Top left Mily at the Distriandina cafe, the Arches

Bottom Slideshow of the Tiendas Del Sur, Newington Butts

The first time I came to London was in 2000. I didn’t know anything, apart from London landmarks. I was looking at the Underground map and I saw the name Elephant and Castle. I’ve always loved elephants, ever since I was a girl. I thought the area would be very Asian – because of ‘Elephant’ – but I was surprised to find a Latin American community there: shops, small cafes, restaurants.

I was born in Peru. The only thing I really miss – except for my family – is the food. We have so much good food in Peru: Ceviche – it’s raw fish with lemon, with rocoto (chilli), with sweet potatoes, with corn, with red onions, it’s amazing. Then we have Arroz con Pollo – chicken with rice; Causa – mashed yellow potatoes with ají amarillo (yellow chilli) filled with tuna , avocado or  shrimp. I’m not so good at cooking, but I can make Pisco Sour – it’s Peruvian traditional drink. Pisco is a spirit made from grapes. You mix it with lemons, sugar, ice, egg-white, and bitters. It’s delicious.

I met my husband in LA. He’s English, and we came to London in 2004. I went back to the Elephant, not to live, but to go to the cafes, and the shops. You can buy food from Peru there, like the drink, Inca Kola. It is more popular than Coca-cola in Peru. It’s made with different herbs, like Hierba Luisa, and it’s yellow like the sun. In Peru, the Incas worship the sun. We call it the golden cola.

I worry Elephant and Castle will change too much – will lose its character and identity. I am concerned that all the people will be pushed away by the development. You can see that people know each other in the area – they always greet each other. That’s important. I see people don’t talk to their neighbours any more. We have friends all over the world, but we don’t know about the person who lives next to us.

I am an artist and an illustrator. I studied in Peru and in London. I paint, and I make jewellery. I do all my work by hand; it’s very intricate. I sell my work online at Etsy (a site selling handmade crafts from all over the world). One day I would like to have a small shop in London – we’ll see what happens.

I love to use colour. In Peru there are colours everywhere – the hummingbird, for instance, it has so many colours, it is so beautiful. I love butterflies too, and I use them a lot in my art. Do you know Peru has more butterflies than any other country? I think the butterfly is like life. We want certainty, we want to hold onto something, but life is movement, always changing  – you have to enjoy it while it’s there, in the present.

I think people from Latin America are very warm-hearted. We are very welcoming, whoever you are. People say that people in London are cold, but I don’t agree with that. Maybe they’re less friendly at first, but everyone I’ve met has been very nice, very friendly. I think you just have to give people the opportunity to get to know you. It’s up to you, like a mirror, if you smile you will see a smile back. I like all of London. It is so diverse. All the world is here in this city.