28 de Julio: Postcard from Juliaca




Before I traveled to Juliaca, most everyone in Lima said the same thing about it: Juliaca “es una mierda”–it’s a piece of shit, a hellhole, a dump. All the planes from the coast arrive here, but most tourists leave immediately, because there’s nothing conventionally attractive about the place. It’s your typical unruly Third World border town, overgrown and messy, full of informal commerce and piles of money being made. It’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the country, home to thousands of migrants from higher elevations who’ve come down to Juliaca to get rich, the Peruvian altiplano version of the American dream. Its skies are hazy with the dust rising from construction sites, its streets teeming with workers, vendors, artisans. In recent years, Juliaca has also become a center of contraband manufacturing, reportedly of such high quality that jeans made here are smuggled to the border of Bolivia, then brought back in. In this way they can pass as foreign made, and fetch higher prices. With Peruvian independance day tomorrow, there is a new element added to the chaos: dozens of middle and high school marching bands. The combined effect of so much noise is surreal and frankly overwhelming. In honor of Peruvian Independence Day, I decided to document the peculiar music of a place like Juliaca, what it sounds like when a people, who may or may not be prepared, dive headlong into the global economy.


— juancho (photos + audio editing help by C.G.)