Overview: Coastal Peru
More than half of Peru’s 30 million people live on the Pacific Ocean corridor. No fewer than five major urban centers are staggered along this 1,500-mile strip of arid coastland. Over the past few decades, millions of Peruvian peasants, desperate for work, have flocked to these cities. The coastal cities of Trujillo, Arequipa and Lima, in particular — with their factories, beach resorts, and gleaming bank towers — remain magnets for the rural poor.
Lima, the capital, has been dramatically altered by this migrant influx. Rapidly growing pueblos jovenes or “young towns” — vast slums that stretch for miles on rockslide-prone hills on the city’s perimeter — have become home for millions of indigenous Quechua and Aymara peasants who sold their belongings to get to the city. Most arrive with little more than dreams of a better life.
The growing population has spurred an increased demand for social services and competition for limited employment. It has also created a rich cultural environment on the once strictly Catholic, Spanish-speaking Peruvian coast. Today it is not uncommon to witness multi-ethnic festivals, Incan-influenced music, and cultural clubs that function as homes away from home for migrant families.
The Peruvian coast is still dealing with the aftermath of a devastating 2007 earthquake. The 8.0-magnitude quake, centered near the port city of Chincha Alta, 95 miles southeast of Lima, killed more than 500, injured 1,100, and left tens of thousands homeless. Earthquakes are a common occurrence on the Peruvian coast, which is situated in one of the world’s seismically active regions. The 2007 quake destroyed hundreds of schools and leveled churches and homes in the Peruvian provinces of Ica, Lima and Huancavelica.