Gregorio and Asunta, a Peruvian Indian couple, tell their life stories in "Andean lives", a pair of autobiographical narratives edited by two young anthropologists. The story takes place in the highlands of Peru, where millions of indigenous inhabitants who represent the cultural majority, suffer from exploitation and domination. Indeed highland area retains its predominantly Indian culture and traditions. Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital, remains the centre of traditional Indian society today.. In total, the highlands give Peru the fourth highest concentration of Indians in all Latin America. These narratives are first hand testimony and represent one of the first attempts to make indigenous people tell their life stories. This book is very rich and tells us the brutality of everyday life in the highlands in both urban and rural areas. It covers a broad aspect of their lives.
In this essay I will focus on specific issues related in these narratives. I will talk about the social structure of the highlands and then explore the experiences of the indigenous people living in the highlands with racism and domination. Indeed despite the fact that the indigenous people compose a majority in the highlands they are dominated and exploited by the higher social classes. Thus we can wonder how the specific class structure of the highlands allows such dramatic life conditions for indigenous people.
[...] or gringos who are not considered by the narrators as indigenous people. These terms are very important to understand the social relationships in the highlands. They are racial idoms used to express class and ethnic differences. It highlight the existence of a gap between the runas and the others components of the class structure. A runa is an indigenous person of the Quechua culture and of peasant origin. Traditionally all Indians in the highlands were virtually peasants. The majority of them traditionally lived in independent communities (“communidades indigenas”) whose roots go back to the ayllu which was a basic social unit composed of a clan of extended families living together in a restricted area with a common sharing of land, animals and crops. [...]
[...] But reality was more often bad treatments, physical assaults teacher-lady was wicked, hitting and mistreating me, and she didn't pay me a thing” Gregorio and Asunta as well as all Indigenous people are considered as a stock of labour force that can be used freely by the mistis. It is made easier by the fact that many runas are seeking a job because of the pressure on land owned by a minority and the urban migration. The narrators tell us that they went from house to house to find a job. [...]
[...] Even if developments occurred in the 1960s with the peasant political mobilization and the invasions of haciendas domination over the runas carries on. The Indigenous people in the highlands compose the cultural majority but are unable to free themselves. Their lack of literacy contributes to their domination. Gregorio and Asunta accounts reveal how difficult life is for this people. Racism and discrimination are present everywhere even within state institutions. Indigenous people are identified by the rest of the population as second class citizens. Life conditions are terrible in both urban and rural areas. [...]
[...] Thus like Bourricaud wrote it, “nobody could classify a lawyer or a doctor in the indigenous class, nor a military or a police officer the occupations which require no previous instruction are located exclusively to the Indians” and inversely. Even if social changes occured as we have seen such changes until recently did not altered the basic nature of the culture of domination of the Indian peasant masses to the white or mestizo ruling class. II. Domination, exploitation and discrimination: the violence of everyday life in the highlands A. [...]
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