sábado, 18 de enero de 2020

Lima Milenaria, ten years on. The farewell.

Huaca Pucllana (400 A.D.), the inspiration for the Millennial Lima campaign.
Photo: JLizarzaburu.
(Para la versión en español, por favor ir al post anterior)

On January 18, 2010, coinciding with the anniversary of the Spanish foundation of Lima, I started a campaign that wanted to rewrite its narrative of origin and, in particular, wanted to contribute to the construction of a better city.

Ten years have passed and I would like to take the opportunity to make a quick summary of the experience; to insist in the need to produce cultural contents; and to say goodbye.

Click here to see a visual summary of the decade.

The year 2010, briefly

When I decided to launch the campaign my two main objectives were that Lima could finally get its  story right: that of a territory with an architectural continuity of more than 4000 years (a fact that still seems amazing to me); and to confront - from the perspective of its vast pre-Hispanic heritage - centuries of racial discrimination, which had so much affected citizen dynamics.

But it was also about going countercurrent. Today the issue of 'huacas' (pre-Hispanic buildings) is more popular, but then it did not have the favour of many citizens or many sectors. The huacas, that great unknown treasure, were seen as something of little value.

2010 also saw the beginnings of social networks and on Facebook there were only three pages dedicated to the architectural heritage of Lima, which together had about 30,000 followers; all of them focusing on colonial and republican Lima.

On the last count, in July 2019, there were nearly 60 pages (on cultural, architectural and archeological heritage of Lima), with about one million followers.
Fragment of the Decree of the Mayor's Office of the Municipality of Lima, of January 12, 2012,
officially declaring Lima a Millennial City.

What was achieved by the ambitious campaign that was born here?

Modesty aside, I would say that some important achievements were made. Other developments happened during the most active years of the campaign, but it is always more difficult in those cases to attribute a direct link to the campaign. Of those we have no doubt about, I mention the most significant:

· A new foundational narrative of Lima, moving the cursor from 1535 backwards: to the first monumental architecture of the city, the huaca Paraíso (4000 years old).

· The invitation of El Comercio newspaper (2011) to do the campaign from its platforms. This support was key, because it gave visibility and legitimacy to the subject of huacas.

· The Decree of the Metropolitan Mayor's Office of Lima (2012), by which Lima was officially declared “Millennial City”.

· Greater precision in sectors of the press when speaking of January 18, to specify that what is remembered is the Spanish foundation.

The declaration of the Municipality gave rise to the largest metropolitan programme in terms of recovery, education, activation of archaeological sites, and the protection of intangible heritage, never made in Lima. Although this only lasted the four years of that administration.

Apart from that, according to official data, from 2012 to 2015, the Ministry of Culture invested US$ 6 million approx. in the recuperation of huacas in Lima (the largest amount to date in a short period).

For the period 2016 to 2019, it was US$ 3.5 million, approx.

The pre-Hispanic Surco Canal  

The impressive pre-Hispanic irrigation system, which transformed the Lima desert into very productive agricultural valleys by hand through millenia, was another great unknown. Ironically, two of those canals, which to date continue to irrigate 30% of the city's green areas, represent the environmental sustainability of Lima in the future.

In 2016, with the support of the Surco-Huatica Irrigation Commission, I launched the Canals of Lima campaign, to gain recognition of four sectors of the ancient Surco Canal as Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

This was achieved in March 2019, with the declaration of segment three, located in the district of San Borja. And this was followed by the publication of a book of the same name, whose pdf is freely accessible to all through the Commission's website: https://www.regantessurco.com/.

Click here to see a visual summary of the decade.

Ancestral ritual during the launch of the "Canales de Lima" campaign, in the district of San Borja.
Photo: Joaquín Narváez.

Venice Biennale and Pan American Games

Just to finish, I would like to mention two additional projects, with a more global profile, which in one way or another are the result of the LM campaign.

One of them was to win, together with architects Marianela Castro and Janeth Boza, the national competition to curate the Peruvian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2018, bringing to Europe 4000 years of architecture we still find in Lima.

To our great luck, the Peruvian pavilion appeared in most of the best-ten-pavilions-lists of that year.

And, perhaps, of more recent memory are the Pan American Games, Lima 2019, where I worked as Advisor on Culture and Citizenship, with the task of preparing the main thematic guidelines for the opening and closing ceremonies.

As part of that mission, I organized a series of creative workshops with some of the most representative professionals in the arts and culture, and together we reached a series of proposals, which were later reflected in the Games, surprising us with a totally different way of seeing and understanding the city.

What other figures?

· More than 300 articles written in this blog, reaching about 900.000 people.

· About 80 full-page articles written for El Comercio newspaper, on top of more than 40 profiles of citizens of Lima, in the same paper.

· The LM Facebook page currently has over 60,000 followers, and I am happy to say that it is still the most popular page of its kind, and it will remain active for a while.

In a broader context, over the past ten years, the Ministry of Culture has been updating the information with some regularity.

As of December 2019, it reported that Metropolitan Lima has 508 archeological sites, which occupy some 6,000 hectares (the vast majority, unfortunately, disconnected from the city and from any citizen's experience).

Corner of the pavilion of Peru at the Venice Architecture Biennale, 2018.
The knots represent each of the huacas of Lima.
Photo: Cristobal Palma.

But there are more impressive figures ...

For instance, Lima is the only capital city in the Americas with an architectural continuity of 4000 years - a fact that emerged from my research.

Likewise, Lima is part of a small group of only six capital cities in the globe that share a similar category.

One of my dreams is that at some point we'll have authorities with the necessary vision to recognize this immense value, which makes of Lima a different and original place, and take the necessary actions to frame it better.


But as I also said at the beginning of this post, much of the inspiration for this campaign always had to do with the citizen. For me, the reasons were obvious.

In Lima, not only did one third of the country's population live, but in the last 50 years it had become a truly mestizo city, where they spoke - to give just one detail - 31 of the 48 indigenous languages of the country.

But what in other places would have been a source of pride, here it was experienced as a bad signal. Lima not only had a history of having been a very discriminatory city. It still was.

Survey after survey (IMASEN 2018, IPSOS 2018) kept pointing out the usual: a majority who felt discriminated against, many times because of their origin and skin colour. What did this have to do with the huacas? Everything.

The new protagonists

One aspect of this campaign had to do with bringing this 'new' information to the people, assuming that this would be an important factor to strengthen not only identity, but a sense of belonging and citizenship.

Was it achieved? Judging by the amount of civil society initiatives (bottom-up) that have been growing and being born in the last ten years (about 30), I would say that it is a process in construction.

But, in addition, we have also seen new actors emerge at the level of local government. Where ten years ago there were mayors who did not want to get involved, arguing that they had other - more important- needs to meet in their districts, in recent years they took on a different role.

There we have the cases of the districts of Ate, Comas, Los Olivos, San Martín de Porres, Ventanilla, which at different times and with different levels of commitment, changed positions to incorporate their local 'huacas' as part of the life of their districts.

School-children during the representation of ancestral dances in the Puruchuco huaca.
Photo: JLizarzaburu.
Still pending

What remains to be done then? The list is still long, in particular because the competent authorities do not have enough muscle to change and improve things.

The fact that in recent years we've had a rapid succession of Ministers of Culture has not helped much.

In order not to make this too long, I believe that this body of information, which unifies and encompasses the cultural and millennial development of Lima, belongs to its citizens. But it should reach the 11 million Limeños on a regular basis, and those who will continue to arrive here.

Those who have followed my work to some extent, will realize that I have always insisted on the need to move forward with content-production. In Peru, we don't do very well. To date, there is no institution that is producing mass cultural and historic information.


Luckily, we have the next MUNA (National Museum of Archeology) that, as I have also pointed out several times, one of its functions could be precisely this: the production of cultural and historical content for mass dissemination.

As the architect Juan Günther always maintained, the history of Lima is that of a deed carried out by its inhabitants during thousands of years. There is some poetry, and much of an epic approach, in that view.

That heritage lives with us, and will continue to accompany the next generations. And that is precisely one element that will continue to make of Lima a rich, different city, waiting for a vision that articulates it better.

From my new home in The Hague, I can only say thank you to everyone who accompanied me during this time. It has been a great privilege to contribute something to the recognition of the value in our city.

The oldest monumental huaca of Lima: Paraíso (2000 B.D.), San Martín de Porres district.
Photo: J.J. Quiróz.

Click here to see a visual summary of the decade.



Declaration of the Surco Canal as Cultural Heritage of the Nation:

Surco-Huatica Irrigation Commission:



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