The Corner of the Living

The Corner of the Living: Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Corner of the Living
    Book Description:

    Peru's indigenous peoples played a key role in the tortured tale of Shining Path guerrillas from the 1960s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. The villagers of Chuschi and Huaychao, high in the mountains of the department of Ayacucho, have an iconic place in this violent history. Emphasizing the years leading up to the peak period of violence from 1980 to 2000, when 69,000 people lost their lives, Miguel La Serna asks why some Andean peasants chose to embrace Shining Path ideology and others did not.Drawing on archival materials and ethnographic field work, La Serna argues that historically rooted and locally specific power relations, social conflicts, and cultural understandings shaped the responses of indigenous peasants to the insurgency. In Chuschi, the guerrillas found indigenous support for the movement and dreamed of sparking a worldwide Maoist revolution. In Huaychao, by contrast, villagers rose up against Shining Path forces, precipitating more violence and feeding an international uproar that took on political significance for Peru during the Cold War.The Corner of the Livingilluminates both the stark realities of life for the rural poor everywhere and why they may or may not choose to mobilize around a revolutionary cause.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0191-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xv)
  4. [Maps]
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On 17 may 1980—the eve of the first democratic elections in Peru after twelve years of military rule—five hooded Shining Path guerrillas entered the voter registration office in Chuschi, a village of mostly Quechua-speaking peasants in the Andean department of Ayacucho. Once inside, the Senderistas tied up the registrar on duty and set the registry and ballot boxes ablaze. The event, known thereafter as the Inicio de la Lucha Armada (Initiation of the Armed Struggle—ILA), symbolically ignited the Shining Path guerrilla insurrection. In the coming years Chuschi would serve as an early rebel stronghold and the location...

  6. CHAPTER ONE To Trace the Tracks: Internal Conflict and Resolution
    (pp. 19-61)

    Two indigenous peasants—one from Peru and the other from Bolivia—are talking one day about the similarities and differences between their two countries. At some point in the conversation, the Peruvian turns to the Bolivian and asks, “Why is it that you have a navy when in Bolivia there is no sea?” The Bolivian scratches his head for a moment and replies, “Why is that you have a Ministry of Justice when in Peru there is no justice?”

    I heard different iterations of this joke throughout my stay in Ayacucho. The punch line invariably caused everyone present to chuckle...

  7. CHAPTER 2 To Venture Out: Intercommunity Relations and Conflict
    (pp. 62-100)

    I was researching in the Regional Archive of Ayacucho when I got an urgent call from Julián. He said that he had checked on seating for the Chuschicombi(shuttle), which we were supposed to take the next morning. Since Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day celebrations) were around the corner, the seats were filling up fast; we needed to get our tickets right then and there. I dropped everything and caught a cab to pick up Julián at his CEISA (Center for Social Research of Ayacucho) office. When we arrived at the station—a small garage big enough to fit one...

  8. CHAPTER 3 To Walk in Shoes: Race and Class
    (pp. 101-135)

    “Tell us another one!” I insisted as Huaychao native Narciso Huamán poured himself another cup of aguardiente. When he finished his drink, Narciso poured what was left in his cup onto the dirt floor with a swift fling of the wrist and handed me the cup and bottle. “Salud, compadre,” he said. I lifted the cup and repeated, “Salud,” pouring myself a teaspoon’s worth of the warm cane liquor. Most days, Narciso, an Evangelicalcomuneroin his thirties, would decline an invitation to drink alcohol since it conflicts with his religious views. This night was special, however, as I had...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR To Cross the River: Initial Peasant Support for Shining Path
    (pp. 136-166)

    The moment had finally come. After twelve years of rule, the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces was finally going to relinquish executive power and allow Peruvian citizens to participate in national democratic elections. Florencio Conde was the lone registrar on duty in Chuschi late Saturday night, 17 May 1980—the eve of the election—when a bellowing voice caught his attention from the other side of the door: “¡Abre, carajo, somos militares [Open up, dammit, it’s the military]!” Conde had scarcely enough time to react before the door flung open with a loud bang. The five strangers who stormed...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE To Defend the Mountaintop: Initial Peasant Resistance to Shining Path
    (pp. 167-196)

    On 22 january 1983 a group of Huaychainos walked into the Civil Guard station in Huanta City. They had made the long trek from their high Andes village through a tortuous landscape of ravines, crags, and plains. It had been two and a half years since Shining Path launched its revolution in Chuschi, and by now Huanta police had received their share of complaints from peasants regarding missing and murdered persons. But the Huaychainos had not come to report another murderbyguerrillas; they were there to report the killingofseven Senderistas, by the villagers themselves.¹


  11. CHAPTER SIX To Turn the Corner: After Shining Path
    (pp. 197-214)

    Alejandra Ccente sat on a small wooden stump from a hilltop overlooking the village square. Sucking on her lemon-flavored candy, the Huaychaina became distracted by the photograph in Julián’s hands: an image of the village’s originalronderos, taken byCaretasphotographer Oscar Medrano during his 1983 visit to Huaychao. Most of theronderosin the photograph had died defending their community during the civil war. The gregarious widow let out a nervous giggle and asked, “How is it that you have that picture?” She snatched the image from Julián’s hands and examined it. “Maybe now we’ll interview each other,” she...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 215-220)

    On 26 april 2004 indigenous villagers from the Peruvian town of Ilave, in the high Andes department of Puno, rose up and killed their mayor. During the weeks leading up to the event, the villagers of Ilave had been demanding the removal of the mayor, who they believed was abusive and corrupt.¹ Six years later, in October 2010, Andeans from the nearby town of Juliaca attempted to lynch an alleged delinquent who had never been brought to justice for his local crimes.² Puno was not the only Andean locality to experience this form of vigilante justice in the early twenty-first...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 221-254)
    (pp. 255-268)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 269-286)