The olive canvas tents and cabins of weatherbeaten plywood are nearly indistinguishable now among the gray, sandy expanses of squatters' settlements on Lima's north side.
But the shantytown in Tupac Amaru Park here bears a peculiar legacy. Once a day, a special food truck rolls down its main street, and squads of Peruvian police still guard the fence around its bare, dusty field.
Inside are the Cubans, the self-described "authentic" refugees among the 10,000 who entered the Peruvian Embassy compound in Havana in early 1980. While thousands joined the massive boatlift from the port of Mariel to Key West, Fla., these exiles stayed in the embassy, confident they would be collected and sent to a new home in the United States.
Instead, 750 of them were transported to Lima and installed in an old soccer field. Now, long after memories of the historic boatlift have faded, about 300 are still in Tupac Amaru Park, living under ragged canvas, accepting emergency supplies of food, and complaining bitterly of betrayal by Peruvian and U.S. authorities.
"Ours is a situation where the book has been closed, sealed shut and we are just sitting here and looking up at the sky and waiting for it to open again," said Santiago Grajales Lunas, a leader of the Cuban camp city. "We are tired of people coming here and looking at our situation, seeing how we live, and for us, nothing ever happens."
In fact, the Cubans' squalid life in Tupac Amaru Park wins little sympathy from Peruvian authorities or U.N. refugee officials here. Only weeks after their arrival in April 1980, officials say, the refugee Cubans were handed two-year renewable residence visas and work permits for Peru.
Since then, officials of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees have been standing by to offer capital and other assistance to any who want to move out of the camp and start over in Peru. But, the officials complain, the Cubans just will not leave.
"If they want to drive a taxi, we'll buy them a taxi. If they want to open a food stand, we'll supply them with the capital for that," said a top U.N. official here, who asked not to be named. "Legally their situation is solved. But the problem is that they want to go to the United States--and there has been no way to convince them that their future is here in Peru."
The Cubans answer that they did not risk their lives and fortunes to leave Cuba for poor, depressed Lima, a bloated capital of more than 5 million where street corners are always crowded with lean men hawking trinkets in a shrill, frantic patter.
"What we demand and what we have dreamed for is the United States or another developed country," said Enrique Lopez Soto, a 25-year-old metal welder who has never found work in Lima. "If there is nothing here for the Peruvians, there will never be anything for the Cubans."
The resulting impasse has become embarrassing for both the Peruvian government and U.S. officials, who maintain that the Cubans have found the asylum they wanted and can seek no special preferences to enter the United States.
"We try to stay away from the whole situation," said one U.S. Embassy official. "We see it as a Peruvian government problem."
Meanwhile, what was once a display of political good will by Peruvian authorities has become a well-established slum. Small shelters of wood are slowly replacing the soiled tents around the park, and 23 children, the Cubans say, have now been born as Tupac Amaru natives.
A few have been accepted in other countries as the Cubans have collectively made clear their distaste for Peru. Canada accepted a group of 236, and other small groups went to Brazil and Australia. In two years, the United States has admitted 33, most of whom had immediate family members already in the country.
Those who have remained in the park say they have never had a real chance to rebuild after their move from Cuba. Unemployment and underemployment in Peru, according to official statistics, stood at 54 percent last year, and labor unions, the Cubans say, are slow to help foreigners, especially if they are Cuban anticommunists.
To make ends meet, much of the community has turned to making cocadas, a small Cuban delicacy made of coconut and sugar. After fixing batches of the sweets each morning, the men of the community will take them to the downtown squares of Lima to hawk amid the dozens of Peruvian peddlers outside hotels and office buildings.
The income goes to buy plywood for new cabins on the park soccer field, or food to supplement that of the relief truck, or, just as often, for stationery, photos, stamps, immigration forms and envelopes for the Cubans' ceaseless campaigns to win admission to the United States, Canada or Australia.
The failure of all those efforts -- and the growing irritation of government and diplomatic officials over their persistence -- has disillusioned the park's survivors.
"The United States has betrayed us, it has shown that it is not always willing to help anticommunists from Cuba," said Lopez Soto.
Many of the Cubans are reluctant even to allow outsiders into their settlement, because they say their miserable conditions are only serving as good propaganda for their old enemy, Fidel Castro, who they say has frequently pointed out their failure.
But none will yet agree to leave the camp and give up their long emigration battle.
"We are just fish out of water," said Eddy Ceballos, a former butcher and baseball umpire in Cuba who is still seeking to join his sister-in-law in Los Angeles. "But we will be here until someone takes notice of our rights."