Public Lab Research note

Artisanal Kite Mapping: Villa Maria, Lima, Peru

by anita | February 14, 2012 01:19 14 Feb 01:19 | #786 | #786

** traducion al espanol abajo

We held another kite mapping session in Lima on Feb. 4, 2012: this time in Villa Maria district, an area on the far edges of the city known for absorbing large populations of new rural migrant families who move in from surrounding mountain and jungle provinces.

You can see the photos taken from the ground here:

And photos from the kite taken here:

We mapped in the "pueblos jovenes" -- literally "new settlement" zones -- of Villa Maria, where much of the new growth is being experienced, and which extends from the foothills of Lima's dessert coast that eventually give rise (much further in the interior of the country) to the Andes. One of our mappers, Raquel Alvarez, lives in the area, and narrated the rapid rate of growth: new homes appear overnight over hill sides, hill slope concentrations changed in a matter of months; vegetation concentration changes. Even she was surprised to see the rate of change on the day of our mapping.

Despite the rapid growth in VM (as in many of Lima's new settlements), driven in part by Lima's own economic growth and the country's recent mineral-export driven boom, there little in terms of infrastructure to support local growth. The majority of homes in the cerros (foot hills) have no running water, only recently received electricity, and have no reliably safe means of access. Stairs that rise along the long slopes of the hills, that are the only safe means of traveling up and down hill sides, just began to get built. Most access ways are informal carvings into the dirt to form mounded foot holds (the photo above captures some of these), that are used when carrying water, etc, uphill.

We met in the morning, and used an hour to construct 2 home made kites using dried and whittled carizo reeds, thin plastic (garbage) bags, string, and a cotton shirt cut into a single 12-foot long strip for the kite tail. The design that worked best for us was had an “H” shaped frame, with the longest strip of carizo used measuring less than a meter long. [The other kite design was a larger diamond frame kite, but didn’t have as much lift as the smaller H frame.] We attached the camera rig to the end of the cotton tail.

We flew around 2P: the wind conditions that day on the hill were slight, and not even and so unideal for flight; but we did manage to get 2 decent lifts, each of which pulled about 200M of cord length out (not directly above, but angled up).

We didn’t lose any cameras; although we did damage 1 in a final flight during the day that cost about $30 to fix.

We’re planning another mapping session on another one of the cerros in Villa Maria again; hopefully on a day with more consistent winds.

Thanks to Raquel Alvarez, Elver Villalobos, Irma Alvarez, and Milagros Arroyo for participating, and to the youth of VM who kept us company atop the cerros.

Hope to share more soon!

Organizamos una reunion para mapear con cometas en Lima el 4 de febrero, 2012: esta vez, en el distrito de Villa Maria, una area por la periferia de la ciudad, conocida por absorbar grandes poblaciones de nuevos migrantes de provincias de la sierra y la selva.

Puedes ver las fotos tomadas desde el suelo aqui:

Y las fotos tomadas desde el aire aqui:

Mapeamos en los cerros de los pueblos jovenes de Villa Maria, donde mucho del nuevo crecimiento tiene lugar. Uno de nuestros mapeadoras, Raquel Alvarez, vive en la zona y narro el crecimiento rapido, diciendo como nuevas casas aparecieron rapidamente, y como la vista de los cerros podia transformarse en solo pocos meses. Aun ella se sorprendio viendo todo el cambio el dia que mapeamos.

A pesar de todo el crecimiento dentro de VM – empujado en gran parte del boom economico que Peru en general esta viendo, dado el incremento de exportacion global de minerales -- la infraestructura de la zona no aporta bien la poblacion local. La mayoria de las casas en los cerros no tienen agua, solo recientamente cuentan con luz, y mayormente no tienen un paso seguro (es decir, escaleras) para subir y bajar de los cerros. La mayoria de pasos que existen y que se usa para subir y bajar agua, etc. ha sido construido por los residentes en si (algunas de las cuales se puede ver en la foto colgada).

Nos reunimos por la manana, y tomamos una hora para constriur 2 cometas, usando carizo, bolsas de plastico, pabilo, y una camiseta de algodon cortado para armar la cola de la cometa. El diseno que funciono mejor para nosotros fue uno en la forma de “H”, con el pedazo de carizo que usamos de una medida de menos un metro. (La otra cometa que disenamos fue de una forma de diamante, y era mas grande, pero no volo tan bien como el “H”). Pusimos la camera al final de la cola de algondon.

Volamos a las 2 de la tarde: tuvimos poco vientos, y no estaban consistentes. Sin embargo, tuvimos 2 subidas buenas – cada una que jalo alrededro de 200M de cuerda.

No perdimos una camera; aunque, hicimos dano al final de dia a una camera, que costo $30 para arreglar.

Estamos planeado otra reunion para mapear en Villa Maria de nuevo – esperamos que habran mejores vientos.

Gracias a: Raquel Alvarez, Irma Alvarez, Milagros Arroyo, y Elver Villalobos por la reunion! Y gracias tambien a los ninos de VM que nos accompanaron encima de los cerros.

Espero compartir mas pronto!


Hi Anita! Thanks so much for this post. The work sounds fascinating. Are you figuring out how to use map mill and knitter okay for making the maps? Let us know if you need any help with that. Also should we set up a place page for your project? So you can keep all your notes in one place? We can set you up with that quickly if you want!

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Yeah, it looks like you're all having some major successes with kites.

There's already a page for Lima, actually:

and your posts are going up there as well as at:


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hi sara - we haven't yet started working on map knitter, my main questions just now just have to do with first steps - how to find the base map image on which to layer our images; if we can/should connect them to the maps already completed in lima; and if there is a way to work/knit offline (which will be more pressing once we leave lima and head for the provinces)? if you have time for a quick sykpe, i'm at 'wrongrrl' there. and thanks for the feedback! xoxo

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hi jeff - thanks! we're hoping to try out the kite mapping in the andes, where we can build on the skills and knowledge local communities already have. am already looking forward to the collaborative learning. let me know if there is anything different i should do in terms of how i add research notes, etc. in the meantime. xoxo

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Hi Anita, I just reached out to you on Skype, I'd also like to help you create maps out of your images.

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thanks liz!

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