Hello everyone, there have been some exciting new developments in the city of Lima as of late that I thought I should share with you. First off, La Prada and Gamarra are bustling commercial districts located on the outskirts of Lima. I have been there before with my host-mother and was quite impressed. Though the area looks incredibly impoverished, and indeed, while there I did see many disfigured, crippled, mentally handicapped, and naked beggars wandering about and laid out in the streets, I was also highly impressed by the sheer volume of commerce that occurs there. It was probably one of the most crowded places I have ever been in my life, with thousands of people packed shoulder to shoulder in the streets and stores. There was also a very large amount of merchandise available. It was explained to me that the reason why this area is so popular is that the stores here sell the exact same products for far less money than the stores in nicer areas of town (they are able to do this because they acquire said products through the utilization of, uh, "alternative supply chains"). While many of the stores seemed hopelessly poor, many of them actually rent out spaces that cost over a million dollars a year and are some of the most successful store owners people in Lima.
(Gamarra: Before) (La Parada: Before)
The government, however has as of late become disillusioned with the area. Due to high crime rates and the general disorganization of the area, they have decided to clear out the businesses of La Parada and move most of the commerce to more organized areas. This, obviously, did not sit particularly well with the merchants and citizens of the area. Thus, this weekend the city was rocked by a series of violent protests and confrontations between the authorities and the citizens of La Parada and Gamarra. All in all there were hundreds wounded, multiple fatalities, and millions of dollars of damage done. Due to the fact that pretty much all of the police in Lima were called in to fight the literal thousands of protesters in La Prada, hooligans decided to take advantage of the situation and completely ransack Gamarra. Thus, as of now, the entire area is in ruins and the store owners are suing the local government for the failure to provide sufficient police protection.
(La Prada Riots) (Gamarra Riots)
My host parents had various insightful comments about the situation. First off, I learned that the Peruvian police force does not carry any non-lethal weapons aside from riot shields, batons, and their fists, as well as a few canisters of tear gas. Thus, when presented with a situation such as this, their options are somewhat limited. Obviously, they cannot gun down thousands of citizens and so, mostly just have to sit back, watch, and let the riot take its course while making various little forays into the chaos in order to arrest people. Also, my host parents highly criticized the use of mounted police to confront the protesters. While large and intimidating, horses are afraid of pretty much everything. Thus, they were easily panicked by the protesters, killed, and their riders dragged through the streets gangs of hooligans. Overall the weekend's happenings helped to demonstrate the duality of Peruvian society. There are, of course, many rich here in Lima, however, there are also many poor people as well. They are continuously struggling against one another and attempting to promote their particular groups interests while trying to better their lives.
(Why horses are generally no longer used in combat and the aftermath of the riots in La Parada)
Until next time,