i n t ro d u C t i o n
This book deals with memories as its principal source. During my field-
work in 1995–96, I traveled all over Peru with Danny Pinedo and a small
battery-powered tape recorder to interview people who had lived through
the agrarian reform (1969–99). The idea came to me a couple of years be-
forehand, when I was asked by a friend in Lima about my next research
project, and I said that it would be the agrarian reform. The disgusted look
on his face made me change my stance, and I corrected myself: “Not the
reform, but the history of the reform.”
He brightened up, saying that that was an interesting topic, and im-
mediately launched into a long and detailed narration of how the agrarian
reform had affected him personally. It was fascinating. I then knew that the
idea of collecting oral histories or testimonies (I prefer to call them stories)
had great potential. In contrast with the dry accounts full of statistics and
class analysis that characterize the literature on the Peruvian agrarian re-
form, the stories I collected were so vivid that I resolved to base the whole
project around the memories people have of the reform.
Armed with a Guggenheim Fellowship and a sabbatical, I conducted the
bulk of the interviews that year. Danny was, at that time, a student who had
completed his course work in the Anthropology Department at the Uni-
versity of San Marcos in Lima, and he agreed to participate in this project.
I was affiliated with the Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales (cepes), the
members of which knew the past and present rural conditions of Peru
very well. I had maintained my interest in the agrarian reform for many
years and my colleagues at cepes helped me to roughly sketch out what
issues I wanted to interview people about and where. I selected places that
I remembered due to their notoriety or because they were emblematic to
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