Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Changes Keep Coming

In the movie - The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!, Lt Frank Drebin says,

“Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before... birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights.”

If Lt. Drebin (I miss the deadpan humor of Leslie Nielsen) were in Chiclayo these past few months, and especially at the intersection of the Pan American Highway and Chinchaysuyo Avenue he would definitely notice stoplights. This intersection (and many more like it) is the reason I swore I would never drive in Chiclayo. Traffic from seven different directions (five lawful and two otherwise) converge on this uncontrolled intersection. I have often sat in a small corner park watching as moto taxis, taxies, combis, busses of all sizes, private cars, sugar cane trucks and other vehicles all somehow managed to avoid each other amidst the sounds of honking horns and screeching brakes. Though I never saw a major collision, there were occasional fender-benders followed by an entertaining exchange of insults. All of that has changed now.

Lt. Drebin…behold the stoplights!  Readers may be wondering why I’m making a big deal about stoplights. The reason is that stoplights are (were?) not the rule in Chiclayo. Most intersections are uncontrolled. There are stop signs in some places but these are universally ignored – that, or they are stolen for the metal. Add to that the fact that motor vehicles have the right-of-way and you can begin to see why pedestrians feel a great sense of accomplishment in having successfully crossed a street. But as I said, that is changing. Regions in Peru are receiving substantial amounts of money from the central government in Lima, and much of that money, at least in Chiclayo is being spent on infrastructure. It isn’t just this one intersection with new stoplights – they are being installed in many locations throughout the city. And in addition to stoplights large scale civic improvements are taking place. It’s as if the city has launched a modernization/beautification program.

Along with the physical changes there are indications that another change is taking place…this one cultural. Most people still throw trash in the streets but a growing number of them are using recently installed trash receptacles. Another example…last week Maribel and I saw a woman walking a dog. Nothing unusual about that. The dog did his thing on a sidewalk – again nothing unusual...a common hazard pedestrians face is avoiding dog droppings on sidewalks. But after the dog made his deposit, the woman did the plastic bag thing and picked it up! We never expected to see that in Chiclayo Peru. Never! I imagine that local passersby were even more amazed than we were. To a Chiclayano, the only sane explanation for doing that is that the woman has discovered a monetary value for dog droppings.

These are interesting times. I wonder if modernization will have an impact on traditions and customs, for instance regulating street vendors, or other customs that may be viewed as being not in tune with a modern city. I also wonder if older residents view these changes as good or bad. Probably a little of both.

No comments:

Post a Comment