Saturday, December 19, 2009

A lazy Saturday afternoon in La Victoria

It was hot and humid in the apartment today so Maribel and I decided to take a slow walk to La Victoria, a district I had not walked in before. As I understand it a district is equivalent to a ward in a Wisconsin city and perhaps to a borough in the east. La Victoria is one of the poorest districts in Chiclayo and has the reputation of a high crime and dangerous area. It took some convincing to get Maribel to accompany me.

Weekends in areas like this generally means socializing with neighbors, which involves grouping chairs outside someone’s house and talking while drinking beer if you can afford it, or just talking if you can’t. It reminds me of Milwaukee’s south side in the late 40s and early 50s.

The poverty in La Victoria is apparent as you walk the streets, but the principle park is impressive both in size and architecture. It’s different in that the focus is on concrete and tile rather than on foliage. I think the intent was to create a naval ambience because the park is dedicated to Miguel Grau Seminario, a Peruvian naval officer killed during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1879.

I was surprised at how casually Maribel mentioned she was related to Grau. He apparently was an uncle to her grandmother who was a Seminario from Paita, Grau’s birth place. Grau is a real hero in Peru and every school kid can recite his accomplishments during the war. There’s a ton of information available about him on the internet.

As mentioned earlier it was hot and humid today so most of the park’s visitors were sitting and talking. This older couple decided to forgo the talking in favor of catching a few winks. Their eyes would close as their heads slowly dropped. When their jaws contacted their chests their heads would snap up, and then the process began all over again.

This photo represents an average street in La Victoria. If you click on it you’ll see that the housing is modest, and if you look close you might notice something else. Peruvians don’t miss anything. Everyone in this photo is looking directly at us except for the walking couple, and I’m sure they also know we’re there. Every time I stopped to take a photo I would hear a loud groan from Maribel. She thought her conspicuous gringo husband stopping to take out his camera every 5 minutes in this neighborhood was asking for trouble. I never felt threatened. Maribel never felt comfortable. She claims I am blissfully ignorant and incredibly lucky. Maybe she’s right.

Usually a group of boys this age would be playing soccer in the street. I’ve never seen boys playing cards before. Perhaps they were taking a break before returning to whatever they had been doing.

This house is about the best we saw. Even though La Victoria is not a desirable area, housing values in Chiclayo are skyrocketing so I have no idea what it would be worth. It’s unusual to use tile on the exterior of a private house, and only once before have I seen it used beyond the first level.

Here we have the low end. There are many adobe homes like this in La Victoria. I have no idea who lives here or what their circumstances are, but I would bet my last nickel that they are honest, clean and friendly people.

I was surprised to learn that this building is a medical clinic providing 24 hour service to pregnant women. To my western eyes it looked completely inadequate and out of place, but as I thought about it I quickly changed my mind. It’s located exactly where it should be…among the poor people. And how sophisticated does it have to be? Mid-wives are still delivering babies all over Peru in much more primitive conditions than this.

This is the last photo I took, and it’s my favorite though I can’t tell you why. There’s something about it and the collection of things in it that seems to summarize La Victoria better than words can do. I’ll be visiting this district again. We saw only a small portion of it and I’m sure there is more to see.



  1. Chiclayogringo,

    I've been reading your blog regularly now and always enjoy it, but this essay, I think, captures your affection and optimism about life in Chiclayo the best. I am glad you have found a place you enjoy so much and congratule you on showing your kind heart in everything you write.


  2. In the photo where all eyes are on you... I was a bit surprised to see a tv satellite dish on top of the house.

    My husband says the same about me, as far as being ignorant and lucky - he's been robbed 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years, no one has ever bothered me. :D

  3. Good eyes Kelly! I’m only speculating, but there’s a good chance having a satellite dish does not mean having satellite service. I am aware of many families who have an internet connection but haven’t paid for the service in months. When the budget is tight it’s the cable, internet and phone that go first.

  4. HI to all,my name is efi!! I like peru ,so lovely!!My dream is to go there for ever,As i see the photos is so beautifull.I love native!