Today we had the opportunity to sightsee in the center of Arequipa, an area very different from where we are staying. The city is located in the center of the valley, with the center being in the flat part and the outskirts of town going up the mountains. As you leave the city center, there is a stark difference in infrastructure and level of wealth. We are staying in Alta Cayma, where the roads are sparsely paved and subject to erosion where the dogs outnumber the humans. If you head even higher up, the neighborhoods resembles a slum.
In contrast, the city center of Arequipa is filled with ornately decorated, colonial buildings and cathedrals dating from the 1800s. The architecture and feeling resembled more of a European city. There are lots of restaurants, stores, and gorgeous homes. We went to a local market, toured the cathedral, visited the local monastery, and went to a National Geographic Museum showcasing frozen mummies that were sacrificed during Incan times.
One thing that was very evident was the difference in racial composition between the city center and the outskirts of town. The outskirts of town are primarily populated by migrants, many of whom have native roots and have moved from rural villages in hope of better opportunities. The city center, in contrast, is full of people who are more middle class and have established themselves in Arequipa. This difference in race and wealth illustrates the inequalities that predominate in Peru.
Our host, Father Alex, has mentioned these disparities and how they have evolved over time. When he first arrived, the outskirts of town were closer to the city center. However, as the population has grown and development has occurred, the poorest areas have moved further from the city center. As development has occurred, Father Alex has moved his focus further from the city center to assist the neediest people.
We look forward to continuing to explore the city center and learn about the needs of the people in Alta Cayma and how we can assist in this area.
Michelle and Ryan