Contemporary Peruvian History: Shining Path - Part 1

You might never directly hear about the Shining Path when you learn Spanish in Peru. However, is it important to realize that this is the country's insurgent guerilla organization and they caused a great deal of havoc in the 1980s and 1990s. Shining Path is also often referred to as the "Communist Party of Peru." Over the years, this group has had a great deal of influence over the country.

If you had been attending Spanish school in Peru in 1980, you would have definitely known about this organization. During this time, they initiated huge conflicts in the country. Though Shining Path claimed to usher in the "new democracy," their legacy was one of crime and violence.

One of the original goals of Shining Path was to promote communism throughout the country. Shining Path had a militant Maoist doctrine, which set the group apart from the Communist Party of Peru. If you are wondering where this group got its name, it is interesting to note that "Shining Path" comes from a quote from the 1920s from Jose Carlos Mariategui who said, "Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution." Even outside of Peru, you may have heard of Shining Path's ideas because they influenced other insurgent groups like the Communist Party in Nepal.

In 1992, Abimeal Guzman, the organization's leader was captured. Guzman was a former university professor from San Cristobal of Huamanga University. He founded the group in the 1960s and was the first to emphasize the importance of its teaching. Many students in Guzman's university classes adopted this group's philosophies. In fact, the group used student councils initially to get its ideas across. In the 1970s, it controlled the student councils at the Universities of Huancayo and La Cantuta.

In the 1980s, Shining Path held meetings in Ayacucho. A "Revolutionary Directorate" was formed and the group spent time strategizing about how to become more and more militant in nature. Plans included opening a military school where students could learn how to use weapons properly.

From the beginning, the government of Peru viewed Shining Path as an organization of terrorists, as the group continuously brutalized various people including peasants, members of trade unions, and elected officials. The EU and Canada also considered this group to be a terrorist organization. Without a doubt, Shining Path was an extremely dangerous organization. In 1981, the government of Peru stated that terrorism would be considered a "special crime."

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Shining Path was responsible for a huge number of fatalities. Their group often stated idealistic goals, but always seemed to resort to extremely violent tactics. However, they were able to get support among peasants and indigenous people who faced poverty and desperately wanted assistance and help.

The good news is that if you learn Spanish in Peru today, Shining Path has little impact on the country. Their activities have slowed significantly since the 1980s. These days the most activity among Shining Path members involves smuggling and selling cocaine.

ECELA Lima is a Spanish school in Peru that provides cultural lessons and activities in addition to the language course. For more information on how to learn Spanish in Peru =>

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