“Now Peru is mine!” So declared an indigenous teenager named Manuel
Llamojha Mitma after he entered the Peruvian army in the late 1930s. A
Quechua peasant from the impoverished highland department of Ayacucho,
Llamojha was determined to bring socioeconomic justice to a country rife
with sharp anti-indigenous prejudice and startling inequalities, and he soon
grew into one of twentieth-century Peru’s most creative and dedicated po-
litical activists. This testimonial biography offers the first extended explo-
ration of Llamojha’s life, ideas, and work, chronicling his struggles against
indigenous oppression, territorial dispossession, and sociopolitical exclusion,
all problems that he defines as legacies of the Spanish conquest.1 Read to-
gether, Llamojha’s recollections about his life offer a means for understanding
Peru’s—and, indeed, Latin America’s—troubled twentieth-century history.
Fundamental issues like racism, revolutionary politics, agrarian reform, and
political violence figure prominently in Llamojha’s narrative, with one man’s
extraordinary life reflecting the course of an equally extraordinary century.
Although Llamojha’s stay in the military was short-lived, he dedicated
his life to fighting on behalf of Peru’s indigenous peasants (campesinos). He
led major mobilizations for indigenous land rights in his home region of
Ayacucho during the 1940s and 1950s, and he ran for national political office
in 1962. That same year, he became secretary general of Peru’s largest national
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