In 1860, during the waning years of the Ramón Castilla regime and midway through an economically robust era in Peru thanks to the guano industry, a new census of the capital city of Lima was undertaken. The empadronadores (census takers) approached the task systematically, enumerating the population according to existing administrative districts — and not according to church parishes, as had earlier censuses. As they moved methodically along, the interviewers noted the name of each street and then ventured into each formal building’s address, recording its house number. Next they entered individual dwelling spaces (presumably invited) and asked the residents a series of predetermined questions, carefully recording the responses. Data gathered from residents of buildings that lined the streets and boasted formal street numbers provide few surprises for a historian. These residents leave the initial impression that the urban citizenry was similar to...

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