Plantation Society and Peruvian Culture
The story told in these pages about peasant activities in the lower
Pisco valley calls attention to several propositions about peasants and
plantations, especially cotton plantations. There is little disagreement
anymore that plantations were key to the growth of a national econ-
omy in republican Peru, but what has not been clear is the part peas-
ants played in the growth process. Until now convention had it that
growth depended on a repressed or co-opted peasantry. The evidence
seems to show otherwise: that the peasantry was not uniformly re-
pressed and, further, that not all peasants submitted to or collabo-
rated with planter control of growth. More to the point, it appears
that the peasantry was critically involved in the formation of Peru-
vian society from the mid nineteenth century at least until World
War II.
peasants noticeably were not co-opted nor submitted to planter
domination, then how can we accurately describe their part in the
neither co-optation nor submission occurred, then what
happened? A satisfactory response to this question calls for bringing
into play two concepts referred to often throughout this study: hege-
mony and resistance. The two concepts travel well in tandem, and
they are critical for understanding relations between the powerful
and the powerless sectors of agrarian society.
Planter dominance of rural society declined soon after indenture.
The wartime flight of contractees tore a veil from before the eyes of
the cotton planters, and the owners found it necessary to abandon the
coercive labor practices to which they had become accustomed. The
planters found their choices narrowed to two: they could improve
mechanization, or they could employ the free peasant population.
Given the high cost of mechanical improvements and the perception
that the market could not absorb such expenses, planters turned to
the free peasants as the most convenient source of labor at hand. A
new labor strategy focused on various techniques of persuasion and
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