AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts librarian Peter A. Stern has received the 1998 Jose Torbio Medina Award for his 1995 bibliography on Peru’s Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement and its bloody decade-and-a-half terror campaign that left more than 27,000 people dead.
Stern’s work, "Sendero Luminoso: An Annotated Bibliography of the Shining Path Guerrilla Movement, 1983-1990," contains citations from 1,185 books and periodicals in both Spanish and English about the Maoist movement and its charismatic leader Abimael Guzman. The entries, presented chronologically, outline how Guzman patiently organized Sendero Luminoso into a credible, completely indigenous fighting force, one that posed a serious threat to Peru’s government and ruling elite.
The book also reveals how Guzman, an obscure philosophy professor from a provincial university in Peru’s rural highlands, initially benefited from the fanatic devotion of his followers. After his capture in 1992 and subsequent announcement that he would negotiate with the Peruvian government, however, the powerful cult of personality around Guzman worked against him. The loss of leadership caused the movement to falter and fade into obscurity, Stern says.
Stern says the Sendero Luminoso was, and continues to be, widely misunderstood. "The movement was initially misinterpreted as a revival of the ancient Incas," Stern says. "Sendero recruited among the Indians and peasants and learned the native language, but its leaders were always dedicated, college-based revolutionaries."
Guzman and his followers took advantage of the Peruvian government’s historic indifference to the poverty and misery suffered by the Indians in the rural Andean highlands and carefully built a base of support there before launching their war, Stern says. But unlike other Latin American revolutionaries, they were home grown and disdained backing from other Communist states such as Cuba or China. Eventually, however, Sendero Luminoso allied with narcotics traffickers in Peru, a compromise that allowed them to gather vast sums of money to fund their revolutionary activities.
The Medina award is given each year by the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM) for outstanding contributions to Latin American Studies in the areas of bibliography and reference. Stern is the University’s librarian for Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies.