Monday, November 23, 2015

“I Don’t Go There”

Flag down a taxi anywhere in Chiclayo. Tell the driver you want to go to Colinas de Las Brisas. Nine out of ten will tell you “I don’t go there.” The one who will won’t go there at night.

Colinas de Las Brisas is what’s known by the ambiguous term as a ‘human settlement’ (squatters camp) on the outskirts of Chiclayo. It looks and feels like one of those decimated cities in an apocalyptic zombie movie that still harbors a remnant of human society . It has a well deserved reputation as the most dangerous place in Chiclayo. There is very little pedestrian or vehicle traffic during daylight hours. At night there is none. The people who live here aren’t here by choice. They are the poorest of the poor and have nowhere else to go.

The pronoei “Semillitas Kids” (this is the third pronoei we’ve visited recently with that same name) is a colorful island amidst the drab landscape. The house is owned by Cecilia (right) who is also the teacher.

We were there this morning in response to another invitation from two University of Sipàn psychology students, Bridgeth and Angelita who have been working with the parents of this school. As stated in previous posts, the theme of the student's work is to stress the importance and integration of family, school and kids.

Cecilia loves kids and teaching and believes strongly in education which is evident in the appearance of the pronoei. Outside, the picket fence, boulders, shrubbery and painted walls were a result of her prodding the parents association to get involved.

Last year she led the parents in a successful campaign to get sport uniforms. According to her the strategy was for each student to tell, not ask, every relative…aunts, uncles, and cousins etc to donate a small sum for a uniform. A bit heavy-handed perhaps, but it worked.  

For the past 5 years one room of the house has been a pronoei for about 28 students on average. The room is small but cheery. Cecelia’s son owns a house a short distance away. It has a larger room that he is willing to let the pronoei occupy but first he needs to complete the roof. It is hoped that will happen sometime next year.

At first glance there seems to be a wealth of teaching aids on a shelf in a corner but upon examination there are puzzles with pieces missing, tangrams with the colors worn completely off and old books with pages missing. In our view the entire collection should be trashed. The same can be said for about half of the plastic chairs in the room.

Cecelia has asked for new teaching aids, tables and chairs for the next school term. We’ll visit her classroom again in February or March to talk about the specifics…if we can find a taxi driver who’ll go there.


  1. My Spanish dictionary tells me the name of the place means "breezy hills" in English. I see communications towers in the picture, normally placed to have a commanding view, so I'd think it have a nice view of the surrounding area at some places. Being high, I'd guess that there would be no chance of flooding no matter what the weather. All these together would seem to make it geographically a good place to be, so it is interesting that it is the place of last resort.

    1. Good observations Clif. To my knowledge Colinas de Las Brisas is the highest point in Chiclayo. If you look at the blog’s banner photo taken from a hotel restaurant you can see Colinas de Las Brisas to the right on the horizon. It is a natural elevation topped with many communication towers. I don’t know when squatters first began building on the hill. The city of Chiclayo has provided electricity and water but beyond that pretty much ignores the settlement. If land titles and ownership ever becomes an issue it will be a nightmare. Incidentally, the two psychology students who normally carry their lap-tops and cell phones with them do not take them to Colinas de Las Brisas.