Modern Peruvian History: Shining Path - Part 2

You may or may not know about Shining Path before you go to study Spanish in Peru. While the group is not very active today, this organization and its violent past had a major role in shaping Peru's political terrain. Those who attend language school in Peru should know a bit about this group's history before visiting the country.

Shining Path became well known and grew in strength during the 1980s. This organization sought to bring communism to Peru and used torture, terrorism and murder to get its points across. The group's founder, Abimael Guzman, is notorious for his harsh statements, such as "The triumph of the revolution will cost a million lives." Shining Path worked to get rid of the country's political and social order by attacking various leaders including professors. In 1980, they killed landowner Benigno Medina. In 1982, they killed two teachers. Later that year, they publicly executed 67 people who they called traitors.

Shining Path decided not to take part in the country's elections in the 1980s even though this was Peru's first election in over 12 years. Instead the group began a guerilla war against the elections and burned ballot boxes, considering this their first act of war. However, their actions did not really impact the election, as the ballots were replaced and the elections continued. Further, the press did not make a big deal out of the incident.

The way the government initially handled Shining Path is believed to have added to its growth. The government never declared this group's actions to be an emergency. In fact, the Interior Minister of the country mistakenly believed that police actions could take care of the organizations. Because the government downplayed the significance of Shining Path, peasants assumed that the government just didn't care.

At the end of 1981, the Andean regions controlled by Shining Path were finally labeled an "emergency zone" by the Peruvian government." Many innocent people were arrested and unfortunately some massacres were caused by military forces and police. The military trained peasants and organized them to fight in anti-rebel militias to attack the guerillas. In response, Shining Path killed 69 peasants during the Lucanamarca massacre. The guerillas continued to kill peasants in different areas and also set up labor camps where they imprisoned people.

Shining Path also carried out attacks in Lima including sabotaging electrical transmission towers and setting up bombs in government offices. During the Tarata Street bombing in Miraflores, causalities included civilians as well.

By the end of the 1980s, Shining Path controlled much of the countryside in Central and Southern Peru. Guzman's popularity increased. The group outright rejected belief in human rights. An official document stated, "We reject and condemn human rights because they are bourgeois, reactionary, counterrevolutionary rights, and are today a weapon of revisionists and imperialists, principally Yankee imperialists."

Luckily, when you attend language school in Peru, you will no longer see or hear about Shining Path activities. The government has, finally, mostly shut down the group. However, if you are going to study Spanish in Peru, it is important to understand the tumultuous history of this organization.

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

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