This is a project about the living conditions in the slum called Belen, which means Bethlehem in Spanish. The slum is geographically placed in the Peruvian city Iquitos, a vibrant and contradictory jungle city, located deep into the Amazon rainforest. Iquitos has 420 000 inhabitants and is the worlds largest city not accessible by road.
The people of Belen is suffering from a multitude of problems such as family and community violence, alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile pregnancy and overcrowding. Belen is a melting pot for the people of the jungle and the areas bustling port is a gateway into the city for many of the newcomers arriving from surrounding villages in search for a better life. No one really knows how many people that live in Belen but it’s estimated to have around 65 000 inhabitants.
The lower part of the slum is built on the floodplain of the Itaya River. As the water level can change five meters or more in-between the low and high water seasons the houses closest to shore is built on stilts and the one further out is constructed on rafts and floats on the water or stand stranded in odd angles on the river bottom depending on the season. It’s from this extreme living conditions the slum has gained it’s glamorous name the Venice of Peru.
While walking around on streets of Belen your seances rapidly gets overwhelmed by the mix of joy and sadness, despair and hope. It’s hard not to wonder how a place can be so beautiful and joyful while at the same time so plagued as it is by social and environmental problems. This project is a visual journey through the life of some of the areas inhabitants and a exploration of the living conditions in the area.