The first great conquest of Andean space began some 10,000 years ago when the descendants of the original migrants who crossed the land bridge over what is now the Bering Straits between the Asian and American continents reached northern South America. Over the next several millennia, hunter-gatherers fanned out from their bridgehead at Panama to populate the whole of South America. By about 2500 B.C., small villages inhabited by farmers and fishermen began to spring up in the fertile river valleys of the north coast of Peru.
These ancient Peruvians lived in simple adobe houses, cultivated potatoes and beans, fished in the nearby sea, and grew and wove cotton for their clothing. The catalyst for the development of the more advanced civilizations that followed was the introduction of a staple annual crop–maize (corn), and the development of irrigation, both dating from around the thirteenth century B.C. The stabilization of the food supply and ensuing surplus formed the foundation for the development of the great civilizations that rose and fell across the Andes for more than a thousand years prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
The Incas, of course, were only the most recent of these highly developed native American cultures to evolve in the Andes. The earliest central state to emerge in the northern highlands (that is, a state able to control both highland and coastal areas) was the Kingdom of Chavín, which emerged in the northern highlands and prospered for some 500 years between 950 B.C. and 450 B.C. Although it was originally thought by Julio C. Tello, the father of Peruvian archaeology, to have been "the womb of Andean civilization," it now appears to have had Amazonic roots that may have led back to Mesoamerica.
Chavín was probably more of a religious than political panAndean phenomenon. It seems to have been a center for the missionary diffusion of priests who transmitted a particular set of ideas, rituals, and art style throughout what is now northcentral Peru. The apparent headquarters for this religious cult in all likelihood was Chavín de Huantar in the Ancash highlands, whose elaborately carved stone masonry buildings are among the oldest and most beautiful in South America. The great, massive temple there, oriented to the cardinal points of the solstice, was perceived by the people of Chavín to be the center of the world, the most holy and revered place of the Chavín culture. This concept of God and his elite tied to a geographical location at the center of the cosmos–the idea of spatial mysticism–was fundamental to Inca and pre-Inca beliefs.
After the decline of the Chavín culture around the beginning of the Christian millennium, a series of localized and specialized cultures rose and fell, both on the coast and in the highlands, during the next thousand years. On the coast,
these included the Gallinazo, Mochica, Paracas, Nazca, and Chimú civilizations. Although each had their salient features, the Mochica and Chimú warrant special comment for their notable achievements.
The Mochica occupied a 136-kilometer-long expanse of the coast from the Río Moche Valley and reached its apogee toward the end of the first millennium A.D. They built an impressive irrigation system that transformed kilometers of barren
desert into fertile and abundant fields capable of sustaining a population of over 50,000. Without benefit of the wheel, the plough, or a developed writing system, the Mochica nevertheless achieved a remarkable level of civilization, as witnessed by their highly sophisticated ceramic pottery, lofty pyramids, and clever metalwork. In 1987 near Sipán, archaeologists unearthed an extraordinary cache of Mochica artifacts from the tomb of a great Mochica lord, including finely crafted gold and silver ornaments, large, gilded copper figurines, and wonderfully decorated ceramic pottery. Indeed, the Mochica artisans portrayed such a realistic and accurately detailed depiction of themselves and their environment that we have a remarkably authentic picture of their everyday life and work.
Whereas the Mochica were renowned for their realistic ceramic pottery, the Chimú were the great city-builders of pre-Inca civilization. As loose confederation of cities scattered along the coast of northern Peru and southern Ecuador, the Chimú flourished from about 1150 to 1450. Their capital was at Chan Chan outside of modern-day Trujillo. The largest pre-Hispanic city in South America at the time, Chan Chan had 100,000 inhabitants. Its twenty square kilometers of precisely symmetrical design was surrounded by a lush garden oasis intricately irrigated from the Río Moche several kilometers away. The Chimú civilization lasted a comparatively short period of time, however. Like other coastal states, its irrigation system, watered from sources in the high Andes, was apparently vulnerable to cutoff or diversion by expanding highland polities.
In the highlands, both the Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) culture, near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and the Wari (Huari) culture, near the present-day city of Ayacucho, developed large urban settlements and wide-ranging state systems between A.D.
500 and A.D. 1000. Each exhibited many of the aspects of the engineering ingenuity that later appeared with the Incas, such as extensive road systems, store houses, and architectural styles. Between A.D. 1000 and 1450, however, a period of fragmentation shattered the previous unity achieved by the Tiwanaku-Wari stage. During this period, scores of different ethnic-based groups
of varying sizes dotted the Andean landscape. In the central and southern Andes, for example, the Chupachos of Huánuco numbered some 10,000, while the Lupacas on the west bank of Lake Titicaca comprised over 100,000.
The Incas of Cusco (Cuzco) originally represented one of these small and relatively minor ethnic groups, the Quechuas. Gradually, as early as the thirteenth century, they began to expand and incorporate their neighbors. Inca expansion was slow until about the middle of the fifteenth century, when the pace of conquest began to accelerate, particularly under the rule of the great emperor Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438-71). Historian John Hemming describes Pachacuti as "one of those protean figures, like Alexander or Napoleon, who combine a mania for conquest with the ability to impose his will on every facet of government." Under his rule and that of his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui (1471-93), the Incas came to control upwards of a third of South America, with a population of 9 to 16 million inhabitants under their rule. Pachacuti also promulgated a comprehensive code of laws to govern his far-flung empire, called Tawantinsuyu, while consolidating his absolute temporal and spiritual authority as the God of the Sun who ruled from a magnificently rebuilt Cusco.
Although displaying distinctly hierarchical and despotic features, Incan rule also exhibited an unusual measure of flexibility and paternalism. The basic local unit of society was the ayllu, which formed an endogamous nucleus of kinship groups who possessed collectively a specific, although often disconnected, territory. In the ayllu, grazing land was held in common (private property did not exist), whereas arable land was parceled out to families in proportion to their size. Since self-sufficiency was the ideal of Andean society, family units claimed parcels of land in different ecological niches in the rugged Andean terrain. In this way, they achieved what anthropologists have called "vertical complementarity," that is, the ability to produce a wide variety of crops–such as maize, potatoes, and quinoa (a protein-rich grain)–at different altitudes
for household consumption.
The principle of complementarity also applied to Andean social relations, as each family head had the right to ask relations, allies, or neighbors for help in cultivating his plot. In return, he was obligated to offer them food and
chicha (a fermented corn alcoholic beverage), and to help them on their own plots when asked. Mutual aid formed the ideological and material bedrock of all Andean social and productive relations. This system of reciprocal exchange existed at every level of Andean social organization: members of the ayllus, curacas (local lords) with their subordinate ayllus, and the Inca himself with all his subjects.
Ayllus often formed parts of larger dual organizations with upper and lower divisions called moieties, and then still larger units, until they comprised the entire ethnic group. As it expanded, the Inca state became, historian Nathan Wachtel writes, "the pinnacle of this immense structure of interlocking units. It imposed a political and military apparatus on all of these ethnic groups, while continuing to rely on the hierarchy of curacas, who declared their loyalty to the Inca and ruled in his name." In this sense, the Incas established a system of indirect rule that enabled the incorporated ethnic groups to maintain their distinctiveness and self-awareness within a larger imperial system.
All Inca people collectively worked the lands of the Inca, who served as representative of the God of the Sun–the central god and religion of the empire. In return, they received food, as well as chicha and coca leaves (which were chewed and used for religious rites and for medicinal purposes); or they made cloth and clothing for tribute, using the Inca flocks; or they regularly performed mita, or service for public works, such as roads and buildings, or for military purposes that enabled the development of the state. The Inca people also maintained the royal family and bureaucracy, centered in Cusco. In return for these services, the Inca allocated land and redistributed part of the tribute received–such as food, cloth, and clothes–to the communities, often in the form of welfare. Tribute was stored in centrally located warehouses to be dispensed during periods of shortages caused by famine, war, or natural disaster. In the absence of a market economy, Inca redistribution of tribute served as the primary means of exchange. The principles of reciprocity and redistribution, then, formed the organizing ideas that governed all relations in the Inca empire from community to state.
One of the more remarkable elements of the Inca empire was the mitmaq system. Before the Incas, these were colonies of settlers sent out from the ayllus to climatically different Andean terrains to cultivate crops that would vary and enrich the community diet. Anthropologist John V. Murra dubbed these unique Andean island colonies "vertical archipelagos," which the Incas adapted and applied on a large scale to carve out vast new areas of cultivation. The Incas also expanded the original Andean concept of mitmaq as a vehicle for developing complementary sources of food to craft specialization and military expansion. In the latter instance, Inca mitmaq were used to establish permanent garrisons to maintain control and order on the expanding Inca frontier. What "began as a means of complementing productive access to a variety of ecological tiers had become," in the words of Murra, "an onerous means of political control" under the Incas.
By the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century, the Inca Empire had reached its maximum size. Such powerful states as the coastal Chimú Kingdom were defeated and incorporated into the empire, although the Chimús spoke a language, Yunga, that was entirely distinct from the Incas’ Quechua. But as the limits of the central Andean culture area were reached in present-day Chile and Argentina, as well as in the Amazon forests, the Incas encountered serious resistance, and those territories were never thoroughly subjugated.
At the outset, the Incas shared with most of their ethnic neighbors the same basic technology: weaving, pottery, metallurgy, architecture, construction engineering, and irrigation agriculture. During their period of dominance, little was added to this inventory of skills, other than the size of the population they ruled and the degree and efficiency of control they attained. The latter, however, constituted a rather remarkable accomplishment, particularly because it was achieved without benefit of either the wheel or a formal system of writing. Instead of writing, the Incas used the intricate and highly accurate khipu (knot-tying) system of recordkeeping . Imperial achievements were the more extraordinary considering the relative brevity of the period during which the empire was built (perhaps four generations) and the formidable geographic obstacles of the Andean landscape.
Viewed from the present-day perspective of Peruvian underdevelopment, one cannot help but admire a system that managed to bring under cultivation four times the amount of arable land as today. Achievements such as these caused some twentieth-century Peruvian scholars of the indigenous peoples, known as indigenistas (Indigenists), such as Hildebrando Castro Pozo and Luis Eduardo Valcárcel, to idealize the Inca past and to overlook the hierarchical nature and totalitarian mechanisms of social and political control erected during their Incan heyday. To other intellectuals, however, from José Carlos
Mariátegui to Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, the path to development has continued to call for some sort of return to the country’s pre-Columbian past of communal values, autochthonous technology, and genius for production and organization.
By the time that the Spaniards arrived in 1532, the empire extended some 1,860 kilometers along the Andean spine–north to southern Colombia and south to northern Chile, between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Amazonian rain forest in the east. Some five years before the Spanish invasion, this vast empire was rocked by a civil war that, combined with diseases imported by the Spaniards, would ultimately weaken its ability to confront the European invaders. The premature death by measles of the reigning Sapa Inca, Huayna Cápac (1493-1524), opened the way for a dynastic struggle between the emperor’s two sons, Huáscar (from Cusco) and the illegitimate Atahualpa (from Quito), who each had inherited half the empire. After a five-year civil war (1528-32), Atahualpa (1532-33) emerged victorious and is said to have tortured and put to death more than 300 members of Huáscar’s family. This divisive and debilitating internecine conflict left the Incas particularly vulnerable just as Francisco Pizarro and
his small force of adventurers came marching up into the Sierra.
While the Inca empire flourished, Spain was beginning to rise to prominence in the Western world. The political union of the several independent realms in the Iberian Peninsula and the final expulsion of the Moors after 700 years of intermittent warfare had instilled in Spaniards a sense of destiny and a militant religious zeal. The encounter with the New World by Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) in 1492 offered an outlet for the material, military, and religious ambitions of the newly united nation.
Francisco Pizarro, a hollow-cheeked, thinly beared Extremaduran of modest hidalgo (lesser nobility) birth, was not only typical of the arriviste Spanish conquistadors who came to America, but also one of the most spectacularly successful. Having participated in the indigenous wars and slave raids on Hispañiola, Spain’s first outpost in the New World, the tough, shrewd, and audacious Spaniard was with Vasco Nuñez de Balboa when he first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean in 1513 and was a leader in the conquest of Nicaragua (1522). He later found his way to Panama, where he became a wealthy encomendero and leading citizen. Beginning in 1524, Pizarro proceeded to mount several expeditions, financed mainly from his own capital, from Panama south along the west coast of South America.
After several failures, Pizarro arrived in northern Peru late in 1531 with a small force of about 180 men and 30 horses. The conquistadors were excited by tales of the Incas’ great wealth and bent on repeating the pattern of conquest and plunder that was becoming practically routine elsewhere in the New World. The Incas never seemed to appreciate the threat they faced. To them, of course, the Spaniards seemed the exotics. "To our Indian eyes," wrote Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, the author of Nueva crónica y buen gobierno (New Chronicle and Good Government), "the Spaniards looked as if they were shrouded like corpses. Their faces were covered with wool, leaving only the eyes visible, and the caps which they wore resembled little red pots on top of their heads."
On November 15, 1532, Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca, the Inca’s summer residence located in the Andean highlands of northern Peru, and insisted on an audience with Atahualpa. Guamán Poma says the Spaniards demanded that the Inca renounce his gods and accept a treaty with Spain. He refused. "The Spaniards began to fire their muskets and charged upon the Indians, killing them like ants. At the sound of the explosions and the jingle of bells on the horses’ harnesses, the shock of arms and the whole amazing novelty of their attackers’ appearance, the Indians were terrorstricken . They were desperate to escape from being trampled by the horses, and in their headlong flight a lot of them were crushed to death." Guamán Poma adds that countless "Indians" but only five Spaniards were killed, "and these few casualties were not caused by the Indians, who had at no time dared to attack the formidable strangers." According to other accounts, the only Spanish casualty was Pizarro, who received a hand wound while trying to protect Atahualpa.
Pizarro’s overwhelming victory at Cajamarca in which he not only captured Atahualpa, but devastated the Inca’s army, estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000 warriors, dealt a paralyzing and demoralizing blow to the empire, already weakened by civil war. The superior military technology of the Spaniards–cavalry, cannon, and above all Toledo steel–had proved unbeatable
against a force, however large, armed only with stone-age battle axes, slings, and cotton-padded armor. Atahualpa’s capture not only deprived the empire of leadership at a crucial moment, but the hopes of his recently defeated opponents, the supporters of Huáscar, were revived by the prospect of an alliance with a powerful new Andean power contender, the Spaniards.
Atahualpa now sought to gain his freedom by offering the Spaniards a treasure in gold and silver. Over the next few months, a fabulous cache of Incan treasure–some eleven tons of gold objects alone–was delivered to Cajamarca from all corners of the empire. Pizarro distributed the loot to his "men of Cajamarca," creating instant "millionaires," but also slighting Diego de Almagro, his partner who arrived later with reinforcements. This sowed the seeds for a bitter factional dispute that soon would throw Peru into a bloody civil war and cost both men their lives. Once enriched by the Incas’ gold, Pizarro, seeing no further use for Atahualpa, reneged on his agreement and executed the Inca–by garroting rather than hanging–after Atahualpa agreed to be baptized as a Christian.
With Atahualpa dead, the Spaniards proceeded to march on Cusco. On the way, they dealt another decisive blow, aided by native American allies from the pro-Huáscar faction, to the still formidable remnants of Atahualpa’s army. Then on November 15, 1533, exactly a year after arriving at Cajamarca, Pizarro, reinforced with an army of 5,000 native American auxiliaries, captured the imperial city and placed Manco Cápac II, kin of Huáscar and his faction, on the Inca throne as a Spanish puppet.
Further consolidation of Spanish power in Peru, however, was slowed during the next few years by both indigenous resistance and internal divisions among the victorious Spaniards. The native population, even those who had allied initially with the invaders against the Incas, had second thoughts about the arrival of the newcomers. They originally believed that the Spaniards simply represented one more in a long line of Andean power-contenders with whom to ally or accommodate. The continuing violent and rapacious behavior of many Spaniards, however, as well as the harsh overall effects of the new colonial order, caused many to alter this assessment. This change led Manco Cápac II to balk at his subservient role as a Spanish puppet and to rise in rebellion in 1536. Ultimately unable to defeat the Spaniards, Manco retreated to Vilcabamba in the remote Andean interior where he established an independent Inca kingdom, replete with a miniature royal court, that held out until 1572.
Native American resistance took another form during the 1560s with the millenarian religious revival in Huamanga known as Taki Onqoy (literally "dancing sickness"), which preached the total rejection of Spanish religion and customs. Converts to the sect expressed their conversion and spiritual rebirth by a sudden seizure in which they would shake and dance uncontrollably, often falling and writhing on the ground. The leaders of Taki Onqoy claimed that they were messengers from the native gods and preached that a pan-Andean alliance of native gods would destroy the Christians by unleashing disease and other
calamities against them. An adherent to the sect declared at an official inquiry in 1564 that "the world has turned about, and this time God and the Spaniards [will be] defeated and all the Spaniards killed and their cities drowned; and the sea will rise and overwhelm them, so that there will remain no memory of them."
To further complicate matters for the conquerors, a fierce dispute broke out among the followers of Pizarro and those of Diego de Almagro. Having fallen out over the original division of spoils at Cajamarca, Almagro and his followers challenged Pizarro’s control of Cusco after returning from an abortive conquest expedition to Chile in 1537. Captured by Pizarro’s forces at the Battle of Salinas in 1538, Almagro was executed, but his supporters, who continued to plot under his son, Diego, gained a measure of revenge by assassinating Pizarro in 1541.
As the civil turmoil continued, the Spanish crown intervened to try to bring the dispute to an end, but in the process touched off a dangerous revolt among the colonists by decreeing the end of the encomienda system in 1542. The encomienda was a much abused prerogative to extract labor and tribute from the indigenous peoples in return for the responsibility to protect and Christianize them. It had originally been granted as a reward to the conquistadors and their families
during the conquest and ensuing colonization, and was regarded as sacrosanct by the grantees, or encomenderos, who numbered about 500 out of a total Spanish population of 2,000 in 1536. However, to the crown it raised the specter of a potentially privileged, neofeudal elite emerging in the Andes to challenge crown authority.
The crown’s efforts to enforce the New Laws (Nuevos Leyes) of 1542 alienated the colonists, who rallied around the figure of Gonzalo Pizarro, the late Francisco’s brother. Gonzalo managed to kill the intemperate Viceroy Don Blasco Núñez de la Vela, who, on his arrival, had foolishly tried to enforce the New Laws. In 1544 Pizarro assumed de facto authority over Peru. His arbitrary and brutal rule, however, caused opposition among the colonists, so that when another royal representative, Pedro de la Gasca, arrived in Peru to restore crown authority, he succeeded in organizing a pro-royalist force that defeated and executed Pizarro in 1548. With Gonzalo’s death, the crown finally succeeded, despite subsequent intermittent revolts, in ending the civil war and exerting crown control over Spanish Peru.
It would take another two decades, however, to finally quell native American resistance. Sensing the danger of the Taki Onqoy heresy, the Spanish authorities moved quickly and energetically, through a church-sponsored anti-idolatry campaign, to suppress it before it had a chance to spread. Its leaders were seized, beaten, fined, or expelled from their communities. At the same time, a new campaign was mounted against the last Inca holdout at Vilcabamba, which was finally captured in 1572. With it, the last reigning Inca, Túpac Amaru, was tried and beheaded by the Spaniards in a public ceremony in Cusco, thereby putting an end to the events of the conquest that had begun so dramatically four decades earlier at Cajamarca.
Throughout the Americas, the impact of the Spanish conquest and subsequent colonization was to bring about a cataclysmic demographic collapse of the indigenous population. The Andes would be no exception. Even before the appearance of Francisco Pizarro on the Peruvian coast, the lethal diseases that had been introduced into the Americas with the arrival of the Spaniards– smallpox, malaria, measles, typhus, influenza, and even the common cold–had spread to South America and begun to wreak havoc throughout Tawantinsuyu. Indeed, the death of Huayna Cápac and his legitimate son and heir, Ninan Cuyoche, which touched off the disastrous dynastic struggles between Huáscar and Atahualpa, is believed to have been the result of a smallpox or measles epidemic that struck in 1530-31.
With an estimated population of 9 to 16 million people prior to the arrival of the Europeans, Peru’s population forty years later was reduced on average by about 80 percent, generally higher on the coast than in the highlands. The chronicler Pedro de Cieza de Leon, who traveled over much of Peru during this period, was particularly struck by the extent of the depopulation along the coast. "The inhabitants of this valley [Chincha, south of Lima]," he wrote, "were so numerous that many Spaniards say that when it was conquered by the Marquis [Pizarro] and themselves, there were … more than 25,000 men, and I doubt that there are now 5,000, so many have been the inroads and hardships they have suffered." Demographic anthropologists Henry F. Dobyns and Paul L. Doughty have estimated that the native American population fell to about 8.3 million by
1548 and to around 2.7 million in 1570. Unlike Mexico, where the population stabilized at the end of the seventeenth century, it did not reach its nadir in Peru until the latter part of the eighteenth century, after the great epidemic of 1719.
War, exploitation, socioeconomic change, and the generalized psychological trauma of conquest all combined to reinforce the main contributor to the demise of the native peoples–epidemic disease. Isolated from the old world for millennia and therefore lacking immunities, the Andean peoples were defenseless to the introduction of the deadly viruses by the Europeans. Numerous killer pandemics swept down from the north, laying waste to entire communities. Occurring one after the other in roughly tenyear intervals during the sixteenth century (1525, 1546, 1558-59, 1585), these epidemics did not allow the population time to recover, while impairing its ability to reproduce itself.
With the discovery of the great silver lodes at Potosí in Perú Alto (Upper Peru–present-day Bolivia) in 1545 and mercury at Huancavelica in 1563, Peru became what historian Frederick B. Pike describes as "Spain’s great treasure house in South America." As a result, the axis of the colonial economy began to move away from the direct expropriation of Incan wealth and production to sustain the initial Spanish population through the encomienda system to the extraction of mineral wealth. The population at Potosí in the high Andes reached its apogee in 1650 at about 160,000, making it one of the largest cities
in the Western world at the time. In its first ten years, according to Alexander von Humboldt, Potosí produced some 127 million pesos, which fueled for a time the Habsburg war machine and Spanish hegemonic political pretensions in Europe. Silver from Potosí also dynamized and helped to develop an internal economy of production and exchange that encompassed not only the northern highlands, but also the Argentine pampa, the Central Valley of Chile, and coastal Peru and Ecuador. The main "growth pole" of this vast "economic space," as historian Carlos Assadourian Sempat calls it, was the Lima-Potosí axis, which served as centers of urban concentration, market demand, strategic commodity flows (silver exports and European imports), and inflated prices.
If Potosí silver production was the mainspring of this economic system, Lima was its hub. "The city of the Kings" (Los Reyes) had been founded by Pizarro as the capital of the new viceroyalty in 1535 in order to reorient trade, commerce, and power away from the Andes toward imperial Spain and Europe. As the outlet for silver bullion on the Pacific, Lima and its nearby port, Callao, also received and redistributed the manufactured goods from the metropolis for the growing settlements along the growth pole. The two-way flow of imports and exports through Lima concentrated both wealth and administration, public and private, in the city. As a result, Lima became the headquarters for estate owners and operators, merchants connecting their Andean trading operations with sources of supply in Spain, and all types of service providers, from artisans to lawyers, who needed access to the system in a central place. Not far behind came the governmental and church organizations established to administer the vast
viceroyalty. Finally, once population, commerce, and administration interacted, major cultural institutions such as a university, a printing press, and theater followed suit.
The great architect of this colonial system was Francisco Toledo y Figueroa, who arrived in Lima in 1569, when its population was 2,500, and served as viceroy until 1581. Toledo, one of Madrid’s ablest administrators and diplomats, worked to expand the state, increase silver production, and generally reorganize the economy by instituting a series of major reforms during his tenure. Native communities (ayllus) were concentrated into poorly located colonial settlements called to facilitate administration and the conversion of the native Americans to Christianity. The Incaic mita system was shifted from performing public works or military service to supplying compulsory labor for the mines and other key sectors of the economy and state. Finally, various fiscal schemes, such as the tribute tax to be paid in coin and the forced purchase of Spanish merchandise, were levied on the indigenous population in order to force or otherwise induce it into the new monetary economy as "free wage" workers. In these, as in many other instances, the Spaniards used whatever elements of the Andean political, social, and economic superstructure that served their purposes and unhesitatingly modified or discarded those that did not.
As a result of these and other changes, the Spaniards and their creole successors came to monopolize control over the land, seizing many of the best lands abandoned by the massive native depopulation. Gradually, the land tenure system became polarized. One sector consisted of the large haciendas, worked by native peasant serfs in a variety of labor arrangements and governed by their new overlords according to hybrid Andean forms of Iberian paternalism. The other sector was made up of remnants of the essentially subsistence-based indigenous communities that persisted and endured. This left Peru with a legacy of one of the most unequal landholding arrangements in all of Latin America and a formidable obstacle to later development and modernization. The expansion of a colonial administrative apparatus and bureaucracy paralleled the economic reorganization. The viceroyalty was divided into audiences (audiencias), which were further subdivided into provinces or districts (corregimientos) and finally municipalities, which included a city or town, governed by town councils (cabildos), composed of the most prominent citizens, mostly encomenderos in the early years and later hacendados.
The most important royal official was the viceroy, who had a host of responsibilities ranging from general administration (particularly tax collection and construction of public works) and internal and external defense to support of the church and protection of the native population. He was surrounded by a number of other judicial, ecclesiastical, and treasury officials, who also reported to the Council of the Indies, the main governing body located in Spain. This configuration of royal officials, along with an official review of his tenure called the residencia, served as a check on viceregal power.
In the early years of the conquest, the crown was particularly concerned with preventing the conquistadors or encomenderos from establishing themselves as a feudal aristocracy capable of thwarting royal interests. Therefore, it moved quickly to quell the civil disturbances that had racked Peru immediately after the conquest and to decree the New Laws of 1542, which deprived the encomenderos and their heirs of their rights to native American goods and services.
The early administrative functions of the encomenderos over the indigenous population (protection and Christianization) were taken over by new state-appointed officials called correqidores de indios (governors of Indians). They were charged at the provincial level with the administration of justice, control of commercial relations between native Americans and Spaniards, and the collection of the tribute tax. The corregidores (Spanish magistrates) were assisted by curacas, members of the native elite, who had been used by the conquerors from the very beginning as mediators between the native population and the Europeans. Over time the corregidores used their office to accumulate wealth and power to dominate rural society, establishing mutual alliances with local and regional elites such as the curacas, native American functionaries, municipal officials, rural priests (doctrineros), landowners, merchants, miners, and others, as well as native and mestizo subordinates.
As the crown’s political authority was consolidated in the second half of the sixteenth century, so too was its ability to regulate and control the colonial economy. Operating according to the mercantilistic strictures of the times, the crown sought to maximize investment in valuable export production, such as silver and later other mineral and agricultural commodities, while supplying the new colonial market with manufactured imports, so as to create a favorable balance of trade for the metropolis. However, the tightly regulated trading monopoly, headquartered in Seville, was not always able to provision the colonies effectively. Assadorian shows that most urban and mining demand, particularly among the laboring population, was met by internal Andean production (rough-hewn clothing, foodstuffs, yerba mate tea, chicha beer, and the like) from haciendas, indigenous communities, and textile factories (obrajes). According to him, the value of these Andean products amounted to fully 60 to 70 percent of the value of silver exports and elite imports linking Peru and Europe. In any case, the crown was successful in
managing the colonial export economy through the development of a bureaucratic and interventionist state, characterized by a plethora of mercantilistic rules that regulated the conduct of business and commerce. In doing so, Spain left both a mercantilist and export-oriented pattern and legacy of "development" in the Andes that has survived up to the present day, and which remains a problem of contemporary underdevelopment.
The crown, as elsewhere in the Americas, worked to solidify the Andean colonial order in tandem with the church to which it was tied by royal patronage dating from the late fifteenth century. Having accompanied Francisco Pizarro and his force during the conquest, the Roman Catholic friars proceeded zealously to carry out their mission to convert the indigenous peoples to Christianity. In this endeavor, the church came to play an important role in the acculturation of the natives, drawing them into the cultural orbit of the Spanish settlers. It also waged a constant war to extirpate native religious beliefs. Such efforts met with only partial success, as the syncretic nature of Andean Roman Catholicism today attests. With time, however, the evangelical mission of the church gave way to its regular ecclesiastical endeavors of ministering to the growing Spanish and creole population.
By the end of the century, the church was beginning to acquire important financial assets, particularly bequests of land and other wealth, that would consolidate its position as the most important economic power during the colonial period. At the same time, it assumed the primary role of educator, welfare provider, and, through the institution of the Inquisition, guardian of orthodoxy throughout the viceroyalty. Together, the church-state partnership served to consolidate and solidify the crown authority in Peru that, despite awesome problems of distance, rough terrain, and slow communications, endured almost three centuries of continuous and relatively stable rule.
Silver production, meanwhile, began to enter into a prolonged period of decline in the seventeenth century. This decline also slowed the important transatlantic trade while diminishing the importance of Lima as the economic hub of the viceregal economy. Annual silver output at Potosí, for example, fell in value from a little over 7 million pesos in 1600 to almost 4.5 million pesos in 1650 and finally to just under 2 million pesos in 1700. Falling silver production, the declining transatlantic trade, and the overall decline of Spain itself during the seventeenth century have long been interpreted by historians as causing a prolonged depression both in the viceroyalties of Peru and New Spain. However, economic historian Kenneth J. Andrien has challenged this view, maintaining that the Peruvian economy, rather than declining, underwent a major transition and restructuring. After silver production and the transatlantic trade eroded the export economy, they were replaced by more diversified, regionalized, and autonomous development of the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Merchants, miners, and producers simply shifted their investments and entrepreneurial activities away from mining and the transatlantic trade into internal production and import-substituting opportunities, a trend already visible on a small scale by the end of the previous century. The result was a surprising degree of regional diversification that stabilized the viceregal economy during the seventeenth century.
This economic diversification was marked by the rise and expansion of the great estates or haciendas that were carved out of abandoned native land as a result of the demographic collapse. The precipitous decline of the native population was particularly severe along the coast and had the effect of opening up the fertile bottom lands of the river valleys to Spanish immigrants eager for land and farming opportunities. A variety of crops were raised: sugar and cotton along the northern coast; wheat and grains in the central valleys; grapes, olives, and sugar along the entire coast. The highlands, depending on geographic
and climatic conditions, underwent a similar hacienda expansion and diversification of production. There, coca, potatoes, livestock, and other indigenous products were raised in addition to some coastal crops, such as sugar and cereals.
This transition toward internal diversification in the colony also included early manufacturing, although not to the extent of agrarian production. Textile manufacturing flourished in Cusco, Cajamarca, and Quito to meet popular demand for rough-hewn cotton and woolen garments. A growing intercolonial trade along the Pacific Coast involved the exchange of Peruvian and Mexican silver for oriental silks and porcelain. In addition, Arequipa and then Nazca and Ica became known for the production of fine wines and brandies. And throughout the viceroyalty, small-scale artisan industries supplied a range of lower-cost goods only sporadically available from Spain and Europe, which were now mired in the seventeenth-century depression.
If economic regionalization and diversification worked to stabilize the colonial economy during the seventeenth century, the benefits of such a trend did not, as it turned out, accrue to Madrid. The crown had derived enormous revenues from silver production and the transatlantic trade, which it was able to tax and collect relatively easily. The decline in silver production caused a precipitous fall in crown revenue, particularly in the second half of the seventeenth century. For example, revenue remittances to Spain dropped from an annual average of almost 1.5 million pesos in the 1630s to less than 128,000 pesos by the 1680s. The crown tried to restructure the tax system to conform to the new economic realities of seventeenth-century colonial production but was rebuffed by the recalcitrance of emerging local elites. They tenaciously resisted any new local levies on their production, while building alliances of mutual convenience and gain with local crown officials to defend their vested interests.
The situation further deteriorated, from the perspective of Spain, when Madrid began in 1633 to sell royal offices to the highest bidder, enabling self-interested creoles to penetrate and weaken the royal bureaucracy. The upshot was not only a sharp decline in vital crown revenues from Peru during the century, which further contributed to the decline of Spain itself, but an increasing loss of royal control over local creole oligarchies throughout the viceroyalty. Lamentably, the sale of public offices also had longer-term implications. The practice weakened any notion of disinterested public service and infused into the political culture the corrosive idea that office-holding was an opportunity for selfish, private gain rather than for the general public good.
If the economy of the viceroyalty reached a certain steady state during the seventeenth century, its population continued to decline. Estimated at around 3 million in 1650, the population of the viceroyalty finally reached its nadir at a little over 1 million inhabitants in 1798. It rose sharply to almost 2.5 million inhabitants by 1825. The 1792 census indicated an ethnic composition of 13 percent Spaniards, 56 percent native American, and 27 percent castas (mestizos), the latter category the fastest-growing group because of both acculturation and miscegenation between Spaniards and natives.
Demographic expansion and the revival of silver production, which had fallen sharply at the end of the seventeenth century, promoted a period of gradual economic growth from 1730 to 1770. The pace of growth then picked up in the last
quarter of the eighteenth century, partly as a result of the so-called Bourbon reforms of 1764, named after a branch of the ruling French Bourbon family that ascended to the Spanish throne after the death of the last Habsburg in 1700.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, particularly during the reign of Charles III (1759-1788), Spain turned its reform efforts to Spanish America in a concerted effort to increase the revenue flow from its American empire. The
aims of the program were to centralize and improve the structure of government, to create more efficient economic and financial machinery, and to defend the empire from foreign powers. For Peru, perhaps the most far-reaching change was the creation of a new viceroyalty in the Río de la Plata (River Plate) region in 1776 that radically altered the geopolitical and economic balance in South America. Upper Peru was detached administratively from the old Viceroyalty of Peru, so that profits from Potosí no longer flowed to Lima and Lower Peru, but to Buenos Aires. With the rupture of the old Lima-Potosí circuit, Lima suffered an inevitable decline in prosperity and prestige, as did the southern highlands (Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno). The viceregal capital’s status declined further from the general measures to introduce free trade within the empire. These measures stimulated the economic development of peripheral areas in northern South America (Venezuela) and southern South America (Argentina), ending Lima’s former monopoly of South American trade.
As a result of these and other changes, the economic axis of Peru shifted northward to the central and northern Sierra and central coast. These areas benefited from the development of silver mining, particularly at Cerro de Pasco, which was spurred by a series of measures taken by the Bourbons to modernize and revitalize the industry. However, declining trade and production in the south, together with a rising tax burden levied by the Bourbon state, which fell heavily on the native peasantry, set the stage for the massive native American revolt that erupted with the Túpac Amaru rebellion in 1780-82.
An upsurge in native discontent and rebellion had actually begun to occur in the eighteenth century. To survive their brutal subjugation, the indigenous peoples had early on adopted a variety of strategies but were never as passive
as portrayed in the scholarly literature until recently. To endure, the native Americans did indeed have to adapt to Spanish domination. As often as not, however, they found ways of asserting their own interests.
After the conquest, the crown had assumed from the Incas patrimony over all native land, which it granted in usufruct to indigenous community families, in exchange for tribute payments and mita labor services. This system
became the basis for a long-lasting alliance between the colonial state and the native communities, bolstered over the years by the elaboration of a large body of protective legislation. Crown officials, such as the corregidores de indios, were charged with the responsibility of protecting natives from abuse at the hands of the colonists, particularly the alienation of their land
to private landholders. Nevertheless, the colonists and their native allies, the curacas, often in collusion with the corregidores and local priests, found ways of circumventing crown laws and gaining control of native American lands and labor. To counter such exploitation and to conserve their historical rights to the land, many native American leaders shrewdly resorted to the legal system. Litigation did not always suffice, of course, and Andean history is full of desperate native peasant rebellions.
The pace of these uprisings increased dramatically in the eighteenth century, with five in the 1740s, eleven in the 1750s, twenty in the 1760s, and twenty in the 1770s. Their underlying causes were largely economic. Land was becoming increasingly scarce in the communities because of illegal purchases by unscrupulous colonists at a time when the indigenous population was once again growing after the long, postconquest demographic decline. At the same time, the native peasantry felt the brunt of higher taxes levied by the crown, part of the general reform program initiated by Madrid in the second half of the eighteenth century. These increased tax burdens came at a time when the highland elite–corregidores, priests, curacas, and Hispanicized native landholders–was itself increasing the level of surplus extracted from the native American peasant economy. According to historian Nils P. Jacobsen, this apparent tightening of the colonial "screw" during the eighteenth century led to the "over-exploitation" of the native peasantry and the ensuing decades of indigenous rebellions.
The culmination of this protest came in 1780 when José Gabriel Condorcanqui, a wealthy curaca and mestizo descendant of Inca ancestors who sympathized with the oppressed native peasantry, seized and executed a notoriously abusive corregidor near Cusco. Condorcanqui raised a ragtag army of tens of thousands of natives, castas, and even a few dissident creoles, assuming the name Túpac Amaru II after the last Inca, to whom he was related. Drawing on a rising tide of Andean millenarianism and nativism, Túpac Amaru II raised the specter of some kind of return to a mythic Incaic past among the indigenous masses at a time of increased economic hardship.
Captured by royalist forces in 1781, Condorcanqui was brought to trial and, like his namesake, cruelly executed, along with several relatives, in the main plaza in Cusco, as a warning to others. The rebellion continued, however, and even expanded into the Altiplano around Lake Titicaca under the leadership of his brother, Diego Cristóbal Túpac Amaru. It was finally suppressed in 1782, and in the following years the authorities undertook to carry out some of the reforms that the two native leaders had advocated.
Despite the Túpac Amaru revolts, independence was slow to develop in the Viceroyalty of Peru. For one
thing, Peru was a conservative, royalist stronghold where the potentially restless creole elites maintained a relatively privileged, if dependent, position in the old colonial system. At the same time, the "anti-white" manifestations of the Túpac Amaru revolt demonstrated that the indigenous masses could not easily be mobilized without posing a threat to the creole caste itself. Thus, when independence finally did come in 1824, it was largely a foreign imposition rather than a truly popular, indigenous, and nationalist movement. As historian David P. Werlich has aptly put it, "Peru’s role in the drama of Latin American independence was largely that of an interested spectator until the final act."
What the spectator witnessed prior to 1820 was a civil war in the Americas that pitted dissident creole elites in favor of independence against royalists loyal to the crown and the old colonial order. The movement had erupted in reaction to Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain in 1808, which deposed Ferdinand VII and placed a usurper, Joseph Bonaparte, on the Spanish throne. In America this raised the question of the very political legitimacy of the colonial government. When juntas arose in favor of the captive Ferdinand in various South American capitals (except in Peru) the following year, even though of relatively short duration, they touched off a process toward eventual separation that ebbed and flowed throughout the continent over the next fifteen years. This process developed its greatest momentum at the periphery of Spanish power in South America–in what became Venezuela and Colombia in the north and the Río de la Plata region, particularly Argentina, in the south.
Not until both movements converged in Peru during the latter phases of the revolt, specifically the 4,500-man expeditionary force led by General José de San Martín that landed in Pisco in September 1820, was Spanish control of Peru seriously threatened. San Martín, the son of a Spanish army officer stationed in Argentina, had originally served in the Spanish army but returned to his native Argentina to join the rebellion. Once Argentine independence was achieved in 1814, San Martín conceived of the idea of liberating Peru by way of Chile. As commander of the 5,500-man Army of the Andes, half of which was composed of former black slaves, San Martín, in a spectacular military operation, crossed the Andes and liberated Chile in 1817. Three years later, his somewhat smaller army left Valparaíso for Peru in a fleet commanded by a former British admiral, Thomas Alexander Cochrane (Lord Dundonald).
Although some isolated stirrings for independence had manifested themselves earlier in Peru, San Martín’s invasion persuaded the conservative creole intendant of Trujillo, José Bernardo de Tagle y Portocarrero, that Peru’s liberation was at hand and that he should proclaim independence. It was symptomatic of the conservative nature of the viceroyalty that the internal forces now declaring for independence were led by a leading creole aristocrat, the fourth marquis of Torre Tagle, whose monarchist sympathies for any future political order coincided with those of the Argentine liberator.
The defeat of the last bastion of royal power on the continent, however, proved a slow and arduous task. Although a number of other coastal cities quickly embraced the liberating army, San Martín was able to take Lima in July 1821 only when the viceroy decided to withdraw his considerable force to the Sierra, where he believed he could better make a stand. Shortly thereafter, on July 28, 1821, San Martín proclaimed Peru independent and then was named protector by an assembly of notables. However, a number of problems, not the least of which was a growing Peruvian resentment over the heavy-handed rule of the foreigner they dubbed "King José," stalled the campaign to defeat the royalists. As a result, San Martín decided to seek aid from Simón Bolívar Palacios, who had liberated much of northern South America from Spanish power.
The two liberators met in a historic meeting in Guayaquil in mid-1822 to arrange the terms of a joint effort to complete the liberation of Peru. Bolívar refused to agree to a shared partnership in the Peruvian campaign, however, so a frustrated San Martín chose to resign his command and leave Peru for Chile and eventual exile in France. With significant help from San Martín’s forces, Bolívar then proceeded to invade Peru, where he won the Battle of Junín in August 1824. But it remained for his trusted lieutenant, thirty-one-year-old General Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá, to complete the task of Peruvian independence by defeating royalist forces at the hacienda of Ayacucho near Huamanga (a city later renamed Ayacucho) on December 9, 1824. This battle in the remote southern highlands effectively ended the long era of Spanish colonial rule in South America.
Peru’s transition from more than three centuries of colonial rule to nominal independence in 1824 under President Bolívar (1824-26) proved torturous and politically destablizing. Independence did little to alter the fundamental structures of inequality and underdevelopment based on colonialism and Andean neofeudalism. Essentially, independence represented the transfer of power from the Spanish mainlanders (peninsulares) to sectors of the elite creole class, whose aim was to preserve and enhance their privileged socioeconomic status. However, the new creole elite was unable to create a stable, new
constitutional order to replace the crown monolith of church and state. Nor was it willing to restructure the social order in a way conducive to building a viable democratic, republican government. Ultimately, the problem was one of replacing the legitimacy of the old order with an entirely new one, something that many postcolonial regimes have had difficulty accomplishing.
Into the political vacuum left by the collapse of Spanish rule surged a particularly virulent form of Andean caudillismo. Caudillo strongmen, often officers from the liberation armies, managed to seize power through force of arms and the elaboration of extensive and intricate clientelistic alliances. Personalistic, arbitrary rule replaced the rule of law, while a prolonged and often byzantine struggle for power was waged at all levels of society. The upshot was internal political fragmentation and chronic political instability during the first two decades of the postindependence era. By one count, the country experienced at least twenty-four regime changes, averaging one per year between 1821 and 1845, and the constitution was rewritten six times.
This is not to say that larger political issues did not inform these conflicts. A revisionist study by historian Paul E. Gootenberg shows in great detail how the politics of trade (free or protectionist) and regionalism were central to the internecine caudillo struggles of the period. In this interpretation, nationalist elites–backing one caudillo or another–managed to outmaneuver and defeat liberal groups to maintain a largely protectionist, neomercantilistic, postcolonial regime until the advent of the guano boom at mid-century. This view stands in opposition to the dominant interpretation of the period, according to which unrestricted liberalism and free trade led to Peru’s "dependency" on the international economy and the West.
However bewildering, the chaotic era of the caudillo can be divided into several distinct periods. In the first, Bolívar tried, unsuccessfully, to impose a centralist and utopian liberal government from Lima. When events in Colombia caused him to relinquish power and return to Bogotá in 1826, his departure left an immediate vacuum that numerous Peruvian strongmen would try to fill. One of the most successful in terms of tenure was the conservative General Agustín Gamarra (1829-34) from Cusco, who managed to crush numerous rebellions and maintain power for five years. Then full-scale civil wars carried first General Luis de Orbegoso (1834-35) and then General Felipe Salaverry (1835-36) into the presidential palace for short terms. The power struggles reached such a chaotic state by the mid-1830s that General Andrés de Santa Cruz y Calahumana marched into Peru from Bolivia to impose the Peru-Bolivia Confederation of 1836-39. This alliance upset the regional balance of power and caused Chile to raise an army to defeat Santa Cruz and restore the status quo ante, which, in effect, meant a resumption of factional conflict lasting well into the 1840s.
The descent into chronic political instability, coming immediately after the destructive wars for independence (1820-24), accelerated Peru’s general postindependence economic decline. During the 1820s, silver mining, the country’s traditional engine of growth, collapsed, while massive capital flight resulted in large external deficits. By the early 1830s, the silver-mining industry began to recover, briefly climbing back to colonial levels of output in the early 1840s. Economic recovery was further enhanced in the 1840s as southern Peru began to export large quantities of wool, nitrates, and, increasingly, guano.
On the other hand, the large-scale importation of British textiles after independence virtually destroyed the production of native artisans and obrajes, which were unable to compete with their more technologically advanced and cost-efficient overseas competitors. For the most part, however, the economy continued in the immediate decades after independence to be characterized by a low level of marketable surplus from largely self-sufficient haciendas and native communities.
The expansion of exports during the 1840s did help, finally, to stabilize the Peruvian state, particularly under the statesmanlike, if autocratic, leadership of General Marshal Ramón Castilla (1845-51, 1855-62). Castilla’s rise to power, coming as it did at the onset of the guano boom, marked the beginning of an age of unparalleled economic growth and increasing political stability that effectively ended the country’s postindependence decline. Indeed, to many observers, Peru during the so-called guano age (1845-70) seemed uniquely positioned to emerge as the preeminent country in all of South America.
The guano boom, made possible by the droppings from millions of birds on the Chincha Islands, proved to be a veritable bonanza for Peru, beginning in the 1840s. By the time that this natural resource had been depleted three decades later, Peru had exported some 12 million tons of the fertilizer to Europe and North America, where it stimulated the commercial agricultural revolution. On the basis of a truly enormous flow of revenue to the state (nearly US$500 million), Peru was presented in the middle decades of the nineteenth century with a historic opportunity for development. Why this did not materialize, but
rather became a classic case of boom-bust export dependence, has continued to be the subject of intense discussion and debate. Most analysts, however, concur with historian Magnus Mörner that "guano wealth was, on the whole, a developmental opportunity missed."
On the positive side, guano-led economic growth–on average 9 percent a year beginning in the 1840s–and burgeoning government coffers provided the basis for the consolidation of the state. With adequate revenues, Castilla was able to
retire the internal and external debt and place the government on a sound financial footing for the first time since independence. That, in turn, shored up the country’s credit rating abroad (which, however, in time proved to be a double-edged sword in the absence of fiscal restraint). It also enabled Castilla to abolish vestiges of the colonial past–slavery in 1854 and the onerous native tribute– modernize the army, and centralize state power at the expense of local caudillos.
The guano bonanza also set in motion more negative trends. Castilla "nationalized" guano in order to maximize benefits to the state but in so doing reinforced aspects of the old colonial pattern of a mercantilist political economy. The state then consigned the commercialization of guano to certain favored private sectors based in Lima that had foreign connections. This created a nefarious and often collusive relationship between the state and a new "liberal" group of guano consignees.
Soon, this increasingly powerful liberal plutocracy succeeded in reorienting the country’s trade policy away from the previous nationalist and protectionist era toward export-led growth and low tariffs. Capital investment derived from the guano boom and abroad flowed into the export sector, particularly sugar, cotton, and nitrate production. The coast now became the most economically dynamic region of the country, modernizing at a pace that outstripped the Sierra. Coastal export-led growth not only intensified the uneven and dualist nature of Peruvian development, but subjected the economy to the vicissitudes of world trade. Between 1840 and 1875, the value of exports surged from 6 million pesos to almost 32 million, while imports went from 4 to 24 million pesos. On the face of it, the liberal export model, based on guano, pulled Peru out of its post independence economic stagnation and seemed dramatically successful. However, while great fortunes were accruing to the new coastal plutocracy, little thought was given to closing the historical inequalities of wealth and income or to fostering a national market for incipient home manufacturing that might have created the foundation for a more diversified and truly long-term economic development.
What proved a greater problem in the short term was the state’s increasing reliance and ultimate dependence on foreign loans, secured by the guano deposits which, however, were a finite and increasingly depleted natural resource. These loans helped finance an overly ambitious railroad and road-building scheme in the 1860s designed to open up Peru’s natural, resourcerich interior to exploitation. Under the direction of American railroad engineer Henry Meiggs (known as the "Yankee Pizarro"), Chinese coolies constructed a spectacular Andean railroad system over some of the most difficult topography in the world. But the cost of constructing some 1,240 kilometers of railroad, together with a litany of other state expenditures, caused Peru to jump from last to first place as the world’s largest borrower on London money markets.
Peru also fought two brief but expensive wars. The first, in which Peru prevailed, was with Ecuador (1859-60) over disputed territory bordering the Amazon. However, Castilla failed to extract a definitive agreement from Ecuador that might have settled conclusively the border issue, so it continued to fester throughout the next century. More successful was the Peruvian victory in 1866 over Spain’s attempts to seize control of the guano-rich Chincha Islands in a tragicomic venture to recapture some of its lost empire in South America.
By the 1870s, Peru’s financial house of cards, constructed on guano, finally came tumbling down. As described by Gootenberg, "Under the combined weight of manic activity, unrestrained borrowing, dismal choice of developmental projects, the evaporation of guano, and gross fiscal mismanagement, Peru’s state finally collapsed …" Ironically, the financial crisis occurred during the presidency of Manuel Pardo (1872-76), the country’s first elected civilian president since independence and leader of the fledgling antimilitary Civilista Party (Partido Civilista–PC).
By the 1870s, economic growth and greater political stability had created the conditions for the organization of the country’s first political party. It was composed primarily of the plutocrats of the guano era, the newly rich merchants, planters, and businesspeople, who believed that the country could no longer afford to be governed by the habitual military "man on horseback." Rather, the new age of international trade, business, and finance needed the managerial skills that only civilian leadership could provide. Their candidate was the dynamic and cosmopolitan Pardo, who, at age thirty-seven, had already made a fortune in business and served with distinction as treasury minister and mayor of Lima. Who better, they asked, at a time when the government of Colonel José Balta (1868-72) had sunk into a morass of corruption and incompetence, could clean up the government, deal with the mounting financial problems, and further develop the liberal export-model that so benefited their particular interests?
However, the election of the competent Pardo in 1872 and his ensuing austerity program were not enough to ward off the impending collapse. The worldwide depression of 1873 virtually sealed Peru’s fate, and as Pardo’s term drew to a close in 1876, the country was forced to default on its foreign debt. With social and political turmoil once again on the rise, the Civilistas found it expedient to turn to a military figure, Mariano Ignacio Prado (1865-67, 1876-79), who had rallied the country against the Spanish naval attack in 1865 and then served as president. He was reelected president in 1876 only to lead the country into a disastrous war with its southern neighbor Chile in 1879.
The war with Chile developed over the disputed, nitrate-rich Atacama Desert. Neither Peru, nor its ally, Bolivia, in the regional balance of power against Chile, had been able to solidify its territorial claims in the desert, which left the rising power of Chile to assert its designs over the region. Chile chose to attack Bolivia after Bolivia broke the Treaty of 1866 between the two countries by raising taxes on the export of nitrates from the region, mainly controlled by Chilean companies. In response, Bolivia invoked its secret alliance with Peru, the Treaty of 1873, to go to war.
Peru was obligated, then, to enter a war for which it was woefully unprepared, particularly since the antimilitary Pardo government had sharply cut the defense budget. With the perspective of hindsight, the outcome with Peru’s more powerful and better organized foe to the south was altogether predictable. This was especially true after Peru’s initial defeat in the naval Battle of Iquique Bay, where it lost one of its two iron-clad warships. Five months later, it lost the other, allowing Chile to gain complete control of the sea lanes and thus to virtually dictate the pace of the war. Although the Peruvians fought the superior Chilean expeditionary forces doggedly thereafter, resorting to guerrilla action in the Sierra after the fall of Lima in 1881, they were finally forced to conclude a peace settlement in 1883. The Treaty of Ancón ceded to Chile in perpetuity the nitrate-rich province of Tarapacá and provided that the provinces of Tacna and Arica would remain in Chilean possession for ten years, when a plebiscite would be held to decide their final fate. After repeated delays, both countries finally agreed in 1929, after outside mediation by the United States, to a compromise solution to the dispute by which Tacna would be returned to Peru and Chile would retain Arica. For Peru, defeat and dismemberment by Chile in war brought to a final disastrous conclusion an era
that had begun so auspiciously in the early 1840s with the initial promise of guano-led development.
After a period of intense civil strife similar to the political chaos during the immediate postindependence period half a century earlier, the armed forces, led by General Andrés Avelina Cáceres (1886-90, 1894-95), succeeded in establishing a measure of order in the country. Cáceres, a Creole and hero of the guerrilla resistance to the Chilean occupation during the War of the Pacific, managed to win the presidency in 1886. He succeeded in imposing a general peace, first by crushing a native rebellion in the Sierra led by a former ally, the respected native American varayoc (leader) Pedro Pablo Atusparía. Cáceres then set about the task of reconstructing the country after its devastating defeat.
The centerpiece of his recovery program was the Grace Contract, a controversial proposal by a group of British bondholders to cancel Peru’s foreign debt in return for the right to operate the country’s railroad system for sixty-six years. The contract provoked great controversy between nationalists, who saw it as a sellout to foreign interests, and liberals, who argued that it would lay the basis for economic recovery by restoring Peru’s investment and creditworthiness in the West. Finally approved by Congress in 1888, the Grace Contract, together with a robust recovery in silver production (US$35 million by 1895), laid the foundations for a revival of export-led growth.
Indeed, economic recovery would soon turn into a sustained, long-term period of growth. Nils Jacobsen has calculated that "Exports rose fourfold between the nadir of 1883 and 1910, from 1.4 to 6.2 million pounds sterling and may have doubled again until 1919; British and United States capital investments grew nearly tenfold between 1880 and 1919, from US$17 to US$161 million." However, he also notes that it was not until 1920 that the nation fully recovered from the losses sustained between the depression of 1873 and the postwar beginnings of recovery at the end of the 1880s. Once underway economic recovery inaugurated a long period of stable, civilian rule beginning in 1895.
The Aristocratic Republic began with the popular "Revolution of 1895," led by the charismatic and irrepressible José Nicolás de Piérola (1895-99). He overthrew the increasingly dictatorial Cáceres, who had gained the presidency
again in 1894 after having placed his crony Colonel Remigio Morales Bermúdez (1890-94) in power in 1890. Piérola, an aristocratic and patriarchal figure, was fond of saying that "when the people are in danger, they come to me." Although he had gained the intense enmity of the Civilistas in 1869 when, as minister of finance in the Balta government, he had transferred the lucrative guano consignment contract to the foreign firm of Dreyfus and Company of Paris, he now succeeded in forging an alliance with his former opponents. This began a period known as the Aristocratic Republic (1895-1914), during which Peru was characterized not only by relative political harmony and rapid economic growth and modernization, but also by social and political change.
From the ruins of the War of the Pacific, new elites had emerged along the coast and coalesced to form a powerful oligarchy, based on the reemergence of sugar, cotton, and mining exports, as well as the reintegration of Peru into the international economy. Its political expression was the reconstituted Civilista Party, which had revived its antimilitary and proexport program during the period of intense national disillusion and introspection that followed the country’s defeat in the war. By the time the term of Piérola’s successor, Eduardo López de Romaña (1899-1903), came to an end, the Civilistas had cleverly
managed to gain control of the national electoral process and proceeded to elect their own candidate and party leader, the astute Manuel Candamo (1903-1904), to the presidency. Thereafter, they virtually controlled the presidency up until World War I, although Candamo died a few months after assuming office. Elections, however, were restricted, subject to strict property and literacy
qualifications, and more often than not manipulated by the incumbent Civilista regime.
The Civilistas were the architects of unprecedented political stability and economic growth, but they also set in motion profound social changes that would, in time, alter the political panorama. With the gradual advance of export capitalism, peasants migrated and became proletarians, laboring in industrial enclaves that arose not only in Lima, but in areas of the countryside as well. The traditional haciendas and small-scale mining complexes that could be connected to the international market gave way increasingly to modern agroindustrial plantations and mining enclaves. With the advent of World War I, Peru’s international markets were temporarily disrupted and social unrest intensified, particularly in urban centers where a modern labor movement began to take shape.
The Civilistas, however, were unable to manage the new social forces that their policies unleashed. This first became apparent in 1912 when the millionaire businessman Guillermo Billinghurst (1912-14)–the reform-minded, populist former mayor of Lima–was able to organize a general strike to block the election of the official Civilista presidential candidate and force his own election by Congress. During his presidency, Billinghurst became embroiled in an increasingly bitter series of conflicts with Congress, ranging from proposed advanced social legislation to settlement of the Tacna-Arica dispute. When Congress opened impeachment hearings in 1914, Billinghurst threatened to arm the workers and forcibly dissolve Congress. This provoked the armed forces under Colonel Oscar Raimundo Benavides (1914-15, 1933-36, and 1936-39) to seize power.
The coup marked the beginning of a long-term alignment of the military with the oligarchy, whose interests and privileges it would defend up until the 1968 revolution of General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-75). It was also significant
because it not only ended almost two decades of uninterrupted civilian rule, but, unlike past military interventions, was more institutional than personalist in character. Benavides was a product of Piérola’s attempt to professionalize the armed forces under the tutelage of a French military mission, beginning in 1896, and therefore was uncomfortable in his new political role. Within a year, he arranged new elections that brought José de Pardo y Barreda (1904-1908, 1915-19) to power.
A new round of economic problems, deepening social unrest, and powerful, new ideological currents toward the end of World War I, however, converged to bring a generation of Civilista rule to an end in 1919. The war had a roller coaster effect on the Peruvian economy. First, export markets were temporarily cut off, provoking recession. Then, when overseas trade was restored, stimulating demand among the combatants for Peru’s primary products, an inflationary spiral saw the cost of living nearly double between 1913 and 1919.
This inflation had a particularly negative impact on the new working classes in Lima and elsewhere in the country. The number of workers had grown sharply since the turn of the century–by one count rising from 24,000, or 17 percent of
the capital’s population in 1908, to 44,000, or 20 percent of the population in 1920. Similar growth rates occurred outside of Lima in the export enclaves of sugar (30,000 workers), cotton (35,000), oil (22,500), and copper. The Cerro de Pasco copper mine alone had 25,500 workers. The growth and concentration of workers was accompanied by the spread of anarchic ideas before and during the
war years, making the incipient labor movement increasingly militant. Violent strikes erupted on sugar plantations, beginning in 1910, and the first general strike in the country’s history occurred a year later.
Radical new ideologies further fueled the growing social unrest in the country at the end of the war. The ideas of the Mexican and Russian revolutions, the former predating the latter, quickly spread radical new doctrines to the far corners of the world, including Peru. Closer to home, the indigenista (Indigenist) movement increasingly captured the imagination of a new generation of Peruvians, particularly urban, middle-class mestizos who were reexamining their roots in a changing Peru. Indigenismo (Indigenism) was promoted by a group of writers and artists who sought to rediscover and celebrate the virtues and values of Peru’s glorious Incan past. Awareness of the indigenous masses was heightened at this time by another wave of native uprisings in the southern highlands. They were caused by the disruption and dislocation of traditional native American communities brought about by the opening of new international markets and reorganization of the wool trade in the region.
All of these social, economic, and intellectual trends came to a head at the end of the Pardo administration. In 1918-19 Pardo faced an unprecedented wave of strikes and labor mobilization that was joined by student unrest over university reform. The ensuing worker-student alliance catapulted a new generation of radical reformers, headed by Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre–a young, charismatic student at San Marcos University–and José Carlos Mariátegui–a brilliant Lima journalist who defended the rights of the new, urban working class–to national prominence.
The immediate political beneficiary of this turmoil, however, was a dissident Civilista, former president Augusto B. Leguía y Salcedo (1908-12, 1919-30), who had left the party after his first term. He ran as an independent in the 1919
elections on a reform platform that appealed to the emerging new middle and working classes. When he perceived a plot by the Civilistas to deny him the election, the diminutive but boundlessly energetic Leguía (he stood only 1.5 meters tall and weighed a little over 45 kilograms) staged a preemptive coup and assumed the presidency.
Leguía’s eleven-year rule, known as the oncenio (1919-30), began auspiciously enough with a progressive, new constitution in 1920 that enhanced the power of the state to carry out a number of popular social and economic reforms. The regime weathered a brief postwar recession and then generated considerable economic growth by opening the country to a flood of foreign loans and investment. This allowed Leguía to replace the Civilista oligarchy with a new, if plutocratic, middle-class political base that prospered from state contracts and expansion of the government bureaucracy. However, it was not long into his regime that Leguía’s authoritarian and dictatorial tendencies appeared. He cracked down on labor and student militancy, purged the Congress of opposition, and amended the constitution so that he could run, unopposed, for reelection in 1924 and again in 1929.
Leguía’s popularity was further eroded as a result of a border dispute between Peru and Colombia involving territory in the rubber-tapping region between the Río Caquetá and the northern watershed of the Río Napo. Under the United Statesmediated Salomón-Lozano Treaty of March 1922, which favored Colombia, the Río Putumayo was established as the boundary between Colombia and Peru. Pressured by the United States to accept the unpopular treaty, Leguía finally submitted the document to the Peruvian Congress in December 1927, and it was ratified. The treaty was also unpopular with Ecuador, which found itself
surrounded on the east by Peru.
The orgy of financial excesses, which included widespread corruption and the massive build-up of the foreign debt, was brought to a sudden end by the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 and ensuing worldwide depression. Leguía’s
eleven-year rule, the longest in Peruvian history, collapsed a year later. Once again, the military intervened and overthrew Leguía, who died in prison in 1932.
Meanwhile, the onset of the Great Depression galvanized the forces of the left. Before he died prematurely at the age of thirty-five in 1930, Mariátegui founded the Peruvian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Peruano–PSP), shortly
to become the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano–PCP), which set about the task of political organizing after Leguía’s fall from power. Although a staunch Marxist who believed in the class struggle and the revolutionary role of the proletariat, Mariátegui’s main contribution was to recognize the revolutionary potential of Peru’s native peasantry. He argued that
Marxism could be welded to an indigenous Andean revolutionary tradition that included indigenismo, the long history of Andean peasant rebellion, and the labor movement.
Haya de la Torre returned to Peru from a long exile to organize the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana–APRA), an anti-imperialist, continent-wide, revolutionary alliance, founded in Mexico
in 1924. For Haya de la Torre, capitalism was still in its infancy in Peru and the proletariat too small and undeveloped to bring about a revolution against the Civilista oligarchy. For that to happen, he argued, the working classes must be joined to radicalized sectors of the new middle classes in a cross-class, revolutionary alliance akin to populism. Both parties–one from a Marxist and the other from a populist perspective–sought to organize and lead the new middle and working classes, now further dislocated and radicalized by the Great Depression. With his oratorical brilliance, personal magnetism, and national-populist message, Haya de la Torre was able to capture the bulk of these classes and to become a major figure in Peruvian politics until his death in 1980 at the age of eighty-six.
After 1930 both the military, now firmly allied with the oligarchy, and the forces of the left, particularly APRA, became important new actors in Peruvian politics. This period (1930-68) has been characterized in political terms by sociologist Dennis Gilbert as operating under essentially a "tripartite" political system, with the military often ruling at the behest of the oligarchy to suppress the "unruly" masses represented by APRA and the PCP. Lieutenant Colonel Luis M. Sánchez Cerro and then General Benavides led another period of military rule during the turbulent 1930s.
In the presidential election of 1931, Sánchez Cerro (1931-33), capitalizing on his popularity from having deposed the dictator Leguía, barely defeated APRA’s Haya de la Torre, who claimed to have been defrauded out of his first bid for office. In July 1932, APRA rose in a bloody popular rebellion in Trujillo, Haya de la Torre’s hometown and an APRA stronghold, that resulted in the execution of some sixty army officers by the insurgents. Enraged, the army unleashed a brutal suppression that cost the lives of at least 1,000 Apristas (APRA members) and their sympathizers (partly from aerial bombing, used for the first time in South American history). Thus began what would become a virtual vendetta between the armed forces and APRA that would last for at least a generation and on several occasions prevented the party from coming to power.
Politically, the Trujillo uprising was followed shortly by another crisis, this time a border conflict with Colombia over disputed territory in the Letícia region of the Amazon. Before it could be settled, Sánchez Cerro was assassinated
in April 1933 by a militant Aprista, and Congress quickly elected former president Benavides to complete Sánchez Cerro’s five-year term. Benavides managed to settle the thorny Letícia dispute peacefully, with assistance from the League of Nations, when a Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation was signed in May 1934 ratifying Colombia’s original claim. After a disputed election in 1936, in which Haya de la Torre was prevented from running and which Benavides nullified with the reluctant consent of Congress, Benavides remained in power and extended his term until 1939.
During the 1930s, Peru’s economy was one of the least affected by the Great Depression. Thanks to a relatively diversified range of exports, led by cotton and new industrial metals (particularly lead and zinc), the country began a rapid recovery of export earnings as early as 1933. As a result, unlike many other Latin American countries that adopted Keynesian and
import-substitution industrialization measures to counteract the decline, Peru’s policymakers made relatively few alterations in their long-term model of export-oriented growth.
Under Sánchez Cerro, Peru did take measures to reorganize its debt-ridden finances by inviting Edwin Kemmerer, a well-known United States financial consultant, to recommend reforms. Following his advice, Peru returned to the gold standard, but could not avoid declaring a moratorium on its US$180-million debt on April 1, 1931. For the next thirty years, Peru was barred from the United States capital market.
Benavides’s policies combined strict economic orthodoxy, measures of limited social reform designed to attract the middle classes away from APRA, and repression against the left, particularly APRA. For much of the rest of the decade, APRA continued to be persecuted and remained underground. Almost from the moment APRA appeared, the party and Haya de la Torre had been attacked by the oligarchy as antimilitary, anticlerical, and "communistic." Indeed, the official reason often given for APRA’s proscription was its "internationalism," because the party began as a continent-wide alliance "against Yankee
imperialism"– suggesting that it was somehow subversively un-Peruvian.
Haya de la Torre had also flirted with the Communists during his exile in the 1920s, and his early writings were influenced by a number of radical thinkers, including Marx. Nevertheless, the 1931 APRA program was essentially reformist, nationalist, and populist. It called, among other things, for a redistributive and interventionist state that would move to selectively nationalize land and industry. Although certainly radical from the perspective of the oligarchy, the program was designed to correct the historical inequality of wealth and income in Peru, as well as to reduce and bring under greater governmental control the large-scale foreign investment in the country that was high in comparison with other Andean nations.
The intensity of the oligarchy’s attacks was also a response to the extreme rhetoric of APRA polemicists and reflected the polarized state of Peruvian society and politics during the depression. Both sides readily resorted to force and violence, as the bloody events of the 1930s readily attested–the 1932 Trujillo revolt, the spate of prominent political assassinations (including Sánchez Cerro and Antonio Miró Quesada, publisher of El Comercio), and widespread imprisonment and torture of Apristas and their sympathizers. It also revealed the oligarchy’s apprehension, indeed paranoia, at APRA’s sustained
attempt to mobilize the masses for the first time into the political arena. At bottom, Peru’s richest, most powerful forty families perceived a direct challenge to their traditional privileges and absolute right to rule, a position they were not to yield easily.
When Benavides’s extended term expired in 1939, Manuel Prado y Ugarteche (1939-45), a Lima banker from a prominent family and son of a former president, won the presidency. He was soon confronted with a border conflict with Ecuador that led to a brief war in 1941. After independence, Ecuador had been left without access to either the Amazon or the region’s other major waterway, the Río Marañón, and thus without direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. In an effort to assert its territorial claims in a region near the Río Marañón in the Amazon Basin, Ecuador occupied militarily the town of Zarumilla along its southwestern border with Peru. However, the Peruvian Army (Ejército Peruano–EP) responded with a lightning victory against the Ecuadorian Army. At subsequent peace negotiations in Rio de Janeiro in 1942, Peru’s ownership of most of the contested region was affirmed.
On the domestic side, Prado gradually moved to soften official opposition to APRA, as Haya de la Torre moved to moderate the party’s program in response to the changing national and international environment brought on by World War II. For example, he no longer proposed to radically redistribute income, but instead proposed to create new wealth, and he replaced his earlier strident "anti-imperialism" directed against the United States with more favorable calls for democracy, foreign investment, and hemispheric harmony. As a result, in May 1945 Prado legalized the party that now reemerged on the political scene after thirteen years underground.
The Allied victory in World War II reinforced the relative democratic tendency in Peru, as Prado’s term came to an end in 1945. José Luis Bustamante y Rivero (1945-48), a liberal and prominent international jurist, was overwhelmingly elected president on the basis of an alliance with the now legal APRA. Responding to his more reform- and populist-oriented political base,
Bustamante and his Aprista minister of economy moved Peru away from the strictly orthodox, free-market policies that had characterized his predecessors. Increasing the state’s intervention in the economy in an effort to stimulate growth and redistribution, the new government embarked on a general fiscal expansion, increased wages, and established controls on prices and exchange rates. The policy, similar to APRA’s later approach in the late 1980s, was neither well-conceived nor efficiently administered and came at a time when Peru’s exports, after an initial upturn after the war, began to sag. This resulted in a surge of inflation and labor unrest that ultimately destabilized the government.
Bustamante also became embroiled in an escalating political conflict with the Aprista-controlled Congress, further weakening the administration. The political waters were also roiled in 1947 by the assassination by Aprista militants of
Francisco Grana Garland, the socially prominent director of the conservative newspaper La Prensa. When a naval mutiny organized by elements of APRA broke out in 1948, the military, under pressure from the oligarchy, overthrew the government and installed General Manuel A. Odría (1948-50, 1950-56), hero of the 1941 war with Ecuador, as president.
Odría imposed a personalistic dictatorship on the country and returned public policy to the familiar pattern of repression of the left and free-market orthodoxy. Indicative of the new regime’s hostility toward APRA, Haya de la Torre, after seeking political asylum in the Embassy of Colombia in Lima in 1949, was prevented by the government from leaving the country. He remained a virtual prisoner in the embassy until his release into exile in 1954. However, along with such repression Odría cleverly sought to undermine APRA’s popular support by establishing a dependent, paternalistic relationship with labor and the urban poor through a series of charity and social welfare measures.
At the same time, Odría’s renewed emphasis on export-led growth coincided with a period of rising prices on the world market for the country’s diverse commodities, engendered by the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. Also, greater political stability brought increased national and foreign investment, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Indeed, this sector grew
almost 8 percent annually between 1950 and 1967, increasing from 14 to 20 percent of gross domestic product. Overall, the economy experienced a prolonged period of strong, export-led growth, amounting on average to 5 percent a year during the same period.
Not all Peruvians, however, benefited from this period of sustained capitalist development, which tended to be regional and confined mainly to the more modernized coast. This uneven pattern of growth served to intensify the dualistic structure of the country by widening the historical gap between the Sierra and the coast. In the Sierra, the living standard of the bottom one- quarter of the population stagnated or fell during the twenty years after 1950. In fact, the Sierra had been losing ground economically to the modernizing forces operative on the coast ever since the 1920s. With income distribution steadily worsening, the Sierra experienced a period of intense social mobilization during the 1950s and 1960s.
This was manifested first in the intensification of rural- urban migration and then in a series of confrontations between peasants and landowners. The fundamental causes of these confrontations were numerous. Population growth, which had almost doubled nationally between 1900 and 1940 (3.7 million to 7 million), increased rapidly to 13.6 million by 1970. This turned the labor market from a state of chronic historical scarcity to one of abundant surplus. With arable land constant and locked into the system of latifundios, ownership-to-area ratios deteriorated sharply, increasing peasant pressures on the land.
Peru’s land-tenure system remained one of the most unequal in Latin America. In 1958 the country had a high coefficient of 0.88 on the Gini index, which measures land concentration on a scale of 0 to 1. Figures for the same year show that 2 percent of the country’s landowners controlled 69 percent of arable land. Conversely, 83 percent of landholders holding no more than 5 hectares controlled only 6 percent of arable land. Finally, the Sierra’s terms of trade in agricultural foodstuffs steadily declined because of the state’s urban bias in food pricing policy, which kept farm prices artificially low.
Many peasants opted to migrate to the coast, where most of the economic and job growth was occurring. The population of metropolitan Lima, in particular, soared. While standing at slightly over 500,000 in 1940, it increased threefold to over 1.6 million in 1961 and nearly doubled again by 1981 to more than 4.1 million. The capital became increasingly ringed with squalid barriadas (shantytowns) of urban migrants, putting pressure on the liberal state, long accustomed to ignoring the funding of government services to the poor.
Those peasants who chose to remain in the Sierra did not remain passive in the face of their declining circumstances but became increasingly organized and militant. A wave of strikes and land invasions swept over the Sierra during the
1950s and 1960s as campesinos demanded access to land. Tensions grew especially in the Convención and Lares region of the high jungle near Cusco, where Hugo Blanco, a Quechua-speaking Trotskyite and former student leader, mobilized peasants in a militant confrontation with local gamonales.
While economic stagnation prodded peasant mobilization in the Sierra, economic growth along the coast produced other important social changes. The postwar period of industrialization, urbanization, and general economic growth created a new middle and professional class that altered the prevailing political panorama. These new middle sectors formed the social base for two new political parties–Popular Action (Acción Popular–AP) and the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano– PDC)–that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s to challenge the oligarchy with a moderate, democratic reform program. Emphasizing modernization and development within a somewhat more activist state framework, they posed a new challenge to the old left, particularly APRA.
For its part, APRA accelerated its rightward tendency. It entered into what many saw as an unholy alliance (dubbed the convivencia, or living together) with its old enemy, the oligarchy, by agreeing to support the candidacy of conservative Manuel Prado y Ugarteche in the 1956 elections, in return for legal recognition. As a result, many new voters became disillusioned with APRA and flocked to support the charismatic reformer Fernando Belaúnde Terry (1963-68, 1980-85), the founder of the AP. Although Prado won, six years later the army intervened when its old enemy, Haya de la Torre (back from six years of exile), still managed, if barely, to defeat the upstart Belaúnde by less than one percentage point in the 1962 elections. A surprisingly reform-minded junta of the armed forces headed by General Ricardo Pérez Godoy held power for a year (1962-63) and then convoked new elections. This time Belaúnde, in alliance with the Christian Democrats, defeated Haya de la Torre and became president.
Belaúnde’s government, riding the crest of the social and political discontent of the period, ushered in a period of reform at a time when United States president John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress was also awakening widespread expectations for reform throughout Latin America. Belaúnde tried to diffuse the growing unrest in the highlands through a three- pronged approach: modest agrarian reform, colonization projects in the high jungle or montaña, and the construction of the north- south Jungle Border Highway (la carretera marginal de la selva or la marginal), running the entire length of the country along the jungle fringe. The basic thrust of the Agrarian Reform Law of 1969, which was substantially watered down by a conservative coalition in Congress between the APRA and the National Odriist Union (Unión Nacional Odriísta–UNO), was to open
access to new lands and production opportunities, rather than dismantle the traditional latifundio system. However, this plan failed to quiet peasant discontent, which by 1965 helped fuel a Castroite guerrilla movement, the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria– MIR), led by rebellious Apristas on the left who were unhappy with the party’s
alliance with the country’s most conservative forces.
In this context of increasing mobilization and radicalization, Belaúnde lost his reformist zeal and called on the army to put down the guerrilla movement with force. Opting for a more technocratic orientation palatable to his urban middle class base, Belaúnde, an architect and urban planner by training, embarked on a large number of construction projects, including irrigation, transportation, and housing, while also investing heavily in education. Such initiatives were made possible, in part, by the economic boost provided by the dramatic expansion of the fishmeal industry. Aided by new technologies and the abundant fishing grounds off the coast, fishmeal production soared. By 1962 Peru became the leading fishing nation in the world, and fishmeal accounted for fully one-third of the country’s exports.
Belaúnde’s educational expansion dramatically increased the number of universities and graduates. But, however laudable, this policy tended over time to swell recruits for the growing number of left-wing parties, as economic opportunities diminished in the face of an end, in the late 1960s, of the long cycle of export- led economic expansion. Indeed, economic problems spelled trouble for Belaúnde as he approached the end of his term. Faced with a growing balance-of-payments problem, he was forced to devalue the sol (for value) in 1967. He also seemed to many nationalists to capitulate to foreign capital in a final settlement in 1968 of a controversial and long-festering dispute with the International Petroleum Company (IPC) over La Brea y Pariñas oil fields in northern Peru. With public discontent growing, the armed forces, led by General Velasco Alvarado, overthrew the Belaúnde government in 1968 and proceeded to undertake an unexpected and unprecedented series of reforms.
The military intervention and its reformist orientation represented changes both in the armed forces and Peruvian society. Within the armed forces, the social origins of the officer corps no longer mirrored the background and outlook of the creole upper classes, which had historically inclined the officers to follow the mandate of the oligarchy. Reflective of the social changes and mobility that were occurring in society at large, officers now exhibited middle- and lower middle class, provincial, mestizo or cholo backgrounds. General Velasco, a cholo himself, had grown up in humble circumstances in the northern department of Piura and purportedly went to school barefoot.
Moreover, this generation of officers had fought and defeated the guerrilla movements in the backward Sierra. In the process, they had come to the realization that internal peace in Peru depended not so much on force of arms, but on implementing structural reforms that would relieve the burden of chronic poverty and underdevelopment in the region. In short, development, they concluded, was the best guarantee for national security. The Belaúnde government had originally held out the promise of reform and development, but had failed. The military attributed that failure, at least in part, to flaws in the democratic political system that had enabled the opposition to block and stalemate reform initiatives in Congress. As nationalists, they also abhorred the proposed pact with the IPC and looked askance at stories of widespread corruption in the Belaúnde government.
Velasco moved immediately to implement a radical reform program, which seemed, ironically, to embody much of the original 1931 program of the army’s old nemesis, APRA. His first act was to expropriate the large agroindustrial plantations along the coast. The agrarian reform that followed, the most extensive in Latin America outside of Cuba, proceeded to destroy the economic base of power of the old ruling classes, the export oligarchy, and its gamonal allies in the Sierra. By 1975 half of all arable land had been transferred, in the form of various types of cooperatives, to over 350,000 families comprising about onefourth of the rural population, mainly estate workers and renters (colonos). Agricultural output tended to maintain its rather low pre-reform levels, however, and the reform still left out an estimated 1 million seasonal workers and only marginally benefited campesinos in the native communities (about 40 percent of the rural population).
The Velasco regime also moved to dismantle the liberal, export model of development that had reached its limits after the long postwar expansion. The state now assumed, for the first time in history, a major role in the development process. Its immediate target was the foreign-dominated sector, which during the 1960s had attained a commanding position in the economy. At the end of the Belaúnde government in 1968, three-quarters of mining, one-half of manufacturing, two-thirds of the commercial banking system, and one-third of the fishing industry were under direct foreign control.
Velasco reversed this situation. By 1975 state enterprises accounted for more than half of mining output, two-thirds of the banking system, a fifth of industrial production, and half of total productive investment. Velasco’s overall development strategy was to shift from a laissez-faire to a "mixed" economy, to replace export-led development with import-substitution industrialization. At the same time, the state implemented a series of social measures designed to protect workers and redistribute income in order to expand the domestic market.
In the realm of foreign policy, the Velasco regime undertook a number of important initiatives. Peru became a driving force not only behind the creation of an Andean Pact in 1969 to establish a common market with coordinated trade and investment policies, but also in the movement of nonaligned countries of the Third World. Reflecting a desire to end its perceived dependency economically and politically on the United States, the Velasco government also moved to diversify its foreign relations by making trade and aid pacts with the Soviet Union and East European countries, as well as with Japan and West European nations. Finally, Peru succeeded during the 1970s in establishing its international claims to a 303-kilometer territorial limit in the Pacific Ocean.
By the time Velasco was replaced on August 29, 1975, by the more conservative General Francisco Morales Bermúdez Cerrutti (1975-80), his reform program was already weakening. Natural calamities, the world oil embargo of 1973, increasing international indebtedness (Velasco had borrowed heavily abroad to replace lost investment capital to finance his reforms), overbureaucratization , and general mismanagement had undermined early economic growth and triggered a serious inflationary spiral. At the same time, Velasco, suffering from terminal cancer, had become increasingly personalistic and autocratic, undermining the
institutional character of military rule. Unwilling to expand his initial popularity through party politics, he had created a series of mass organizations, tied to the state in typically corporatist and patrimonialist fashion, in order to mobilize support and control the pace of reform. However, despite his rhetoric to create truly popular, democratic organizations, he manipulated them from above in an increasingly arbitrary manner. What had begun as an unusual populist type of military experiment evolved into a form of what political scientist Guillermo O’Donnell calls "bureaucratic authoritarianism," with increasingly authoritarian and personalistic characteristics that were manifested in "Velasquismo."
Velasco’s replacement, General Morales Bermúdez, spent most of his term implementing an economic austerity program to stem the surge of inflation. Public opinion increasingly turned against the rule of the armed forces, which it blamed for the country’s economic troubles, widespread corruption, and mismanagement of the government, as well as the general excesses of the "revolution." Consequently, Morales Bermúdez prepared to return the country to the democratic process.
Elections were held in 1978 for a Constituent Assembly empowered to rewrite the constitution. Although Belaúnde’s AP boycotted the election, an array of newly constituted leftist parties won an unprecedented 36 percent of the vote, with much of the remainder going to APRA. The Assembly, under the leadership of the aging and terminally ill Velasco (who would die in 1980), completed the new document in 1979. Meanwhile, the popularity of former president Belaúnde underwent a revival. Belaúnde was decisively reelected president in 1980, with 45 percent of the vote, for a term of five years.
Belaúnde inherited a country that was vastly different from the one he had governed in the 1960s. Gone was the old export oligarchy and its gamonal allies in the Sierra, and the extent of foreign investment in the economy had been sharply reduced. In their place, Velasco had borrowed enormous sums from foreign banks and so expanded the state that by 1980 it accounted for 36 percent of national production, double its 1968 share. The informal sector of small- and medium-sized businesses outside the legal, formal economy had also proliferated.
By 1980 Belaúnde’s earlier reforming zeal had substantially waned, replaced by a decidedly more conservative orientation to government. A team of advisers and technocrats, many with experience in international financial organizations, returned home to install a neoliberal economic program that emphasized privatization of state-run business and, once again, export-led growth. In an effort to increase agricultural production, which had declined as a result of the agrarian reform, Belaúnde sharply reduced food subsidies, allowing producer prices to rise.
However, just as Velasco’s ambitious reforms of the early 1970s were eroded by the 1973 worldwide oil crisis, Belaúnde’s export strategy was shattered by a series of natural calamities and a sharp plunge in international commodity prices to their lowest levels since the Great Depression. By 1983 production had fallen 12 percent and wages 20 percent in real terms while inflation once again surged. Unemployment and underemployment was rampant, affecting perhaps two-thirds of the work force and causing the minister of finance to declare the country in "the worst economic crisis of the century." Again, the government opted to borrow heavily in international money markets, after having severely criticized the previous regime for ballooning the foreign debt. Peru’s total foreign debt swelled from US$9.6 billion in 1980 to US$13 billion by the end of Belaúnde’s term.
The economic collapse of the early 1980s, continuing the long-term cyclical decline begun in the late 1960s, brought into sharp focus the country’s social deterioration, particularly in the more isolated and backward regions of the Sierra. Infant mortality rose to 120 per 1,000 births (230 in some remote areas), life expectancy for males dropped to 58 compared with 64 in neighboring Chile, average daily caloric intake fell below minimum United Nations standards, upwards of 60 percent of children under five years of age were malnourished, and underemployment and unemployment were rampant. Such conditions were a breeding ground for social and political discontent, which erupted with a vengeance in 1980 with the appearance of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso–SL).
Founded in the remote and impoverished department of Ayacucho by Abimáel Guzmán Reynoso, a philosophy professor at the University of Huamanga, the SL blended the ideas of MarxismLeninism , Maoism, and those of José Carlos Mariátegui, Peru’s major Marxist theoretician. Taking advantage of the return to democratic rule, the deepening economic crisis, the failure of the Velasco-era reforms, and a generalized vacuum of authority in parts of the Sierra with the collapse of gamonal rule, the SL unleashed a virulent and highly effective campaign of terror and subversion that caught the Belaúnde government by surprise.
After first choosing to ignore the SL and then relying on an ineffective national police response, Belaúnde reluctantly turned to the army to try to suppress the rebels. However, that proved extremely difficult to do. The SL expanded its original base in Ayacucho north along the Andean spine and eventually into Lima and other cities, gaining young recruits frustrated by their dismal prospects for a better future. To further complicate pacification efforts, another rival guerrilla group, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru–MRTA), emerged in Lima.
Counterinsurgency techniques, often applied indiscriminately by the armed forces, resulted in severe human rights violations against the civilian population and only created more recruits for the SL. By the end of Belaúnde’s term in 1985, over 6,000 Peruvians had died from the violence, and over US$1 billion in property damage had resulted. Strongly criticized by international human rights organizations, Belaúnde nevertheless continued to rely on military solutions, rather than other emergency social or developmental measures that might have served to get at some of the fundamental, underlying socioeconomic causes of the insurgency.
The severe internal social and political strife, not to mention the deteriorating economic conditions, manifested in the Shining Path insurgency may have contributed in 1981 to a flareup of the border dispute with Ecuador in the disputed Marañón region. Possibly looking to divert public attention away from internal problems, both countries engaged in a brief, five-day border skirmish on the eve of the thirty-ninth anniversary of the signing of the 1942 Protocol of Rio de Janeiro (Rio Protocol). Peruvian forces prevailed, and although a ceasefire was quickly declared, it did nothing to resolve the two opposing positions on the issue of the disputed territory. Essentially, Peru continued to adhere to the Rio Protocol by which Ecuador had recognized Peruvian claims. On the other hand, Ecuador continued to argue that the Rio Protocol should be renegotiated, a position first taken by President Velasco Ibarra in 1960 and adhered to by all subsequent Ecuadorian presidents.
Along with these internal and external conflicts, Belaúnde also confronted a rising tide of drug trafficking during his term. Coca had been cultivated in the Andes since pre-Columbian times. The Inca elite and clergy used it for certain ceremonies, believing that it possessed magical powers. After the conquest, coca chewing, which suppresses hunger and relieves pain and cold, became common among the oppressed indigenous peasantry to deal with the hardships imposed by the new colonial regime, particularly in the mines. The practice has continued, with an estimated 15 percent of the population chewing coca on a daily basis by 1990.
As a result of widespread cocaine consumption in the United States and Europe, demand for coca from the Andes soared during the late 1970s. Peru and Bolivia became the largest coca producers in the world, accounting for roughly four-fifths of the production in South America. Although originally produced mainly in five highland departments, Peruvian production has become increasingly concentrated in the Upper Huallaga Valley, located some 379 kilometers northeast of Lima. Peasant growers, some 70,000 in the valley alone, are estimated to receive upwards of US$240 million annually for their crop from traffickers–mainly Colombians who oversee the processing, transportation, and smuggling operations to foreign countries, principally the United States.
After the cultivation of coca for narcotics uses was made illegal in 1978, efforts to curtail production were intensified by the Belaúnde government, under pressure from the United States. Attempts were made to substitute other cash crops while police units sought to eradicate the plant. This tactic only served to alienate the growers and to set the stage for the spread of the SL movement into the area in 1983-84 as erstwhile defenders of the growers. By 1985 the SL had become an armed presence in the region, defending the growers not only from the state, but also from the extortionist tactics of the traffickers. The SL, however, became one of the wealthiest guerrilla movements in modern history by collecting an estimated US$30 million in "taxes" from Colombian traffickers who controlled the drug trade.
As the guerrilla war raged on and with the economy in disarray, Belaúnde had little to show at the end of his term, except perhaps the reinstitution of the democratic process. During his term, political parties had reemerged across the
entire political spectrum and vigorously competed to represent their various constituencies. With all his problems, Belaúnde had also managed to maintain press and other freedoms (marred, however, by increasing human rights violations) and to observe the parliamentary process. In 1985 he managed to complete his elected term, only the second time that this had happened in forty
After presiding over a free election, Belaúnde turned the presidency over to populist Alan García Pérez of APRA who had swept to victory with 48 percent of the vote. Belaúnde’s own party went down to a resounding defeat with only 6 percent of the vote, while the Marxist United Left (Izquierda Unida–IU) received 23 percent. The elections revealed a decided swing to the left by the Peruvian electorate. For APRA García’s victory was the culmination of more than half a century of political travail and struggle.
As García took office on July 28, 1985–at thirty-six the youngest chief executive to assume power in Peru’s history–he seemed to awaken hope among Peruvians for the future. Although he had no previous experience in elected office, he possessed, as his decisive electoral victory illustrated, the necessary charisma to mobilize Peruvians to confront their problems. At the same time, the governing APRA party won a majority in the new Congress, assuring the new president support for his program to meet the crisis.
The crisis seemed daunting indeed. The foreign debt stood at over US$13 billion, real wages had eroded by 30 percent since 1980, prices for Peru’s exports on the world market remained low, the economy was gripped in recession, and guerrilla violence was spreading. The future of Peru’s fledgling redemocratization now hinged on García’s ability to reverse these trends and, at bottom, to restore sustained economic growth and development.
With a parliamentary majority for the first time in APRA’s history, Alan García started his administration with hopes for a better future. However, economic mismanagement led to hyperinflation from 1988 to 1990. García’s term in office was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, which reached 7,649% in 1990 and had a cumulative total of 2,200,200% between July 1985 and
July 1990, thereby profoundly destabilizing the Peruvian economy.
Owing to such chronic inflation, the Peruvian currency, the sol, was replaced by the Inti in mid-1985, which itself was replaced the nuevo sol ("new sol") in July 1991, at which time the new sol had a cumulative value of one billion old soles. During his administration, the per capita annual income of Peruvians fell to $720 (below the level of 1960) and Peru’s Gross Domestic Product dropped 20%. By the end of his term, national reserves were a negative $900 million. The economic turbulence of the time acerbated social tensions in Peru and partly contributed to the rise of the violent rebel movement SL. The García administration unsuccessfully sought a military solution to the growing terrorism, committing human rights violations which are still under investigation.
Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from SL, and allegations of official corruption, voters chose a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Kenya Fujimori, as president in 1990. The first round of the election was won by well-known writer Vargas Llosa, a conservative candidate, but Fujimori defeated him in the second round.
Fujimori implemented drastic measures that caused inflation to drop from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. Faced with opposition to his reform efforts, Fujimori dissolved Congress in the auto-golpe of April 5, 1992. He then revised the constitution; called new congressional elections; and implemented substantial economic reform, including privatization of numerous state-owned companies, creation of an investment-friendly climate, and sound management of the economy.
Fujimori’s administration was dogged by several insurgent groups, most notably SL, which carried on a terrorist campaign in the countryside throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He cracked down on the insurgents and was successful in largely quelling them by the late 1990s, but the fight was marred by atrocities committed by the both Peruvian security forces and the
insurgents: the Barrios Altos massacre and La Cantuta massacre by Government paramilitary groups, and the bombings of Tarata and Frecuencia Latina by SL. Those examples subsequently came to be seen as symbols of the human rights violations committed during the last years of violence. With the capture of Abimael Guzmán (known as President Gonzalo) in September 1992, the SL received a severe blow which practically destroyed the organization.
In December 1996, a group of insurgents belonging to the MRTA took over the Japanese embassy in Lima, taking 72 people hostage. Military commandos stormed the embassy compound in May 1997, which resulted in the death of all 15 hostage takers, one hostage, and 2 commandos. It later emerged, however, that Fujimori’s security chief Vladimiro Montesinos may have ordered the killing of at least eight of the rebels after they surrendered.
Fujimori’s constitutionally questionable decision to seek a third term and subsequent tainted victory in June 2000 brought political and economic turmoil. A bribery scandal that broke just weeks after he took office in July forced Fujimori to call new elections in which he would not run. The scandal involved Vladimiro Montesinos, who was shown in a video broadcast on TV bribing a politician to change sides. Montesinos subsequently emerged as the center a vast web of illegal activities, including embezzlement, graft, drug trafficking, as well as human rights violations committed during the war against SL.
In November 2000, Fujimori resigned from office and went to Japan in self-imposed exile, avoiding prosecution for human rights violations and corruption charges by the new Peruvian authorities. His main intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, fled Peru shortly afterwards. Authorities in Venezuela arrested him in Caracas in June 2001 and turned him over to Peruvian authorities; he is now imprisoned and charged with acts of corruption and human rights violations committed during Fujimori’s administration.
A caretaker government presided over by Valentín Paniagua took on the responsibility of conducting new presidential and congressional elections. The elections were held in April 2001; observers considered them to be free and fair. Alejandro Celestino Toledo Manrique (who led the opposition against Fujimori) defeated former President Alan García. The newly elected government took office on July 28, 2001. The Toledo Administration managed to restore some degree of democracy to Peru following the authoritarianism and corruption that plagued both the Fujimori and García governments. Innocents wrongfully tried by military courts during the war against terrorism (1980–2000) were allowed to receive new trials in civilian courts.
On August 28, 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR), which had been charged with studying the roots of the violence of the 1980–2000 period, presented its formal report to the President. President Toledo was forced to make a number of cabinet changes, mostly in response to personal scandals. Toledo’s governing coalition had a minority of seats in Congress and had to negotiate on an ad hoc basis with other parties to form majorities on legislative proposals. Toledo’s popularity in the polls suffered throughout the last years of his regime, due in part to family scandals and in part to
dissatisfaction amongst workers with their share of benefits from Peru’s macroeconomic success. After strikes by teachers and agricultural producers led to nationwide road blockages in May 2003, Toledo declared a state of emergency that suspended some civil liberties and gave the military power to enforce order in 12 regions. The state of emergency was later reduced to only the few areas where the SL was operating.
On July 28, 2006 former president Alan Gabriel Ludwig García Pérez became the current President of Peru. He won the 2006 elections after winning in a runoff against Ollanta Humala. Coastal Peru was hit by a devastating earthquake in August 2007.