Readers of this blog and followers of LLI in general often have a good understanding of WHAT we do but only a vague understanding of WHERE we do it. This post is the first installment in a series about the different zones within Huaycan in which LLI works.
Map of the original plan of Huaycan with Zone D circled in red.
In 1984, after large amounts of public pressure and massive social mobilization, the municipality of Lima began the Programme Spécial de Huaycán, a massive experiment in urban planning with the aim of providing the lower social strata access to housing. Huaycán, a self-managing urban community, was organized around the concept of “communal housing groups” (Unidades Comunales de Viviendo - UCV), which average one hectare. Each was designed to have 60 housing plots with parks, streets and communal buildings. About 20 UCVs are grouped together to make individual zones which comprise roughly 1,200 housing plots and serve as the core of local organization. There are about 21 different zones in Huaycán, not including the unincorporated informal hillside houses.
Zone D, where the LLI offices and volunteer house is located, was part of the original government plan but its incarnation was much more of a bottom up populist movement than top down government project. I recently sat down with Queta, a long time LLI employee and 28 year resident of Huaycán, to talk about the History of Zone D and the changes she has witnessed since first moving into Zone D in 1986.
Early habitation of Zone D was pushed by Ñaña Las Malvinas, a housing association comprised predominately of teachers. Representatives were positioned at the entrance of Huaycán, off of the Central Highway, to encourage migrants from the Andes and other landless individuals to move to Huaycán. Free land was granted to those that chose to move to Huaycán but the conditions were fairly harsh.
As with the rest of Huaycán, the area of land that turned into Zone D was covered in rocks and boulders, there was no running water, no roads, no electricity, little income generating economy, and government assistance to remedy this situation was non-existent. The new residents of Zone D worked together to clear the land of rocks, organize local governance, provide neighborhood policing, and build houses, roads and local comunales or community buildings. These locales often housed comedores which are community kitchens where resources are pooled to provide meals much cheaper than possible by cooking for individual families.
Early houses were temporary shacks usually made from wood and other cheap natural materials and did not have running water or electricity. In February of 1987 political and social leaders from Huaycán mobilized a large march into Lima to demand services be extended into their community, and despite violent confrontation with police and infiltration by Shining Path insurgents, their demands were heard by Parliament. This march was successful in getting power lines run to every zone, including those not yet inhabited, but work on building a reservoir and extending water services was not begun until after an additional protest march in March of 1988.
Zone D, in the foreground, as seen from above at dusk.
Over the past 30 years Zone D has continued to develop and experience upgrades to the living conditions and infrastructure. Houses have transitioned from their humble shack beginnings to three and even a few four story brick homes, there are schools, shops, a technology institute, and within the last sixth months many of the roads have been paved. Zone D is now one of the more developed zones in Huaycán and home to many teachers, working professionals, small business owners and working class families. While the comedores see less use than they used to, the energy and sense of community has remained. This is particularly evident when walking around the neighborhood on weekends and evenings when families, friends, neighbors and kids gather outside to play ball, dance, grill and relax.
A newly paved road goes up the hill into the middle of Zone D.
LLI is now an established aspect of life in Zone D. Our classroom here has been the hub of LLI education and welcomed students from Zone D and surrounding areas for nearly five years and we have developed a positive relationship with our direct community. Our volunteers, who generally stand out, are regularly greeted by students, former students, parents and neighbors alike making Zone D a very welcoming home.