- Now Peru Is Mine: The Life and Times of a Campesino Activist by Manuel Llamojha Mitma and Jaymie Patricia Heilman
THIS BOOK IS A HANDSOME CONTRIBUTION to scholarship on Indigenous activists, their historical context, and the activist intellectual role in the Andes. It shows the trajectory of campesino, or peasant, identity, with this term, highlighting the limitations Indigenous identity has in Peru.
This book is almost unique, because Manuel Llamojha and Jaymie Heilman worked through methodological boundaries to create a testimonial biography based in oral history and archival research. Llamojha is also a crucial actor in this narrative. His last name, Llamojha or llamaxa, meaning "my llamas," comes from Aymara, and his region of birth, Ayacucho, has a lot of toponyms originally from the Aymara language that predate Quechua and Inca dominance in the region. Heilman, a specialist in radical history, is a professor at the University of Alberta. The big contribution of this book is that, through Llamojha's story, it illuminates the specific historical conditions previous to the emergence of the Shining Path, a guerrilla movement that shook Peruvian society in the 1980s, and the oppressive historical conditions that the Shining Path would later exploit and amplify.
The first section addresses the era prior to the agrarian reform of 1962, during which Llamojha was a strong organizer against the power of gamonales (bossism or powerful hacendados). Because he is from a region of extreme abuse against Indigenous people by gamonales and where the state had little presence, Llamojha felt ostracized in his own country, and only when he went to complete military service did he feel as if he belonged to his country. This amalgamation, in symbolic terms, between Peru's and Llamojha's goals leads him to assert the sense of appropriation that he uses in the title of the book: Now Peru Is Mine. This need to claim his own country leads to his idea of becoming president of Peru as the way to incarnate his dream of being part of a neglected group that actually represents the majority of Peru: people of Indigenous background. His most crucial achievement was to recuperate land for his community of Concepción from the Ayrabamba hacienda. His activism was possible because of his linguistic and writing skills. This case confirms how important the production and consumption of documents is to Indigenous struggles in the Andes.
The second section focuses on the era after the agrarian reform. Llamojha [End Page 190] was general secretary, the highest post of the Confederación de Campesinos del Peru (CCP), one of the most representative Indigenous peasant organizations in twentieth-century Peru. In this role, he traveled extensively in rural Peru. Activists like him were attacked as comunistas during this era whether or not they were associated with the Communist Party because this was a way to denigrate them and undermine their credibility. Although Llamojha worked for an extended period with liberal and populist parties such as the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), Fernando Belaúnde de Terry's Acción Popular, and Juan Velasco Alvarado's military regime, during this time he also was a candidate for a seat in Congress. As they did in other parts of Latin America during the Cold War, activists from Indigenous peasant and working-class backgrounds only found ways to participate in democracy through leftist organizations, in this case, the Communist Party of Peru.
The last section is about Llamojha in the era of the Shining Path. Llamojha is no longer an influential leader; instead, he has been silenced by the repression and violence that reached his family. His community of Concepción and the region of Vilcashuamán became later on the area where the Shining Path begins its history. Shining Path carried out an attack and killings in the hacienda of Ayrabamba, and the Peruvian Army then created a countersubversive unit in Quyllur Cancha in 1983. Llamojha's son was killed, and he went into hiding in Lima with the rest of his family...