Peru

Making Manchay

The rapidly growing community of Manchay is the focus of the third edition of PeruZine, available at Betula Books. This article provides some background to how, and why, I created this photo essay.

Building a community

Thousands of Peruvian people left poor, isolated Andean communities in the 1980s to escape from terrorism and the challenges of making a living in the mountains. They sought refuge in informal settlements around Lima, such as Manchay, which began as a place in the desert without infrastructure; without water.

The first settlers built simple box houses out of five frames of woven reeds. Later, as income grew, these pioneers invested in wooden panels, bricks and cement and made more permanent dwellings. But in a place where it hardly ever rains and too far away from the Lurín River, families had to buy water from travelling tankers at a high relative cost to their limited income.

Forty years later, Manchay has grown to more than 200,000 inhabitants. Households now have running water and electricity, young people go to local schools, and businesses make money. The construction of a hospital is in the plans, and an urban gardening project exists to help families grow their food and sell surplus produce in Lima markets.

I first travelled to Peru in 1995 when I was involved in running a capacity-building course on environmental management for the government and industry. After the event, some of the people working with our local partners, a Peruvian non-governmental organization (NGO) called Oficina de Asesoría y Consultoría Ambiental (OACA), took me to the district of Cieneguilla. The drive from Lima took us about 40 km south, through the wealthy suburb of La Molina, then up into the Lurín Valley to the village of Río Seco (“Dry River”). A new potable water supply had been built, with support from OACA and funded by the British Embassy, and I was asked to participate in the turn-on ceremony. I graciously accepted and then went to the celebration party where I had my first taste of chicha de jora, a traditional brew made from fermented corn. Local musicians performed Andean music, and children played ceremonial games of football and volleyball in a flattened area just a short walk from the archaeological ruins of Huaycán de Cieneguilla.

That visit demonstrated to me how the provision of a safe supply of running water, the simple act of turning on a tap, could transform the development of a community. A few months later, I returned to Peru to speak at an environmental conference. Maricarmen, a social worker on OACA’s team, who later became my wife, guided me on a tour around other parts of the Lurín Valley, including Manchay. I made further visits to the area over the next 20 years and resolved to publish some stories. With PeruZine I have fulfilled that desire.

Creating the Zine

I digitized the analogue slide photographs I made in the 1990s. By 2015, when I made my last visit to Manchay, I was using digital cameras. Those images became part of Developing Communities in Peru: Manchay, Quebrada Verde and the Lurín Valley, a book I produced in 2018. Mindful of the relatively high cost of producing and shipping a large (156-page), hard-cover publication, I decided to create this shorter and more accessible publication as part of my series PeruZine. You can see more about how I create photo books here.

PeruZine 03, explores aspects of Manchay’s development with a feature on urban food production. A later edition in the series will feature Quebrada Verde, one of the other communities in the Lurín Valley, with a focus on water.

Free download or purchase print copies

If you would like a free pdf download of PeruZine 01 or would like to purchase a copy of PeruZine 03 or the second edition, about the fishers of Huanchaco, please visit www.betulabooks.com

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