Jake Lyell
Video Production | Still Photography

Visual Storyteller

Essay: Desert Pioneers

Lima, Peru’s pueblos jovenes

  • The pueblo joven of San Juan de Miraflores sprawls along desert coastline outside Lima, Peru.

  • Artemio Godoy and his family are squatting on land along the Pacific Ocean south of Lima.

  • Most households wire just enough electricity, often covertly, to run one electric-powered unit in their homes.

  • Migrants are still arriving today to settle uninhabited plots of land high on the sandy hills in hopes of finding better lives than those from which they came.

  • The hills south of Lima were first settled by pig farmers in the 1970’s. Today residents in the crowded slums live right alongside the pigs in deplorable conditions.

  • Pork rearing remains the source of many people’s livelihood.

  • A family of six shares a small single room in Pamplona Alta.

  • Often residents only source of water is delivery trucks that make their rounds daily. Residents pay about 85 cents to have their 50 gallon cylinders filled.

  • Gangs have more authority in some pueblos jovenes than police and government.

  • Rosa Quispe came to the area known as Pamplona Alta as a squatter ten years ago. She has just come to a settlement with the pig farmer whose land she had been squatting on. “In a sense I’m happy I came here, but who wants to live in these conditions?”

The pueblos jovenes, or new villages, surrounding Peru’s capital, Lima, are makeshift shantytowns sprawled on the desert foothills of the Andes Mountains. Families from all over Peru come to escape joblessness and lack of public services to begin new lives on the dunes. Homes made out of scrap material often have only sandbags for a foundation.

Some of the neighborhoods are still in their infancy, lacking roads, water and electric services, and formal deeds to the houses occupied by their residents. Others resemble more modern neighborhoods. Some were settled legitimately, while others were taken over by squatters. Neighborhoods taken over by squatters were dubbed invasiones. The photographs shown here come from the invasiones of Pamplona Alta and Villa el Salvador, where squatters have encroached on pig farmers’ lands. Utility companies are reluctant to create more infrastructure here until disputes are settled by farmers and invaders.