A “Shining Path militant”? ¿Un “militante senderista?”
Since I began researching Sendero Luminoso and the collective memory of the internal conflict, I have come across numerous mistakes, misconceptions and outright lies, both in mainstream press and on many blogs. Just ask my friends Nicole and Verónica, with whom I’ve spent countless hours doing homework and who have had to suffer as I shrilly denounce the latest mistreatment of history I’ve found.
So in conjunction with the research I’m conducting, I’m going to take some time here to tackle some of the common misconceptions and mangled histories I’ve found in various corners of the web.
I’ll start with the picture above. It’s commonly cited as a young shining path fighter. Which makes sense, he’s a young kid with a gun and a hammer-and-sickle flag. Totes communist, right? According to like, every tumblr I’ve seen use the picture, that’s the case. And if you do a google image search for Shining Path or Sendero Luminoso, the image is inevitably in the top 10 results. Or the top two.
It makes sense: it’s a powerful image and the youthfulness of the fighter is bound to make an impact on the viewer. But the thing is, the kid isn’t a communist, and certainly not a member of Shining Path.
He’s a member of a Rondero Campesino, armed community patrols set up — first by the military and later autonomously — to combat Shining Path insurgents in their would-be rural “bases of support.”
Yet his is one of the indelible faces of the conflict, and is almost invariably placed on the wrong side. The website hosting the photo that appears in the top google results labels the boy a “Shining Path militant.”
No es justo. The image is part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s "Yuyanapaq: Para Recordar" photo exhibit, curated with the intent of creating a visual memory of the conflict in the process toward healing the country’s wounds. Yet as is too often the case with media, especially in the era of reblogging, the image — and its story — get lost in the shuffle, like a game of telephone.
What I’m hoping to do, or to try to do, is to take a look at some of these common mistakes writers, bloggers and media outfits with the intent of telling the “real” story, or at least shedding some light on aspects of the conflict that have been relegated to a small sector of academia and nerds like myself.
I’ll be posting about different topics as I find them, which is pretty often given I spend all day every day reading about this stuff and half of the stuff written about this stuff is crazy inaccurate. Stay tuned, jerx.