The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Duke University Press
2
Free sample

Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on his way to rediscovering the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Seventy years later, news crews from ABC and CBS traveled to Peru to report on merciless terrorists, starving peasants, and Colombian drug runners in the “white gold” rush of the coca trade. As often as not, Peru has been portrayed in broad extremes: as the land of the richest treasures, the bloodiest conquest, the most poignant ballads, and the most violent revolutionaries. This revised and updated second edition of the bestselling Peru Reader offers a deeper understanding of the complex country that lies behind these claims.

Unparalleled in scope, the volume covers Peru’s history from its extraordinary pre-Columbian civilizations to its citizens’ twenty-first-century struggles to achieve dignity and justice in a multicultural nation where Andean, African, Amazonian, Asian, and European traditions meet. The collection presents a vast array of essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present.

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About the author

Orin Starn is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of Ishi’s Brain: In Search of America’s Last “Wild” Indian and Nightwatch: The Politics of Protest in the Andes, also published by Duke University Press.

Carlos Iván Degregori is Professor of Anthropology at the National University of San Marcos in Lima. He served on Peru’s government-appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has written dozens of books and articles about Peru.

Robin Kirk is Co-director of the Human Rights Initiative at Duke University. She is the author of More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs, and America’s War in Colombia and The Monkey's Paw: New Chronicles from Peru.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2009
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Pages
597
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ISBN
9780822387503
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / South America
Travel / South America / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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On October 3, 1968, a military junta led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado took over the government of Peru. In striking contrast to the right-wing, pro–United States/anti-Communist military dictatorships of that era, however, Velasco's "Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces" set in motion a left-leaning nationalist project aimed at radically transforming Peruvian society by eliminating social injustice, breaking the cycle of foreign domination, redistributing land and wealth, and placing the destiny of Peruvians into their own hands. Although short-lived, the Velasco regime did indeed have a transformative effect on Peru, the meaning and legacy of which are still subjects of intense debate.

The Peculiar Revolution revisits this fascinating and idiosyncratic period of Latin American history. The book is organized into three sections that examine the era's cultural politics, including not just developments directed by the Velasco regime but also those that it engendered but did not necessarily control; its specific policies and key institutions; and the local and regional dimensions of the social reforms it promoted. In a series of innovative chapters written by both prominent and rising historians, this volume illuminates the cultural dimensions of the revolutionary project and its legacies, the impact of structural reforms at the local level (including previously understudied areas of the country such as Piura, Chimbote, and the Amazonia), and the effects of state policies on ordinary citizens and labor and peasant organizations.

Organized in the mid-1970s as a means of communal protection against livestock rustling and general thievery in Peru’s rugged northern mountains, the rondas campesinas (peasants who make the rounds) grew into an entire system of peasant justice and one of the most significant Andean social movements of the late twentieth century. Nightwatch is the first full-length ethnography and the only study in English to examine this grassroots agrarian social movement, which became a rallying point for rural pride.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted over the course of a decade, Orin Starn chronicles the historical conditions that led to the formation of the rondas, the social and geographical expansion of the movement, and its gradual decline in the 1990s. Throughout this anecdotal yet deeply analytical account, the author relies on interviews with ronda participants, villagers, and Peru’s regional and national leaders to explore the role of women, the involvement of nongovernmental organizations, and struggles for leadership within the rondas. Starn moves easily from global to local contexts and from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, presenting this movement in a straightforward manner that makes it accessible to both specialists and nonspecialists.
An engagingly written story of village mobilization, Nightwatch is also a meditation on the nature of fieldwork, the representation of subaltern people, the relationship between resistance and power, and what it means to be politically active at the end of the century. It will appeal widely to scholars and students of anthropology, Latin American studies, cultural studies, history, subaltern studies, and those interested in the politics of social movements.


Rusty Young was backpacking in South America when he heard about Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia's notorious San Pedro prison. Intrigued, the young Australian journalist went to La Paz and joined one of Thomas's illegal tours. They formed an instant friendship and then became partners in an attempt to record Thomas's experiences in the jail. Rusty bribed the guards to allow him to stay and for the next three months he lived inside the prison, sharing a cell with Thomas and recording one of the strangest and most compelling prison stories of all time. The result is Marching Powder.

This book establishes that San Pedro is not your average prison. Inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents. Others run shops and restaurants. Women and children live with imprisoned family members. It is a place where corrupt politicians and drug lords live in luxury apartments, while the poorest prisoners are subjected to squalor and deprivation. Violence is a constant threat, and sections of San Pedro that echo with the sound of children by day house some of Bolivia's busiest cocaine laboratories by night. In San Pedro, cocaine--"Bolivian marching powder"--makes life bearable. Even the prison cat is addicted.

Yet Marching Powder is also the tale of friendship, a place where horror is countered by humor and cruelty and compassion can inhabit the same cell. This is cutting-edge travel-writing and a fascinating account of infiltration into the South American drug culture.

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