Daily Picture Show

A Historic Community Dismantled In Peru

  • The community of El Ayllu in Lima, Peru, has been demolished to make way for an airport expansion. Residents received money to relocate, but their historic sense of community cannot be rebuilt. Here, Ricardo Galvez, Giovanna Meneses Pisco and Arely Betzabe stand in front of their former home in El Ayllu. The family was back in the neighborhood to gather some of their belongings.
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    The community of El Ayllu in Lima, Peru, has been demolished to make way for an airport expansion. Residents received money to relocate, but their historic sense of community cannot be rebuilt. Here, Ricardo Galvez, Giovanna Meneses Pisco and Arely Betzabe stand in front of their former home in El Ayllu. The family was back in the neighborhood to gather some of their belongings.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner
  • Adriano Leon Bardales has lived in El Ayllu, where he runs a general store, for 46 years. He will move to a nearby neighborhood where he has found a house to rent with space to open another store.
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    Adriano Leon Bardales has lived in El Ayllu, where he runs a general store, for 46 years. He will move to a nearby neighborhood where he has found a house to rent with space to open another store.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner
  • The Avilas photographed at their home. All of them were born and raised in El Ayllu. Pictured (from left) are Jalson Avila, 14, Arin Avila, 7, Ivon Arrazabal, 35, Marcio Avila, 2, Yely Avila, 38, and Italo Avila, 10. As soon as families moved out, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, with the help of paid community members, began to demolish the buildings.
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    The Avilas photographed at their home. All of them were born and raised in El Ayllu. Pictured (from left) are Jalson Avila, 14, Arin Avila, 7, Ivon Arrazabal, 35, Marcio Avila, 2, Yely Avila, 38, and Italo Avila, 10. As soon as families moved out, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, with the help of paid community members, began to demolish the buildings.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Severino Caldas Ponte, 50, photographed in his home of 50 years.
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    Severino Caldas Ponte, 50, photographed in his home of 50 years.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Dignacia Puente Lope, 80, moved to El Ayllu when she was 15. The neighborhood lacks running water and trash services, so the residents burn their trash and get water from several wells that fill with groundwater.
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    Dignacia Puente Lope, 80, moved to El Ayllu when she was 15. The neighborhood lacks running water and trash services, so the residents burn their trash and get water from several wells that fill with groundwater.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Victoria Chavez de Gutierrez and her husband, Esteban Gutierrez Loayza, have lived in El Ayllu for 50 years. The couple, their children and grandchildren lived on a property that spanned an entire block. In the rear of the property was a field of banana trees that the family harvested and ate. The main terminal of Jorge Chavez International Airport can be seen behind the field.
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    Victoria Chavez de Gutierrez and her husband, Esteban Gutierrez Loayza, have lived in El Ayllu for 50 years. The couple, their children and grandchildren lived on a property that spanned an entire block. In the rear of the property was a field of banana trees that the family harvested and ate. The main terminal of Jorge Chavez International Airport can be seen behind the field.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Abigail Avila, 54, has lived all her life in El Ayllu. She has lived 27 years in this house.
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    Abigail Avila, 54, has lived all her life in El Ayllu. She has lived 27 years in this house.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Dora Sabina Barrantes Enriquez poses for a photograph in front of the home she has lived in since 1942. Some historians date the home back to the 1600s, and the property was registered as a historical building. The building was part of the grand Hacienda San Agustin, once inhabited by one of Peru's most wealthy and powerful families. It was demolished.
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    Dora Sabina Barrantes Enriquez poses for a photograph in front of the home she has lived in since 1942. Some historians date the home back to the 1600s, and the property was registered as a historical building. The building was part of the grand Hacienda San Agustin, once inhabited by one of Peru's most wealthy and powerful families. It was demolished.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Manuel Chira Juarez and Maria Medina de Chira stand on the dirt road outside their home with their daughter Jenny Chira Medina as an airplane passes by overhead. Residents say that after decades of living so close to the airport, they don't hear the noise of the planes overhead and continue their conversations with slightly raised voices as the planes pass.
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    Manuel Chira Juarez and Maria Medina de Chira stand on the dirt road outside their home with their daughter Jenny Chira Medina as an airplane passes by overhead. Residents say that after decades of living so close to the airport, they don't hear the noise of the planes overhead and continue their conversations with slightly raised voices as the planes pass.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner
  • Alejandro Higa, a farmer of Japanese descent born in 1948, has lived all his life in the neighborhood. Higa has a title for his acreage and says what the government is offering him is unfair. As of mid-March, Higa and his wife had not left their home, but the rest of the residents are gone. For decades, dozens of Japanese families grew produce in the area. Higa's farm is the last in Callao.
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    Alejandro Higa, a farmer of Japanese descent born in 1948, has lived all his life in the neighborhood. Higa has a title for his acreage and says what the government is offering him is unfair. As of mid-March, Higa and his wife had not left their home, but the rest of the residents are gone. For decades, dozens of Japanese families grew produce in the area. Higa's farm is the last in Callao.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner
  • Leslie Lopez Bellido (left) and Sheyla Pachas Bellido.
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    Leslie Lopez Bellido (left) and Sheyla Pachas Bellido.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner
  • Catalina Guzman Harrimache and her husband, Teofilo Huaman Loayza, sit on the remnants of a home. The home had its own groundwater supply that residents now frequent to wash clothes while sitting amid the rubble. In the background, the main terminal of Jorge Chavez International Airport can be seen.
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    Catalina Guzman Harrimache and her husband, Teofilo Huaman Loayza, sit on the remnants of a home. The home had its own groundwater supply that residents now frequent to wash clothes while sitting amid the rubble. In the background, the main terminal of Jorge Chavez International Airport can be seen.
    Courtesy of Oscar Durand
  • Santos Isabel Sedano Sotelo, born in 1954, has lived in El Ayllu her entire life.
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    Santos Isabel Sedano Sotelo, born in 1954, has lived in El Ayllu her entire life.
    Courtesy of Elie Gardner

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Elie Gardner and Oscar Durand moved to Lima, Peru, in 2010, and every time they flew in or out, they noticed a large farmland by the airport. The husband and wife photojournalists began to wonder why there was so much land in the middle of an urban area, and who lived there and why.

One night they saw a story about it on the news. The government was taking back the neighborhood called "El Ayllu" and relocating hundreds of families in order to expand the airport.

(For a sense of scale, check out this satellite view of the airport and surrounding farmland, as well as this historical aerial image.)

In Incan times, ayllus were small, self-sufficient communities known for their collective labor and kinship. Gardner and Durand learned that this particular piece of land was once home to the grand Hacienda San Agustin that belonged to one of Lima's most powerful and rich families. Some of the buildings dated back to the 16th century.

The two decided to make portraits of the residents and their homes to document a small piece of the area's history before it was permanently destroyed.

"I love historic photos of cities, and I sometimes wish I could see for myself what those places used to be like," said Durand via email. "Doing this photographic series allowed me to do just that. Walking on [El Ayllu's] unpaved streets, I could see remnants of its past; it was a little bit like being able to travel back in time."

Durand and Gardner gained an introduction to El Ayllu through a filmmaker who was working on a documentary there and made 14 trips to the neighborhood over a few months.

The two photographers worked together, both making portraits in the field and collaborating later on the edit. They took prints back to the residents as a way of saying thank you and were overwhelmed by the positive response.

"The residents were going through a very emotional time," said Gardner. "Most had lived their entire lives in El Ayllu. In the beginning we were knocking on doors, but it wasn't long before people were coming to us to request a portrait and inviting us into their homes."

Durand said the warm welcome was especially poignant for him and Gardner.

"Lima can be an aggressive city to work as a photographer, and doing this project reminded us that there are good people everywhere," he said.

"Never in our photographic past have we felt so accepted by a community. They fed us (and fed us and fed us some more!), helped us deliver photos to families who had already moved, and treated us as part of their community," added Gardner.

The residents of El Ayllu were compensated by the government to buy new homes and land, but both Durand and Gardner doubt they'll be able to replicate the sense of community, or sense of history, of the neighborhood they left behind.

Elie Gardner and Oscar Durand are the owners of INTI Media, a multimedia storytelling collective in Peru.

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