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Peru Table of Contents


Peru at the Crossroads

As García took office on July 28, 1985--at thirty-six the youngest chief executive to assume power in Peru's history--he seemed to awaken hope among Peruvians for the future. Although he had no previous experience in elected office, he possessed, as his decisive electoral victory illustrated, the necessary charisma to mobilize Peruvians to confront their problems. At the same time, the governing APRA party won a majority in the new Congress, assuring the new president support for his program to meet the crisis.

The crisis seemed daunting indeed. The foreign debt stood at over US$13 billion, real wages had eroded by 30 percent since 1980, prices for Peru's exports on the world market remained low, the economy was gripped in recession, and guerrilla violence was spreading. The future of Peru's fledgling redemocratization now hinged on García's ability to reverse these trends and, at bottom, to restore sustained economic growth and development (see The García Government, 1985-90, ch. 4).

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There are a number of good, general histories of Peru. These include Magnus Mörner's The Andean Past, David P. Werlich's Peru: A Short History, and Michael Reid's Peru: Paths to Poverty. The reader should also consult the chapters on Peru in the authoritative, multivolume, Cambridge History of Latin America (CHLA), edited by Leslie Bethell. A good general introduction to the colonial period is Mark A. Burkholder and Lyman L. Johnson's Colonial Latin America. The works of John V. Murra are seminal on the pre-Columbian period, a good introduction being his chapter "Andean Societies Before 1532," in the CHLA. Most useful on the Incas and the Conquest are the brilliant works of Nathan Wachtel, The Vision of the Vanquished, and John Hemming's The Conquest of the Incas. A powerful account in defense of the native population after conquest is Felipe Huamán Poma de Ayala's Letter to a King, while the mestizo chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega's Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru constitutes the first truly Peruvian vision of the Andes. Particularly incisive works on the colonial system are Karen Spalding's Huarochirí: An Andean Society Under Inca and Spanish Rule and Steve J. Stern's Peru's Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest.

The postindependence period has received innovative treatment in Paul E. Gootenberg's Between Silver and Guano and Nils P. Jacobsen's Mirages of Transition. Rosemary Thorp and Geoffrey Bertram's Peru 1890-1977 is the standard source on twentieth-century economic development. Richard C. Webb and Graciela Fernández Baca de Valdéz's Perú en números provides important statistics on twentieth-century Peru. Four chapters in the CHLA cover the 1880-1962 period: Heraclio Bonilla's "Peru and Bolivia," Peter F. Klarén's "Origins of Modern Peru, 1880-1930," Geoffrey Bertram's "Peru: 1930-1962," and Julio Cotler's "Peru since 1960." Incisive analyses on APRA can be found in Klarén's Modernization, Dislocation, and Aprismo,Steve Stein's Populism in Peru, and Fredrick B. Pike's The Politics of the Miraculous in Peru. Relations with the United States are surveyed adroitly by Pike in The United States and the Andean Republics. The military revolution of 1968 receives important attention from Cynthia McClintock and Abraham F. Lowenthal (eds.) in The Peruvian Experiment Reconsidered and in Alfred Stepan's The State and Society. The crisis of the early 1980s is analyzed by José Matos Mar's Un Desborde popular. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of September 1992