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Translation: Infinite City

Translated by: Patrick Moseley

[Daniel Alarcón, host]: Thanks for listening to Radio Ambulante. Tomorrow, start your day with “Up First”, NPR’s news podcast. In an Apple Podcast review, Eve Bethel wrote: “Concise and comprehensive.  I listen to Up First every morning on my walk to work.  It gives me a great summary of the top news stories during the day and the upcoming week.” Wake up with Up First, tomorrow morning on the NPR One App and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Welcome to Radio Ambulante, from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón. And this is…

[Juan Manuel Robles, reporter]: My name is Juan Manuel Robles. I’m a writer. I’m a journalist.

[Daniel]: Juan Manuel lives in Lima, Peru. And a few months ago, at an art exhibition, he ran into a friend who was with her father.

[Juan Manuel]: He’s a skinny, elderly man, with long, white hair. A kind of…retired hippie.

[Daniel]: His name was Oliver. Oliver Perrottet. He had a serious expression and a sense of humor that Juan Manuel describes as “very Swiss”.  

[Juan Manuel]: Swiss humor is a kind of…choppy humor, a kind of humor that trips over itself, a kind of humor that… You could really call it the opposite of humor.

[Daniel]: [Laughter] And Juan Manuel soon realized who this Swiss man was.

[Juan Manuel]: It was like…like meeting the person who made a toy from my childhood…

[Daniel]: But not just any toy. A map. A very special map of a city that is, at first glance, overwhelming, chaotic, inscrutable and infinite. That city is Lima. The map Perrottet made was very important for Juan Miguel, and for me by the way.

It was called “Lima 2000”. And it was the first commercial map of the entire city.

[Juan Manuel]: It had a picture of the city center on the cover.

[Daniel]: Of course I remember it very well. It was a very colorful booklet with about 60 pages in pastel colors. It was a very neat and pretty design. When I wrote my first novel, I kept that map in front of me at all times, hung up on the wall above my desk. I used it to trace my characters’ imaginary paths.

And it was with that map that Juan Manuel, in the ‘90s, and I in the early ‘00s , got to know the city. We were both born there, but grew up in different places. I grew up in a small town called Birmingham, in the American South, and Juan Manuel grew up in La Paz, Bolivia. We both returned when were young, and for us, Lima seemed like an unmanageable beast. But…

[Juan Manuel]: I had this guidebook that allowed me to learn about the city, that allowed me to understand it. Since then, I became a map guy. In other words, when people would call me up and tell me an address to go to go, I wouldn’t leave the house without looking at the map.

[Daniel]: This guidebook was our tool. One example was something as basic as public transit. I didn’t know how to get from one district to another without getting lost. I didn’t understand how Limeans got around the city without any instructions. So I would get on a bus and while I went along I would write down in a notebook the names of the streets we passed. Then when I got to the apartment where I lived, I took out the list of places I had seen out the bus window and looked for them on Perrottet’s map. That was how I made my own map of the buses.  

So, I think, standing in front of Perrottet, I would have reacted about the same way Juan Manuel did. I would have wondered: Who is this man? And how did a Swiss person wind up making the map of one of the most populous and chaotic cities in Latin America?  

The story doesn’t start in Lima, obviously. It starts in Switzerland, in a town called Basel. Oliver Perrottet remember the first time he saw a map. It was the mid-’50s. He was 4 or 5 and his mother spread it out on his bed. This is Perrottet…  

[Oliver Perrottet]: And it was about the voyages of Marco Polo. One of those maps that has little drawings of the different characters and the places they went, you know, with different-colored arrows for their journeys.

[Daniel]: It was big, more than three feet long.  

[Oliver]: And that was definitely something that influenced me tremendously because it wasn’t just the map. It was also a journey to distant lands.

[Daniel]: Perrottet was one of those children who, at another time, could have been an explorer. He had an innate talent for knowing where he was.

[Juan Manuel]Once his father who…knowing this…took him on a trip to Paris and left him at another metro station so he could find his way back to the hotel. We’re talking about a 5 year old. And he found his way back to the hotel, no problem.

[Daniel]: When he was 7 he moved from Basel to Zurich, a city 55 miles away, but that is practically a different planet. This change for him…

[Oliver]It was traumatic because I had friends, I had everything, and in Zurich… Zurich is a city where people are a little colder, not as friendly, not as open, not as happy as in Basel. And…and that was very shocking for me too.

[Daniel]: He felt lost. Alone…  

[Oliver]: I had to get used to it, and in order to do that I made… I drew a map of the neighborhood. Where my house was, my school, the stores…

[Daniel]: And that explains a lot about who Perrottet is. A person who since he was a child has been looking for his place in the world and has wanted to understand it visually. When he was a little older he published his first neighborhood newspaper and as a teenager he help an ad agent with his drawings.

At 18 he started working as a cab driver in Zurich. The job seemed perfect for him.

[Oliver]: And you’re alone in your car. You don’t work in a team. In other words, it’s ideal for someone like me. And I really liked it because I was in contact will all levels of the population, every group. I went to all the neighborhoods and down all the streets and that helped me understand the city as an organism.

[Daniel]: But understanding Zurich wasn’t enough. He was young and adventurous. And at 19…

[Juan Manuel]: He left…in a German cargo ship to cross the Atlantic.  Now…now with a hankering to explore and discover, you know?

[Daniel]: It was his first great adventure. When he came back…

[Juan Manuel]: When he was 20, he realized that…

[Daniel]: Switzerland was not for him.

[Oliver]: It’s a very small country. There are no…no open spaces. 

[Daniel]: It was a country where everything was done. A country…

[Oliver]: So perfect that it runs like clockwork going tic-toc, tic-toc in my head.

[Daniel]: And he couldn’t bare it. He felt like he needed more freedom. So, he looked at the map…

[Juan Manuel]: And he had an interest in South America. He says the first thing that interested him about South America was the shape of the continent. It seemed beautiful, elegant to him.

[Oliver]: The fact that it was a little removed from everything…I always liked that…the idea of being …of being a little removed.

[Juan Manuel]: He wanted to go far, he wanted to head for the Atlantic. He wanted to cross the ocean.

[Oliver]: And between Peru, Chile and Ecuador, I picked Peru because it was in the middle of everything. Not very far North, not very far South.

[Daniel]: And inside Peru…

[Oliver]: There was Lima, the capital: it isn’t very far north or very far south either. Instead, it’s an area in the middle of the coastline. I had to be on the coast because I was very attracted to the sea. Switzerland doesn’t have that.

[Daniel]: So one day in October, 1970, Oliver Perrottet got on a plane to Lima. He didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t know anything about Lima other than that it was the capital and it was on the coast.

[Oliver]: I didn’t want to look at maps or read about Lima, about Peru. The idea was to have no informationnow that I say itto be born again. That’s what it was.

[Daniel]: We should talk a little bit about the city that Perrottet arrived in. It was the ‘70s and Lima was entering a period of rapid growth. The agrarian reform in ‘69 had changed the social structure of life in rural areas and very suddenly thousands of Peruvians in rural areas had the chance to seek out a new life…in the city.

And parts of Lima that had been completely vacant had started to fill up—sometimes overnight—with little ramshackle houses, new neighborhoods, new human settlements.

Traditional Limeans had a name for these waves of migration from the mountains: they were known as invasions. The military connotation of this word tells us a lot about the attitude the city had toward its new residents.

All of this radically changed the geography and the culture of the capital, a city that previously had looked out to the sea with its back to the country.

And of course, Perrottet, didn’t know any of this. He arrived in Lima almost by chance.

He landed during the day and took a cab…

[Juan Manuel]: And told the driver to take him downtown and the driver dropped him off right by the Jirón de la Unión, which is a pedestrian street that’s centrally located and brings together two of the most important plazas in downtown Lima.

[Daniel]: He was tired. He found a hotel and went to sleep. And when he woke up…

[Juan Manuel]: He realized that he really was…in another world…

[Daniel]: He wanted to explore. He left the hotel and started walking. He made it to avenida Abancay, a 6 lane road that at parts of the day has really hellish traffic. In fact, at one point it became one of the most polluted roads in South America.

[Juan Manuel]: It was late in the afternoon. A line of buses caught his attention.

[Oliver]: It was a standing row of buses going forward little by little. There were no bus stops, there was nowhere for the buses to stop and go. There were so many that they were just in a line, moving forward, and when they stopped people got on and off… You know? Then they would move forward 30 feet then 60 feet.

[Daniel]: And well, almost 50 years later avenida Abancay remains the same. But anyway, Perrottet loved that tumult. The bustle, the urban spectacle… He liked that all of the buses were different colors. It was very surprising…

[Juan Manuel]: He didn’t know…that he…that he was going to run into that: a bunch of people talking and what caught his attention more than anything were the signals from the traffic police.

[Daniel]: The traffic police had different ways of whistling at cars, it was like a different language. One whistle to tell someone to stop, another to go, another to speed up…

[Oliver]: Sometimes they were pretty elaborate, you know? Not just one whistle but several and…even more, it was musical.

[Juan Manuel]: To him they seemed like a type urban parrots. So he was in his own exotic world which was a kind of disordered urban jungle but at the same time it was fascinating.

[Daniel]: Perrottet felt like he had found his place. And he wanted to get to know it…

[Juan Manuel]: And the next day, the first thing he did was look for a bus guide, a guide that would let him see where he was, what routes would take him where.

[Daniel]: And he realized… He realized there wasn’t one…

[Juan Manuel]: He realized that there wasn’t one, and they told him that such a thing didn’t exist. Which made things even stranger, you know?

[Oliver]: At that moment I thought: “Now I know what I have to do here.” I mean, I had come without any idea and…and practically the first day it was already clear.

[Daniel]: His goal was clear. It was clear what his project would be. Lima needed a guide for its buses and minibuses. And he, a newly-arrived foreigner, was going to make it.

But he had to start with the basics: He needed a job and a place to live. A few days after he arrived, he met a woman who recommended that he look for work at the Goethe Institute. He got a job as a German teacher. He worked one day a week and made enough money to rent a small apartment on Tacn avenue, near a bus stop.

So he got the only commercial map of downtown Lima there was, a partial incomplete map that didn’t have anything about transit and he started his new guide making the most fundamental version anyone could imagine, just like I did when I got to Lima 30 years later:

[Oliver]: I just catch a bus, get on and see what happens.

[Daniel]: The first bus he took brought him to Condevilla in San Martín de Porres. Now, in 2017, San Martín is a densely populated district, more than 700,000 people live there. But in 1970 it was a great expanse of empty, treeless, sandy land. At the end of the line there was a bus stop with a few food stands —the kind that in Lima we call agachaditos or “squatting stands”—where people eat literally squatting at little benches and tables in the middle of the street.  

And there was Perrottettall, white, blond, not really knowing how to speak Spanish. Let’s just say he stood out.

[Oliver]: And…well, I was there at the last stop and people were looking at me like, “what is this guy doing here?” and…

[Daniel]: Pretty soon, without thinking much about it, he got on another bus that left Condevilla and during the ride…  

[Oliver]: The ticket taker came: “How far are you going?”, you know? And I told him: “End, end”

[Daniel]: The bus’s route went through the whole city, from North to South, it stopped in Villa El Salvador, one of the largest so-called invasions in all of Lima. And when he arrived in Villa El Salvador he saw…

[Oliver]: A row of small precarious houses made out of woven reed mats. There was a street and maybe another row of huts behind that one, but there was nothing else.

[Daniel]: It was early 1971 and 9 thousand families had begun settling the area only a few months earlier. It was a neighborhood that was literally under construction, a neighborhood that still didn’t show up in any official map. And well, you can imagine Perrottet’s reaction.

[Oliver]: You know, it was beautiful. Finding something like that: if you come from a country where everything is done and you come to a place where there aren’t even the most fundamental things. You build it! How gratifying is that!   

[Daniel]: And the next day, Perrottet did the same thing: He got up early, went out at about 9 in the morning with his notebook and pencil, walked to the bus stop on the corner and took a bus. This time, it was a different bus. Along the way he took notes of the street names and traced the routeleft, right, left. He rode the bus until 4 or 5 in the afternoon…

And the next day, he did it again.

A friend helped him get ahold of a large map of Lima, it was a plat, the kind of map that’s used for construction, not one you could buy in a store. He traced it on butcher paper and he drew the routes that he had recorded in his notebook over his copy.

[Oliver]: And I did that for 4 months, every day, methodically, not like…not like a hobby and this wasn’t something I would pick up and put down. Every day, that was my job.

[Juan Manuel]: When he finished, he wound up with 190 or so bus routes. In other words, by his fifth month he realized that the lines didn’t repeat anymore, that was it…he had already seen them all, you know? He had already catalogued them all.

[Oliver]: In the end, it was there, a 10 by 6-feet map. It was done. But the goal was to make something you could fold up and put in your pocket.

[Daniel]: By this point it was already ‘72. He had finished his transit map but he still needed to find a printer that could bring it down to a size that could fit in a pocket to be sold. But he wanted to travel. He wanted to see the world. He left Lima for Europe. He visited Switzerland and parts of the US.  

He was away from Peru for a total of about two years, until something very unexpected happened: he realized he missed Lima. He missed the mulit-color buses. He missed the sound. He missed the people. And he even started to miss things that he had hated before, like ceviche.

So, in ‘74, he returned. He wanted to finish his bus guide. Be brought a reference with him: the bus map of London, but it wasn’t as simple as copying the format.

[Oliver]Because if we compare it to London, where I got the design, there are, maybe, 5 or 6 lines downtown that go down the same street. So that street has 5 or 6 numbers next to it on the map.

[Daniel]: But in Lima it was different. Remember that chaotic street that was so eye-catching for Perrottet when he arrived: Avenida Abancay. Perrottet discovered there were 30 different bus lines there, which aside from being crazy, also presents a design problem.

[Oliver]: The map has to be much bigger in order to have room to put 30 numbers.

[Daniel]: He solved the problem by highlighting the streets that had bus routes in red and microbus routes in blue. He put the names of the routes on the side. The map was ready.

He decided to take his map to the Peruvian Ministry of Transport. He went mostly out of curiosity, to see what information they had, hoping to corroborate some details. He hadn’t shown the map to anyone but a few close friends. When he got there and he showed it to them…

[Oliver]: Well, it was…it was tremendous. They were surprised. Very surprised. The person who saw it first immediately went and called everyone in the office over. “Come. Look at this. Here…this is what we’ve always needed: a map of all the lines.”

[Daniel]: The office that authorized all the transit routes in the city didn’t have a map of those same routes.

But Perrottet did. He just needed to print it, and he needed money to do that. He went to the streets again, this time to knock on the doors of businesses. He offered ad space in the map. And well, the fact that we has a foreigner helped him quite a bit.

[Oliver]: As a gringo I didn’t really have restrictions. “Come in, sir,” right? Even though I had a big beard and long hair. But maybe because of that, I was a bit of an unusual character, you know, and that garnered respect.

[Daniel]: Or at least curiosity. And well, it worked. He got sponsors and ended up printing the “Lima Transit Guide” in 1975. A pocket map that cost 30 soles. At that time, less than a dollar.

And with that publication, he became kind of famous. The story came out in local newspapers…with headlines like these:  

[Headline 1]: Transit routes perplex Swiss man.

[Headline 2]: The young cartographer has made a guide for all of the routes.

[Headline 3]: The guide is ready and is for sale in pocket format in full color.

[Daniel]: Though it is worth mentioning that Perrottet wasn’t a cartographer. He had never studied. He was completely self-taught. But all the same, the guide was well received and Perrottet was excited. He still wanted to make something else. But what? After all of the journeys to the corners of Lima, Perrottet felt like he had a very useful understanding of the city and he wanted to do something with that.

[Oliver]: It’s almost a necessity, you know? I can’t just leave that knowledge at that. I had to be cab driver or do something that required that knowledge.

[Daniel]: And then something he noticed when he started living in Lima came together for him.

[Oliver]: I realized that people who live here didn’t know anything about what was around them, they had never been to those places.

[Juan Manuel]: He said: “Well, people here need to see their city,” you know?

[Daniel]: People recognized the traditional sectors of the city: downtown, Barranco, Miraflores, Chorrillos, El Callao. But Perrottet wanted Limeans to understand…

[Oliver]: That their city didn’t end there, that it was much bigger.

[Daniel]: Much bigger. And it was growing every day. Perrottet’s new project was more ambitious than a simple bus guide. Now he proposed to make a map of the whole city. A map that covered every corner, including the new areas of the capital, the areas that traditional residents called invasions.

When we return: How do you make a map of a nearly inscrutable city?

[Sam Sanders, host It’s Been a Minute]: Hi, Sam Sanders here. I want to tell you about the only NPR show where you can hear about the latest White House drama and the return of TRL to MTV. The show is called “It’s been a minute.” Every Friday we catch up on the week of news, culture, everything. And every Tuesday I sit down for some long interviews with authors, filmmakers, directors, and more. You can find It’s Been a Minute on the NPR One app or wherever you get your podcast.

[Daniel]: So, before the break, it was 1975 and Oliver Perrottet had decided that Lima needed a map of the whole city. This is Juan Manuel Robles.

[Juan Manuel]: Not even he anticipated how difficult the task would be because the city was mapped-out halfway. And that half with the, let’s say, traditional districts was out of date. It had errors and no one had really cared to…update it.

[Daniel]: And the other half of Lima…

[Juan Manuel]: Was not on any commercial map. It didn’t exist. There was just no way to find it, so he had to do two things: update the maps of the traditional districtswalking, looking around and create maps of the new districts that had been incorporated into the city at large.

[Daniel]: Perrottet learned about something that was very useful: there was an entity called SINAMOS which had made plats of some of the newest neighborhoods in Lima. And they were maps that had a lot of the information Perrottet needed: the names of the streets, the numbers of the blocks… But there was one problem:

[Oliver]: If you put all of them together you had a thirty foot map.

[Daniel]: Not exactly a pocket map.

But he wasn’t discouragedHe took these plans and a large map of downtown Lima and put it on the wall. Then he put up butcher paper and started tracing. It was the same work he had done with the bus routes, but now it included the whole city.

[Oliver]: And then I realized that, well, these maps had a lot of errors.

[Daniel]: Perrottet practically knew Lima by heart. But he needed objective information. In a word, photographs. 

He did some more research and discovered that the Ministry of Agriculture had done a study of agricultural areas in Lima and had taken aerial photos of places in the city.  

[Oliver]: And you could buy them. It cost about, I don’t know…today it would cost 10 soles, something like that, per picture. Or 20, I mean, no…nothing compared to how valuable they really were to the work I was doing.

[Daniel]: He bought the images he needed and started to compare them with different maps. And he made corrections. Every day he would add a street, a plaza, an alley…

[Oliver]: It was a puzzle. And you find one part and you find another and another, but you don’t have this one here, right? So, what do I do? I have to get it and in the end I go and see what it’s like.

[Daniel]: And just like that he was slowly adding places to this map he had in the living room of his apartment. It was a small place with a combination living room-dining room, a small kitchen, one bedroom and a bathroom. He lived there with his wife and newborn daughter. And…

[Juan Manuel]: The map was growing. In fact if grew to a point that it became so big, so intense, so detailed that he ended up renting the downstairs apartment to live in, leaving him the upstairs just to work in.

[Daniel]: In those days, a childhood friend from Switzerland came to visit and he joined Perrottet in his project.

When they would realize that they were missing an important detail, Perrottet would say to his friend…  

[Oliver]: I need the name of a street here, I need to know this or that thing here. Stuff like that.

[Daniel]: And his friend would get in his motorcycle and go get the information. That’s how he ended up mapping out all of Lima with correct, current information. But it was a map the size of an entire wall. Now he had the same problem as he had before with the bus guide: making the whole map fit on a 3′ x 4′ piece of paper.

It became a delicate, detailed task. For example, once the map was reduced in size, it came time to add the street names.

[Oliver]: But in order to do that, to be able to add the names, I had to write out a list, have it written on a kind of printing material, take a photo negative, get the positive and then apply a layer of adhesive and then cut it with a knife in order to be able to glue it in place. In other words, it was a whole…process.

[Juan Manuel]: We’re talking about a strips that are maybe a millimeter across. So he remembers that when he would drop one of the strips it could really mess things up. Because…he had no way of finding it or it was hard.

[Daniel]: There were more than 20 thousand streets…

[Juan Manuel]: And you need to do them in order because a map isn’t a text. You can’t re-read it and make corrections. If you put in the streets out of order and one is missing, you don’t realize it. And he told me…I said to him, what you’re describing sound like you were obsessed with the map, don’t you think? And he said: “No. It’s the Swiss way of doing things.”

[Daniel]: I mean, we’re talking about the Swiss, the people who perfected the clock. In order to make a map like this you need to have that level of obsession, or rigorous, detailed workmanship down to the millimeter.

But even with this level of adherence to the Swiss style, it still took two years to finish. When Perrottet showed it to his friends…

[Juan Manuel]: Did it get their attention? Did the map get their attention?

[Oliver]: Of course. Obviously. And also the time I spent on it, which was a long time, and the work I put into it which no one can even imagine. I couldn’t even imagine it and I didn’t want to, I just wanted to do it.

[Daniel]: Just like he had for the bus map, he went to the streets to get advertisers. He finally managed to publish it in 1977.

[Juan Manuel]: It’s a map that in its time was very revealing. You can see in Perrottet’s work, his cartography is rather…it’s careful and colorful, it has the names of important places.

Daniel: And he decided to make a map and guide company with a futuristic name: “Lima 2000.”

Things went well with the map and the company started operating, but Perrottet realized something, an aspect of Limean culture…

Oliver: There had been so little dissemination of maps, so little interest, and more than anything such limited use of maps…  

Daniel: That people didn’t even know what it was for or what was special about it. In other words…

Oliver: They didn’t know what the previous map was like and this seemed the same to them.

Daniel: Lima was an almost invisible city. Even to Limeans.

Juan Manuel: He himself says that there he started —let’s call it— the process of educating people somewhat in how to use maps.

Oliver: Maps aren’t part of public life, while in Switzerland for example, they’re at every bus stop and train station. There is a map of the area, so if you get off a bus and don’t know where you’re going…where you need to go, there’s a map right there.

Daniel: While in Lima and in other parts of Latin America, when we don’t know where something is, we ask someone on the street. Well, more and more we ask our phones. It wasn’t like that when Perrottet’s map came out obviously.

Years went by and the company grew. As did Perrottet’s renown as a cartographer. He updated his map a few times, since the city was still growing, and in 1993 Juan Manuel returned to Lima as a teenager.

Peru was coming out of a war. Lima had been a site of violence and conflict. And Juan Manuel had his own idea of what the city was.

Juan Manuel: An image like you could have of other cities in the world at that time, like Baghdad. Those cities that showed up on the map, on the global map, not necessarily for what you know about them, but more often because of conflict and war, because of bombs.

Daniel: And his transition wasn’t easy. Juan Manuel had lived in La Paz since he was 7 and he had a clear map of that city in his head.

Juan Manuel: Lima was a monster. Lima…Lima was a monster full of dangerous places. There were dangerous places more than anything. Everything seemed really dark, grey, and ugly. Really ugly.

Daniel: Juan Manuel returned to live with an aunt, in a neighborhood called Corpac. It was a middle class neighborhood in the district of San Isidro. And for him, Lima was a city that was full of limitations. “Don’t cross this street,” “Don’t stand on that corner,” “Don’t go to that neighborhood.” They’re the kind of instructions given by people who love you, to protect you. After all, Lima was coming out of a war. But in doing so they created an almost unintentional prison.

Juan Manuel: And in the mind of child it’s…that kind of limitation is very powerful you know. It’s a limitation that paralyzes you, as you say: “No!”.

Daniel: And those limitations accentuated his loneliness.

Juan Manuel: The loneliness of being in this new city, not knowing it, not understanding it. And being in a classroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know but who knew each other.

Daniel: And every day he got more bored.

Juan Manuel: When I would ride my bike and I didn’t know where to go and there were so many places I wasn’t allowed to go, or places that…that I was afraid to go to, I would say: “I need a map of this,” you know? “I need a street guide, something…something that to help me get my bearings.”

Daniel: It was in those first few months, almost by chance, that Juan Manuel came across “Lima 2000,” Perrottet’s map. And I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed everything. It allowed him to get to know the city, to explore it.

And with the guidebook in hand, he started planning trips on his bike.

Juan Manuel: Then you realize that…that isolation and exploring maps go really well together, and understanding that allows you to feel more ownership of your surroundings, you know?

Daniel: Something similar happened to me 10 years later, when I arrived from the US at 22. For the first time I wasn’t living with a relative. I was going to live on my own for 3 months. My parents had an apartment that at that time was empty, practically unfurnished. But I had Perrottet’s map. And that map opened up a path for me.

Studying that map finally made me feel welcome in the city where I was born. I even had it framed, but without any glass so I could write on it. Every day I would look at it, planning trips downtown, to the south, the north, the east. That’s how I got to know Lima, and thanks to that map I started to feel like a Limean.

Juan Manuel Robles is a writer. His first novel is called Nuevos juguetes de la Guerra Fría [New Toys from the Cold War] and it was published by Seix Barral. Thanks to Eduardo García Peña, in Lima.

This story was produced by Luis Fernando Vargas and edited by Camila Segura and myself. Mixing and sound design by Ryan Sweikert. The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Adrés Azpiri, Desiree Bayonet, Jorge Caraballo, Melissa Montalvo, Barbara Sawhill, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, Elsa Liliana Ulloa and Silvia Viñas. Maytik Avirama is our editorial intern and Andrea Betanzos is the program coordinator. Carolina Guerrero is our CEO

Radio Ambulante is produced and mixed on Hindenburg PRO.

Learn more about Radio Ambulante and this story on our website: Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin American I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.


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Radio Ambulante Is Back With A Powerful New Season!

Hi friends! We are about to launch our latest season, our most ambitious one to date! We will share 30 new stories, the first airing …

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Infinite City

In the 70s, Lima was in a period of rapid growth: new neighborhoods would emerge overnight, and the Peruvian capital was becoming the labyrinthine …

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