I’ve been reflecting on the reason why I chose to study Lima, as a city, and why learning new ways to understand it will be beneficial for those outside my academic circle. While I have academic reasons for studying Peru and Lima, there is also a very personal reason.
I was born in Lima during one of the key years of the armed conflict, 1992. This year marked the culmination of the Shining Path’s escalation of violence in the capital city. Abimael Guzman, the leader of SP, proclaimed in a clandestine interview in 1989 that the “strategic equilibrium” in the war had been reached, meaning that SP had amassed enough strength to take on the full force of the military government and shift its focus to taking the capital. By 1992, SP had carried out selective terrorism, targeting individuals and institutions it deemed enemies, however, an indiscriminate turn began to take hold. The bombing on Tarata street was in and of itself a savage carnage. The year 1992 is perhaps most importantly remembered as the year Guzman was apprehended by the intelligence service of Alberto Fujimori. Therefore, in my memory, I place myself as a product of this moment. My family lived in Lima during this time, they dealt with the blackouts, curfews, and paro armados, which heighten my interest in the experiences of Limenxs.
Academically, I was first interested in the memory of the conflict. My personal experience with the conflict was limited and contradicting. I grew up learning about the bad terrorists, and the president that got rid of them. Simultaneously, I heard of the corruption and assassinations committed by the same government. Therefore, initially I tried to construct an argument surrounding the public opinion of Fujimori. This is a conundrum that persists in a country where corruption and ignorance are widespread. In the last elections, Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, ran and nearly won the presidency seeking to pardon her father. The current Peruvian president is considering pardoning Fujimori, despite the crimes against humanity he has been charged with.
From this ambitious and broad idea, I began to look elsewhere for answers regarding Limenxs’ experiences and opinions during this period. I now want to look at pueblos jovenes, many of which were formed during the conflict as several refugees fled the conflict in rural regions such as Ayacucho. In these pueblos jovenes, or shanty towns, I aim to find organizations, mostly welfare or grassroots that were active during the conflict and interacted with both the Fujimori government and the guerrillas. Pueblos jovenes tend to be at the margins of Lima, but with time they have grown and been incorporated to the larger metropolitan city. I hope my research will bring some focus to this marginal organizations and actors, highlighting their experiences and making them part of the city’s history. I hope that this work will resonate with those outside peruvianist circles, alluding to the themes and experience that are universal but many that are also unique and worth taking a closer look.
My interest in urban organizations and actors can be perceived as a turn away from the current scholarship on regions outside of Lima, pertaining mostly to the rural regions of Ayacucho where the SP originated and altered the society completely.