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  HOME | Peru

Closure of Bohemian Section of Downtown Lima a Blow to Alternative Culture

LIMA – The decision to close a bohemian section of the Peruvian capital’s downtown known as Quilca Boulevard marks the end of an era for alternative culture, booksellers and other small retailers affected by the eviction say.

Besides being home to the Boulevard, Quilca street in Lima’s historical center is lined with bookstores and shops and has been a magnet for different generations of intellectuals, bookseller Pedro Ponce told EFE.

He recalled that in the 1920s poet Cesar Vallejo lived in that capital district for two years and that politicians from across Peru’s ideological spectrum held meetings there in the 1980s, while today it remains a gathering place for poets, artists and bohemians.

Quilca Boulevard, or Boulevard of Culture, sprung up two decades ago on land partially owned by the Archdiocese of Lima, which in 2008 sought to evict the small retailers after the expiration of a rental agreement signed in 1997.

The eviction was finally carried out on Jan. 14 after a series of warnings, a move that Ponce says stems from the archdiocese’s interest in “investing in a more profitable business.”

Around 60 families who sold mainly books and music, but also rock band T-shirts and other merchandise, have been affected by the eviction, the bookseller said.

Both Quilca street and the Boulevard, which occupies a half-block of that road, was known as a place to find first editions and old and out-of-print books, as well as complete encyclopedias.

Music lovers also have flocked to that area of downtown looking for rare albums in an array of genres, including folk and jazz, record seller Humberto Velazquez told EFE.

Many small retailers feel “helpless and adrift” and now do not know where they will work or what to do, bookseller Jacqueline Chavez said.

The books people bought at the Boulevard “can’t be found anywhere else,” she added, noting that many Peruvians visited the street to find texts they needed for their dissertations.

The court-ordered eviction was carried out because “the rent wasn’t paid for three years,” the archdiocese’s press office told EFE, adding that there was “nothing else to say” about the matter.

The street’s location next to Lima’s downtown Plaza San Martin made Quilca a popular spot for aspiring rock musicians and other members of the capital’s alternative scene.

Ponce said the booksellers’ goal over the past 20 years was to “transform the place through books,” but that now they are considering relocating to a different spot near Quilca street.

A protest organized via social media also is scheduled for Jan. 23 that will feature live music and other performances to lament the Boulevard’s closure.

“We need (Lima Archbishop Juan Luis) Cipriani to have mercy on culture,” Chavez said.


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