Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Saturday, May 8, 2010

La Invación – The Invasion (Part I)

On the morning of Cinco de Mayo, my generally excitable host mother was exceptionally excitable after she got back from the store. ¡Hay una invación! ¡Hay una invación! (There’s an invasion! There’s an invasion!) she kept saying as she grabbed her shit and ran out the door. I had no idea what she was talking about and followed her as far as the front door. I didn’t see any Red Dawn-type paratroopers so I stayed behind and watched her run/shuffle down the dirt road. She came back about an hour later, still excited, and tried to explain to me that a group of townsfolk had invaded a tract of unused land and that she’d grabbed three plots of land, one for her son, one for her father and one for her sister. I didn’t fully understand what she was saying in her excitement and still didn’t understand the explanation once she’d calmed down a bit. No entiendo (I don’t understand). So she told me to go check it out for myself – it was just up the road.

After breakfast, I walked down the road and turned up the street that leads out of town. I’d only walked about 5 minutes when I came across three make-shift huts built out of sticks and blue plastic sheeting (the kind I think the UN or the Red Cross give out after earthquakes but don’t quote me on that). I crested the hill and there were at least 50 of the little tepees made out of the same plastic sheeting, all with the Peruvian flag proudly flying. It sort of looked like a cheap refugee camp except people were smiling. I kept walking and, per usual, folks were hollering my name - Beto! I saw someone I knew and went to get the story from someone who was a little calmer than my host mother.

They explained to me that this tract of land had gone unused for at least 20 years so at midnight a group of folks just decided to up and take it. Each person claimed a little plot about 5 paces by 20 paces (theirs, not mine), built their little lean-tos and spent the night there. I walked to the next group and got the same story. How did they expect to get away with this? I asked in a more diplomatic way. Well, if the owner had the title and wanted to sell the land, they could negotiate and buy it from him/her. If the owner didn’t have the right documentation of ownership, they would go down to the municipality, get some kind of paperwork and apply for the title from the central government. And if the owner had proper title but didn’t want to sell? Well that scenario had people a little nervous.

Over night, they’d formed a Junta Directiva (committee) complete with a President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Fiscal (oversight person). They’d also contracted a lawyer to do battle over the legal issues. They told me to go ahead and grab a little patch of Peru and wait with them. As tempting as it was to finally be a property owner, I figured the Peace Corps would probably frown on that (even though I don’t think it 's expressly forbidden in my Peace Corps Peru Volunteer Handbook). Besides, they were standing there with machetes and sticks waiting for the cops and the owners to show up so I respectfully declined.

It’s not over yet. My host mom has slept the last three nights out at her little plot of invaded land. The cops showed up for a little but left. The owners have yet to show up. Word on the street is the supposed owners of the property are related to the Mayor who is up for re-election this year so this might be a ploy to garner votes since his approval rating (as measured by the Gossip Polls not the Gallup Polls) appears to be waning.

Stay tuned for Part II to La Invación


  1. Great post Win! I especially like the reference to Red Dawn... Wolverines!!

  2. Probably a good call not to squat but it would make a hell of a headstone. "Killed by police while defending his makeshift tarp shack in Peru." Actually that beats "Killed in a crosswalk trying to get some starbucks"