Now Peru is Mine: The Life and Times of a Campesino Activist
(Duke University Press, 2016) tells the remarkable story of a campesino and indigenous political activist whose career spanned much of Peru’s twentieth century and whose achievements at the local and national level transformed Peruvian peasant politics. Structured as a testimonial biography co-authored by the activist Manuel Llamojha Mitma himself and framed by historian Jaymie Patricia Heilman
, this book is a valuable document of both pre-Shining Path indigenous activism and the history of Cold War Peru.
Born into a poor Quechua family in a small community in Ayacucho, Llamojha became one of the most powerful peasant activists in the country, responsible for the expansion of the Confederación Campesina del Perú to the national stage in the 1960s and integral to the debates that shaped Peru’s left before the rise of the Shining Path. Although he was a contemporary of Shining Path founder Abimael Guzmán and a participant in Maoist peasant movements, Llamojha was never a member of the party and rejected Shining Path tactics. Nonetheless, like so many on the Peruvian left, Llamojha and his children were caught up in the repression waged against the party, resulting both Llamojha’s disappearance from political life and the death of his youngest son.
Llamojha was a consummate storyteller whose lifelong commitment to protecting his community was only matched by the ambitious scope of his political vision. Throughout his life, Llamojha articulated an indigenous identity and a politics of liberation that was expressed through class but not subsumed to it. His life story and political writings alike reflect thoughtful negotiation between the intimate demands of family and community and the national and international struggles for revolution that Peru and Llamojha helped lead. Heilman’s deft organizational choices and thoughtful framing help render Llamojha’s stories intelligible to specialists as well as readers without a strong background in Peruvian history or the history of indigenous activism. This book should be read by anyone interested in Peruvian or Latin American history, the Shining Path, the Cold War, and indigenous activism.
Elena McGrath is a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Carleton College. She is a historian of race, revolution, and natural resources in the Andes.