‘To the men of the land, we can now say in the immortal and liberating voice of Tupac Amaru: “Peasant: the Master will no longer feed off your poverty!”.’General Juan Velasco Alvarado
Velasco was not a democrat but his nationalistic government was one of the many faceted attempts in the formerly colonized world to break the bonds with the colonial past. Until then, a feudal order had reigned in the Andean countryside with poor peasants tied to the landlords in almost medieval oppression.
The land reform gave strength to a peasant movement that had fought for the land during centuries. When the reform met resistance the organized peasants expelled the landlords. In the Andean province of Andahuaylas this happened in 1974 and I was there with my camera to witness the historical events.
Peasants showing their resolve
Alongside the land reform much emphasis was put on education and many sons and daughters of poor peasants went on to higher studies. This was also the case in Flor's family.
Her father Samuel Gonzales was one of the leaders of the land occupations and her mother Simeona supported the struggle as well as striving to give her children education.
Even if the land reform brought an end to the rule of landlords it did not erase poverty. The Velasco government was overthrown by a conservative military junta in 1975 and Peru joined the Latin American backlash against left wing reforms.
The failure of reformism created talk about armed revolution. But only Sendero Luminoso took the decisive step in Peru. Their violent uprising can be anticipated in my photos from 1974. In one of the pictures a man stands beside his horse. If you look closely you can see the small star (it was red) on his cap. Four years after I took the picture he was the one to bring Sendero Luminoso and the war to the village of Flor and her family.