A single two-lane road meanders through the Pisco valley along a
river that flows from the Andes to the port of Pisco, about
meters south of Lima, Peru. The river's alluvial fan tilts northward, as
if resisting its rush to the sea, and makes a broad arc twenty kilome-
ters north and south of the main channel. Within these alluvial soils
lie a series of vineyards and cotton and sugar plantations that in the
century after independence were among the most important locales
in the formation of Peruvian culture. Cotton plantations dominated
the valley, and within their borders thousands of peasants annually
cultivated and harvested cotton crops that returned large profits
the powerful landowners while the peasants remained destitute
and powerless.
Through the generosity of the office of the Tribunal of Agrarian
Reform I had an opportunity in I975 to visit some of the Pisco valley
plantations. Two officers of the Fifth Agrarian Reform Zone office
accompanied me in a Volkswagen Beetle, and on our approach to
Hacienda Palto they summarized recent local events. Earlier that day
agricultural workers had seized control of the plantation and notified
the local agrarian reform office of their action. Now the workers were
awaiting directions. Would they be paid if they went to work in the
fields? How much, and who would pay them? The agrarian reform
officers and I were visiting Hacienda Palto coincidentally with the
takeover; we could not provide answers to those anxious queries.
The plantation house and the broad fields sweeping down toward
the river below it caught my eye. With its long, low, pastel green
ranch-style structure, red-tiled roof, lead-lined windows, porticoed
patio, and pool, the mansion, both the color and style of it, appeared
similar to the architecture commonly seen in the suburban south-
western United States. But the illusion of familiarity quickly ended.
The roadside facade of the house contrasted sharply with its river-
ward side. Three floors deep, the plantation house featured a wide
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