A C k n o w le d g m e n t s
In July 1969, at the age of twenty-five, I was aboard a Chilean cargo ship
returning to Peru after a decade of study at both the University of London
and Cornell. The ship stopped in the northern port of Talara. I went ashore,
took a local bus to the end of its run on a beach, and there observed some
fishermen land their catch in the heavy surf of the Pacific Ocean. I bought
some and a woman offered to cook it for me. Watching marine birds circle
in the sky and eating the most delicious fried fish of my life, I was told
that a few weeks previously the army had expropriated the privately held
sugar estates, the richest and most productive agricultural enterprises in
the country. Thirty-two years later, in 2001, I was walking with my wife,
Lidia Santos, on another beach. This time I was in East Haven, Connecti-
cut. I told her that I wanted to write a book about the momentous agrarian
reform, which I had lived through from the moment that I landed in Peru
and which I had followed throughout my professional life, in such a way
that Peruvian readers would recognize themselves or others through the
stories that I would tell. Surprised, Lidia turned to me, saying, “Then why
are you writing this book in English?”
I persevered because I told myself an English text would acquire a more
universal tone dealing with important human predicaments such as ideo-
logical disputes about private property, the rights and wrongs of expropria-
tion, and the merits and difficulties of collective production and of revolu-
tionary reforms gone astray. These are part of the history of the twentieth
century throughout the world. Such a book in English could portray for a
new international generation what it was like to live through a revolution.
Here I want to deeply acknowledge the writerly talent and loving compan-
ionship of Lidia Santos.
I started this project in 1988 during a fellowship at the Woodrow Wil-
son International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., where I wrote
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