Feel Free and Safe in Peru

Featured imageThis is a view from the inside of an ordinary Peruvian middle-class appartment house in Piura. After two short weeks travelling through Peru, fences and other security technologies to me became the most impressing images. They represent a society in struggle with poverty based on its postcolonial heredity. Unlike former travel reports from Morocco and Vietnam this half-time report focuses only on what it means to be limited by gates and fences in daily life situations. A more comprehensive report including further impressions and thoughts on this beautiful country will be published once I’m back home in Vienna.  

For people traveling and living in Peru security is an omnipresent issue. Not a single house in regular middle-class housing areas, not even in poor areas, lacks a fence. Rich people live in gated communities only. Feeling safe is connoted to security checks, permanent GPS tracking of cars and buses, and avoiding public transport or major markets. State authorities publish maps including city quarters were criminality is at high rate and therefore shouldn’t be frequented during night. For people used to Viennese security standards this can be really disturbing. Don’t misunderstand me: Peruvian cities are great, but the lack of security is certainly an issue where local governments should enhance their undertakings: it’s a great experience to access public space at all times, using public transport without being robbed and feeling safe when asking a cab driver to drive oneself home after an extensive club-night in remote industrial areas.

As it has been described in a former blogpost all major cities in Peru suffer from increasing informal settlements and land squatting at the cities edge. In these areas criminality rates are high while social, economic and financial certainty is extremely low. The interrelation between criminality and a lack of certainty isn’t a determination but still promoted as a chance for many inhabitants. Only the constant influx of newbies makes informal settlers become more integrated to the city, provides workplaces and gives power to become part of the lower middle-class and enforces them to secure already poor housings with expansive surveillance and security technologies. This way high criminality rates become a major challenge for the middle-class often lacking enough money to secure everything. Beyond financial limits I argue that it’s important to also take into consideration negative aspects of omnipresent surveillance. A middle-class that aims at being surveilled more extensively whenever possible, can easily be controlled also by non-democratic representatives and puts into question the upraising of an entire nation. Security – Surveillance – Certainty are topics that should be discussed critically by the authorities, but also by the vivid civic society – not only in Peru.


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