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Volume 54 / Humanities


19th and 20th Centuries: Peru

NILS P. JACOBSEN, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

HISTORIOGRAPHY ON REPUBLICAN PERU appears to be in a phase of transition. Though no single paradigm or methodology predominates, structuralist and quantitative studies still play a considerable role, often associated with approaches relying on dependency theory, Marxism, or modernization theory. But a younger generation of scholars is slowly and cautiously applying new political, cultural, and intellectual approaches to the study of Peruvian history. The openness and lack of definition of the current intellectual climate has allowed a blending of paradigms and an unorthodox, but often fruitful crossing of topical boundaries. For instance, one work discusses epidemics in conjunction with state-building projects, and another treats specific modern peasant movements along with a historical reconstruction of Indian ethnic identity through collective memory. Thus, some works canvassed in the present volume extend our knowledge on well-studied topics or synthesize knowledge accumulated during the past two decades within now conventional perspectives, while others apply new paradigms or revisionist and, at times, controversial interpretations to well-studied themes. Previously neglected topics of Peru's republican history are also discussed. While some topics noted in preceding HLAS volumes as urgently needing attention have finally found their authors (notably the history of public health), others, such as the history of the bureaucracy, the military, gender relations, and taxation, continue to be largely neglected.

The spate of partisan publications on APRA history, so numerous in HLAS 52 due to the García Administration (1985-90), has abated, although a few previously overlooked titles from the late 1980s are annotated here. Luis Alva Castro's editions of Haya de la Torre's and Luis Alberto Sánchez's articles published in El Tiempo of Bogotá during the late 1940s and early 1950s clarify the thought of leading apristas in the crucial transition years of the party's political orientation (items bi 91005057 and bi 91005049). In the early 1990s, we are seeing more balanced, critical assessments of APRA's impact on Peruvian politics (items bi 93004977 and bi 94002623), many of which demonstrate the tension between authoritarianism and democracy in Peru's most important social reformist and populist political movement of the 20th century.

"New political history," the attempt to more critically link politics with its social and ideological implications and the global horizon in which it unfolds, is also addressed in several essays. Peralta Ruiz deftly links State finances in post-independence Cusco with the contest for power between Indian communities, large landholders, and an incipient - largely local and provincial - bureaucracy to show how the rising mestizo class used political offices to gain power and prestige in the countryside (item bi 94003293). Orrego Penagos traces the social roots of the Civilista Party to the rise of a new republican business elite around the key figure of Domingo Elias, and demonstrates that this earlier civilismo avant la lettre, despite its reformism, was hampered from the beginning by its social exclusivism (item bi 92026016). Chiaramonti suggests the paradox of late-19th-century electoral reforms, which were intended to give greater access to opposition groups in elections, but effectively strengthened oligarchic control on the national and provincial level (item bi 89008542). Castillo Ochoa's discussion of Sánchez Cerro's political base during the 1930s pinpoints what he views as an exceptional situation, but what in fact has been a recurrent pattern of Peruvian politics over the past 100 years: conservative authoritarian political projects muster considerable popular support (item bi 94002623).

The War of the Pacific and its aftermath still draws considerable attention, and deservedly so. But rather than focusing on military and diplomatic aspects, historians are now analyzing the profound political, economic, and social ruptures produced by this greatest crisis of the Peruvian polity between the wars of independence and the 1980s (items bi 93004968, bi 93007288, bi 93008894, bi 92020391, bi 93004978, and bi 93004971). This vigorous debate about the very nature of the Peruvian nation-building process began in the early 1980s.

In a broader sense, social movements of various kinds have become a major concern of Peruvianist historians. Husson offers a novel and cogent interpretation of two unusual "Indian rebellions" in the south-central sierra province of Huanta during the 1820s and 1890s, which he views as alliances between Indian peasants and members of the provincial elite against newly rising sociopolitical groups (item bi 94003234). Several authors offer insights into the broad social movement of peasants and urban indigenista allies that convulsed the southern sierra during the early 1920s. Luis Miguel Glave examines the conflictive construction of collective identities through historical memory in Canas and Espinar provinces and emphasizes that what provincial elites labelled Indian rebellions were often nothing more than the legal and public assertion of citizenship and property rights (item bi 91028060). In the Altiplano of Puno department, Calisto also finds that "everyday forms of resistance" by Indian peasantry - an influential notion developed for Southeast Asian peasantries by James Scott - were much more common ways of counteracting elite exploitation than militant rebellion (item bi 92014379). Augusto Ramos Zambrano, though, reminds us that, at least at the height of the southern sierra's broad social movement of the early 1920s, militant local peasant rebellions in the Altiplano could be swift and quite bloody (item bi 93004973). The accomplished work by Rénique discusses the whole sweep of political and cultural debates and social movements in Cusco from 1895 to the late 1980s, thus placing the upheaval of the early 1920s in a broader context (item bi 93004972). Rénique chronicles regionalist responses to increasing centralization from Lima, and finds the elite responses becoming weaker after 1930, while popular movements went through several additional militant cycles in the mid- and late 20th century. Simultaneous rural movements in the northern sierra, discussed by Apel, seem to have had a more pragmatic bent than those in the south and were favored by the effective brokerage of socialist politician Hildebrando Castro Pozo (item bi 94002778).

In contrast to the flourishing of urban labor history in other parts of Latin America, no works related to Peruvian unions, strikes, or factory workers were viewed in this period. Nonetheless, there is growing interest in the insurrectionary potential of another largely urbanized group, high school and university students who have proved such an important constituency for Maoist rebels during the past decades. Nicolás Lynch's critical study of Maoist student leaders at San Marcos University during the 1970s unveils the paradox between their ultra-radical rhetoric and the almost clientelistic political practice of young men who, however sincerely they believed their own speeches, were greatly concerned with upward social mobility and overcoming the sense of alienation from middle class Limeño society they felt due to their modest provincial origins (item bi 93004980). The benchmark study by Portocarrero and Oliart demonstrates convincingly that during the 1970s and 1980s an intellectually closed, one-dimensional discourse on Peruvian history and society - informed by dependency notions and the lessons of Maoist school teachers - did become widely diffused among school-age youths in Lima and in the provinces (item bi 94003312). Those who wish to understand the cultural dimensions of Peru's current crisis and the decade-long success of Sendero Luminoso must take those findings into account. In the eastern piedmont of the central Andes, on the other hand, the encounter by an authochtonous ethnic group with MIR guerrillas under Guillermo Lobatón in 1965 produced a very different social movement: the interpretation of the guerrillas as returning ancient cultural heroes, one episode of the recurring Asháninka millenarian movements eloquently chronicled by Brown and Fernández (item bi 94002792).

In addition to studies of "Indian rebellions" and rural social movements, a number of essays deal with peasants and peasant communities in the Highlands, clearly a topic of still growing interest among historians. Concerns focus on issues of land (items bi 93007274 and bi 93004624), communal offices and their change through government reforms (item bi 920203390), State policies towards communities (item bi 92015887), and the impact of taxation on the communities (items bi 94003293 and bi 93007283). While the conflict between those who stress the survival of an "Andean" worldview and institutions in the communities, and those focusing on class conflicts and market orientation by peasants continues, there does seem to be a growing agreement that Indian communities were highly adaptable and changing entities, influenced by and responsive to pressures and opportunities in the wider economic and political system. Altamirano's study on the peasant economy in the Puno department during the early post-independence period deserves special mention, because he is one of the first Andeanist historians to highlight the vital role of artesanal crafts for the reproduction of many peasant households (item bi 92014377).

By contrast, recent publications on the coastal agricultural sector have been scarce, and often merely synthesize or repeat notions developed over the past two decades (items bi 91027089 and bi 92013824). There are two major exceptions: Gonzales' study of tenant farming in the cotton growing area south of Lima which demonstrates how market forces helped shift a labor regime, born in the 1890s out of labor scarcity, to increasing control and profitability for the landlord (item bi 92015907); and Gómez Cumpa's painstaking reconstruction of the economic effects of Chilean occupation on the rural economy of Chiclayo during the 1880s (item bi 92020391).

Among the few works in the present reporting period that deal with urban society, Parker's essay on white-collar employees in early 20th-century Lima stands out (item bi 92015807). His amply documented thesis suggests that we need to recalibrate our notions of social stratification in Peru's most modern city during a time when presumably the transition to capitalism was in full swing and hence a class-based stratification should have jelled. Parker relies largely on criteria employed by the historical subjects themselves to relate their own standing vis-à-vis that of fellow Limeños, and finds a polarized notion of status based on family honor, education and "life styles." Although the author does not say so (and might in fact disagree), I would suggest that this polarized notion of social status, between an amorphous and vast underclass and the gente decente, was not a direct colonial heritage, but rather grew out of the collapse of the colonial caste society after the mid-19th century. Looking at Lima's society in the same era through the prism of elite and popular culture, Elmore detects a conflictive and ambiguous modernization decades before the massive changes of Leguia's oncenio (item bi 92013971). In the much more conservative urban setting of Cusco during the early post-independence decades, Krüggeler focuses on the surprising permanence of a crucial and insufficiently studied social group, urban artisans (item bi 92015071). His study further undermines the authority of the dependency approach for provincial societies and highlights strong links between urban and rural economies.

Our understanding of the final phase of slavery in Peru has been furthered by two solid publications. Blanchard's judicious, balanced overview is the first monograph on the institution and its abolition between the 1820s and 1854 (item bi 92016648). He emphasizes the continued economic importance of slavery even after the end of the slave trade, and suggests that it required an unrelated crisis - the Civil War of 1854-55 - to bring about its demise. In contrast, Hünefeldt's more narrowly focused study assigns greater weight to the actions of the slaves themselves in the downfall of Peruvian slavery (item bi 94003242).

Although there were few studies of immigration in the present reporting period, two deserve mention, one for its controversial thesis, and the other for its suggestive methodology. French geographer Lausent-Herrera's brief overview of the history of Japanese immigration to Peru greatly emphasizes the imperialist and ultra-nationalist goals pursued by the powerful promoters of emigration in Japan as well as by certain ideologues in Peru's Japanese community itself (item bi 94003276). All along, the author writes, Peru was to have become a Latin American beachhead for a Japanese-controlled interest zone. Hampe Martínez's essay on prominent European immigrants during the 19th century demonstrates the usefulness of parish records to trace the Peruvian trajectory of such newcomers (item bi 93009274).

Three exemplary articles by Cueto demonstrate the great value of studying Peruvian public health policies during the past century (items bi 92015078, bi 92015802, and bi 92015861). They combine detailed information about epidemics with issues concerning the extension of State power to various regions and localities, and with popular conceptions regarding science, disease and governmental interference in local affairs. These articles show that the study of seemingly technical subjects can throw much light onto the whole fiber of a regional or local society and its reaction to external intervention. During this biennium, the sole study of demographic history of republican Peru is Gootenberg's broad discussion for the 1820s-60s period (item bi 91023215). Gootenberg carefully analyzes previously unknown population figures for 1827 and highlights the essential stability of the indigenous percentage of Peru's total population between the 1790s and 1876, thus helping to discredit some of the more unreliable and simply imaginative population figures for the period. Yet however much Gootenberg was able to "rationalize" Peru's early republican population history, major problems continue to lurk that will probably only be solved with studies of mortality and natality based on parish records.

A complementary study to Klaiber's important social history of the Catholic Church since independence is García Jordán's painstakingly researched work on the history of Church-State relations during the first century after independence (item bi 94002844). This major study offers both more detail than Klaiber on many legislative and ideological battles, and a distinct, rather pessimistic interpretation of the Church's role in the construction of a more inclusive Peruvian polity. Both works will undoubtedly remain crucial reference works for further studies of the Church and religiosity for years to come.

Explicitly economic histories have been sparse during the present reporting period. One outstanding exception is Alfonso Quiroz's major study of Peru's credit institutions and markets between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries (item bi 92000729). Influenced by the current neoliberal climate in economic thought, the author reevaluates the era of export growth before the World Depression as beneficial for Peru's development, but ironically views increasing State interventionism in subsequent decades as fostering rather than impeding oligopolization. This work, along with a wealth of data on credit itself, offers broad new insights into the rise of Peru's modern economy.

One further genre of historical writing that had been quite vigorous in the past also seems to have dropped off recently: historical "monographs" of districts, towns, or provinces, often written by untrained local historians, and thus a rich source for insights into popular visions of history. In a more scholarly vein, this biennium includes Historia general de Arequipa, the first general history of a city and department outside of Lima written by professional historians (item bi 93004963). Although uneven in quality, there exists, to my knowledge, no comparable work for any other Peruvian city except Lima. Perhaps this massive volume portends the professionalization of regionally and locally focused historiography in Peru's provinces.

Before closing I would like to mention the stunning volume of photographs by Hans Heinrich Brüning covering the north coast between the 1880s and 1920 (item bi 93004962). Many themes of concern to today's historians are brought to life in these pictures, from everyday life in peasant villages, to work on sugar plantations, civil and religious festivities, and the construction of prominent buildings or structures. Hopefully more such collections of historical photographs can find their way to publication.

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