Visions of Lima in 2021

El Comercio

What will Lima be like in 2021? Some leading thinkers weigh in on the city’s future.

Visions of Lima in 2021

Lima's skyline (Trifg56/Creative Commons 3.0)

Lima is celebrating its anniversary and experiencing a bitter fight over whether to recall its mayor and councilors. That makes it a perfect time to ask how the capital city will look in 2021, when Peru celebrates its bicentennial. Here, a group of leading thinkers envision how Lima will look in eight years.

The challenges of water and transportation
Juan Luis Orrego Penagos, historian
In 2021, when we celebrate the bicentennial of the independence declared by José de San Martín the Plaza de Armas, I hope that all Limeños have adequate water and sewage services, as well as a modern system of mass transportation, clean and efficient, a subway train that is democratic, a place where every stratum of society meets. I wish for a city with more public spaces: parks, plazas, cultural centers and special places for children and the elderly.

To sum up, I want a city for everyone, where no one tries to “privatize” the public space, as some try to do now with the parks and beaches. I want to finish, as a historian, by referring to the past, to our city’s grand legacy. I would like Lima’s residents to be more sensitive to the cultural heritage that Lima possesses: its pyramids, mansions, churches, monuments, et cetera, which are part of the identity of an ancient city, whose history started long before it was founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535.

Between reality and the dream
Wiley Ludeña Urquizo, architect
Between the real Lima and the one we dream of, the scenarios for the future are very different. Judging by the current dynamics, the real estate boom and the megaprojects conceived of as instinctive reactions rather than through forethought, for the nearly 12 million residents of Lima in 2021, the city will be a growing urban nightmare, more disperse, fragmented and conflictive, but with small doses of pleasant, sophisticated settings. More or less like today, but probably more sanitized and frivolous.

To say that I would like to see Lima more socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, inclusive, competitive, innovative, democratic and healthy in 2021 would just be to repeat the wishes for any city on the planet. I prefer, faced with a future that is gray but specked with many lights of pseudo-progress, to repeat Aristotle, and one of the simplest and most convincing definitions of what a city should be, in dreams and in reality: “The city is nothing more than the association of equal beings, who together hope to achieve a happy and easy existence.”

The crisis explodes
Patricia Ciriani Espejo, historian
Apocalypse 2021. The real estate bubble bursts, the crisis explodes and the thousands of poorly built apartments bought on credit during the economic boom quickly go empty. The urban centers become poorer and the periphery multiplies, with its alternative art as active as its endemic crime. The museums and contemporary art galleries go broke and the funds from the big cities have stopped: Miami doesn’t answer anymore and the captains of the art industry have abandoned ship.

The buildings on the overpopulated hills keep falling down with each earthquake, the parks have become private commercial areas, and the only green space left is the Costa Verde, devastated by a tsunami and bordered by an ultramodern seafront. Lima is no longer that horizontal line that closed the gray curtain of the sky. The city has become vertical, and the traditional spaces for socializing are empty fringes that separate the districts that have become atomized ghettoes.

How will Limeños have fun?
Alex Huerta Mercado, anthropologist
Predict how we will have fun? Definitely, one of the more entertaining things about Lima is its unpredictability. It has changed so much in recent years.

I can imagine that public spaces will become a social relation and not just a series of places; by that, I mean that I discern a greater democratization in the places where the Limeños of the future will meet, where the discourse against discrimination will be more efficient, at least. I hope, for example, that young people will have more places to flirt, date and have fun than those curious oases called “malls.”

At the level of speech, I am sure that humor and melodrama will continue to be our favorite forms of fiction. We will keep laughing at ourselves and enjoying our absurdities, as we have always done on television, but I am sure that there will be greater risks of hurt feelings, more vigilance and more space for censorship.

We will keep eating fats and carbohydrates in the street as a way to get cheap energy, but we will feel guiltier and guiltier about the foreign discourse over calories and health. Anyway, we will enjoy sitting on the bench, sharing our food and criticizing the state, soccer or the economy.

In the end, I think that we will confess our love for our city, sitting as it is in the middle of the desert, but colored by our playful, endearing, flavorful culture.