Gisela Cánepa Koch
Hemispheric Institute
Third Annual Encuentro, Lima, Perú
Keynote Address, July 5, 2002

Lima as a Space of Dispute:Migration and Performance


In the 1970s the encroachment of land by the migrant population originating from the Andes was already an almost institutionalized practice. Through this informal and halfway-completed manner of popular organizations basing themselves, the new Limans negotiated with the state their right of residency in the city, winning over their condition of being settlers at the same time as citizens. On the other hand, the development of an informal economy based on a productive Andean rationality and organization gave rise to a resulting managerial class, as well as to new middle sectors. The process that resulted in their constitution as urban workers and consumers deposits across the market to the globalized world. Thus, slums, informal economy and new consumers have been distinguished by the social sciences as the transforming factors of Lima.

I want to incise a more cultural argument to explain the transformations of contemporary Lima. The peculiarity of the 1970s encroachment resides in another important factor, and that is that they were televised. Such a mediated event significantly contributed to the constitution of Lima as a public space and therefore, the scene and object of the struggle for representation. From the televised invasions followed other mediated events: the Sixth, the capture of Abimael Guzmán, the taking of the Japanese embassy, until the Vladivideos, in whose social, ethnic, political, gender and generational identities are significant in the urban landscape.

This is the context from which one has to understand the significance and dynamic of the distinct forms of representation that were generated in the city and at the same time are generated by it. The migrant populations as well as the generations that followed are not just citizens, producers and consumers. It is important to recognize them as cultural agents that through the distinct forms of representation they constitute, distinguish and position themselves as Limans. From such a line of reflection, the recontextualization of the Andean cultural forms are understood in their transformation capacity and therefore acquire political and historical value, instead of being objects like mere patrimonial lists, or reduced to simple archaic and local forms of culture.