Some time ago I took a trip to Piura, Peru. Chosen rather at random while poking around on the map, in part because I’d never heard of it. Also, I am not that likely to ever get there. My lizard brain tells me that there are no people living on the edges of the world where I can’t see them. My lizard brain also assumes that in the unlikely case that there are people across the curvature, life elsewhere is very different, sort of unimaginably so. I fight all that, but I can’t help but be mildly surprised at the normalcy of elsewhere every time I happen upon it.
I traveled in the Google car. I was in part curious whether it would feel intrusive to go look at life that had been photographed without its permission, in many cases without it being aware. It did not. I am a nosey parker. And really, who cares if someone at the other end of the world poked around trying to see what things are like in my backyard? I guess I am not at all that concerned about this much-vaunted privacy we are so enamored of, and the opportunity to learn seems very valuable.
Piura showed itself on Google maps (and satellite) to be hot, dry, and possessed of large casually-built favela-type neighborhoods — some of which appear to only recently have gotten water. All, however, appear to be laid out on the very regular grid that gives the city a new look. I could not tell you whether this is suburban sprawl where the development outraces the services or whether it is expansion that is caused by the poverty of the people who live here — or some mixture of the two.
The city itself is not nearly new. It was the third City so “founded” by Pizarro in South America, in 1532 at a location where people had been living ever since. Its population is a cultural (and presumably genetic) mixture of the indigenous population, Spanish, enslaved Africans, Chinese from Canton, and Roma pirates (Wikipedia –I want to know about that last part). Nowadays, Piura is known as the “Ciudad del eterno calor,” and it sure did look hot and dusty when I poked around — though more so in some places than others.The city gets its water and electricity from three rivers and attendant reservoirs, the the Piura, the Huancabamba and the Chira. And irrigation of the coastal plain: mangos, avocados, organic stuff. Stuff we eat.
I took a trip through a couple of neighborhoods on the edge of the reach of the Google car, some brand new and some a bit more settled, and peered into the shade by the side of the road to get a sense of life in Piura as it showed itself to a weird contraption driving though the street on a random day in February, 2013. As screen shot from Google in late December.
Copyright on the photos Google 2013. Edited (cropped) by AgathaO