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History and Culture / Republican Peru

Republican Peru

The Independence process was very complex, involving not only ideological changes and military campaigns, but also the interests of various sectors of Colonial society.Independence from Spain came in 1821. It was followed by a long period of instability, during which civilian leaders and military officers struggled for power to govern a country in chaos. During its first 32 years of life as a Republic, Peru had 51 rulers.

World-wide imperialist conflicts, between 1814 and 1914, extended from Latin America - now abandoned by Spain - to Africa. The Peruvian dominant class served English Imperialism, and based its wealth on large estates which became prosperous at the expense of Indian communities' lands and serfs' labour, Indians were deprived of every right whatsoever. The Peruvian economy was ruled by an oligarchy of landowners, whose efforts were aimed exclusively at the exportation of raw materials, annihilating any possibility of Peruvian industrialisation.

The Republic maintained a certain stability, and facilitated a greater entry into world imperialist economy. In Peru, England made way for the United States. New mining "enclaves" robbed peasant communities of their lands, and enslaved Indians for work in sugar plantations on the Coast or rubber plantations in the Jungle, which endangered the future of peasant families, and brought their lives to a premature and miserable end.

By the end of the war with Chile, which lasted from 1879 to 1883, the resulting political confusion allowed the military to take over the State for a ten year period.Between 1919 and 1930, the first flow of migrants from the mountains to Lima took place, comprising mainly members of the small-landowner and middle-classes of the population. There was a remarkable increase in the urban middle class, especially in the textile proletariat. The Anarchist-Unionist wave was particularly noticeable among the groups of Lima's first manufacturing and handicraft workers, and strongly influenced the first organised mobilisations of those groups. This process was additionally strengthened by the ideological and political influence of the main events of that time: the Mexican and the Russian Revolutions.

Between 1918 and 1933 the number of workers increased from 12,000 to 18,000. During this period, mainly in Lima, an incipient industry appeared.This was a time of outstanding organisational development of the working class. In 1924 the Apra party was founded, in 1925 the Railway Confederation was created, in 1926 Jose Carlos Mariategui published the Amauta magazine, and in 1929 the Central General de Trabajadores del Peru (General Workers' Union) was born.Elsewhere, Indian peasants were forced to fight landowners in defence of their lands, usurped by violence or by supposedly 'legal' measures, in the aggressive land concentration process in the Sierra.

Between 1922 and 1930, 697 revolts took place in Peru: an uprising every 5 days, in demand of better living and working conditions. The peasants' revolts stimulated the development of certain intellectual trends which recognised the need for a revaluation of the natives' culture and history. This was known as the "indigenista" trend.