Monday, January 21, 2013

San Cristobal - Lima, Peru

Written by Karen.
Earlier in the week, we had seen the colorful homes climbing up a mountain near the downtown historical center, and noticed the huge cross that was on top of the mountain light up during the evening hours and wondered about it. What was the significance of the mountain with the huge cross?

Answer:  Evidently, there has been a cross continuously up on that mountain since 1536, shortly after Pizarro founded The City of Kings, or Lima, Peru.  

We took a small tour van up to San Cristobal - some 1310 feet above sea level - to look at the 360-degree view of Lima and her approximately 8 million residents.  Cost: 5 soles each for the round trip ($1.96 USD).

We left the downtown historical center and crossed the bridge towards the historical River Rimac district.  We quickly began climbing in altitude at a perhaps 20 percent grade as the street narrowed and the small adobe and wood houses began to cling to the sandy mountain.  The driver honked his horn as we went around hairpin curves, and as we climbed and climbed, we could begin to see just how big Lima is. 

Upon reaching the top of San Cristobol, we all got out of the van and walked to the edge.  Lima is huge in size.  The City literally goes as far as the eye can see in every direction, stopping only at the Pacific Ocean.  The tour guide shared her perspective when answering our questions regarding the poverty that we had seen on our way into Lima, as well as what we were seeing from San Cristobol.  

She told us that there were only a few modern districts in Lima - the ones that we have already begun to explore and appreciate - and there were districts within Lima that had no electricity, no lights, no water, no garbage pick-up, and, no telephones.

As we drove through the Peruvian desert and into towns and cities, we could see the neighborhoods without paved roads or infrastructure, the homes patched together with bamboo/straw mats and corrugated metal, and the piles and piles of trash.  We've been able to watch people living their lives in simple subsistence as they farmed or made do.  

Seeing extreme poverty up close and personal is difficult.  Getting your arms around the idea of just how many people live in poverty here is mind-blowing.   We have seen poverty throughout our journey through South America, and we know that we will continue to see families living with little or less.  These are not simple problems and there are no easy answers.  But, it remains difficult to reconcile the levels of poverty and disparity in the ledger of fairness and equal opportunity.  It is difficult to reconcile the beauty of the manicured government buildings and restored historical churches with the abject poverty just a few blocks away.  

One of the sides of San Cristobal where homes are being built.
This cross is huge.  Each one of the lights is about 1 foot square.  When illuminated, you can see this cross throughout the City.
View of how far Lima extends into the distance.
Close-up view of the downtown historical district.  The green river gardens are in the middle of the picture, while the yellow buildings behind the river are in the main square area. San Cristobol is on the other side of the river. 
The Panamerican runs through it.
Another view of Lima.  You can see more homes being built on the two mountains.
As far as the eye can see...
The Districts of Barranco and Miraflores are close to where the fog is starting to roll in on the coast.
Close-up views of some of the homes seen from San Cristobol

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