As leader of the movement Ocupa Tu Calle, Peruvian lawyer Mariana Alegre got her hands dirty to revitalize public spaces in her city
It was during her Master’s studies that Lima-born lawyer Mariana Alegre discovered a passion: the right to the city. “Ten years ago, we didn’t talk about mobility, public spaces, and sustainability in Peru,” she says. “I had spent some time in Barcelona and realized what kind of place I wanted to live in. While most Peruvians wanted to leave, I couldn’t wait to come back home and put into practice what I had learned there.” Mariana came back in 2010, was invited to work at the organization Lima Cómo Vamos (a citizen observatory), and started to compile indicators of quality of life in the metropolis. But she didn’t stop there.
“In 2014, Lima hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 20) and we wanted to do something to show what it was like to live in a more sustainable city,” she recalls. The result of this desire is the movement Ocupa Tu Calle, which built the first parklet in Lima in an abandoned parking lot. In the beginning, many people didn’t understand what it was and asked if they had to pay to use it or if the items were for sale. “We realized that people didn’t perceive themselves as citizens, but rather as customers,” Mariana recalls. “This showed us a new path.”
The parklet was given a sign that read ‘Sitting is allowed.’ “We want to transform places and, mainly, people. They need to understand that public spaces are places where kids can play, people fall in love, neighbors get to know one another, making their neighborhoods better and safer,” she says.
Ocupa Tu Calle has made 25 interventions in Lima so far. They are carried out by volunteers and residents, always using donated or reusable materials. The project is also responsible for the World Forum on Urban Interventions, an event sponsored by UN-Habitat and Fundación Avina, an organization that promotes sustainable development. The idea is to exchange experiences with other groups and countries. “I feel like people are starting to care more about the place where they live and the air they breathe. I see a new generation that’s eager to do things and groups of neighbors who want to act to improve their neighborhoods,” she observes. Mariana also had a daughter in the meantime. And the name she chose is no coincidence: Lima. A playful girl who lives in the city her mother chose to improve.