Peter Klarén on The Lima Reader (LARR)

(…) That does not mean that the capital city, with upward of a third of the total population of the country and its historic place of power, is not still a very important object of historical analysis and widespread interest. This is verified with the appearance of The Lima Reader, which deserves attention here as a worthy complement to the five volumes reviewed above. An anthology of primary selections expertly edited by well-known Peruvianist historians Carlos Aguirre and Charles Walker, the book spans a spectrum of epochs and topics from the Incas and conquest to the modern day. It brings together an extraordinarily rich array of original sources such as travel accounts, historical documents, folklore, poetry, excerpts from short stories and memoirs, maps, and photographs, including translated selections of notable historical and literary figures as well as contemporary intellectuals, politicians, and scholars. In addition to exploring Lima’s identity through its food, sports culture, festivals, and sense of humor, these sources “address how Lima’s multiethnic population, class inequalities and debates of who is a ‘true’ limeño/a have evolved throughout the city’s history” (back cover).

The reader is organized into six chronological sections: “Pre-Hispanic, Conquest and Early Colony,” “Bourbon Lima,” “From Independence to the War of the Pacific (1821–1883),” “Modernizing Lima (1895–1940),” “Interlude: Nostalgia and Its Discontents,” and “The Many Limas (1940–).” The latter two sections are decidedly weighted toward the period since 1940, with a total of twenty-three entries (114 pages) versus the previous five centuries with thirty-one entries (134 pages). Given the projected readership, mainly university students and lay readers, this emphasis is entirely appropriate. Each section and selection or entry begins with a short introduction that concisely summarizes its contents.

The very first chapter, entitled “Pre-Hispanic Lima,” captures the beginning of what would become multiethnic Lima over the next five centuries. Francisco Pizarro and his fellow Spanish conquistadors vainly tried to separate themselves from the conquered indigenous by founding their capital city on the coast far from the Indian core, the Inca imperial capital Cuzco. Yet from the moment of its founding, the City of the Kings was intimately tied to the indigenous people, who not only surrounded it but had built a plethora of huacas, native holy shrines whose remains still dot the city landscape even today. The ensuing process of racial and cultural mixing with the Hispanic population would quickly doom the policy of dividing and segregating Peru into two republics, Spaniards and Indians, as dictated from Madrid.

Garcilaso de La Vega’s description of this early attempt at separation, of course, was not the only reason for the selection of coastal Lima as the new capital, since commerce and trade with Spain and Europe was also paramount. Over time that would bring other components that contributed to the multiethnic composition of the city and colony, such as African slave labor for nearby sugar plantations and as household servants. By the eighteenth century Lima would be described by some as a predominantly black city, as described in several entries, such as Flora Tristan’s “A Slave Plantation,” and another by Natalia Majluf on Pancho Fierro, the Afro-Peruvian watercolorist who brilliantly depicted the Afro population of the city. “Faces of All Colors” by Hipólito Ruiz adds an example of the ugly racial discrimination that the capital’s dominant “white” population subjected this dark-skinned underclass, but which ironically also tagged the creole elite as inferior to Europeans (Spaniards).

Fast-forward to the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Lima’s population assumed still another racial dimension. This time Chinese and Japanese indentured servants were brought to work in the guano fields and plantations and in railroad construction, respectively, and many eventually found their way to Lima once completing their work contracts. Their ancestors are today’s Asian component that dominates the small retail or bodega trade as well as the famous Chinese restaurants of Lima, called chifas. A variety of Europeans, of course, arrived in Lima from abroad during this time as well.

However, not until the advent of the tidal wave of rural-urban migration that began to build after World War II, particularly during the lost decade of the 1980s economic crisis and internal war, did the ever growing indigenous and mestizo population inundate the capital city. The entry by anthropologist José Matos Mar entitled “A City of Outsiders” superbly chronicles the “Andeanization” of Lima, as does Gisela Canepa’s “Chicha and Huayno: Andean Music and Culture in Lima.” Lima’s population would increasingly resemble the mestizo nation that some argued Peru was becoming.

Numerous entries in the reader, of course, also treat the conflict and periodic violence that erupted as these disparate ethnicities struggled against the exploitation and discrimination they faced in everyday life. These include “A Failed Indian Uprising in the 1750s” (Anonymous), “Chinese Are Not Welcome” by Mariano Castro Zaldivar and, of course, various entries on the War of the Shining Path and accompanying human rights violations. Moreover, wars both external and internal are skillfully treated, such as in “The National Library and the Chilean Occupation” by E. W. Middendorf and numerous gripping entries on the Shining Path such as “The Great March of Villa El Salvador” by Jose María Salcedo, “The Day Lima Erupted” by Enrique Zileri, “The Tarata Street Bombing,” and “Shining Path: A Prisoner’s Testimony,” the latter two drawn from the 2002 Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación, Perú).

Modernizing Lima, a city undergoing intense change at the turn of the twentieth century, features several notable entries such as José Gálvez’s “Transformation of Lima after 1895,” Luis Alberto Sánchez’s autobiographical description of “A Middle-Class House in 1900,” “The Growing Popular Taste for Soccer” from El Comercio; entries on religion and the church include “The Spiritual Diary of an Afro-Peruvian Mystic” by Ursula de Jesús, “Auto-da-Fé and Procession,” by Josephe and Francisco Mugaburu, and José Carlos Mariátegui’s “The Lord of the Miracles Procession.”

How to represent the enormous variety, diversity, and contrasts of Lima represents the great challenge to the editors of The Lima Reader. For in the city one finds affluent neighborhoods with manicured lawns of the great mansions; quaint, tidy middle-class sections; and new, teeming hilltop shantytowns. In the historic downtown center, belle époque buildings compete with colonial-era churches, monasteries, and convents and modern bustling business establishments and official buildings, all clustered together on narrow streets, together forming only 5 percent of the sprawling city. In this difficult endeavor, as perhaps one would expect, the editors succeed admirably in selecting the best passages (and photographs) that can be found to represent the rich material and cultural tapestry that unfolds in the City of the Kings over the centuries.

Peru since Independence, a Tortured History,” Latin American Research Review 53.4 (2018): 847-856.

Reseña de “Andean Truths: Transitional Justice, Ethnicity, and Cultural Production in Post-Shining Path Peru”

A charitable interpretation of Andean Truths: Transitional Justice, Ethnicity, and Cultural Production in Post-Shining Path Peru (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015) would proclaim that Anne Lambright has written two books. At the core, she provides a fine analysis of the diverse ways that individuals and communities processed, commemorated, or remembered the gruesome violence of Peru from 1980 to 1992, when the Shining Path and the Peruvian state outdid one another in human rights violations. She examines cinema, literature, theater, and art (individual and collective) to explore the many ways that people understood the violence and its aftermath as well as potential paths toward reconciliation or justice. She frames this project, however, by casting the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and its final report as a conformist or mainstream version of events written from the perspective of the powers that be in Lima. The works that she studies, from her perspective, radically diverge from and question the CVR. This is a terrible misrepresentation that puts into question the validity of her larger arguments.

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Reseña de La rebelión de Tupac Amaru, por María Paula Parolo


Charles Walker aborda desde una perspectiva de análisis renovadora, una temática muy transitada por la historiografía. Si bien la vida de Tupac Amaru vertebra el esquema del relato, éste no se reduce a su biografía sino a una historia social amplia de la rebelión de 1780, analizada a partir y a través de su líder y conductor (José Gabriel Condorcanqui), su esposa (Micaela Bastidas) y sus familiares más cercanos (sus hermanos, sus hijos, su cuñado, sus más allegados seguidores). Para ello, el autor utiliza los aportes de la prolífica historiografía sobre el período en general y sobre la rebelión en particular; apela a un corpus documental denso y variado y a un estilo narrativo fluido y dinámico, en el que combina el aporte justo de datos empíricos con acertadas descripciones del entorno natural –respaldadas por imágenes y mapas de época– y las necesarias reflexiones historiográficas que giran en torno a un debate medular: ¿la modernidad y el proceso de civilización reducen, incrementan o modifican la violencia?
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La rebelión de Tupac Amaru, reseña de Wilson González Demuro

La Guerra Fría, la descolonización y las revoluciones tercermundistas de segunda mitad del siglo XX ejercieron una gran influencia en los estudios históricos sobre el mundo rural latinoamericano. Desde los años 1960 se han multiplicado los análisis y las discusiones teórico-metodológicas sobre las formas de agitación agraria, un debate que los grandes aniversarios de las independencias (sesquicentenarios y bicentenarios) contribuyeron a profundizar. Las formas de hacer política en tiempos revolucionarios y los mecanismos de participación/negociación implementados por los sectores «populares», «subalternos» o «plebeyos» —tema poco o mal considerado en épocas precedentes— es objeto de mayor atención. Investigadores como Raúl Fradkin vienen proponiendo que las vertientes más renovadoras de la historiografía, como la nueva historia política y la historia popular, profundicen sus diálogos en torno a esas experiencias de acción popular colectiva.

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La Rebelión de Tupac Amaru, reseña por Cora Virginia Bunster


Este pormenorizado y atrapante relato de la rebelión de Túpac Amaru tiene una doble virtud; es de difusión, por lo tanto está dirigido a un público más amplio que el estrictamente académico, pero al mismo tiempo ha sido escrito por un especialista en Historia peruana del período tardocolonial en base a bibliografía especializada y fuentes de archivo poco explotadas por otros investigadores. Walker escudriña estas fuentes tratando de restituirle voz y protagonismo a sectores subalternos como las masas indígenas, el liderazgo femenino y la tropa española. Este liderazgo estaría encarnado especialmente por Micaela Bastidas -esposa del Rebelde-, Tomasa Tito Condemayta -cacica de Acos- y Bartolina Sisa y Gregoria Apaza -esposa y hermana de Túpac Katari, respectivamente.

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Prólogo a Colección Documental “La rebelión de Tupac Amaru II”


El 16 de setiembre de 1969, el Gobierno Revolucionario de las Fuerzas Armadas, dirigido por el General Juan Velasco Alvarado, creó la Comisión Nacional del Sesquicentenario de la Independencia Peruana. Entre las responsabilidades de la Comisión se encontraba la publicación de una copiosa colección de fuentes primarias (y algunas secundarias) en torno al proceso de independencia del país. La Colección Documental de la Independencia Peruana (CDIP), como se llamaría posteriormente, incluyó documentos provenientes de archivos peruanos y extranjeros. Aunque no llegó a cumplir su meta original de 106 volúmenes, la Comisión supervisó la edición y publicación de 86 volúmenes, dentro de los cuales se encontraba el tomo II (cuatro volúmenes) sobre «La rebelión de Túpac Amaru», en una edición de alta calidad para ese entonces. Carlos Daniel Valcárcel supervisó los tres primeros volúmenes de dicho tomo y Guillermo Durand Flórez se hizo cargo del último.

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Review of The Diary of Heinrich Witt (Edited by Ulrich Mücke)


Here is my review of the massive, ten-volume collection of Heinrich Witt’s memoirs. Kudos to Ulrich Mücke. As I stress in the review, this is a wonderful source for Peruvian history. I would love to see someone digitalize the index (and perhaps translate it). That way researchers can find references to topics as diverse Chinese in Lima to muleteers in the Andes. Translate all ten volumes, thousands of pages, might be too much to ask. -CW

Born near Hamburg in 1799, Heinrich Witt arrived in Peru in 1824 and spent most of his life there as an agent for a number ofmerchant houses, including his own. He crossed the Atlantic numerous times, traveling extensively in Europe as well as Peru and Chile. Witt dedicated extraordinary effort to his diaries, writing almost daily (in English) and revising it with the aid of secretaries. When his vision declined in his old age, he had friends and employees read it out loud to him, allowing him to relive his anecdotes and to make corrections and additions. He ultimately wrote thirteen volumes with more than 11,000 pages, although only ten volumes are available today. In print, the ten volumes add up to more than 5,500 pages. The online version sold by Brill includes two rough drafts of diaries not part of the print edition.

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La rebelión de Tupac Amaru, reseña de Nicanor Domínguez Faura


La «gran rebelión» surandina de 1780-1783 ha retomado actualidad con la publicación, primero en inglés (2014) y luego en castellano (2015), del nuevo libro del historiador norteamericano Charles Walker. Al optar por una historia narrativa que presenta paso a paso el desarrollo de los sucesos y muestra así las incertidumbres del momento, su autor no solo evita un análisis determinista, sino que logra exponer de manera clara y crítica las interpretaciones, tanto previas como propias, sobre el movimiento rebelde, aunque sin abundar en debates historiográficos. Esta estrategia discursiva y analítica —que sigue los criterios originales de los editores estadounidenses— hace que esta obra sea más accesible a un público lector bastante amplio; allí reside, sin duda, una de las razones de su éxito editorial.

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Reseña de The Tupac Amaru Rebellion, por Anthony McFarlane

In this study of the Tupac Amaru rebellion, the first to appear in English since 1966, Charles Walker offers a lucid and engaging account of the Andean peasant insurrections which, as they swept through the southern Andes in the early 1780s, confronted Spanish rule with its longest and most violent challenge before the wars of independence. He focuses primarily on the movement started by the charismatic Indian noble who took the name ‘Tupac Amaru’ to signal his claims to Inca kingship, and, backed by family members, used his social prestige and connections to mobilise peasant insurrection in the old Inca heartlands. This is, however, part of a bigger story, in which Walker traces the interactions between the rebellion of Quechua-speaking rebels around Cuzco and the several distinctive uprisings among peasant communities in Upper Peru (Bolivia), some of which pre-dated Tupac Amaru’s rebellion and had a dynamic of their own. In so doing, he aims at creating a comprehensive, comparative picture of these intersecting rebellions, asking why they started and spread, who became involved, what the rebels wanted and believed, how they behaved, and what they achieved.

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La rebelión de Tupac Amaru, reseña por Rafael Diego-Fernández Sotelo


Por principio de cuentas cabe mencionar que la obra en cuestión fue originalmente publicada en inglés en 2014 por la prestigiosa editorial Harvard University Press, así como que resultó incluida por el Financial Times en la lista de los mejores libros de historia de ese año, y de inmediato fue traducida al español y publicada en Perú por la también prestigiosa editorial Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (iep), edición que fue muy bien recibida por la crítica especializada.

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