So I will try to be brief in setting the stage: Cantagallo is a community of about 300 people, founded and inhabited by indigenous Shipibo families from the Amazonian region of Ucayali, built atop a landfill alongside the contaminated Rímac river—in the center of Lima. For this, but also, especially, for its integrity, exuberance, murals and traditions, it draws fascination, admiration, and inevitably, exoticization. A quick google search reveals pages of articles about this place, written from a range of registers and perspectives—dramatized news segments, ethnographic analyses, alternative grassroots cartography projects, and briefings from indigenous rights groups, to name a few.
Here's a taste, from a segment on the Peruvian news network Panamericana:
(They came to Lima from the jungle in search of a better life. Along the edge of the mighty and dangerous Rimac River they constructed their precarious homes, where they live in conditions of extreme poverty. Next, we’ll meet this group of shipibo natives who live by the “rio hablador” [the “talkative river,” as the Rímac is called by limeños])
It’s worth noting the different ways a place may be represented, and what is at stake in such differences. Shipibo filmmaker Ronald Suárez Maynas’ portrait of his own community gives us a different frame, and a kind of intimacy specific to the insider:
And of course, these are not necessarily inaccurate descriptions. The AJA piece is a warm and informative portrait of some of the textures, alongside the precariousness, of Cantagallo—precarious not in the structure of its homes, but in the imminent possibility of being uprooted from its location.
The city of Lima is in the midst of a $703-million development project alongside the Rímac: the Vía Parque Rímac, which includes a tunnel and a highway connecting several parts of the enormous metropolis. Eventually, the construction will reach Cantagallo, and they’ll be forced to leave. A new mayor took office this month, and his administration claims they’ll honor the promise of the former mayor to relocate the whole community together; but many—from within and outside the community—say they'll believe it when it happens.