Memory is a funny thing. History, an even stranger one. We all take classes in history but how many of us remember the intricacies of the struggles of our nation – if not its very birth. With the 4th of July right around the corner and the elections gearing up to full swing I’ve been thinking a lot about what we choose to remember and what we omit.
Earlier today I came across an article about Peru. The Shining Path, which was the organization that terrorized peasants in Peru from 1980 until the capture of their leader, Abimael Guzman, in 1992, was collecting signatures. These signatures would serve as support for the Shining Path to create a political party so the once Maoist guerrilla group could run in the general election. While it is not unusual for terrorist organizations to reinvent themselves, examples of which can be seen across the other South American countries, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, what struck me was how little the young people remembered what happened just 50 years before. Of the numerous signatures, hundreds of thousands came from college students.
What’s of particular note about the Shining Path is that though they were exceedingly brutal, murdering villagers and marking their bodies as warning signs to any dissidents, the government of Peru was also to blame at the time. Soldiers abusing their power carried out massacres against perceived threats while the Shining Path established labor camps to punish dissident. In total from the early 1980s to 2000 an estimated 70,000 people were killed. But who remembers?
As stated by Francisco Soberon, the Executive Director of a pro-human rights organization in Lima, “The fundamental thing about memory is that it has to help us prevent the rise of projects that can bring us back down that road of violence and terror. Memory acts like a vaccine.”
I’m not sure what particular route this blog will take but I will try to write and bring light to stories as I hear them. Perhaps my own words will act like a vaccine. Or at very least a gentle reminder for the next generation.