By Faruq Hasan – Emzingo Fellow (Peru)
Having never been to South America, I lunged, literally, at the opportunity to go to Lima with Emzingo. During the initial week of the program, Orientation Week, we passed through some of the mercados in the center of the city — namely ‘Quilca’. Our guides told us about the history of the book market there, and how censorship has historically, and continues to, play a role in Peru for certain subjects. They also told us about the roles academics have played on either side of the battle to maintain peace and have resorted to clandestine meeting places such as those around Quilca to discuss their ideas.
It wasn’t but minutes after leaving the book market in Quilca that we started a conversation with a local resident who was as curious about us as we were about him. He began by explaining us that the housing community he lived in was well over a century old. The residents had requested the local municipality to classify it as a heritage site given its history and location, and not only faced significant opposition to the idea, but endured pressure to vacate as well.
To our surprise, behind two large wooden doors, was a long and narrow pathway that formed the vestibule in the middle of a shared living quarters. A group of ladies, of similar age to our host and younger, congregated in the center while a few of them swept the floors. On either side of us were fairly thick, well maintained walls of non-industrial make or feel, but they definitely felt sturdy as though built from the soil of the area. To top it all off, there was a second story to these apartments with a staircase running alongside one the entry ways. Juxtaposing this scene before us, to the very rugged, urban, and boisterous mercados, it almost felt like a sanctuary amidst the noise of a city center. At the end of the hall was an area reserved for prayer and reflection.
As we got caught up in our own excitement, we were soon requested to leave to by some of the residents, perhaps in part due to the sounds of our ecstatic banter. In any case, we were glad to have gotten the brief chance to see this part of Urban Liman life, privy to few.
We left without incidence, and the smiles we left with, reflected equally on the face of our host. Perhaps his burden lessened as he enlightened us to think differently in future adventures. In fact, our guides had also learned something that day, and welcomed the chance to listen to someone else’s story, first hand, for a change.