The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes

The Shining Path: Love, Madness, and Revolution in the Andes

by Orin Starn, Miguel La Serna


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A narrative history of the unlikely Maoist rebellion that terrorized Peru even after the fall of global Communism.

On May 17, 1980, on the eve of Peru’s presidential election, five masked men stormed a small town in the Andean heartland. They set election ballots ablaze and vanished into the night, but not before planting a red hammer-and-sickle banner in the town square. The lone man arrested the next morning later swore allegiance to a group called Shining Path. The tale of how this ferocious group of guerrilla insurgents launched a decade-long reign of terror, and how brave police investigators and journalists brought it to justice, may be the most compelling chapter in modern Latin American history, but the full story has never been told.

Described by a U.S. State Department cable as “cold-blooded and bestial,” Shining Path orchestrated bombings, assassinations, and massacres across the cities, countryside, and jungles of Peru in a murderous campaign to seize power and impose a Communist government. At its helm was the professor-turned-revolutionary Abimael Guzmán, who launched his single-minded insurrection alongside two women: his charismatic young wife, Augusta La Torre, and the formidable Elena Iparraguirre, who married Guzmán soon after Augusta’s mysterious death. Their fanatical devotion to an outmoded and dogmatic ideology, and the military’s bloody response, led to the death of nearly 70,000 Peruvians.

Orin Starn and Miguel La Serna’s narrative history of Shining Path is both panoramic and intimate, set against the socioeconomic upheavals of Peru’s rocky transition from military dictatorship to elected democracy. They take readers deep into the heart of the rebellion, and the lives and country it nearly destroyed. We hear the voices of the mountain villagers who organized a fierce rural resistance, and meet the irrepressible black activist María Elena Moyano and the Nobel Prize–winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who each fought to end the bloodshed. Deftly written, The Shining Path is an exquisitely detailed account of a little-remembered war that must never be forgotten.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393292800
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 488,414
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Orin Starn is a professor in Duke University’s cultural anthropology department and has written for many years about Peru.

Miguel La Serna is an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a leading specialist in the Peruvian armed conflict.

Table of Contents

Prologue 11

Part I

1 The Train to Machu Picchu 17

2 A Tree Can Be a Weapon 32

3 Comrade Norah 48

4 The Great Rupture 66

5 First Blood 84

6 The Lynching 103

Part II

7 Inquest in the Andes 123

8 Shouting In the Rocks 138

9 The Queen of Villa 157

10 The Shining Trench 171

11 The Party Congress 187

12 The Death of Comrade Norah 201

13 The Revolution Comes to Villa 215

14 A Fish Out of Water 224

15 Ghostbusters 240

Part III

16 The Clever Frog 257

17 The Birthday Party 271

18 A Death Foretold 286

19 The Wolf and the Whale 305

20 Fat Cheeks, Affirmative! 322

21 The Silence of the Lambs 333

Epilogue 349

Sources and Acknowledgments 357

Notes 365

Index 405

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