Monday, May 16, 2011

The evolution of Chiclayo’s taxis

For younger Chiclayanos and those of us with fairly recent exposure to Chiclayo it’s hard to imagine that the words ‘taxi’ and Tico were not always synonymous. The little yellow three-cylinder 796 cc Daewoo Ticos with five-speed manual transmission are everywhere, and I have no doubt that during peak traffic hours it would be possible to cross a main street by stepping on the roofs of Ticos. Surrounding the principal park there is never a time when from 30 to 50 Ticos are not in view. But that was not always the case.

Prior to Tico importation in 1991 when the car was first manufactured, it was 20 and 30 year old Fords, Dodges, and Chevys that were the primary people movers. Also serving as taxis in those days were various models of Datsun, Hillman, Lada, Peugeot, Volvo and even Volkswagen Beetles. Today many of those old cars are still in service, traveling fixed routes and schedules as ‘collectivos’. As I understand it, Tico import into Peru stopped about the time when production was halted in 2001 to make way for the Daewoo Matiz. During my first visit to Peru in 2005 the Matiz was just starting to make its appearance on the streets.

Over the past few years competition for the Tico and its successor the Matiz has increased, primarily from the Suzuki Alto but also from what seems like a very recent overnight invasion of GM’s Chevy Spark, which in reality is a Matiz with a few cosmetics and the Chevy logo. They’re sleeker looking; come in different colors and add somewhat to passenger comfort with the Matiz and Spark being 6 inches longer and 3.5 inches wider and higher than the Tico. The Alto is the smallest of the three (Matiz left, Spark center, Alto right).

I seldom see a Tico when I visit Lima, and several people have told me that Ticos have been banned from city streets, at least in some Lima suburbs. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is no doubt that Ticos will be seen on Chiclayo’s streets continuing to transport people as well as stoves, refrigerators, furniture and almost everything else imaginable for a long, long time.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Church at Reque

If you like visiting old churches, Lima is the place to be. It has many 16th and 17th century churches that are huge, ornate and intimidating. You know what I mean by intimidating…right? I’m talking about the feeling of being dwarfed by the grand scale of everything. Of being held in awe by the history of the worn marble floors and the somber majestic tones of the ornately carved wood. The feeling that anything other than an expression of reverence or talking above a whisper while in the church would be an unforgivable transgression, punishable by… you’re not quite sure who or what.

San Martin de Thoures church in Reque is not intimidating. In fact it’s the opposite. The exterior is bland and unremarkable. The twin towers have lost their bells and whatever else they contained. The cupola and arch to the rear are a clear indication of the adobe construction, which was completed in 1897.

It’s a different story once inside after passing through those massive doors. There’s certainly a feeling of immenseness and history but the overriding sensation is of warm and vibrant life, perhaps partially because of the cheery colors enhanced by the bright sunlight streaming in through roof-top windows. There’s just something about this place that feels really good.

The townspeople will tell you that what you’re feeling is the spirit of Father Victor Cèsar Diaz Alemàn who was the priest of the church from 1975 until his death September 26 2010. Everyone we talked with said the man was greatly loved and respected. His grave is in the churchyard near the main entrance; the only grave on the property. The remainder of the churchyard is devoted to a community garden started by the priest to provide food for the poor.

Twice yearly, on May 11 and November 11 the town of Reque puts on a festival honoring its patron saint San Martin de Thoures. They’ve been doing this since the sixteenth century. There will be games, rides, music and lots of food. The preparation started today. We plan on being there again tomorrow.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Bringing people together – a good thing?

Peru has a population of 29,797,694 – oops make that 29,797,695. Its land mass is 496,226 sq miles, which leads to a gross population density of .02 people per sq mile…lots of elbow room if you live in the jungle or highlands. Not so if you’re a coastal city dweller. Narrow streets and sidewalks plus businesses, schools, universities and even bus stations located in or very near city centers all serve to funnel an increasing population into existing space.

There is evidence that city planning is attempting to deal with the problem. In Chiclayo a major new bus terminal is being planned well away from the city’s center to alleviate congestion contributed to by the departure/arrival of 500 busses daily. An entire new subdivision is being constructed near the city of Pimentel. And yet Chiclayo’s streets are becoming more crowded. One of the problems is that upward expansion of existing buildings in the city is outpacing growth on the cities fringes.

It is not possible to walk more than 4 – 5 blocks anywhere in the city without encountering remodeling involving the addition of several new levels. My impression is that the majority of these building expansions aren’t driven by need but by speculation; the value of real estate continues to rise along with the opportunity to charge higher rent. This building is going to add anywhere from 100 to 200 people to the blocks population, placing increased demand on street and sidewalk space as well as the adjacent park benches.

Chiclayanos are accustomed to bumping and being bumped into when out and about – it goes with the territory. For us imports the concept of ‘full contact’ walking while on the streets or even in a mall, hospital or park is something that takes getting used to.