Reportage and Documentary 2019
The Emptying of the Andes
There is a very quiet migration taking place in Peru. It is a phenomenon that has continued incessantly for years, and is emptying the Andes mountains of men and women who are leaving their lands under the illusion of a better future. With the mirage of a new life, a solid job and financial security, comforts and attractions of modern life, the people of the Peruvian "Sierra" are leaving the mountains for the big cities in this “rural-urban migration”.
There is a very quiet and subtle migration taking place in Peru. It is a phenomenon that has continued incessantly for years, and is emptying the Andes mountains of men and women who are leaving their lands under the illusion of a better future.
With the mirage of a new life, a solid job and financial security, and with the appeal of the facilities, comforts and attractions of modern life, the people of the Peruvian "Sierra" are leaving the mountains for the big cities in search of fortune in this “rural-urban migration”.
The Peruvian Sierra Andina is the cradle of the Inca culture, it has preserved its traditions and culture for millennia. In an impervious territory, it extends from 3500 m above sea level, up to 5000 m, where we still find roads and mountain passes. Its highest point is the peak of Huascaran which, at 6768 m is the highest mountain in Peru and one of the highest in South America.
The population of the Sierra is slowly being divided: the elderly who have grown up without the lure of the cities remain in the highlands, while the young people run away to the coast, 4000 m below. For them this represents an incredible change of life.
In the mountains the people live in poverty, but with dignity and mutual altruism. They live in isolated areas, in high mountains, without services, schools, shops, and without anything appertaining to the modern world. They dress and live as they did 100 or 200 years ago, still speaking Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas. Many of them are illiterate and don’t speak Spanish.
They work as long as they can, cultivating the land, growing vegetables, corn, potatoes and tubers, and whatever nature offers at those altitudes.
They are the last witnesses of a culture and tradition that will probably have disappeared in fifteen years from now. Young people are increasingly leaving the mountains for the cities, depopulating these areas, because the attraction of modernity is too strong to allow them to remain in the Sierra.
Life in the city is hectic, it is very difficult to find work and the awakening from the dream of a new city life takes place soon for those who leave mountains.
Without money or work they are forced to beg, or improvise small jobs.
They are forced to live in small huts, in the most dangerous areas and in contact with crime. Moreover they find themselves discriminated against, and in difficulty regarding access to employment and education.
They leave the Sierra by bus or by small taxis (collective vans called "combi") and take ten to twelve hours or more to arrive in Lima, Arequipa (the biggest cities) or in Chimbote, where migration is out of control.
For years Chimbote has been a thriving city, full of life and work. It was one of the most important ports in South America, and certainly the largest fishing port in Peru.
It embodied the Peruvian dream: modern life, work, and the charm of the big city, an almost irresistible attraction for all those people who were born in the Andes; but the dream has been over for many years.
Fishing has declined sharply as a result of intensive fishing practised without controls for years.
This migratory movement, which is emptying the Andes of a population that will end up in the Chimbote slums is referred to as an"invasions", because of the unstoppable number of arrivals.
Many young people have escaped from peasant life, only to end up in the favelas of this city, with no light, no gas, nor running water.
This photographic project follows the stories both of those who remain in the Sierra, especially the elderly, and of those who left the mountains for the big city and found themselves passing from an imagined dream into a real nightmare (as in the Chimbote invasion).
The reportage started in 2011, and was carried out during four journeys, in which mainly the most remote areas of the Sierra Andina (in search of the poorest and most isolated realities), the slums of Chimbote, the suburbs of Lima and other Peruvian cities were visited, in an attempt to give a voice, through the images, to a little-known story that in the next few years will empty the mountains of their own people and native culture, filling the cities with new poverty and crime.
(The ambient light source in all images is absolutely natural)