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?

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