In the backyard of one of South America’s busiest airports, about 350 families lived in an impoverished neighborhood known as El Ayllu, Peru.
At the beginning of March, the land was taken by eminent domain for the expansion of Jorge Chavez International Airport. The government doled out new homes and checks to the residents.
For many, it’s a positive change, as they will have homes with toilets and running water for the first time. But the residents say that doesn’t replace the tranquility and lifestyle they had in El Ayllu – an oasis in a rather dangerous urban area.
In Incan times “ayllus” were small, self-sufficient communities known for their collective labor and kinship. Hundreds of years have passed, but the principle lived on in this oasis in the Lima metropolitan area.
The land was once home to the grand Hacienda San Agustin that belonged to one of Lima’s most powerful and rich families. Buildings dating back to the 16th century were demolished.
Now the land sits ready for the construction of a second airport runway and the arrival of thousands of travelers each day.
Alejandro Higa, a farmer of Japanese descent born in 1948, has lived all his life in the neighborhood. Unlike the majority of residents in El Ayllu who didn’t purchase their land, Higa has a property 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 families of Japanese descent grew produce and ran a destination market for the area. Higa’s farm is the last in Callao. (Photo by Elie Gardner)
Ricardo Galvez, Giovanna Meneses Pisco and Arely Betzabe, 5, pose for a photograph in front of their former home. The family was back in the neighborhood to gather some of their belongings after leaving their long-time home. Giovanna spent the hours back at El Ayllu teary eyed. As soon as families moved out the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, with the help of paid community members, began the demolition of the buildings. (Photo by Elie Gardner)
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. Weeks ago it was demolished. Dora and her sister were teachers who taught most of the neighborhood’s kids. (Photo by 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. (Photo by Oscar Durand)
Victoria Chavez de Gutierrez and her husband Esteban Gutierrez Loayza have lived for 50 years in El Ayllu. They migrated to Lima from Ayacucho, a city in the interior of the country. The couple, their children and grandchildren lived on a property that spanned a block and contained several buildings, including a warehouse where Esteban worked decades ago. In the rear of the property was a field of banana trees that the family harvested and ate. Beyond the field the main terminal of Jorge Chavez International Airport can be seen. (Photo by Oscar Durand)
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