Surfers Don't Freak Out Easily. Here's Why They're Freaking Out in Peru

Peru Surfing
by Simeon Tegel May 22, 2015

LIMA, Peru — Lima can be a grim city. But one thing the Peruvian capital has going for it is its world-class surfing breaks.

So, you might think Mayor Luis Castañeda would be interested in conserving them. Not so.

He has been busy dumping boulders onto one of Lima’s best loved surf spots, la Pampilla. Then somebody painted the rocks bright yellow, which happens to be the color of Castañeda’s National Solidarity party.

Lima's mayor is painting the beach in his party colors. @globalpost story coming.

A video posted by Simeon Tegel (@simeontegel) on

City officials say the rocks are needed to protect a controversial third lane of freeway from recent outsize waves smashing against the narrow pebble beach.

Local surfers are outraged. They say there was never room for the lane on the thin strip of land between the beach and the sea cliffs anyway. They also warned that the rocks would be washed out to the ocean and create a hazard for surfers and swimmers.

Neither the Peruvian navy, which oversees development of the coast, nor the Environment Ministry have given permission for the boulders.

Karin Sierralta, a Lima local who presides over the Panamerican Surf Association, also accused Castañeda of breaking his word after allegedly promising surfers he would not dump rocks on the beach — and then doing so in the dead of night.
That prompted a confrontation between irate surfers and cops hired by the city.

Since returning to office in January after a four-year absence, Castañeda has been accused of wiping away any trace of his predecessor’s attempts to improve this chaotic metropolis of 9 million people.

The conservative, populist mayor has also had numerous public facilities painted yellow.

Castañeda has barely commented on the Pampilla firestorm, other than to claim that a majority of citizens should not endure traffic jams for the sake of a tiny “minority” of surfers.

The surfers respond that they are protecting a public space. Others have added that only a relatively small proportion of Lima’s residents actually own cars, and even fewer pass along the beachfront freeway.

“It’s one error on top of another,” Sierralta said. “The mayor is authoritarian, disinterested and shameless.”

The latest twist is that the rocks have been painted yellow. That’s sparked national furor. City hall has stayed silent on whether it did — or didn’t — do the painting. GlobalPost could not get through to anyone authorized to comment.

Sierralta alleges the yellow paint was actually the handiwork of protesters, determined to ridicule Castañeda’s rule.

Either way, yellow rocks abandoned on a renowned surfing beach have now come to symbolize a governing style that many regard as akin to vandalism.

By Simeon Tegel, GlobalPost
This article is syndicated from GlobalPost.

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