Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The demise of El Buque

Among the one storey buildings along Jiron Junin, El Buque stands out. Not only because of its towering bulk of three storeys on the corner of the street with Jiron Cangallo, opposite the famous Piedra Horadada, but as well for the bad state of the edifice. The sky can be seen through the holes in the roofs of the third floor. On the Cangallo side a part of the ground floor has collapsed. Leakage from broken pipes has done much damage to the 18th century quincha building. Once it was the home to various mayors of Lima. Now the upper floor has been invaded and a variety of owners and renters live in the other parts of the house.

Miguel Pielago Berrospe (76) has been living here for the last 44 years and he owns his apartment of 40-45 m2. He is president of the Asociación pro Vivienda proprietarios y ocupantes El Buque Jr. Junín 979. He is fed up and he wants the building to be ´desmonumentalized´. His home is collapsing and according to him more than six years of discussion with the Municipality and Instituto Nacional de la Cultura (INC) have lead to nothing. His neighbor Elisabeth Guarniz Escudero (67) agrees with him. She lives in the back part of the house of what used to be the stables and the servants quarters. Her mother moved here in 1940 after an earthquake destroyed her house in another part of Barrios Altos. She rents her apartment. This is also the main problem of El Buque she says. Many owners of apartments don´t live here, but have either rented the rooms out of leave them empty.´ They don´t care about the building´. The people who have invaded the third floor can go in and out of the building through the balconies.

The unclear property situation, with lacking documents, is according to Juan Julio García Rivas, director de Patrimonio Histórico Colonial y Republicano of the INC, the reason no advance has been made in restoration. The municipality has to declare it an Area de Tratamiento (AT) and the owners have to reach agreement on how to finance it. The government does not pay for restoration of monuments that are private property. The owners however could try to find funds of their own, like it happened in La Casa de Las Columnas. A new law is being discussed that could put an end to this, although it remains to be seen if the current occupants will be happy with it. A monument with unresolved ownership documents could pass to the municipality, which will offer it first to the current occupants, but if they cannot afford it, the building will be offered to others.

In the first half of the 18th century Don Joaquín de Mendoza Ladrón de Guevara y Fernández Maldonado built a mansion here. He was born in Moquegua in 1703 and served as Mayor of Lima in 1753, according to the book Las Viejas Calles de Lima of Juan Bromley. After his death his daughter Maria Manuela Mendoza Ladrón de Guevara y de los Rios, wife of another Mayor of Lima, Don Francisco de Robles Maldonado, inherited the house. Having no children the property passed to her sister Juana Margarita, married to Joaquín de Galdeano, Fiscal de la Audiencia de Lima and Oidor de México. Their son José Maria de Galdeano y Mendoza, born in 1780, was Mayor of Lima in 1821 and a representative of Virrey Pezuela who met general San Martin in the hacienda Punchauca to discuss a peace treaty and the independence of Peru. After him the house became property of the Carrillo de Albornoz family, former counts of Monteblanco.

They must have sold it sometime in the first half of the 20th century, as it was an engineer that owned it around 1940. Elisabeth Guarniz told me that this engineer divided the place in the 54 apartments of today and sold those. Since then it seems that not much has been done for the maintenance of the building. Two apartments have completely collapsed, the upper floors and the wooden stairs have become dangerous places to tread. It seems hardly a habitable place anymore and one wonders if there really is a future for El Buque.


  1. Love your blog!
    I'll continue reading you.

  2. Leo con mucho interés tu blog. El tema del deterioro de casas, casonas y quintas históricas en Lima es un barril sin fondo. En otras ciudades del mundo justamente esta herencia cultural se guarda como gran tesoro y se respeta como parte de la identidad nacional. No puedo creer que hasta hoy no se haya podido elaborar un sistema de financiación para la restauración, si en otras cosas los peruanos son tan hábiles y rápidos...
    Que les otorguen a los inquilinos actuales el derecho de propiedad no me parece una solución adecuada. Mantener un inmueble cuesta y las personas que lo habitan son de recursos escasos.
    Aquí el estado debería de intervenir y responsabilizarse.