Week 11: The Terror

I want to start this week by sharing a more personal perspective with regards to this week’s reading. I had to take a step back and really think about the timeline of these events. In the 1960’s my parents were born (and my dad was born in Mexico). In the 1970’s, my parents had their childhood. In the 1990’s, I was born. When studying history, I always think about how long ago it was, but suddenly, studying Latin America, ‘history’ is not so long ago. And it’s also scary – especially considering how recent these events are, and how people continue to be vulnerable to such terror and such injustices.

I also wanna briefly mentioned that I studied a bit of the Cold War in grade 10, but my study focused mostly on the broader known ideas – Russia vs. USA, the space race, the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it did not at all talk about the other adverse effects that it had in Latin America. I feel like the Cold War helped increase tensions (and elevate fears) between communism and capitalism/neoliberalism, which brings me to Peru. When reading about the Shining Path and Fujimori, I couldn’t help but think of what Dawson mentioned in the opening of the Chapter – “[transforming] certain victims … into romantic figures, idealists… may allow us to tell stories with definitive heroes and villains, to satisfy our desire for moral clarity. What we risk is gaining that clarity ta the expense of understanding the past for all its ambiguity.” I wholeheartedly agree with this, not only in the context of Peru, but in the grand scheme of history – and I even wrote an essay about this last year, with regards to how a historian must look at all aspects to a story in order to gain a more holistic understanding of the events that took place. No account is more important than the next, as they all contribute to a broader understanding of history. In the context of Peru, I am brought back to the Shining Path and Fujimori.

The Shining Path was an extreme left political party, with Maoist ideologies of communism and guerilla warfare tactics. They committed many acts of terror, including a massacre in 1983 (Again, doesn’t seem so long ago), however, they were ultimately (trying to) fight for the peasants and the ‘forgotten’. Yet, a large portion of the population feared the Shining Path (which is partially why The leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzmán,  was captured shortly after Fujimori’s autogolpe in 1992. This, in turn, gives Fujimori a more idealised ‘heroic’ character (to some), however, Fujimori himself was known to violate human rights, as approximately 70,000 people were killed, caught in the crossfire of the internal Peruvian conflicts. So where does this leave us?! Why is this such a mess? Of course, we want to think as history as a series of bad events (and in Latin America, there were many) followed by the heroic leader who leads a civilization to progress, success and prosperity, but this is not the case, especially not in Peru, further showing how one cannot classify a character as purely evil or purely good, but rather, a combination of the two.

I will finish this post with a question for you – do you believe there will come an individual who could truly ‘save’ Latin America? One whom we wouldn’t have to see from multiple perspectives as there would only be one, positive perspective? Or do you believe in the repeating of history, where there will be times of relative calm and times of terror, as the history of Latin America shows us?

3 Replies to “Week 11: The Terror”

  1. I am sure there would be an inspiring leader like the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, sometime. One reason why he was able to gain major support in his country was because he himself and his people understand the fear of terror, and so pledged to not repeat the same history again. 40 years later and now, Uruguay remains relatively peace; I believe in Latin America not repeating the same history again!

  2. Hi Michelle! When I first read about the Shining Path, I had to do a double take: to think that it all happened less than forty years ago! It seems to me like these events took place such a long time ago, and yet they are so recent they might as well have taken place yesterday.
    Regarding your question, although I am inclined to believe that history is a repeating cycle (especially when I just wrote a post on the topic of Venezuela recently making the same mistakes as the Soviet Union in 1981), I choose to be optimistic about the future of Latin America (and about that of the world in general).

  3. Hey! When doing this reading I also was taken aback at how recently these events took place, they were not in the vague, distant past at all. As we have seen over the course of the past few weeks, when one person gains too much power they tend to abuse it, so I don’t think there could ever be “one person” to “save” Latin America. In some countries there seems to be social and political improvements, so hopefully that will only continue to grow, but there is always a chance of history repeating itself.

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