Contemporary Peruvian History: Shining Path - Part 3

Learning Spanish in Peru is not just about perfecting your language skills. It's also about absorbing the culture and history of a foreign land. When it comes to Peru's modern history, one of the most influential forces is the Shining Path communist organization. This guerrilla insurgency group played a major role in the 1980s and 90s, and continues to have a very minor influence today. During your time at Spanish school in Peru, you may hear Shining Path mentioned, so it is a good idea to learn some background about the group before you travel.

According to estimates, about 70,000 people were killed in the war against Shining Path. Clearly, this number is quite staggering and speaks to the enormous impact that the group had on Peru. In the early 1990s, Shining Path controlled large areas of Peru, but there were conflicts among their supporters. While many peasants strongly supported the group, others felt that the organization did not respect their cultures and various institutions. Needless to say, the group's extreme level of violence also turned off some would-be supporters.

Various Shining Path actions negatively impacted peasants. For example, they often refused to bury the bodies of victims. They also closed down small and rural markets in an attempt to stop "small-scale" capitalism. Of course, since Shining Path had a Maoist philosophy, they fought against all capitalism.

September 12, 1992 was an important day in the history of Shining Path because Abimeal Guzman, the organization's founder, was captured. Since there was no secondary leader, this capture effectively shut down the group. The group ultimately splintered and the end result was far less guerilla activity.

One active faction of Shining Path is called Proseguir (or Onward). They reportedly continued an alliance with drug traffickers even after the capture of Guzman. Many people believe that they were responsible for a car bomb at a US embassy right before George W. Bush visited the country in 2002.

While Shining Path has undoubtedly slowed down since the early 1990s, there are still representatives in the country that the government is working to keep in check. In 2003, the Peruvian National Police infiltrated a training camp and leaders were taken. The police found about 100 indigenous people who were working as slaves. The government worked hard to root out the Shining Path leaders in the country and found 17 members in 5 different cities. This was progress, but still didn't shut down the organization's operations. In 2004, a man calling himself "Comrade Artemio" came forward stating that he was a Shining Path leader. He said that the group planned to resume violent actions unless the group's imprisoned leaders received amnesty from the government.

Sadly, violence connected with Shining Path continues to this day. In 2008, rebels killed 4 police with grenades and automatic weapons. In 2009, Shining Path killed 13 government soldiers. The Prime Minister stated that these attacks were from "leftover terrorists" and that the region would soon be free of all Shining Path actions.

The war against Shining Path was purported to have ended in 2000, so when you attend a Spanish school in Peru, it is unlikely that any new activities will be taking place. However, in various corners of the country, they continue to exist. Since Shining Path is now an enterprise for illegal drugs, they largely focus on protecting coca fields.

Of course, these days, the number of fatalities is far lower than in the 1980s and early 90s. The organization still claims to be a Maoist insurgency even through their main activity seems to be to operating cocaine operations and protecting drug smugglers. When you learn Spanish in Peru, take time to check the newspapers and watch local television, and you likely will find out the most recent news about Shining Path.

ECELA has two Spanish schools in Peru, in both Lima and Cusco, that provides cultural lessons and activities in addition to the language course. For more information on how to learn Spanish in Peru =>

EasyPublish this article: