Week Eleven: The Terror

A concept that Dawson discussed in the reading this week that stuck me was the “voyeuristic quality” of the testimonio, and the way in which third party readers on the outside looking in may assign Manichean dialogues in an attempt to understand the events that transpired in Latin America throughout the 1960s-1980s. Indeed, in retrospectively attempting to explain such violence and bloodshed, it is easier for the human mind to assign labels of ‘good’ and ‘evil’; how else are we to come to terms with such cruelty and the breaking of human bonds? These retellings run the risk of being revisionist in nature, as was the case of Llosa’s essay, but they also reveal the deep complexities of the divisions in Latin America. Earlier in this course, we discussed the myriad of voices that create a ‘holistic’ history (or rather, account of what happened) – and this is really exemplified in these documents. Where there exist acts of violence and oppression, there exists guilt, blame, and attempts of justification, which really just leads to an even more complicated and distorted narrative. Civil wars even further complicate things, as these atrocities must be brought home and justified to the people as necessary for ‘the greater good’.

Whilst I found this chapter particularly confusing as Dawson often jumped contexts to illustrate a wider idea, I did appreciate the sustained discussion on Peru, which was also greatly aided by Maxwell Cameron’s video. In Peru, there has definitely been an attempt at hiding the injustices that parties were complicit in. Whilst Fujimori may have been perceived as a sort of messiah in his quelling of the Shining Path, it is comforting to know that the country would not be complacent regarding the atrocities he had a hand in – but this also presents as the duality of governance in Latin America. In many contexts, such as Fujimori in Peru and Pinochet in Chile (and so, so many more), stability often came at the expense of the rule of law and sound judicial practices. This of course only acts to further erode democratic processes and institutions within a country – therefore, on top of coming to terms with these conflicts and attempting to ensure that justice is delivered, the country faces the daunting process of restoring faith in the democratic institutions necessary for the operation of a healthy liberal democracy. I am particularly interested in is how these conflicts are reconciled on a case by case basis. Indeed, in at least the Peruvian context, the Civil War has left a deep stain on the country’s ability to function as a democracy; a fear of dissent due to the perception that such dissent could lead to political instability and renewed violence is another legacy left behind that must be reconciled.



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2 Responses to Week Eleven: The Terror

  1. Joseph Bouchard

    Hi Jessica,

    Your post is quite well-written. I found it interesting how you presented the false choice between security (so-called law and order) and freedom and truth. This is often a choice presented by demagogues and authoritarian rulers, and too often people, especially in places with limited freedoms from the start, choose to go down the security path. Nonetheless, these are not mutually exclusive, as I would contend that truth and freedom brings peace and stability where it is implemented.


  2. Magalee

    Hey Jessica,

    Great post!

    I agree especially with your take on the ‘daunting tasks’ Latin America faces today in the context of past miltiary coups and corruption. If even possible, Latin America is going to have work twice as hard as other countries in the world to not only eradicate corruption and infficiencies within the governments themselves, but change the accompanying mentalities of the public. In other words, its one thing to reform government, it is another to earn back the faith of the people.

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