Part 3: A visit to the men’s prison in San Juan de Lurigancho [Featured]

January 30th, 2009

Junior Moya is a Peruvian living in Lima who recently had the opportunity to visit the infamous men’s prison located in the run down district of San Juan de Lurigancho. In three parts, he tells us of his experience. (Thanks Junior!)

« Part one | « Part two

The art of cutting in line.

I’m not a very physically-affective kind of person. When meeting people for the first time I usually shake hands or kiss on the cheek out of respect, but when meeting friends I don’t tend to shake hands or kiss on the cheek every time I greet them or say good-bye to them, like other Peruvians do. For some reason I like keeping my distance from other people, and I don’t like it when my personal space gets invaded. I’m not that much of a hugger either, but I felt so compelled to give John a firm hug when saying bye. I could not get over the fact that I was leaving and he was staying in there. All of the things he told us about jail rushed back to me in just a couple of seconds. He said that everyone in jail organized a big ol’ party for Christmas. They got Panetonne from their visitors and some prisoners were able to make hot chocolate. The event started around 8pm on the 24th and it went on till the stroke of midnight, when everyone broke down in tears. Same thing happened on New Year’s Eve. A big cloth dummy was set on fire as everyone cried.

My feet and heart felt like lead all of a sudden. As we started walking towards the gate we turned around to take one last look at John, who stood there until we were out of sight. I couldn’t utter a single word out of my mouth because of the big lump in my throat, and I guess I can say the same about my friends. This time we had to walk through a different hallway to get out. This time we had even more prisoners offering us to show us the way out and practicing their English curse words on us. It’s now time to stand in line again to claim our ID’s back. There were thousands of visitors and just one line everyone was trying to cut into. Some of the prisoners were outside where the line was — and they were trying to cut in!!! I guess they didn’t realize that even if they made it all the way to the front gate they would not be able to escape. It was just complete chaos having some prisoners trying to get in line. Some people would pay this one guy to help them cut in line!!!!! To put the cherry on top of the ice cream, many of the visitors (many of them drunk) tried to cut in line was well. There were a few police officers around but they could care less about people cutting in line.

The cheapest bribe ever.

As the line moved ever so slowly (around 2 feet every 10 minutes) some of the prisoners tried to make money by dressing up as clowns and telling jokes, selling the most disgusting-looking rice and fried fish and helping people cut in line. The line starts to move a little faster now. Many men are drunk and a little rude, some of them urinating while in line. There was a blind man playing a harp. Very impressive. We finally made it to where a cop was collecting the metal things we were given right before going into the cells. Some visitors paid 1 sol — yes, 1 sol — to get the cop to bring their ID’s out first. The officer went back in there to get the ID’s of those who paid him first and then took a second trip to get the rest. We got our fingerprints done again and upon leaving we had to show our ID’s to a different officer and sign the form we filled out when we got in. A little boy and a girl outside tried to sell stuff to us. Once outside the facility I was able to get my black jersey back from the lady I gave two cans of tuna fish so I could get a white shirt to go inside.

It took two hours to get out of there and an extra hour on the bus to get back to Miraflores. This was one day I won’t forget anytime soon, and I might want to go back. Hanging out in jail at one point was kind of cool, despite the circumstances.

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