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Life on the dusty edges: Photos explore the fringes of Peru's bustling capital

Grave digger Juan Luis Cabrera takes a break from his work at the
Grave digger Juan Luis Cabrera takes a break from his work at theRodrigo Abd / AP
Juan Barrueta, center, eats his lunch in a soup kitchen in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 5, 2013.
Juan Barrueta, center, eats his lunch in a soup kitchen in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 5, 2013.Rodrigo Abd / AP

A little more than a half hour by car from the touristy Lima of fine cuisine and breezy seaside promenades is the soup kitchen where Juan Barrueta, an 84-year-old candy vendor, above, pays less than a dollar for lunch.

The dusty, chaotic peripheries of this capital of 9 million people bulge with dirt-poor peasants, many of them transplants from the Andean highlands who pour in every day, unprepared for life in the big city. Most join the more than 60 percent of Peruvians in the informal economy.

Editor's note: Photos made available Nov. 12. 

A private security guard walks to his job, two blocks away, in the Villas de Ancon neighborhood of Lima, Peru, on Oct. 28. Peru's capital is a city of contrasts. It can be hospitable, orderly and picturesque when seen through the eyes of a foreign tourist. But also squalid and chaotic in the crowded impoverished peripheries of this capital of 9 million.
A private security guard walks to his job, two blocks away, in the Villas de Ancon neighborhood of Lima, Peru, on Oct. 28. Peru's capital is a city of contrasts. It can be hospitable, orderly and picturesque when seen through the eyes of a foreign tourist. But also squalid and chaotic in the crowded impoverished peripheries of this capital of 9 million.Rodrigo Abd / AP
Street treet lamps illuminate only the main road of the Cerro Candela neighborhood in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 6.
Street treet lamps illuminate only the main road of the Cerro Candela neighborhood in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 6.Rodrigo Abd / AP

Peru's economy nearly doubled in size over the past decade, the International Monetary Fund ranking it as the world's eighth-fastest growing economy. Yet nearly 2 million of Lima's inhabitants live without running water.

Access to quality health care and education is little more than a dream in dusty settlements that ring Lima and carry such hopeful names as "Villa Rica" (Rich Town), "Nueva Esperanza" (New Hope) and "Manantial" (Water Spring).

In this Sept. 5, 2013 photo, Claudio Alva, 8, carries the cross that will adorn his younger brother's grave as relatives carry the coffin that contain the remains to the burial site at the
In this Sept. 5, 2013 photo, Claudio Alva, 8, carries the cross that will adorn his younger brother's grave as relatives carry the coffin that contain the remains to the burial site at theRodrigo Abd / AP
A man playfully points a toy gun at his friend's forehead, as the four unemployed and homeless Peruvians drink alcohol while passing the time in the Villa Maria del Triunfo, a neighborhood of Lima on Aug. 8.
A man playfully points a toy gun at his friend's forehead, as the four unemployed and homeless Peruvians drink alcohol while passing the time in the Villa Maria del Triunfo, a neighborhood of Lima on Aug. 8.Rodrigo Abd / AP
In this Aug. 12, 2013 photo, a man waves while transporting a woman with her daughter in a motorcycle cart in Lima, Peru. The dusty districts of Lima bulge with peasants whose high hopes for fortune are dashed by the grim reality of life on the margins. Most join the more than 60 percent of Peruvians in the informal economy. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In this Aug. 12, 2013 photo, a man waves while transporting a woman with her daughter in a motorcycle cart in Lima, Peru. The dusty districts of Lima bulge with peasants whose high hopes for fortune are dashed by the grim reality of life on the margins. Most join the more than 60 percent of Peruvians in the informal economy. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)Rodrigo Abd / AP

The people who live on Lima's fringes work as domestic servants, security guards and bus and taxi drivers in an anarchy of traffic and informality. For some, a one-way commute to jobs that pay less than $15 a day takes two to three hours on several rickety buses.

Those who can't afford rent squat on Lima's periphery, raising homes of wood and cardboard in a desert city where the only rain comes in the form of ocean mist.

Water is always an issue.

The poorest in Lima end up paying up to 10 times more for it from cistern trucks than the inhabitants of Lima's wealthy coastal districts.

And it's not available when they need to put out a fire.

Residents of the "El Progreso" neighborhood experienced that anguish in late October when they helplessly watched a blaze consume 2½ blocks of homes.

In minutes, they joined the ranks of the destitute alongside Barrueta, the vendor encountered at the soup kitchen who sells candy and cookies at the entrance to the Virgen de Lourdes cemetery in the Villa Maria de Triunfo district,

"There are days when I don't sell a thing," says Barrueta. "And there are days when I only earn a dollar."

-- The Associated Press

Grave digger Juan Luis Cabrera takes a break from his work at the
Grave digger Juan Luis Cabrera takes a break from his work at theRodrigo Abd / AP
Men laugh as they smear wet sand on themselves while sitting on a public beach in the Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima, Peru, on July 13.
Men laugh as they smear wet sand on themselves while sitting on a public beach in the Chorrillos neighborhood of Lima, Peru, on July 13.Rodrigo Abd / AP
A pack of strays attack another street dog in the Villa Maria del Triunfo district in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 4.
A pack of strays attack another street dog in the Villa Maria del Triunfo district in Lima, Peru, on Aug. 4.Rodrigo Abd / AP

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