Andean lives, is a pair of autobiographical narratives edited by two young anthropologists in which Gregorio and Asunta, a Peruvian Indian couple, tell their life stories. The story takes place in the highlands of Peru, where millions of indigenous inhabitants who represent the cultural majority, suffer from exploitation and domination. The highland area retains its predominantly Indian culture and traditions and Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital, remains the centre of traditional Indian society today. The highlands give Peru the fourth highest concentration of Indians in all of Latin America. These narratives are first hand testimony and represent one of the first attempts to coax the indigenous people to tell their life stories. The book is very rich and narrates the brutality of everyday life in the highlands, both in the urban and the rural areas. It covers a broad aspect of the lives of the protagonists. 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. We will see how the indigenous people are dominated and exploited by the higher social classes, in spite of the fact that they compose a majority in the highlands. We will be led to wonder how the specific class structure of the highlands allows such dramatic life conditions for indigenous people.
[...] Gregorio experienced the labor in a factory. The urban migration is another key phenomenon that affected the traditional structure of the highlands. Many runas were unable to support their family on their small agricultural plots. Like Gregorio and Asunta many runas moved to the cities in search of better educational and economic opportunities. They settled in shantytown in the suburbs and lived in poverty. B. The relationships with others social classes The elite at the peak of the social hierarchy is first composed of the aristocracy of Spanish descent (mine owners, ranking government officials, and latinfundias owners) who traditionally control most of the highland's political and economic activities. [...]
[...] Traditionally all Indians in the highlands were virtually peasants. The majority of them traditionally lived in independent communities (“communicates 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. Peasants are bound together by a common consciousness of belonging to a same community. This consciousness is so strong that Gregorio mentions his town before telling us his name. [...]
[...] It occurs in both rural and urban areas. Asunta's account of her experience in the hacienda reveals the most terrible form of exploitation that indigenous peasants experienced. The peons, people who worked on the haciendas (80 percent of land was owned by less than 1 percent of the rural population) and their families were tied to the hacienda like medieval serfs. Indeed there were a series of personal obligation (free labour on hacendado personal land, free labour at the hacendado house (servants, domestics, sheperds). [...]
[...] Austin _ Handelman, Howard. Struggle in the Andes. Peasant political mobilizationh in Peru. Austin _Mörner, Magnus. The Andean Past. New York Indeed Gregorio first tell sus that he is from Acopia. See chapter Condori Mamani, Gregorio, and Asunta Quispe Huaman. Andean Lives. Austin Concerning the ayni see chapter Condori Mamani, Gregorio, and Asunta Quispe Huaman. Andean Lives. Austin For an account of the work of Eusabio in the mines see chapter 15, Condori Mamani, Gregorio, and Asunta Quispe Huaman. Andean Lives. [...]
[...] They live in very dramatic conditions. It is a spatial segregation. Discrimination and racism were frequent in the labour. Asunta and Gregorio tell us that the patrons frequently committed abuses. For example they paid workers when they wanted and even often refused to pay them. Racism and discrimination are present everywhere and even within official institution. Judges in local courts are not very impartial. In case of problems mistizo are always believed and Indians can hardly not defend themselves. Gregorio tell us how he was sent to jail (even if he was not guilty) after a misti had called the police because someone had stolen one of his cow. [...]
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