info..

Chicha is a hallmark symbol not only for the Peruvian people as to overcome limitations, prejudices and borders it has become – in many countries – in a cultural movement that represents the true people. A struggling people in search of identity, revaluation and integration from an experience of migration that we all come from.
Thus Rica Chicha, with Shapis (the national group icon chicha) and Chicha Libre (New York) will show the public how important, vivid and diverse our country is culturally, summoning all the blood and all the arts in for integration, identity and quality.