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Shining and Other Paths
War and Society in Peru, 1980â"1995
By Steve J. Stern
Duke University Press Copyright © 1998 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
From Race to Class: Insurgent Intellectuals de provincia in Peru, 1910–1970
Marisol de la Cadena
Have you all noticed what is happening to the cholo Tello? They say that now he is a doctor and plans to travel abroad! Don't you remember that he was one of so many serranitos who lived poorly and people said he was a "witch" because at night he chatted with "skulls" and "bones of pagans?" Don't you all remember that the police took his skulls to see if he was "crazy" or "possessed" like the newspapers said in Lima? —Some neighbors of Julio C. Tello in Lima, circa 1917
Tello is a national institution all by himself, and there is more work going on in his museum with a higher class of personnel than I have seen anywhere else. This old Indian is really as good as the tales that are told about him, and if he falls short by some academic standards I'll still maintain that he is the greatest archaeologist in the New World, and I'll argue the point in detail if someone else wishes me to. Also I'm inclined to think that he is the cornerstone of social science in Peru in spite of the fact that he deals with a distant time. —Carl O. Sauer, U.S. geographer, 1942
* In the secondary schools of Peru, students learn that Julio C. Tello was one of the first and most important archaeologists in the country. Sometimes teachers will mention that he was born in the province of Huarochirí, in the sierra that overlooks Lima. They never recount, and perhaps do not even know, that the future archaeologist arrived in the capital in the first decades of the century, with his father and a little bundle of clothes. Much less do they suspect that his neighbors in Lima called him a serranito, a word that emphasizes his "Indian" physical features, which is how the geographer Carl O. Sauer, without cultural or social inhibitions, referred to him.
This chapter will analyze two periods in the history of Peruvian academic culture that serve to contextualize the preceding quotes. The first, from the 1910s to the 1930s, was an era of "insurgency" by intellectuals from the provinces. The second began in the 1940s when the intellectuals de provincia began to capture intellectual spaces. Sauer witnessed this moment and Tello was one of the first provincials incorporated into the intellectual elite of Lima. The second period ended around 1970, when the distinction between provincials and Limeños, although it did not disappear, became more diffuse. The central argument of this essay runs as follows. While in the first period, "race" (raza) was a central category of intellectual analysis, description, and diagnosis of "Peruvian society," in the second period the academics decided to replace race with notions of "culture" and social class. Nonetheless, race continued to matter in daily life and in the social hierarchies that governed relationships between intellectuals and other members of the society analyzed by the intellectuals. Thus, the racial taxonomies that the intellectuals used in the first epoch did not lose their importance. On the contrary, although race was no longer used explicitly in academic discourse, the categories of analysis that prevailed after the 1930s referred to race implicitly.
The purpose of this essay is not to analyze intellectual figures or the ideas of the Shining Path elite. I merely seek to describe the academic culture of the provinces and its relationship with Lima before the war unleashed by Abimael Guzmán and the intelligentsia that surrounded him. As we shall see in the epilogue, although Shining Path intellectuals defined themselves as outside of history, in truth they most certainly were not. Not only were they part of Peruvian academic culture, but in this culture they occupied a social space that, like any other, was immersed in historically constructed relations of power. In addition, senderista ideas and sentiments were nourished by the pre-1970 antecedents examined here. In this context it is important to study the relations of subordination vis-à-vis Limeños in which intellectuals de provincia, such as Abimael Guzmán and his immediate circle, found themselves before the 1970s.
The First Decades of the Century
The comments of Julio C. Tello's neighbors enunciated one element of the racial hierarchies that colored life in Lima during the early decades of the twentieth century. Tello lived poorly on money sent by his parents and an aunt, and on incomes from small projects. He rented a small room on Chillon street in a working-class neighborhood. Don Julio shared with his neighbors their economic poverty and their phenotype—brown skin, straight hair, and short height. They were cholos, a flexible social label that broadly included all of those who did not have white skin. The difference between Tello and his vecinos, however, was that Don Julio was serrano (from the sierra). Incrusted in geography, the cultural construction of race in Peru assumed, and continues to assume, that serranos are inferior to costeños (people of the coast) because they descend from Indians. Obviously, the Indians occupy an inferior place in the reigning sodoracial taxonomy, and because Tello's neighbors had been born in Lima, therefore, they were supposedly superior. But to their surprise, Tello inverted the relation by acquiring a university degree and becoming a "doctor." He was not a folk healer (curandero), an occupation with which his neighbors were surely familiar, but rather a medical doctor. He had acquired knowledge that was socially accepted among the "whites" of Lima. Although this title placed him above the masses of serranitos ("little serranos") who migrated to Lima in search of a better future, Tello and his cohorts, in their relations with Limeños, had to struggle against the racial stigma of not being socially white.
The racism of "superiors" in regards to the "inferiors" was complicated. The governing elite of the country tempered racism with certain "patriotic exigencies" (in the words of the aristocrat Javier Prado). The elites went from "rehabilitating the indigenous people," to "promoting" education in the provinces, and eventually to accepting the legitimacy of "nonwhite" intellectuals. To patriotism they added, in the first years of the provincial intellectual insurgency, the prestige attributed to science that circulated in political thought in Latin America. One result was that in Peru the idea spread that academic knowledge provided legitimacy to politicians; thus, it was imperative to replace the military-political bosses (caudillos) with politician-intellectuals. The equation of academic knowledge with political power, in a context of commercial expansion, opened the space for a large number of middle-class men from the provinces to join university studies with political careers. In addition to renovating the political life of the country, the combination of the academy and politics served as a mechanism of social ascent for individual provincials, first in their places of origin and then in Lima.
An important ingredient in this new conjuncture was the defeat of the political monopoly of civilismo, the political group that had governed Peru since 1895 and represented the landowning aristocracy. The downfall of the civilistas began in the early 1910s and culminated when Augusto B. Leguía (1919–1930) became president of the Republic. The name of "New Fatherland" (Patria Nueva) with which he baptized his administration signaled the emergence of a new governing class. At first, the new provincial intellectual-politicians played a preponderant role in the Leguía regime—as part of the Patria Nueva, they personified the opposition to the intellectual aristocracy. By 1923, when the Leguía administration began to withdraw support for the provincials—to the point of exiling and imprisoning them—the intellectual opposition was already incrusted in Peruvian politics. Years later they would become the intellectual elite. From the 1920s and 1930s, the most prolific artists and academics in Peru were either anti-aristocrats, provincials, or both. Nonetheless, neither the avalanche of their production, nor their indisputable preeminence in Peruvian intellectual life, erased the evidence that, like Tello, they were serranos or provincianos. Although their academic titles distanced them from the rest of the cholos and silenced public acknowledgment of their skin color, the perception of the provincials as a racially different group was widely accepted.
The Repudiation of Scientific Racism and Racial Sentiments
As in other countries of Latin America, the idea of "scientific politics" (política científica) became popular in Peru in the first decades of the twentieth century. Influenced by the ideas of the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó and the Argentine José Ingenieros, the new Peruvian intellectuals—both conservatives and progressives—sought to replace rule by the military caudillo, and to research the past "scientifically" to find the precolonial and colonial roots of the country. This, they claimed, would help them to formulate policies consistent with the culture of the population and render governance feasible. In general, the new politico-intellectual class sought to invent the Peruvian nation in order to govern it. The generations of Peruvian intellectuals that lived in the first decades of the century believed it their duty to orient their academic knowledge toward the solution of national problems.
As actors in a period in which "race" was considered to be one of the most relevant areas of scientific innovation, the intellectuals perceived the racial composition of Peru as an important national problem. Nancy Leys Stepan, in her study of national projects in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil, discovered that the efforts of intellectuals in these three countries to reevaluate "the national self were carried out in the name of race, not in rejection of race as an explanatory variable." The Peruvian case was somewhat different. The most influential among the new Peruvian intellectuals faced a dilemma. On the one hand, they rejected the scientific notion of race as a biological inheritance and the racial taxonomies that created definitive racial scales. On the other hand, they continued to believe in racial hierarchies and therefore constructed taxonomies that included both social hierarchy and the possibility of "ascending" racially.
Let us begin with one aspect of their dilemma. For José Carlos Mariátegui, the famous radical intellectual, the concept of biological race was "totally fictitious and assumed" and the notion of inferior races had served "the white west in its work of expansion and conquest." Hildebrando Castro Pozo, an intellectual from Piura who was very active in Lima during the first years of the Leguía government and very influential in Mariátegui's work, thought that "the racist vocabulary is a convenient cliché without scientific substance to explain, conceal, and excuse certain socio-economic-political pretensions." Víctor Andrés Belaúnde, one of the leading intellectual renovators of conservatism, shared this position. He considered "unacceptable and simplistic the conclusion of the ethnologists who have dogmatized so much regarding the racial inferiority of the aboriginal race, its defects and the vices of mestizaje [race mixture] and the biological degeneration of the whites."
Yet, the new intellectuals were also enmeshed in what Mariátegui called "racial sentiment." The new intellectuals—whites and nonwhites, aristocrats and nonaristocrats, conservatives and radicals—lived lives that were socially and culturally shaped by racial hierarchies. The experience of the cholo Tello and his neighbors was not exceptional. Consider, for example, the case of the medical doctor Nuñez Butrón from Puno:
In the community of Jasana while the inhabitants called him misti ... in the capital of the province of Azángaro they called him Indian ... and after he was educated they considered him misti. In Puno, in the School of San Carlos they labeled him a provincial Indian and then when he excelled they considered him misti. In Lima, he was considered serrano and provinciano ... in the University of Arequipa they called him Indian and chuño [desiccated potato] only later to promote him to a social category equal to that of his classmates, and when he returned [to Puno] and to his pueblo there was no one who would call him Indian. Spain was the only place where they considered him an equal.
Nuñez Butrón did his university studies in Arequipa, Lima, and Barcelona. In the first two cities and in Puno, depending on who would speak with him and where, Nuñez Butrón was classified differently—as nonwhite, but located differently within the complex gamut of numerous, subtle, and culturally constructed racial possibilities that differentiated among nonwhites. His becoming a doctor erased the label "Indian" that had been applied to him as a native of an indigenous community, as the degree of "Dr." elevated him to the level of his provincial classmates. In the eyes of an aristocrat such as Belaúnde, however, he would continue to be seen as a serrano and provincial. Only in Spain, where the cultural construction of race operated differently, did the Puneño doctor find himself free of Peruvian-style racial relationships and etiquettes.
Racial sentiments, as meanings and values that are actively lived and felt—in other words as part of what Raymond Williams calls a "structure of feelings"—were a central part of the Peruvian cultural construction of race and they colored alternative racial scientific taxonomies. Peruvian racial sentiments ended up mixing, in complex ways, a rejection of biological determinism with ideas of racial difference and "legitimate" hierarchies derived from them. The new generation of intellectuals shared a sense of shame about the racism of previous generations. Conservatives and progressives relieved their shame by believing that it was possible to improve the "inferior" races. The principle disagreement that divided them (which roughly coincided with the division between Limeños and provincials) was about the most appropriate formula for "improving" the races and changing the racial physiognomy of the country.
Provincials versus Limeños
Provincials and Limeños coincided partially in their diagnostics of the ills that plagued the country. After visiting Cuzco, José de la Riva Agüero, Limeño aristocrat and political ally of Víctor Andrés Belaúnde, complained of the electoral practices of political caudillos: "Election season will arrive with its boisterous retinues and abuses; the vast and solitary plaza will boil with inebriated people, lassoed from the most distant villages; shouts will be heard, ferocious insults, shots, and running; some unfortunates will die without knowing why, nor by whom; the mob will acclaim the candidate imposed, ephemeral feudal señor, often incapable of understanding a program or conceiving of an idea, mute instrument of the government or of a friend." During his stay in the "Imperial City," Riva Agüero was a guest of local intellectuals, who probably influenced his opinion of local politics. Note the similarity between the preceding quote and the following affirmation by Luis E. Valcárcel: "The boss (cacique) is omnipotent in his province. His power is unlimited ... once the electoral base atomizes, no resistance is possible. Then comes the candidacy of an outsider, supported by the central government and through transactions with the gamonal, who cedes to his demands in exchange for a "plate of lentils" represented by a sub-prefectureship."
Excerpted from Shining and Other Paths by Steve J. Stern. Copyright © 1998 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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