LIMA – Amid the huge traffic jams on Lima’s chaotic streets, history is now a passenger riding the buses that inch their way through the Peruvian capital, thanks to university students who give passengers lessons about the historical origins of the avenues they travel along.
The project is meant to “awaken an interest in history among those on board by providing information” about the places they see every day, the marketing director of San Martin de Porres University, Carla Montero, whose center organized the Culture PE group carrying out the project, told Efe.
The group is made up of three San Martin students who for the past three months have dedicated their free time to getting on and off Lima’s buses to give brief history lessons at least four times a week.
“Their job is to give short, basic information with talks that last about five minutes each, during which they also distribute articles that the passengers can continue reading,” Montero said.
Among the members of Culture PE is Jordan Carrion, who told Efe that “the interest people show in historical and cultural subjects motivates us to impart that information with much more enthusiasm, because general culture is a very important element of social development.”
“Our original idea was to instruct fare collectors on microbuses so they could explain the history of the streets they travel, but later we decided to speak on the vehicles ourselves,” Carrion said.
Lima inhabitants can spend an average of three hours a day on buses, microbuses and vans, and it’s usual for the vehicles to take on street vendors of candies, chewing gum, cigarettes, ice cream, chocolates and other products, but up to now there have never been free history lessons.
That, for example, is the experience of those riding a bus along Alfonso Ugarte Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares of Lima’s historic center, built 87 years ago and named after one of the Peruvian heroes of the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific, but few of the people traveling along it know anything about the history behind the name.
As he got on one of the buses, Carrion announced to the rest of the passengers that “Ugarte died in the battle of Arica,” and from the back of the bus a man added that “he also took part in two battles, and, in the last one they shot him in the head,” while another added that the Peruvian hero was an accountant by trade.
For the young professors, living amid all that traffic and chaos distances Peruvians from their city to the point of “being tourists in our own country,” Carrion said.
The student said this was one of the reasons why they decided to teach history on the buses, because they were certain that the only way to change things is to learn about the past so as not to repeat the same mistakes.