There are stories that come from the outskirts of the world, as Pope Francis defined them, which seem to throw humanity into dark and discriminating ancient times. Yet, we are in the third millennium, and today there is still a clear separation between the rich and the poor. We are not talking about an abstract concept here, but about an actual barbed wire that separates the “pestilent” from the rest of society. Yet another – 3m-high – wall in the middle of Lima, a modern metropolis and the capital of Peru.
Many people call it “the wall of shame”, but the most absurd thing of all is that for those who live there it is a security system like any other. It is not perceived as a madness nor as a forced separation between human beings, despite the fact that we are talking about concrete and barbed wire, a “dam” that divides the rich Las Casuarinas neighborhood from the poor Pamplona Alta. The construction of the wall – Radio Bullets blog explains – had begun in the 80’s, the era of terrorism and advance of invasions in Peru, but its last segment was finished only four years ago.
People who live in Las Casuarinas pay $100 a month for security and feel protected; the inhabitants are convinced that they can so walk and sleep in peace; they defend their right to private property and do not think there is anything wrong about it. People who work “in the service” in Las Casuarinas houses are often from Pamplona Alta, the district beyond the wall. They would never ever think of steal in the homes of the rich and according to them, the barrier was built only not to see the shacks in which they are forced to live. Basically, rather than actual fear of theft, what annoys them is the sight of poverty. A slap in the face of dignity amidst the many ghettos around the world.
Las Casuarinas was created in the fifties on a private property of Mount San Francisco, in the Surco district. Houses here can cost up to $5million and who lives there has a privileged view on the entire capital. On the other side there is Pamplona Alta, in the San Juan de Miraflores district, where develop clusters of houses built without planning nor projects, which do not enjoy the privilege of having electricity and water at home and which are usually inhabited by young people. On this side, a house in wood and plastic can cost less than $300.
Paradoxically, for the poor families of Pamplona Alta – but it applies also to all the poor in general, the cost of living is higher than for the inhabitants of Las Casuarinas. Water, for example, the basic commodity par excellence. Whereas the rich have access to abundant running water, enough to fill the dozens of pools in the neighborhood, the inhabitants of the poor area receive water thanks to a tanker truck that reaches the most disadvantaged areas. Thus – Radio Bullets goes on, – water costs ten times more here than in the rich area: for example, a family can spend up to $25 a month for water supply (if you live in the lower part of Pamplona Alta). Those who live higher up, pay three times as much because the trucks cannot get to the top of the hill, so it is extra work to bring water to the house.
Recently, during the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke of another wall, the one in Berlin, which had split the city in two parts for so long and had been a symbol of ideological division and that of the inside world. Referring then to all the other walls in the world, he prayed for a “culture of encounter to spread more and more, a culture capable of destroying all the walls that still divide the world. Where there is a wall – he said – there are closed hearts: we need bridges, not walls”. Walls have nothing to do with safety…