This post has taken a bit more time than I would’ve wanted to be published, but better late than never.
On Monday, November 9, 2020, less than a year away from celebrating Peru’s 200 years of independence, the Peruvian Congress started a coup against our president. What they didn’t anticipate is that we Peruvians are tired of their actions, tired of them wanting to take power, and that after months of being stuck at home due to the pandemic, we had enough accumulated energy to go out and take to the streets.
I managed to take pictures of four of the protests, and here are some of the best:
Wednesday, November 11 – Miraflores (Lima, Perú)
I arrived at Kennedy Park (also known as Cat Park) to meet with a few friends. I had my camera out already, and I was very surprised to see that many people meeting in the park. This is one of the most touristy areas of Lima, so it was new and surprising to have protests being carried out there.
Apparently the police weren’t happy with the situation, so minutes after I got there the few cops that were there lined up and shot two tear gas bombs at us.
It was unnecessary, it was painful, and it was upsetting. We walked around the block and regrouped. In the past, an action such as being shot at with tear gas would’ve most likely had everybody going back home, but like most of the signs read throughout these protests, “They are messing with the wrong generation”.
Thursday, November 12 – City Centre (Lima, Perú)
The biggest protest was planned for Thursday. The San Martín Plaza has always been a significant place for protests and this is where this one would gather.
Because of the events of the previous nights (this being the fourth night in a row protests were being held in different cities), my backpack that night included extra masks, vinegar (to counteract possible tear gas bombs), an extra shirt in a plastic Ziploc bag (some protesters in the past were dispersed with water), bottled water, and all sorts of smaller useful things like an external charger with cables for all kinds of phones.
I met with a bigger group of friends who had also printed habeas corpus documents for us to have in case cops took us to the police station. This all seemed like it was a bit too much, but we were being extra careful since we knew what we were going up against.
The amount of people protesting that night was outstanding. We kept seeing pictures from everywhere in the country and how massive it was. My friends and I left right when we heard the police had started to shoot tear gas bombs at everybody. It’s always a weird feeling leaving in the middle of the toughest part of a protest.
I’m usually torn between wanting to stay longer, help, take additional pictures of the toughest parts of the situation, and making sure my friends and I stay safe.
Saturday, November 14 – Miraflores (Lima, Perú)
The following days took an odd turn for me personally. On Friday my grandma passed away. On Saturday, after an amazing service where my family was able to gather (with proper social distancing), I felt the need to go out again.
I think that was it. It was needed. People were being injured by the police, the interim president wasn’t saying anything at all, and the protests just got bigger and bigger.
I couldn’t stay home. It was time to speak up.
That night I decided to head out to Miraflores again and what I saw was not only surprising but inspiring. The entire district was out with signs, flags, and more. As I mentioned previously, this is the most popular tourist district in Lima, and all the main streets were filled with groups of people ready to have their voices heard.
But that night things took a dark turn. While in the middle of the protest, with everyone chanting around the main park, I could see somebody at the front getting on one knee and asking others to do the same. I didn’t understand what was going on until a person came running behind me, making his way through the crowd. He screamed, “They’ve confirmed one death. They’ve killed one of us. One of us is dead.”
I can’t express the anger, the sadness, or the impotence I felt at that moment. We all knelt for a minute, in silence, to only stand up and scream even louder than before.
It was somebody in his early 20s: We didn’t have enough details at the moment, but he was protesting in the City Centre like we did a couple of days earlier, like so many friends did that same day. The police had been using metal and glass pellets against the protesters. They murdered him.
It was getting close to the 11:00 p.m. curfew and we decided to head over to the homes of some friends who were close to the area and had also been protesting during the day. While we walked there, we heard confirmation of a second death. The anger and sadness were too much.
There was a plan to go out banging pots at midnight to honor the two deaths. They were 24 and 22 years old. Inti and Bryan. Names we won’t forget.
At midnight, my friends and I were standing in the street, banging pots and whatever we could find to make some noise. The building had a lot of other people outside as well. We could hear the entire area being extremely loud. People joined us in our chants of, “Merino, you murderer.” By then, Merino, the interim president, still hadn’t faced the protests or the madness we were living through.
After protesting the two unnecessary deaths, we sat in these friends’ living room, all sitting far away from each other. It was Saturday night, we had been protesting earlier, and we spent five hours just listening to the news while we drank beer, in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve never been in a weirder situation. We couldn’t even believe what we were all going through.
At 4:30 a.m., I headed back home and got a few hours of sleep.
Sunday was a weird day. My brother, cousin, and myself sat in the couch, watching the news all day long. We were all invested in the situation: My brother had also stayed up until 4:00 a.m. watching the news. We woke up to hear over 20 people hadn’t made it back home after the protests. Nobody knew where they were. “Where are they?” and “Merino, you murderer” were some of the messages filling social media.
At noon, the interim president finally addressed the nation and turned in his resignation. We were once again banging pots, but this time in celebration. Flags were being waved, cars were honking their horns, you could even hear people clapping.
On Monday, November 16, Perú woke up to no president, no heads of ministries, nothing. We were still missing over 20 people that hadn’t made it back home after the protests.
By then we had gone through two presidents, and were waiting to have a third in the course of one week.
Tuesday, November 17 – City Centre (Lima, Perú)
Tuesday started a bit calmer. We had a president, and most of the missing people were back home. Things seemed to going into the right direction, but the protests were not over. We were demanding jail for Merino, and we were demanding changes in the police. We were mourning two deaths, and the city was reflecting all of those feelings.
This fight is not yet over: Congress is still trying to get their way and maintain as much power as possible. We’re still on alert and ready to take the streets again if it’s needed. If this has proven anything, it is that those in power are truly messing with the wrong generation: Perú’s Bicentennial Generation.