Abstract: This paper interrogates the function of violence as a catalyst in the construction, proliferation, and transfer of developmentalist environmental imaginaries between state and non-state actors in Peru’s Huallaga Valley during the latter half of the twentieth century. Specifically, I ask how the 1960s project of road colonization helped to codify a set of masculinist and capitalist spatializations (Ojeda Ojeda 2011, Sundberg 2003, Merchant 1989) that were repeated, mimicked and reformulated through coerced confessions in cases of criminal drug trafficking through the 1970s and 1980s.
Work on the spatial dynamics of state formation pits dominant state fixations (Craib 2004) against localized discourses of resistance. By blending work that examines nature through a modernity / coloniality and decolonial thinking (MCD) lens (Blaser 2010, Escobar 2008) with Michael Taussig’s (1986) concept of the space of death, I examine the land narratives generated through legal encounters. I contend that, in the court, subaltern actors hardly resisted the Peruvian state’s discourse of jungle colonialism. Instead, they often lent exceptional detail and nuance to the state’s broad understanding of the Huallaga Valley as a developable space. Torture and other forms of coercion figured significantly in such encounters and were a catalyst for the invention of the Huallaga’s cocaine imaginary.
This paper’s contribution is two-fold. First, it introduces new archival sources that significantly complicate and sometimes contradict the burgeoning historiography of Huallaga cocaine. Second, it situates the growth of Peru’s illicit cocaine industry along a broader trajectory of state-orchestrated experiments in jungle colonization.
Santos-Granero, Fernando, and Frederica Barclay. Ordenes y desórdenes en la Selva Central: historia y economía de un espacio regional. Instituto de Estudios Andinos, 1995.
Federica Barclay and Fernando Santos Granero treat the Selva Central provinces of Chanchamayo, Satipo and Oxapampa as constituting a “regional space” subject to the constant ordering and disordering of its ebb and flow from the influence of coastal and highland markets. Using cadastral data on tenurial regimes and land use, Barclay and Santos argued that production of export-oriented crops—namely coffee and fruits—operated as a model for increasing waves of migrants despite the fact it was often done on unsuitable land slated for other extractive pursuits like logging. For Barclay and Santos, deforestation in the Selva Central was the product of the region’s unruly status as hinterland, where extraction and demographic pressure met with ecologically sensitive lands with disastrous consequences. As but one example of the devastating effects of road colonization, Barclay and Santos analyzed SAN photographs from the Kivanaki region of the Perené Valley. They concluded that between the years 1977 and 1983—while La Marginal was in construction through the area—annual deforestation rates rose to more than twelve percent of the land surface. (229-247)
“The government convenes the greatest highway bidding in the country’s history.” That announcement in Lima newspapers in March 1964 presented the Tarapoto-Río Nieva road to the public in a fashion typical of development boosterism—brash, bold, and only partially true. Tarapoto, nestled as it was in the remotest corner of the Huancabamba Depression, was only reachable by air on its western approach, and the new highway promised at last to connect coastal markets with the vast arable lands of the Huallaga Valley. The Huallaga, a diverse and dynamic area of the Western Amazon, was the site of rich, transnational imaginings for a host of actors ranging from national planners and global construction giants, to early climate scientists, campesinos and cocaine cartels. The highway was the lynchpin in President Fernando Belaúnde Terry’s pet project, the Carretera Marginal de la Selva, which enlisted Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia in a quixotic enterprise aimed at colonizing the eastern Andean flank through one vast road network. Billed as a response to worries of demographic explosion and concentrated land ownership, politicians and international boosters resorted to racial and gender imaginaries to tout La Marginal as a crucial motor of economic growth and regional interdependence that hinged specifically on exploitation of the subtropical dry forests that dotted valleys like the Huallaga. La Marginal represented the reigning development doctrine’s imposition on the Huallaga landscape and a critical component of its construction was a scientific appropriation of the region’s socio-ecological realities. One phenomenon that fed this boom in Huallaga development was the early introduction and utilization of aviation as a means of transport and study.
Veber, Hanne, ed. Historias para nuestro futuro: yotantsi ashi otsipaniki : narraciones autobiográficas de líderes Asháninkas y Ashéninkas. Copenhague: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 2009.
Veber has put together a fascinating collection of oral histories that cover the lives and struggles of seven Asháninka organizers from the Selva Central. Inspired by Wolf’s dictum, this volume seeks to enrich the growing body of literature about Selva Central history by introducing indigenous personal histories in juxtaposition against the documentary evidence marshaled by the usual suspects in asháninka historiography: Barclay, Santos Granero, Fernández, Hvalkof, Varese, etc.
The seven informants whose accounts comprise this volume were or are all leaders of regional indigenous organizations. Miguel Camaiteri, from Oventeni in the Gran Pajonal, served as secretary of defense for his community in their struggle to gain recognition as a Comunidad Nativa. He later worked with the Central de Comunidades Nativas de la Selva Central and became a crucial agent on the defense of bilingual rights and language education in the Gran Pajonal. He was also one of the leaders responsible for organizing the rondas campesinas that fought Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA through the late 1980s and early 1990s. (10) When Miguel was elected regidor of the town of Atalaya, his brother, Pascual, a leader in his own right, took over the chairmanship of the Organización de los Ashéninkas del Gran Pajonal (OAGP).(12) As the regional president of CECONCEC in Chanchamayo and Perené, Miqueas Mishari was a crucial ally of the Camaiteris and was himself responsible for expanding the organization through the Selva Central. (12) Bernardo Silva Loayza, another activist working in Atalaya, served as a militant in (OIRA) and now works as president of the Empresa Comunal Indígena de Atalaya “La Minga”, while Vicente Ñaco, Adolfo Gutiérrez and Agusto Capurro were all members of other regional organizations.
Horna, Hernan “South America’s Marginal Highway.” Journal of Developing Areas, Vol. 10 No. 4 (1976): pp. 409-424.
This piece comes across as an apologist ode to Belaúnde, peppered with statistics—the same ones Denevan uses, drawn from Stokes—and resting on a toothpick foundation forged from press accounts—Peruvian Times, Time, The New York Times and Semana en el Perú. There are, however, some redeeming qualities. For instance, Horna, while absolving Belaúnde of any guilt in his administration’s 1968 lackluster performance, focuses not just on the APRA-UNO opposition, but also in the American backlash to Belaúnde’s modest protectionism. Also, Horna gives a cursory account of the ways in which the Velasco administration carried the Marginal mantle into the context of the 1970s Amazonian oil boom. Interestingly, here Horna seems to continue embracing the view that road colonization will assuage the social strife caused by demographic pressure placed on land, while at the same time recognizing that roads were mostly built because of their value on the international stage: securing boundaries and resources, integrating markets (Andean Pact 1971, LAFTA), etc. This unique local-transnational symbiosis seems to result in part from the exorbitant costs of jungle road construction—$200,000 / mile in 1967 (416)—and the dependence that generates on international lenders.
Two other valuable aspects of this piece are the brief mention of Colombian, Ecuadorian and Bolivian participation in the continental dimensions of La Marginal’s construction. Also, this article is littered with anecdotal delicacies: like Belaúnde’s 1963 birthday gift of 25,000 tools (415); The pomp and circumstance where the Bolivian and Peruvian sections of the road were joined (414); Velasco’s effort to connect La Marginal to the Trans-Amazonian (418); and the quixotic hope of continental completion by 1995 (420).
Davis, Mike. Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb. London: Verso, 2007.
Buda’s Wagon is a good read. It’s clearly oriented toward a more popular readership and thus is lacking the detail and evidence one might hope for, but the approach is exciting. Davis follows the history of the car bomb, marking significant developments—from the early “wagon bombing” of Wall street in 1920, to the Stern Gang’s deployment of the car bomb as a go-to weapon of choice against the British, to the introduction of ammonium nitrate-fuel oil bombs in Madison, 1970, to the siege of cities like Beirut, Lima and Belfast—in the car bomb's trajectory as part of the “poor man’s air force.” This book is chronological, spanning the entire twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and global in scale. What ties the narrative together is the constant development of evermore-destructive innovations in the car bomb’s implementation.
Marisol de la Cadena. Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919-1991. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.
Marisol de la Cadena’s Indigenous Mestizos tracks the roots and practices of what she calls “de-indianization,” or the process by which the racism that differentiates between categories of “Indian” and “mestizo” is reproduced and contested by working-class Cuzco residents. Balancing intellectual history and ethnography, the book charts elite ideas of race throughout the twentieth century and then examines the ambivalent reprocessing of those ideas by indigenous organizations, other intellectuals, as well as in daily practice in markets, and public and religious rituals.
She argues that Cuzco elites first developed a discourse of indigenismo as a way of distinguishing themselves from the modernist discourses of mestizaje that were associated with Lima. Meanwhile indigenous groups like the Comité Pro-Derecho Indígena Tawuantinsuyu perpetuated a vision of Indian-ness steeped in modern rhetoric of progress through education. By the 1930s and 1940s indigenista elites found competition in the form of “neo-indianist” ideas that, rather than exalting an idealized Inca past, promoted a discourse of mestizaje. Finally there were the Marxists, who, in the form of the Federación de Trabajadores del Cuzco in the 1950s and in the form of the government by the time Velasco famously turned Indians into peasants, represented the closest allies of indigenous cuzqueños. In the waning days of indigenismo, after the defeat of the Tawantinsuyu’s racialized pro-indigenous project, the alignment of indigenous issues with unions meant a confluence of race and class. While de la Cadena argues biology had never served the basis for twentieth-century racial categories, the general trajectory that she describes is one in which Indian-ness goes from being defined by culture, to being defined by class.