Each year, the Program in Latin America Studies at Hopkins provides a competitive travel grant to students interested in researching topics related to Latin America. With this grant, I traveled to Lima, Peru this past summer, where I conducted an exploratory, survey-based project looking at the development in Lima over the last 5 years. Peru has had the second highest GDP in Latin America in the last 10 years and I was curious to know more about the pueblos jóvenes (as the slums are called in Lima) and how they are experiencing the growing economy.
Since the 1950s, Lima’s population has been growing dramatically. Between 1981 and 2007, Lima has doubled in size and now contains almost 9 million people--or 30 percent of the country’s population--within the metropolitan area. Although Latin America has been leading the pace in urbanization, the entire world is now more urban than rural as of 2007.
The trajectory of urban development in Lima is both interesting and worrisome. Due to high demand for living near Peru’s economic hub, a lack of housing has left families resorting to invading empty public territory, sometimes on precarious land, in the periphery of the capitol city. The lack of housing has been caused by bad public policy as a result of push back from traditional residents of Lima who did not want rural residents living in the capitol. The government also made attempts for the public sector to build homes for the poor, but building enough homes for over 2 million people is extremely difficult and costly. In the 1970s, another approach was actually pre-planning the invasions into small plazas; the result of which can be seen on Google Maps in the district of Villa El Salvador. These strategies are no longer used.