The discrimination seen in Peru today can be linked directly to the violence and terror that controlled the last twenty years of the 20th century; however, the problem is rooted deeply in the colonial history of Peru. While the military action was against the uprisings and terrorism of the movements like the revolution of Tupac Amaru and el Sendero Luminoso, the attacks to calm these groups increasingly relied on race distinctions and stereotypes, perpetuating a society of racism.
Before the internal conflict began there was a long standing discrimination against the indigenous peoples and the poor that pushed people to create communist parties to fight for the rights of the people as the documentary, the State of Fear hints at. The indigenous people weren’t given the access to equal education, healthcare, legal systems, civil liberties, economic advances that other people had access to. This keep them poor and as if they were second class citizens. This type of discrimination feed into a local construct of racial discrimination, that you were poor and a lower class citizen as a result of your race, something that the “Choleando” documentary tries to explore.
As terrorism against the government began it made sense for the government to retaliate in order to protect and uphold whatever democratic processes in Peru (as the first attack was against a voting site during one of the first elections) in order to prevent the state entering a state of anarchy. However, very quickly, the situation escalated and the government suspend civil rights. The State of Fear discussed events like military and martial law under Fujimori, and Terry suspended constitutional rights. Essentially, the people of Peru gave up their right for a democracy for security from an internal terrorist threat. Without these government protections the government and the military had a free card to violate human rights against whomever in as brutal a manner as they wanted.
Soon the government was relying on stereotypes and long enduring racism in the country to detain and or kill any of the 69 thousand Peruvians that died or disappeared (CVR). Since many of the uprisings began in the rural villages where many of the indigenous people lived, the government came to the very basic and simplified decisions that all indigenous people were worthy of the violence to eradicate the leftist movement. “Of every four victims of the violence, three were peasants or farmers whose mother tongue was quechua, a large sector of the population historically ignored – even occasionally despised – by the State and urban society.”(CVR) The society of non-integration(CVR), the society of Lima vs the rural areas(NY Times), the society of first class citizen vs second class citizen (class discussion) created a breeding ground to commit these human rights atrocities on the indigenous peoples. The inequality rationalized the violence. It made it acceptable. The “hunt” for the terrorists, who only wanted the government to notice and improve the lives of their people, soon became a cover to install fear, to destroy and to repress a group of the population that the government had continually ignored throughout history.
The racism and discrimination of Peru during that time was so large scaled, government endorsed, and violent that it will take a long time for healing. That type of discrimination is instilled in the mindset and ways. For example, the child discussed in the NY Times article and the situation discussed in the National Geographic article still hint at a racism instilled with neglect and stereotypes respectively. Both of which were largely impacted the turn of events in the 80’s and 90’s of Peru. Granted the violence is not there now, many of the attitudes still exist. I like to think that people realized that violence and the mass killings are not an appropriate way to handle to a situation and race, but thats just me.
*Discurso de Presentación del Informe Final de La CVR (CVR)