EMPTYING OF THE ANDES

There is a very quiet and subtle migration taking place in Peru. It is a phenomenon that has continued incessantly for years, and is emptying the Andes mountains of men and women who are leaving their lands under the illusion of a better future.

With the mirage of a new life, a solid  job and financial security, and with the appeal of the facilities, comforts and attractions of modern life, the people of the Peruvian "Sierra" are leaving the mountains for the big cities in search of fortune in this “rural-urban migration”.

The population of the Sierra is slowly being divided: the elderly who have grown up without the lure of the cities remain in the highlands, while the young people run away to the coast, 4000 m below. For them this represents an incredible change of life.

They live in isolated areas, in high mountains, without services, schools, shops, and without anything appertaining to the modern world. Work cultivating the land, growing vegetables, corn, potatoes and tubers, and whatever nature offers at those altitudes. They are the last witnesses of a culture and tradition that will probably have disappeared in fifteen years from now.

Young people are increasingly leaving the mountains for the cities, depopulating these areas, because the attraction of modernity is too strong to allow them to remain in the Sierra.

But in the cities they are forced to live in small huts, in the most dangerous areas and in contact with crime. Moreover they find themselves discriminated against, and in difficulty regarding access to employment and education

 

They leave the Sierra by bus or by small taxis (collective vans called "combi") and take ten to twelve hours or more to arrive in Lima, Arequipa (the biggest cities) or in Chimbote,  where migration is out of control.

For years Chimbote has been a thriving city, full of life and work. It was one of the most important ports in South America, and certainly the largest fishing port in Peru.

It embodied the Peruvian dream: modern life, work, and the charm of the big city, an almost irresistible attraction for all those people who were born in the Andes; but the dream has been over for many years.

Fishing has declined sharply as a result of intensive fishing practised without controls for years.

This migratory movement, which is emptying the Andes of a population that will end up in the  Chimbote slums is referred to as an"invasions", because of the unstoppable number of arrivals.

This photographic project follows the stories both of those who remain  in the Sierra, especially the elderly, and of those who left the mountains  for the big city and found themselves passing from an imagined dream into a real nightmare (as in the Chimbote invasion) in an attempt to give a voice, through the images, to a little-known story that in the next few years will empty the mountains of their own people and native culture, filling the cities with new poverty and crime.

 

Emiliano Pinnizzotto / Photography /

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