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HIA Addresses Painful Peruvian History at International Conference

HIA-Peru-articleAn all-day conference organized by the UC Davis Hemispheric Institute on the Americas brought together activists, survivors, journalists, and scholars of the Shining Path guerrilla movement in one of the first conversations to openly address the twelve-year war and its legacy. The Maoist Shining Path, led by Abimael Guzmán, carried out a brutal upheaval in Peru that left over 70,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and a country divided in 1992.

“This event couldn’t be done in Peru,” said Chuck Walker, Professor of History, MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in International Human Rights, and Director of the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas at UC Davis. “The Shining Path is an uncomfortable topic in Peru because nearly everyone is complicit in some way or a victim and most simply don’t want to talk about it,” he continued.

The February 9 conference, “The Aftermath of the Shining Path: Memory, Violence, and Politics in Peru,” was preceded by a February 6-7 event at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, which brought this incredible group together, many of whom authored important memoirs, analyses, and journalistic investigations that structure the debate around the origins, impact, and lasting memory of the Shining Path.
“The Aftermath of the Shining Path” fostered passionate discussions about the war after the 2003 report of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and featured the following speakers in dialogue:

  • Gustavo Gorriti, an investigative journalist whose writing on the Shining Path, drug trafficking, and corruption have earned him honors which include a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University; the Maria Moors Cabot Prize of Columbia University; and the International Press Freedom Award of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • Lurgio Gavilán, whose recently published memoirs, When Rains Became Floods (Memorias de un soldado desconocido), retell his fascinating life as a child soldier for the Shining Path. Subsequently, he became a soldier, a Franciscan priest, and anthropologist. When Rains Became Floods (Duke University Press) is currently being made into a movie.
  • José Carlos Agüero S., author of Los rendidos, which explores his childhood as the son of two Shining Path members, both killed. It has been very well received in Peru, prompting broad discussions about the period, memory, and tolerance. Available as an ebook.
  • Ruth Borja Santa Cruz, the former director of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Archive, she is also a professor of history at San Marcos University. She has conducted extensive research in Ayacucho and has served as an international consultant on truth commissions and archives.
  • Ricardo Caro, a researcher at the Catholic University in Lima, Caro has published widely on the Shining Path, particularly in the Huancavelica region. He edited the 2014 dossier published by IFEA, Los Claroscuros del Conflicto Armado y sus representaciones en Perú.
  • Renzo Aroni, a Ph.D. candidate in history at UC Davis, Aroni has written on violence and its aftermath in Peru. He has edited No hay mañana sin ayer. Batallas por la memoria y consolidación democrática en el Perú and De Ví­ctimas a Ciudadanos: Memorias de la Violencia Polí­tica en Comunidades de la Cuenca del Río Pampas.

The tense and emotional nature of the event is captured best by José Carlos Agüero S. and Lurgio Gavilán’s decision to not read their prepared papers and instead engage in a painful dialogue about how the Shining Path shaped their childhoods, which left some members of the audience in tears.
Gorriti, an award-winning investigative journalist with multiple death threats against him, delivered a frank and unflinching history of the narcotic enterprise carried out by the Shining Path in the upper Huallaga area of Peru – namely coca production that grew to over 130,000 hectares in the late 1970s. His talk, “Ultra-Capitalists and Crypto-Communists: Drug Trafficking and the Shining path since the 1990s” contextualized the money and the violence that proliferated in the upper Huallaga and the impact upon the indigenous peasants, who bore the brunt of the violence working as “coca proletariat” under conditions of extreme difficulty and duress.
Concluding his talk, Gorriti noted with humor and irony the “historical fact that when these two movements – communists and profit-minded drug traffickers – met at the same territory and time in history, after a little bit of disorder, they came to an understanding. They showed that very orthodox communism and chemically-pure capitalism can exist and thrive together.”
“Aftermath of the Shining Path” also drew on expertise of UC Davis faculty, including Chuck Walker, Zoila Mendoza (Professor of Native American Studies), and Stefano Varese (Professor of Native American Studies). The Hemispheric Institute on the Americas, as an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students focusing on the study of transnational processes in the American Hemisphere, will continue to address the complex history of Peru and other locations in the Americas.
Read a write-up of the event from Gustavo Gorriti (in Spanish): https://idl-reporteros.pe/columna-de-reporteros-245/
More on the “Aftermath of the Shining Path” conference from Hemispheric Institute on the Americas: http://hia.ucdavis.edu/the-aftermath-of-the-shining-path-memory-violence-and-politics-in-peru
– Stephanie Maroney, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral candidate in Cultural Studies

This page was last updated: February 19, 2016



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