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Humala elected Peru's next president

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, June 23, 2011 1 comments

Here is an article from a few weeks ago that I wrote about the elections but never had the time to post it.

It's been less than one week now and many Peruvians are still recovering from the shock of Ollanta Humala's victory over Keiko Fujimori for the coveted seat of power.  A total upset victory which had the two candidates practically neck and neck in the elections polls, that is until millions were stunned by the election day flash results, which painted a much different picture.  Now the reality has sunk in that Humala will be Peru's next president and like it or not there is nothing any of us can do about it.  When talking with most people I noticed that for many Limeñans what was initially a total aversion to the idea of Humala as president has quickly evolved to a lesser disdain that is transmitted through words and phrases of submission and uncertainty.  People genuinely want to believe that their predictions about our newly elect president will be wrong and that a contrary outcome could be possible, but for most those thoughts are about as possible as grandma winning the lottery.  Only time will tell what lies in store for many Peruvians as they sit playing a metaphorical game of russian roulette (except with five bullets load instead of one).

Incoherent and grammatically incorrect ramblings aside, I spent last week documenting several key political election events and thanks to poor planning had to take a most of my photos ala pedestrian.  As you read in my last post I spent Thursday night covering the end of campaign rallies that were being held downtown which was a complete blast, photography issues aside.  Sunday however was rather calm in the early morning hours, though there was a larger presence of traffic.  I decided to hit up my voting center first just to get it out of the way.  My original DNI was created while I was living in the US the address used on my ID card was the one in Portland, now because I moved to Lima I had to change my address to the one in Chorrillos which meant my voting number/code changed as well, no biggie right?  WRONG!  My father whom I reside with only votes a few blocks away from our home at some school (FYI all voting centers are at some school or university, in Lima there are a LOT), so naturally I should to right, same adress and all, but nooooooo... I have to vote clear on the other side of the F#$&ing district, nearly five to six kilometers away, in fact it's so remote for me that I wasn't sure I was even in Chorrillos anymore.  I guess the on the plus side the voting lines at IEP Tupac Amaru II are short and sweet, it took me only ten minutes to vote.  This school was also perhaps one of the few that actually let me take photos with hasseling me for such ridiculous things as credentials and permission. 

Did I mention that traffic was hellacious (please forgive the poor spelling, apparantly my British friend was unsure as to it's spelling), after about an hour I was able to get a colectivo to take me to Breña, where I met up with Zdenka.  There we hit up a few schools in the district and were forced to leave by the naval mp's and ONPE officials.  The day after that pretty much drudged on until the closing hour of the elections.  While having a late lunch at one of Lima's finest franchised establishments (KFC), everyone inside were glued to the incoming wave of flash reports that flooded every local channel and as everyone awaited for the response on the sound of the TV and the deep friers could be heard.  Then the faces of the presidential candidates were posted on the screen and in came the numbers from each department in Peru, the stress and anticipation in everyone's faces was almost similar to kind of response you get when watching for your Lotto numbers on TV.  Defeat and victory were both experienced shortly after and then just as quickly as the whole thing started it was over, and while some were unhappy with the end result little was left for them to do in response except continue about with their lives like they had been doing.

Video: Paragliding over Miraflores in Lima, Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Wednesday, June 15, 2011 0 comments

I found this rather cool video that was taken by Thermikfresser of his paragliding flight over Miraflores.  This video gives a great impression of what its like to fly over Lima's coast and might be enough to encourage those who have been reluctant to give it a try.

Paragliding in Miraflores, Lima, Peru from Thermikfresser on Vimeo.

Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala end of campaign rallies

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Friday, June 3, 2011 1 comments

Last night was brutual in terms of taking photos of both end-of-campaign rallies.  I had found out about the events at roughly noon yesterday while waiting to be transported to an English class in Lurin, Peru (which ended up being cancelled mid route).  There was literally no time available to place my name of the list of journalists and photographers, which ultimately left me fighting to take photos among the crowds. 

Keiko Fujimori of Fuerza 2011 held her rally in the Plaza Bolognesi of Downtown Lima at the end of Av. Colon., while Gana Peru's, Ollanta Humala returned to the "red plaza" (as it is referred to by many locals, due in part to the communist parties who have their offices located there) or Plaza Dos de Mayo, located roughly 1km from Keiko's event.   After spending an hour sardined into a small combi, I disembarked at Av. Venezuela, a few blocks from where I normally get off, thanks in part to the last minute route change.  At about 8:30pm I arrived at Plaza Bolognesi with my camera gear and my press pass hoping to squeeze in among the other photographers but was shot down when I ,at that moment, learned I was not on the list and therefore was denied entry along with many other journalists who found out the hard way. 


Keiko's rally was already underway and felt more like a concert than a rally thanks largely to the celebrity appearances of Eva Ayllon and Hermanos Yaipen.  Av. Colon was packed with supporters and curious pedestrians as the rest of the plazas five streets were closed off.  It was at this point that I was cracking my skull open to try and find a solution to my dilemma (having special press priviledges and access has spoiled me), when I received a phone call from Zdenka informing me that Humala was already giving his speech in Dos de Mayo.  Not wanting to waste anymore time, especially since Keiko hadn't shown yet, I began to hoof it over to the other plaza via the disable strech of Av. Alfonso Ugarte which connects the two plazas.  It was a dark walk over to Dos de Mayo, one which I was partially not looking forward to, given it's reputation as a high crime and theft spot (imagine it at night!) and I was not liking the prospect of having my camera stolen.  The feeling of uncertainty was intensified as I saw a couple leaving the Plaza, where a young man was doing his best to console his crying female companion who hystarically clutched her right hand while staring horrified at her bare ringer finger.  It's the kind of scene that can kill any or all remain confidence in a particularly risky situation.  After passing a temporarily erected metal gate I found myself in the lions den that was Plaza Dos de Mayo, a place that was swarming with throngs of people.  A sea of heads and flags was all I could make out from my initial location as I dove in among the crowd, following line of people who were pushing their way through the crowds.  I was at first hesitant to reveal my camera with no viable escape route but I managed to find a spot next to a few food carts where I was able to take a few shots quickly without drawing to much attention to myself.  I continued to burrow my way to Ollanta's stage but soon realized that it was going to be near impossible as it became increasingly difficult to progress through the crowds.  I made the most of it and took a few more photos (still not pleased with the overall situation), when Humala finished his speech, a bad time to be among the crowd.  Luckily I was able to menuever my way out before the congregation gained any real momentum.  Wanting a better vantage point I entered a nearby building and was granted access to the up floors, it was here that I was able to take photos of the plaza in it's entirety.  The crowd began to migrate down, what was once referred to as Av. Colmena, towards Av. Abancay on the other end of Downtown Lima (Cercado).  It was unbelievable to watch such a large amount of people advance in a singe direction, almost like watching cattle being herded.  Just as I was getting ready to leave one of the kind old ladies pointed out a car in the distance that was heading down the street in our direction.  As it got closer I was able to see the candidate Ollanta Humala standing on top of it as it slowly made its way through the people.  Quickly I switched lenses and was able to capture a few decent shots. 

Plaza Dos de Mayo


Once Humala had left my sight I made my way out of the building and down the street following the same path of the crowd.  Police dressed in full riot gear lined the streets ready to handle the unexpected, in what would eventually turn out to be a fairly controlled rally.  A long walk later, and I finally found myself on the other side of Av. Colon and as I progressed the concentration of people continued to increase as elbow room went from scarce to nil.  Keiko had arrived minutes before and was well underway in her passionate and compelling (at least that's how she was trying to work the crowd) final sell.  Unlike Humala's presentation, Keiko had her stage full of well recognized public figures making a real spectacle of her show, as sports atheletes to ex-presidential candidates (PPK) made appearances.  The biggest difficulties of the night were met here as I made my way as close to the stage as possible, eventually stopping just short of the press box some 150 meters or so from Keiko.  Giving myself the all clear approval I pulled out my camera and began taking photos when I noticed a group of people forging a path through the spectators.  At first it was hardly a problem but minutes later Keiko ended her speech (with confetti and fireworks) and what started out as a non-threatening group of people trying to find a way out, soon converted into an ugly stampeed like display of young and elderly pushing  (practically fighting) to get the hell out of the plaza.  Instead of joining them I foolishly decided to wait and hold my position (against what was likely hundreds of desperate and impatient people), and as I waited I could feel the crowd gain strength as I found it harder and harder to stand.  At one point I almost lost my footing all together which could have been disasterous for me.  Not wanting to wait and see what could happen I saw an opening and fled the scene, eventually making my way back to Av. Arica and to my home.


Cierre de Campaña

On guard

Overall I am not thrilled with the photos I took last night but it was definitely interesting to be a part of a political rally of that size and scale.  Also I am grateful that I still have my camera. :) 

Jesus Maria - Lima, Peru

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Thursday, June 2, 2011 0 comments

This is a photo I took a month ago of this beautiful (at least in my opinion) house which was just across from the Estadio Nacional in Jesus Maria.  What drew my attention to this building was it´s wonderful big balcony just above the main entrance.  The way it was designed for being a house on a street corner just gives it so much appeal and those tall palm trees seem to add to it´s personality. 

Peru's presidential 2011 debate

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Wednesday, June 1, 2011 0 comments

Since working at I have done a lot of photography of special events and Lima's nightlife but last Sunday I got my first big break when I was sent to cover the presidential debate.  This was my first real assignment covering a news/political related event, and it was awesome!  The event was held at the well known Marriott hotel in Miraflores just in front of Larcomar and was scheduled to begin at 8:45pm.  Being new to such an event I arrived early in order to get a good spot among what I anticipated to be a heavily crowded press section.  When I reached the Marriott at 4pm the streets were barricaded in a two block radius of the hotel and the press section was already teeming with a good size group of veteran photographers and cameramen who had claimed their spot and set up their gear.  The press section was situated a about 25-50 meters from the hotels entrance with a blocks length of waist high metal fences and a stair step style stand for the press to position themselves for the candidates.  I was totally excited about being there but at the same time felt like such a rookie that I'm sure I must have let out the stench of one as the vets all seemed to have that same look on their faces which probably shared the mental thought of "great, who the hell is this fucking noob!"  To make matters even more embarrassing for myself I played the role of the guy who asks everyone 100 questions about photography and the biz, not that I really cared though since it was so interesting to hear how many of these guys got their careers started.

After waiting a few hours I met up with another co-worker and professional photographer from my job who after having just entered the hotel as part of (what I initially believed to be the more privileged journalists) a group of journalists who were going to cover the event from inside, had quickly turned around and left when she was informed of the reality of the controlled situation that had been arranged by the internal security.  Apparently all the press were crammed into a "special" room which had one lousy TV that would broadcast the event, while the photographers on the inside would be given the opportunity to take a five minute photo op of the candidates before the debate and nothing more.  It turned out that the best photo opportunities that night would be the ones taken outside.  One after another the candidates arrived in their security detail convoys and took turns posing briefly for the press before entering the hotel.  It all happened so quickly and I remember that when the walked towards the press section my body went into autopilot as I frantically took photos all while desperately trying to remain calm.  Though the area was fairly well lit, thanks in part to the camera crews of various TV channels who set up these huge spotlights which had what looked like big pieces of white paper taped to them in order the soften the light, I still had to use an ISO above 1600 for my f4-5.6, 55-200mm lenses.  The noise in my photos were fairly high but luckily I was able to tone it down later in Lightroom.

Once the candidates were inside Elie (the co-worker I mentioned earlier) and I went out and took photos of the supporters who had been corralled into their respective corners.  Just like any sporting event the supporters of each candidate were both watching the debate while cheering and jeering as loud as they could, a spectacle that was aided by the use of live bands, air horns (damn, were there a lot of air horns!), and music.  I rapped up the shooting at around 10:30pm, a little after the debate had ended, having spend six hours waiting and taking photos.  I was beat but it was an amazing experience, one I look forward to repeating in the future.


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