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What Happened to Centro Camino Real in San Isidro, Lima?

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Those familiar with Lima and San Isidro will recognize the name Centro Camino Real.  Many have seen and even been in this once large shopping center which is currently but a hollow shell of it's former self.  Located on the famous Av. Camino Real, parallel to Av. Conquistadores in San Isidro and just across from the Church Virgen de Pilar.  The name Camino Real was given to the street because it originally served as a recognized path of the Incas, prior to the Spanish conquest. Centro Camino Real was first inaugurated in December of 1980 and was the second mall in Peru along with Plaza San Miguel.   Word on the street was that Centro Camino Real was once the place to be back in it's day, a real popular place to hang out with your friends, eat, shop and go see a movie. 

I first came to know Centro Camino Real about a few months ago when I started teaching classes in a few of the several commercial and financial torres (towers).  It took a few visits before it dawned on me that the Centro was an old shopping mall similar in design to the malls of the US, complete with food court (which is still somewhat active) and a movie theater (which is currently abandoned).  Just walking through the wide and largely empty halls of this once highly trafficked mall, you can almost begin to imagine what it was like back in the 80's when it was alive and bustling.  Almost all of the stores are abandoned with nothing left but several unpaid bills and notices left behind.  Some shops and restaurants still have all their tables and stands, almost as if they were closed for the weekend or something.  The feeling you get when you walk through the mall is almost eerie, especially when most of it has been left untouched since the 90's (like Chernobyl).  A few stores continue to operate inside of Centro Camino Real these days but it is obvious that most the people who visit are there because of the several private business torres that were build after Centro Camino Real's downfall. 

The question that still rattles my mind is what exactly happened to Centro Camino Real to have turned this huge mall in a very popular part of San Isidro into a literal ghost town?  In May of 1992, at the height of it's success, Centro Camino Real became the site of an attempted terrorist attack.  The attack was conducted using a car bomb to cause $14 million USD in damages along with the death a civilian.  The attack was the work of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and was only one of many sites that was targeted that year within the city of Lima (others include: the old US Embassy and the two car bombs in Miraflores).  Following the attack fear began to spead among the populace as the number of people who once frequented the mall rapidly declined in response.  One of the problems which may have led to it's decline was the development that occurred with both Jockey Plaza Mall in Surco and Plaza San Miguel in San Miguel.  Another know problem of Centro Camino Real was that each store was individually owned instead of rented which later proved to be a problem when a proposal was made to sell the mall, leaving many owners at odds on the proposal to sell, which required a unanimous vote.  Many companies have offered to purchase the relic mall but unfortunately due to the indecision of the owners no company has yet to acquire it. 

I did manage to find some vintage footage of Centro Camino Real from back in the 80's


  1. Hi Marco,

    I've been reading your blog for a while now and just wanted to finally comment on your blog.

    Your posts are very informative and, or course, I love your photographs. Keep it up!

    But, this post on Camino Real was excellent. I was born in Peru and now live in Miami. My family left when I was young but they remember when we had gone to Camino Real when it was popular.

    On my trips back to Lima, we had always wondered about its demise as we walked its empty shell, but now we have some clue about what happened to it.

    Thanks again.

  2. Hi Paul,

    I'm glad that my article on Centro Camino Real was able to answer the questions you had about it's decline and ultimate demise.

    I hope you will continue to read my articles and will of course continue to leave comments, as this reminds me that people actually visit this page.


  3. Hola.
    Quisiera saber a que hora sucedió el atentando contra camino real.
    Mencionas que fue mayo en el 92. Si tuvieras mas información. Sobre que día de la semana fue, la hora y si hubieron heridos.

    Por favor agradecería cualquier respuesta rspuesta.


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