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Lima and the Patterns of Migration

The first Belaúnde administration (1963-68) initiated concerted efforts to develop the Amazon Basin through its ambitious Jungle Border Highway (la carretera marginal de la selva or la marginal) program, the organization of colonization projects, and special opportunity zones to steer highland migrants in that direction and away from the coast. Belaúnde's Selva-oriented program thus tended to divert investments away from the Sierra, even though much was done there on a small local scale through the self-help Popular Cooperation (Cooperación Popular) projects. In hindsight, the resulting degradation of the tropical biosphere in the wake of these schemes created new sets of problems that were far from anyone's mind in 1964. Unfortunately, the net result of these expensive and sweeping efforts at tropical development has not been as planned. Significant changes in the direction of migration did not take place, and the jungle perimeter road system covering hundreds of kilometers was often used as landing strips by airborne drug traffickers and for military maneuvers.

Just as there are strong "pull" factors that attract persons to Lima and the other major cities, there are also many conditions that "push" people out of their communities: the loss or lack of adequate farmland, natural disasters such as earthquakes and landslides, lack of employment options, and a host of personal reasons. In addition, since the outbreak of terrorist activities by the Shining Path movement in 1980 and subsequent military reactions, over 30,000 persons have been dislocated from towns and villages in the Ayacucho and Huancavelica highlands, most of them gravitating to Ica or Lima.

The profound changes during the 1950-90 period, spurred by sheer increases in numbers, largely resulted from a desire for better life opportunities and progress. The significant demographic change that took place was the migration from rural areas to the cities, especially Lima. Five major features gave this great migration a particular Peruvian character: the concentration of people in Lima and other coastal cities, the regional heterogeneity of the migrants, the tendency of people to follow their family and paisanos to specific places, the development of migrant organizations, and the willingness of migrants to assist their homelands.

The migrants, searching for employment and better living conditions, went predominantly from the provinces to the national capital, creating a megalopolis out of Lima and Callao. In 1990 greater Lima had over 30 percent of all Peruvians as residents. On the north coast, cities such as Piura, Chiclayo, and Trujillo have attracted persons from their own regions in considerable numbers; significant growth has occurred in the southern highland cities of Arequipa, Juliaca, and Cusco, as well as in the remote jungle city of Iquitos. Despite rates of increase averaging more than 330 percent between 1961 and 1990, these cities drew few people compared to the numbers of persons drawn to greater Lima. In 1990 Lima was 14 percent larger than the next 24 cities combined, and 58 percent of all urban dwellers lived in greater Lima. As such, Lima had become one of the world's leading cities in terms of its level of primacy, that is, its overwhelming demographic dominance with respect to the next largest urban centers.

Lima's development as a "primate" city (megalopolis) began taking shape during the nineteenth century when the nation was recuperating from the disastrous War of the Pacific (1879-83) with Chile. This trend accelerated dramatically after about 1950, when the fishing industry began its expansion and Peru started to industrialize its urban economy in a determined manner. Thus, throughout most of this long period, no less than a third of the capital's residents were born elsewhere.

Lima's dominance has been more than demographic. In the late 1980s, the metropolis consumed over 70 percent of the nation's electrical energy; had 69 percent of its industry, 98 percent of private investment, and 83 percent of bank deposits; yielded 83 percent of the nation's taxes; had 42 percent of all university students, taught by 62 percent of all professors; and had 73 percent of the nation's physicians. Over 70 percent of the country's wages were paid out in Lima to 40 percent of all school teachers, 51 percent of public employees, and equivalent percentages of the skilled labor force and other urban workers. From television and radio stations to telephones, most consumer goods, recreational facilities, and other items of modern interest were also concentrated in Lima. In short, if Peru had it, it came first to Lima and more often than not was unavailable elsewhere.

Government, too, has been totally centralized in the capital since the establishment of the viceregal court in the sixteenth century. The centrality of Lima in colonial times was so significant that persons committing crimes were often punished by exiling them from the capital for various periods of time; the farther away, the worse the penalty. This notion still underlies much of the cultural concept of social value in Peru today. Everyone living outside of greater Lima is automatically a provincial (provinciano), a person defined as being disadvantaged and, perhaps, not quite as civilized as a limeño. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that Lima has attracted the vast majority of Peruvians hoping to improve their lives, whether looking for employment, seeking an education, or attempting to influence bureaucratic decisions and win assistance for their communities. Lima has been both hated and loved by provincianos, who have been engaged in unequal struggle for access to the nation's wealth and power. The factor of primacy loomed as one of Peru's most significant problems, as the nation attempted to decentralize various aspects of the government under a reorganization law promulgated in March 1987 (see Regionalism and Political Divisions , this ch.).

Another aspect of the migration had to do with its heterogeneity of origin in terms of both place and sociocultural features. At the beginning of the twentieth century, most of the provincial migrants were fairly homogeneous representatives of local elites and relatively prosperous sectors of provincial urban capitals. The last decades of the century, however, have seen a marked growth in the social and cultural diversity of the migrants. Between 1950 and 1990, increasing numbers of persons came from villages and hamlets, not the small district capitals, and thus were more representative of the bilingual and bicultural population, referred to as cholos. Whereas in the earlier years of this period, it was unusual to hear migrants speaking the Quechua or Aymara languages on the street, by 1990 it was commonplace to hear these languages used for commerce and general discourse in Lima. This change occurred mostly after 1970, when the populist military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado began a strong effort to legitimize the native tongues. And thus, it has also become more common to see persons retaining various aspects of their regional clothing styles, including hats and colorful skirts, and in, general, not discarding those cultural class markers that were so denigrated a short generation earlier.

A third migratory pattern was that people invariably followed in the footsteps of relatives and fellow paisanos. Once a village had a few paisanos established in the city, they were soon followed by others. During the course of Peruvian migration, relatively few persons simply struck out on the migratory adventure alone. Thus, the society of migrants was not a collection of alienated "lost souls," but rather consisted of groups of people with contacts, social roles, and strong cultural and family ties.

This fact produced the fourth dimension of the Peruvian migratory process: the propensity of migrants to organize themselves into effective voluntary associations. The scale and pattern of these associations distinguished the process in Peru from that in most other countries. The organizations have taken several forms, but the two most outstanding examples are found in the squatter settlements and regional clubs that have proliferated in all the largest cities, particularly Lima. The process of urban growth in Lima has produced an urban configuration that conforms to no central plan. Without access to adequate housing of any type, and without funds or available loans, migrants set about developing their own solutions by establishing organizations of their own, occasionally under the sponsorship of APRA. They planned a takeover of unoccupied land at the fringes of the city and, with the suddenness and effectiveness of a military attack, invaded the property, usually on a Saturday night.

Once on the land, the migrants laid out plots with precision and raised temporary housing in a matter of hours. Called by the somewhat deprecatory term barriada (see Glossary), the shantytowns quickly developed both an infrastructural and a sociopolitical permanence, despite initial official disapproval and police harassment. At first, the land invasions and barriada formation provoked enormous unease among traditional limeños and especially in the halls of government. The barriadas were wildly characterized as dangerous slums by the Lima middle- and upper classes, which felt threatened by the squatters. Research by anthropologist José Matos Mar Santos and others demonstrated beyond doubt, however, that these "spontaneous settlements" were, in fact, solutions to grave urban problems. Subsequent research by anthropologist Susan Lobo established that such settlements were civilly organized and rapidly assumed positive urban attributes under the squatters' own initiatives.

In 1990 there were over 400 of these large settlements surrounding Lima and Callao, containing at least half of Lima's population. Over time, many of them--such as San Martín de Porres, Comas, and Pamplona Alta--had become new political districts within the province of Lima, with their own elected officials and political power. Political scientists Henry A. Deitz and David Collier have called attention to squatter organizations as mechanisms of empowerment for persons otherwise denied a base or place in the political system. An important step for the squatters was the acquisition of the skill and the ability to exercise influence in the corridors of bureaucratic power. As these settlements and their organizations gained public legitimacy in the 1960s, the Velasco government, on assuming power in 1968, soon renamed them pueblos jovenes, a name which was quickly adopted and has remained.

The regional club aspect of Peru's urban migration was not as obvious a phenomenon as the ubiquitous squatter settlements. The need for a social life, as well as the desire to maintain contact with the home community, friends, and relatives, had moved migrants from particular villages and towns to create representative organizations based on their common place of origin. As a result, according to Teófilo Altamirano, in 1990 there were over 6,000 such clubs in greater Lima, with hundreds more to be found in the other major cities. Not only have these clubs provided an important social venue for migrants, but they also have served as a vehicle by which members could give not insubstantial assistance to their homeland (terruño), when called for.

Data as of September 1992


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