Mensaje a Congreso, 1965
According to Fernando Belaúnde’s annual address to Congress in 1965, Cooperación Popular-supported projects finished some 2,660 kilometers of road between May 1, 1964, and June 1, 1965.
Accompanying his address, as is tradition, came a meticulously compiled tome that reported the activities of every government ministry over the previous year. The document itself betrayed a striking capacity for orchestration and coordination by taking the achievements of entities so disparate as the Peruvian Industrial Bank (BID) and the Civic Air Service and uniting them under the title El Perú construye (Peru Builds). In 794 pages one overlying narrative was communicated: building equaled progress. This message was reinforced by a barrage of statistics and upward-tilting graphs as well as dozens upon dozens of photographs.
By the end of 1963, Peru could boast a total of 41,458.413 kilometers of road, a mere 10.2 percent of which (4,206.720) was paved. Belaúnde stressed these numbers in his address to highlight the need for paving and set up his government’s National Highways Plan. The numbers, when coupled with highways investments over the previous decade and aligned with the Public Works Ministry’s projections, painted a compelling picture, one that not only built urgency, but also instilled a sense of progression by establishing a goal and demonstrating movement toward that goal. Using the 300 some-odd million soles spent in 1954 as a baseline, the Ministry could claim a total increase of 254 percent in highways spending by 1964, which included work toward paving 73.5 percent of the country’s roads that had yet to be surfaced, as well as construction of new roads. Moreover, the ministry’s future- looking National Highways Plan estimated that in order to fully realize agro- industrial potential, they would need to improve 8,184 kilometers of existing roads and build 3,420 kilometers of new roads, all at an estimated total cost of 17.8 billion soles over ten years. The numbers therefore set two objectives: paving 73.5 percent of the nation’s roads while also building more than 3,000 kilometers of new roads. And they drew a twenty-year scale, reaching ten years back for a baseline spending figure and ten years forward for achievement of the established objectives. By situating the country at the center of that scale, the figures flattered Belaúnde’s government without instilling a sense of completion. If we play the counterfactual, the baseline highways investment figure could have been set at 1963 instead of 1954, but the Ministry of Public Works’ laudable 254-percent spending increase would have shrunk to only 77 percent. Likewise, the ministry could have devised a National Highways Plan looking 20 years into the future, though that would have further diluted the efficacy of its projections and perhaps also diminished the sense of urgency that those projections instilled. Instead, the statistics used to quantify the country’s road reality, much like those used throughout the text of El Perú construye, demonstrated that significant investments were being made and planning was happening. Those numbers conveyed a sense of progress. Peru was building.
While statistics were leveraged to represent how Peru was building, fifty-four graphs provided a shorthand for that progression. That graphs lend visuality to numbers should not surprise, but the graphs deployed in El Perú construye depicted progress in another way altogether. Whether visualizing studies of potable water supply, metric tonnes of stock in world fisheries, or the number of local offices of the Agrarian Research and Promotion Service (SIPA), the overwhelming majority of graphs presented to Congress showed a drastic upward progression. Indeed, of the fifty-four, a paltry three indicated any decline: one depicting railroad investments, the other two malaria rates. Thus as one flipped through the document s/he was exposed to a metanarrative of growth, as the eye travelled across the page, the bars got bigger and the lines got higher.
The use of graphs to synthesize the achievements of the Cooperación Popular program induced the same sense of progress, but while simultaneously relating economic miscegenation in visual terms, albeit with ambiguous results. For when condensed into graph form, the miscegenation metaphor broke down. Everywhere Cooperación Popular was discussed it was framed as harnessing Peru’s millennial traditions so the country as a whole cold achieve modern goals. Through popular cooperation local tradition was to meet the modern state in a unifying harmony that produced results. Yet when the inputs of these two disparate entities were expressed in valuational terms they remained staunchly opposed. And the effect of maintaining the discreteness of each entity’s contribution was to situate local communities as the primary motors of development and progress.
Cooperación Popular projects were separated into 5 investment categories: electrification and industrial projects; road works; communal structures; irrigation projects; and sanitary works. For each category investments were broken into two groups: the communities and the state. Between May 1, 1964 and June 1, 1965, for instance, the value of community labour expended on building public structures was close to 60 million soles, while the Ministry of Public Works invested only about 45 million in the same. Likewise, communities put more in labour into irrigation and sanitary projects than the state directly expended. In all but industry and electrification the investment in terms of communal workdays outweighed state expenditures, and this fact was seized upon to emphasize COOPOP as a decentralized program, one in which a reconfiguration of Peruvian tradition prevailed and the role of the state was as midwife ushering the countryside into modernity. Nowhere was this more evident than in roadwork.
Building a branch road is labour-intensive. While irrigation installations and communal buildings required substantial capital expenditures to cover materials, equipment and technical advising, branch roads of the type built under the Cooperación Popular rubric consisted of large groups of men with hand tools, cutting through the countryside. This made road-building an exercise that was uniquely suited to the COOPOP style of development because avoidance of labour costs would significantly decrease expenditures. Indeed, for the period covering May through Dec. 1964, community labour accounted for nearly eighty-five percent of the total cost of COOPOP road projects, leaving the state to cover just over 15 percent. In comparison, the Ministry of Public Works was saddled with more than thirty percent of the cost to build community structures.
Finally, use of photography in the report to Congress reinforced the general idea conveyed through statistics and graphing by normalizing a view of what progress looked like. Many of the images depicted political meetings or politicians in the field shaking the hands of common folk who were busy conducting their daily labour. Agro-industrial activities such as crop experiments, land-title adjudications, and irrigation also figured prominently. But an overwhelming majority of the photos included in the report represented construction. Birdseye views of social housing shells, mid-build, projecting out of flat, graded, soon-to-be-urban monotony lands; strong horizontals of rigid steel-and-concrete hospital skeletons, adorned in rebar forests; and a litany of landscapes described by S-curving, switchbacking and straight- shooting asphalt and gravel roads trailing in the wake of bulldozers and work parties. Amongst all these images, the reader was hard put to find a completed build; everything was in the process, echoing the same sense of becoming, in medias res, enshrined in the numerical projections and graphs that fed the general narrative thrust of El Perú construye.
The images also hinted at who would be the actor responsible for bringing development. If Cruchaga and Cerritelli’s spatialization of popular cooperation envisioned the consumers of progress and COOPOP directors Eduardo Orrego and Luis Vier championed the peasant as its producers, El Perú construye hinted at a new, post-humanist subjectivity that would effect progress on a modern scale.
Few of the people photographed were identified by name. Instead, captions stressed people’s occupations and activities. Government officials were identified by their position: Minister of Agriculture, President of the Republic, Director of SIPA, etc. Yet they constituted a fraction of the people that appeared throughout the document, most of whom were unnamed workers engaged in economically important tasks. The most common subject, however, was the machine by far: hydroelectric generators, helicopters, bulldozers, derricks, loaders, excavators, motor graders, and all sorts of air- water- and land-going vehicle. The machine was a continual presence in the imagery and figured prominently in the accompanying captions. Thus, despite COOPOP’s lionizing the peasant, and the obvious preeminence of government officials in this government document, the report’s visual substance left no confusion about who was the main motor of progress. It was the machine.
 This number was a projection based on the hard number of 1,971 kilometers built between May and Dec. 1964. Gobierno del Perú, “El Perú construye” mensaje presentado al Congreso de la República por el Presidente Constitucional de la República Arquitecto Fernando Belaúnde Terry (Lima, Perú, 1965), xl, 386.
 Here I am drawing from Bronfman?s look at the juxtaposition of statistics and photography in Israel Castellanos’ La delincuencia femenina en Cuba. Alejandra Bronfman, “The Allure of Technology: Photographs, Statistics and the Elusive Female Criminal in 1930s Cuba,” Gender & History 19, no. 1 (2007): 60–77.
 Gobierno del Perú, El Perú construye, 180–81.
 Ibid., xxx.
 For some examples, see: Ibid., 559, 439, 425.
 Ibid., 242, 578–79.
 Government officials were identified as jefes de la Dirección de Caminos, obreros de la Dirección de Caminos, El Sr. Presidente de la República, Ministro de Agricultura, el Director de SIPA, Secretario General del Ministerio de Agricultura, el Ministro de Trabajo, Directivos del Servicio Civíco, el gabinete del presidente. Military personnel were referred to using Batallón de Paracaidistas, Batallón de Ingenieros, soldados, grupos de soldados, un soldado, and nuestra Infantería de Marina. Everyday citizens were referred to mostly regarding their role in the economy: comuneros, agricultores, obreros, feudatarios, padres de familia, pobladores, un poblador, un ganadero, and líderes de las Comunidades Campesinas. The captions included two names: Sr. Constantino Manzo and Arquitecto Fernando Belaúnde Terry.