LIMA – COVID-19 has not only taken a huge number of lives but it has also destroyed many people’s plans, resulted in unfulfilled dreams and desires that in Peru have begun to coalesce into “The Wall of Hope,” a wall representing everything that Lima residents are yearning for once the pandemic ends.
Traveling, getting married, studying abroad, playing soccer or simply visiting family and embracing them are some of the most common things that people want these days and which the coronavirus has made impossible, with Peru being one of the epicenters of the pandemic with almost 900,000 confirmed cases and more than 34,000 deaths.
“When all this ends, I want …” is the phrase that inaugurates this blackboard of more than 20 square meters (215 square feet), and when people pass by they have been using the colored chalk that is provided there to write the things most want to do once things get back to “normal” and COVID-19 is not such an immediate threat.
“I want to hug again without fear,” reads one of the anonymous messages placed on one of the two murals set up so far in Lima’s Miraflores district, one of the most heavily traveled in the Peruvian capital.
“I want to go back to school” reads another message in a corner, apparently written by one of the thousands of Peruvian students who have not been able to attend classes since last December, when the 2019 school year ended.
“I want to play freely with my grandchildren,” another person wrote, probably an elderly one who has experienced a long, tough and strict quarantine imposed by Peruvian authorities on people over age 65, given that two-thirds of the COVID-19 fatalities have occurred among that age cohort.
“I want to play soccer,” another anonymous person wrote on the wall, having gone almost eight months without being able to play that sport with his friends, while on the other side of the wall someone wrote that they want to “go to the stadium” to see some pro soccer, since – although the season has resumed – the public is not allowed to attend the matches.
“I want to go to Spain to study,” said another person, alluding to the fact that commercial flights are still suspended with a great portion of the world, including air connections with Europe.
The idea for this wall of hope came from the Suyai collective and was inspired by US artist Candy Chang, who is of Taiwanese origin and in 2013 for the first time set up a similar wall so that people could anonymously complete the phrase “Before I die, I want to…”
“We decided to adapt Candy’s idea to the pandemic environment to raise people’s spirits,” said Alejandro Delgado, with the Suyai collective.
“It’s a good time to change the way of thinking and refresh one’s mind because we firmly think that hope is just as contagious as the virus,” he added.
Delgado urges that walls like these be installed all over the world to spread hope to more people who are beset by uncertainty and even fear amid the pandemic.
There are thousands of messages on the wall so far and the Suyai collective has even begun turning out T-shirts featuring some of them.
The two big blackboards set up in Lima so far don’t have space for any more messages, with thousands of people having written their deepest desires there.
“It’s full. There’s no more room for me to put my message on it,” Kathy Gamarra told EFE as she examined the messages already posted there in lettering of all sizes, styles and colors.
“In reality, we’re all afraid to hug each other and to be with family. I hope that this pandemic ends soon so we can calm down. It hurts to see so much death,” Gamarra said.
Also marveling over the wall was Natalia Bruno, who told EFE that “It’s a great example, worthy of being copied in other neighborhoods and cities because it’s something positive that leads us to reflect.”
“What I want it health and peace for everyone. This has served to reaffirm our links of family and to unite us. All this is going to pass. Let’s not lose faith,” she added.
Meanwhile, Veronica, another passerby, said she identified with many of the messages like “getting married, sharing with family and being able to go out and breath calmly without using a facemask.”
Also written on the wall are more idealistic messages, like ones calling for “more tolerance in the world” or “for us to leave behind prejudices, the class structure and racism because we’re all equal.”
And there was also a person who wrote they wanted to “win my first million,” as well as ones who blatantly said they wanted “sex” or “real caresses” – a sign of the difficulties brought about by the quarantine and the lack of human contact.
“I want it not to happen again,” reads another message summarizing the yearning of a large portion of people everywhere, and especially in the Americas, where many countries are just getting through their first COVID-19 wave and are fighting to avoid experiencing a second and even more contagious wave, as is currently occurring in Europe.
The strength of these wishes takes on greater intensity in Peru, which is the country that has suffered the highest mortality rate from COVID-19: 105 deaths per 100,000 residents.
The impact is even greater if one takes into account that since the start of the pandemic in Peru more than 84,000 people have died above and beyond the “normal” number of deaths during the same time period in previous years.