I’ve lived in the Bronx, Cusco, Oak Park, Sarasota, Ithaca. I’ve kept my books in other homes—Houston, Manu, Tambopata, Harlem, San José. I pay rent in Chicago, but the Place Where I Live is Lima. The Place is the moment I step out of Jorge Chavez International Airport and feel the water of this desert city coat my skin, and the salt of our neighbor ocean line my nose. To live in Lima is to live with the Pacific in every pore.
Lima is a place of contradictions. In its most chaotic streets and markets, I can forget that at the end of the Javier Prado are lomas, hills periodically covered in green, and that on the other side of the Villa María del Triunfo fish market, are silent sand dunes. Walking in the still, wealthy neighborhoods filled with nannies and children, I can ignore that these are pockets in a quilt of infrastructure disparity. To live in Lima is to live in many different cities.
For four years, our mayor, Susana Villarán, invested in open public spaces, both cultural and environmental. Citizens proposed to revoke her because she hadn’t built new roads. In 2014, we elected Luis Castañeda, who undid participatory plans set by Susana, and then, built new roads. Citizens took the streets. Across time, our priorities changed. Protests and articles demanding a better Place, for the environment, women, and indigenous, LGBTQ and youth communities, emerged. To live in Lima is to be part of a citizen awakening, a young promise of a better future.
Most of all, for me, to live in Lima is to live where I’ve always lived, my first home: a house where shadows on the wall are old friends, and the ebb and flow of the waves an ancient lullaby. To go to a beach restaurant where 20 years ago, I daydreamed of the ghostly monk who jumped into the abyss; where today, I witness the liberation of storm petrels into the gray clouds. To live in Lima is to have some ephemeral sense of permanence.