Preconditions and Precipitants of Violence in Peru (part 2/10)

mita en la coloniaHistorical antecedents of political violence

In the case of Peru, non-government terrorism can be understood as a consequence of structural violence, including economic isolation and political-social restrictions undermining citizen’s rights, with clashes between classes and racial conflicts inherited since the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the early 1500’s (Feldmann and Perälä, 2004). The new continent inherited the authoritarian and violent tactics from conquerors and defendants (Fowler and Lambert, 2006) rooting violence as an “intrinsic essence” -worth mentioning that it was not exclusive to Peru but of all Latin America- (Fowler and Labert, p.12) where regime authoritarianism is a constant and the social structure is shaped on a dynamic of domination (Barrow, 2000) with the indigenous people at the low chain of the control.

Such strict social structure has its foundations in the Colonial era (1532) when the Spanish Crown gave the conquerors allotments of land (repartimento), including the native population who inhabited the area along with all future descendants as part of the Christianization campaign. Although the population received a small stipend in exchange for their work and where considered direct subjects of the Spanish Crown, the abuses, oppression and inhumane conditions they lived in resembled more to a quasi slavery economy than to a Colonial system (Ainsworth, 1919).

The Spanish allotment had important implications on the imposed system of domination and on the debate of political violence in terms of social identity and racial struggle:

  1. The dynamic between Spain and the conquerors was a conundrum of disrespect, inequality and marginalization.
  2. The rights for land ownership and indigenous affairs were the major point of violent conflict between the conquerors and newly appointed Viceroys (at the end of the 1500’s Peru witnessed local rebellions, and up risings against Spanish laws in Peru).
  3. The suppression of the Inca resistance brought public executions, abuses, and brutal oppression. Consequently the native population dramatically collapsed especially in the coastal and mines regions where the Spanish ruling was stronger than in the mountains and African slaves where added to the work force, clashing with the local culture.

division de clases peruThe hierarchical social structure designed at the time of the conquest left solid tracks of racial discrimination and social clashes, especially with the appearance of a new class: the mestizos. The new class was not considered as part of the social fabric in the beginning, forcing the mestizos to first deny their indigenous heritage on an attempt to achieve a position of power among the conquerors, and when rejected to return and make alliances with native population and leaders, thus establishing a conflict at the heart of Peru rooted in perception and social values in regard to the level of Western, Hispanic or Indigenous heritage.

Peru -as well as the rest of Latin America- has a long, sad, cruel legacy of racial discrimination, social clashes and ill-designed policies that attempt to correct the wrongs done to the indigenous population. Such legacy and other circumstances would facilitate the Peruvian armed conflict in the 1980’s.

🙂 Stay tuned

  • Ainsworth Means, Philip. “Social Conditions in the Piura-Tumbes Region of Northern Peru”. The Scientific Monthly Vol. 7, No. 5 (Nov., 1918), pp. 385-399, American Association for the Advancement of Science, retrieved from
  • Barrow, Sarah. “Political Violence, Cinematic Representation, and Peruvian National Identity: La boca del Lobo (Francisco Lombardi,1988) and La Vida es una Sola (Marianne Eide,1993) pp.131-148 in Fowler, Will., Lambert, Peter. “Political Violence and the Construction of National Identity in Latin America.”  NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. 
  • Feldmann, Andreas E., Perälä, Maiju. “Reassessing the Causes of Nongovernmental Terrorism in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 101-132, Wiley on behalf of the Center for Latin American Studies at the university of Miami.
  • Flanigan, William H., Fogelman, Edwin “Patterns of Political Violence in Comparative Historical Perspective.”Comparative Politics, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Oct., 1970), pp. 1-20
  • Fowler, Will., Lambert, Peter. “Political Violence and the Construction of National Identity in Latin America.”  NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006.

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