LIMA – Ten years ago, thousands of people occupied the Infierno landfill south of Lima and turned it into an extension of the Oasis de Villa shantytown, a saga depicted in an exhibition of the work of photographer Paco Chuquiure.
“Album Familiar” (Family Album) is a photo essay that Chuquiure started on April 8, 2006, when he learned that men and women from places such as Chiclayo, Huanuco, Ayacucho, Pucallpa, Piura, Cuzco, Ica and Amazonia arrived at the site “toting poles, rush mats, bagfuls of bread and vats of quinoa.”
The squatters became “a combination of all of Peru’s provinces, gathering spontaneously at the same place in the latest invasion of the Villa El Salvador district,” which developed in the 1970s on the sandy hills south of the Peruvian capital.
Chuquiure told EFE that his purpose was “to make visible how a city is built,” documenting the inhabitants as “they emerge, socialize and evolve.”
“I think that the Lima of the 21st century is not the city of neo restaurants or shopping centers, rather I feel it’s closer to the life of people in the periphery,” he said. “People who, in the great majority of cases, have illegally invaded lands belonging to the state, or to private parties, to find a spot to live in the big city.”
The story of the Infierno pioneers “is magnificent because it synthesizes the internal struggle of a human group eager to move forward even when they have everything against them,” the photographer said.
“It is also the story of a dysfunctional, contradictory and abandoned community,” he said. “In many case, the victim of its own limitations.”
Chuquiure sees the community’s history as divided into two distinct stages and his photos reflect that concept.
The first phase is represented by a collection of black and white images seeking to depict “a strong message of hope ... and great harmony aesthetically.”
For the second phase, the introduction of color serves to show how individuals externalize “their private world emotionally and materially.”
“There’s a perception of emptiness, personal conflict,” the photographer said. “Montage emphasizes the duality of these two phases. I am fascinated by the concept of yin and yang, and I can see it in human nature every day.”