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The participation of Peruvian women in controversial politics remains active

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It is not easy to find records of the participation of peasant and indigenous women in the controversial politics of Peru. But our current access to technology and the Internet allows us to see, in real time, the many ways in which rural and indigenous women face violence, racism and discrimination because of their political participation. Mercedes Chrysostom (University College London – American Institute) she recently explored these topics in her piece thesis and compare these movements with the current social rest in Peru.

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On 4 February 2023, Aida Aroni Chilcce, a Quechua woman born in the Huancapi area of ​​Ayacucho but displaced in Lima due to the internal armed conflict (1980-2000), together with other demonstrators, took to the streets to protest against Dina Boluarte. authoritarian government. In a video of the demonstration, it can be noted that, before her arrest, Aida was wearing a Peruvian flag and using a megaphone to complain about Boluarte and the police repression of the protests. The video showed Aida in the middle of thousands of marchers and a cordon of shielded police. A moment later, The police quickly stripped her and violently arrested her while also begging them not to throw tear gas bombs.

After two days of arbitrary imprisonment, the police released her. Outside the police station, in an interview with a journalist, Aida, speaking in Quechua, sent a message to Boluarte saying, “you are making people suffer. Why are you doing this? Is this money? You may not realize, but as people wear them presidents, people wear them too.” She also emphasized: “I don’t walk carrying a stone, I don’t give in to vandalism, I carry my red and white Peruvian flag”. The protests in which Aida is participating began after President Pedro Castillo, a rural school teacher and unionist, was removed from power after he closed Parliament and declared a government of exception. Boluarte, as vice-president, replaced him.

Protests in the 1960s

In July 1961, hundreds of peasants from La Convención province traveled to Cuzco to protest their oppressive working conditions on the haciendas. When they reached the main square of the city, military troops surrounded them and pointed their weapons at them. One frightened peasant fled, leaving behind a Peruvian flag. Carmela Giraldo, Quechua peasant leader, unionist and communist, threw herself around the flag. Followed by other female protesters, she confronted the troops and forced them to drop their weapons, allowing the protesters to continue marching to the prefecture, where they presented their grievances . In the 1960s, together with prominent local and national leftists and unionists, Carmela spoke out demanding agrarian reform, justice, and peasant freedom in rallies and protests.

In this period, other women from urban, rural and indigenous backgrounds, like Carmela Giraldo, joined political movements and revolutionary projects, aiming to fight against imperialism and abusive power holders. As I explain in my PhD thesis ‘Women on the Peruvian Revolutionary Left: Military and Post-Military in Cuzco and Ayacucho’they supported the end of poverty, exclusion, and subordination, which indigenous peasants had historically suffered.

Before Carmela and Aida, other rural women such as María de la Paz Chanini, Nicasia Yabar and Rosalia Larico became “native messengers” in the early twentieth century. Therefore, they traveled from the rural communities of Puno to Lima to submit formal requests to the state. Despite their illiteracy and poor fluency in Spanish because they spoke mainly Aymara and Quechua, they succeeded form their petitions to the national government.

María, Nicasia, and Rosalia framed their grievances about the conscription of men, the abuse of local authorities, and the use of their lands emphasizing their roles as mothers and withdrawing the president’s paternalism as strategies for justice. get. These women became icons Native art movement (1920) since they worked as models for the newly created School of Fine Arts under the direction of the painter José Sabogal, who started the Indigenist movement in the arts. In addition, these women successfully interacted with members of first-wave feminism, communism, and native of the early twentieth century.

The participation of Carmela, Aida, María, Nicasia and Rosalia in Peruvian controversial politics and social movements provides insight into the historical participation of indigenous peasants in political issues and the ways in which they have contributed to the construction and improvement of democracy and politics. Women, especially peasants and indigenous people, have mobilized to protest their exclusion and demand social justice throughout history in alliance with peasants, students, and workers’ organizations. They have protested by fulfilling their traditional gender roles, such as cooking and caring for the injured, but also by marching, speaking out, directing, and organizing mobilizations and strikes against what they consider an unjust social order. To paraphrase political scientist Sidney Tarrow, these women spoke through their actions.

Common sense

Women like Carmela and Aida contributed to the construction of democracy by expanding and “practicing” the notions of politics. First, peasant and indigenous women increased the meaning of politics by giving it (or returning to) a collective feeling. The experiences of Carmela Giraldo and the indigenous messenger women suggest that they marched because they represented the voices of their communities and rural organizations and their own sense of anger.

Since women in general, and rural and indigenous women in particular, have been historically neglected from political participation and public spheres, the only fact is that they were, and are, able to speak out in Quechua, Aymara or native Amazonian language or lead marches. or challenge the army and the police put them at the center of the political stage.

Their participation in contentious politics and social movements openly defended the historical exclusion of indigenous peoples from politics while simultaneously reconfiguring their identity and notion of citizenship.

I argue that women like Carmela, María or Aida expanded the concept of democracy and politics in the past by “speaking through their actions”. But right now, they are facing violent police and military repression, judicial persecution and allegations of terrorism.

Historical oppression

In the past, it is rare or even impossible to find records of the participation of peasant women and indigenous women in contentious politics. Today, access to technology and the Internet allows us to see, in real time, the many ways rural and indigenous women face violence, racism and discrimination because of their political participation. The oppression and violence that these women suffer at the hands of the police and the military gives us an opportunity to get a hint of the scale of violence that male and female peasants have suffered throughout history when demanding the devolution of their country reused as well. asking for rights, education, and the presence of the state.

For the past two months, Aida and other women and men like her, along with thousands of students, unionists, and activists, are still in the streets and main squares of Peru expressing their anger against the brutality of the police and the army , of authoritarianism. the government and the Parliament. They are demanding new elections and hoping that someone will finally be in power who will govern to provide social justice, equality, redistribution and inclusion for all Peruvians and not just for a privileged few.

• The views expressed here are those of the author and not the Center or LSE
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Women in Revolutionary Left Peru: Military and Post-Military in Cuzco and Ayacucho examines the militancia (militancy) of Peruvian women in revolutionary parties during the 1960s and 1970s as well as their ex-militancy in the present.
• Rust image: Peasant woman protests in Lima in January 2023 against President Dina Boluarte / Joel Salvador (Shutterstock)

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