My name is Alfonso Tapujima, I have been living in a settlement along the ‘wall of shame’ for 18 years. We don’t have water, we don’t have sewage, even though we live only 40-50 minutes away from the center of Lima. There is no State support here, we live as if we were very far away from everything, instead we are in the capital of Perù.
We are on the other side of the wall of shame, the almost 10-foot-high barrier that divides the rich from the poor people.
Those who have money incriminate those who have not, but we are just trying to live a common life, looking for a way to keep going. We settled here in the capital to seek a job, leaving our villages to get something better.
I work here and there, when I find a job and when I don’t. At the same time I contribute to the life of the community of the settlement. My wife and I joined our neighbors to cook and distribute food to those who need it. Many people who live here are very vulnerable.
Afterall, we have a good relationship with the people who live on the other side, in ‘Casuarinas’. They have luxurious houses and villas with swimming pools, sometimes they call us there to work.
The wall was built to prevent people from continuing to settle in the lands that they formally own, but are in reality abandoned. Even though these have been our homes since decades, we do not have documents that prove we are living here, because we do not own the land. That’s the reason why the State does not provide us any help, the lands are considered privates and the municipality does not want to invest anything in this territory, not even in services for those who need and have nowhere else to go.
During the pandemic we felt even more left behind. We managed to organize on our own the distribution of around 60-65 meals for the families living here. For only 2 soles we were able to cover the costs of gas and ingredients, but there was no running water. The municipality or the church didn’t give us any support. In that critical time, the NGO ‘Los Sin Agua’ helped us with a system to collect water from fogs and clouds. Since then, we keep fighting together, both for getting water and for raising awareness about the reality here, how people live with only a few services and collect efforts to help each other overcome daily hardship.
Sometimes during the electoral campaign politicians come to visit our settlements. They walk around and make lots of promises for better services and facilities, but the truth is that when they are in power they can no longer do anything. They forget about us, even though we have given them our vote hoping they could build something good for our community. It’s all just words.
We have no running water but when it rains a lot, water enters from all sides of the house and children and the elderly suffer a lot because of this. We use the same stagnant water to have a shower and wash our clothes. These days, hard rain and river flooding are destroying all at once decades of people’s efforts spent building and protecting our homes from discriminating policies.
In such emergency moments I only think about the present. It is as soon as I relax for a short while that I get more and more concerned about our future, the future of our children.
My sons are adults already, they grew up and I have two nephews, one is 2 years old and the other is 4 months old.
Children are curious, their questions are quite simple as they see other kids with volleyball balls and bicycles, “dad, can i have it as well?”. Balls are cheap, we can afford them, bicycles are dangerous since we live on the top of the hill, but sometimes it is harder to answer.
When children ask about the difference between us and the rich people, we tell them about the importance of education, it doesn’t matter where they live, it does what they learn for a better future.
The real injustice is that many brilliant adolescents can’t afford higher quality education fees. They could go to university, but instead they get into low skilled jobs, repairing stuff for the rich people who live nearby with their swimming pools.
We tell our kids to fight, to be strong and keep studying without getting into the temptation of dropping out of school. Their future has more value than the little money that those who live on the other side of the wall can offer them.