But there is a much more significant difference hidden in the university's past. How many universities do you know that once employed a professor that founded and ran a terrorist group on campus?
The Shining Path is considered a "Maoist group", with "communistic aims" seemingly derived from the overthrow of Peru's so-called democratic system. Many people in the central highlands agreed that there was a need for change. The Shining Path preyed on these desires, calling for the destruction of everything that had anything to do with the upper classes controlling Peru and for a reclaiming of land for the peasant farmers. However, even though people recognized these things as common goals, they refused to support the Shining Path because of the violence.
"Those were very dangerous years here in Ayacucho, " recounts our friend Magda from ABA (the organization I've been working with), who was attending the University during the Shining Path's peak in the early 80's. "It was like a pest that kept growing, but there was nothing we could do. We were too scared and the violence came from both sides--the government and the Shining Path. "
"It's a very touchy subject, and you shouldn't just ask people here about it," warned my friend Victor, who has lived in Ayacucho his whole life. I appreciated the advice, but figured I could probe a little further, since we were friends. "Alright, if you really want to know. Yes, it was a very difficult time. Have you ever witnessed people getting killed?" Actually no. Fortunately, all my life I have been sheltered from such horrific experiences. "Well, those of us that have lived through the 80's here in Ayacucho have seen a lot. Many people fled to the coastal region and there were absolutely no outside visitors since all the roads were controlled by the Shining Path - they were too dangerous to pass. Tourists, like you, have only now just started coming back to our area - only in the past few ears."
In 1992, Guzman and other leaders of the Shining Path were finally captured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Despite a brief resurgence that was quickly quelled in 1994, the terrorist activity that froze the Central highlands for so many years seems to have ceased. Lucky for us, because just a few years ago, Abeja and I would not have been able to visit this beautiful region of Peru and learn the traditional ways of the Quispillaccta region's indigenous people, who we are happy to see today living in peace.
Abeja - ...And We'll Put the Mini-Mall Over There, Where Those Alpaca are Grazing
Shawn - Dry Land is not a Myth!
Kevin - Help! Call 911! Identity Crisis in Peru!
Team - The Dark Side of the Shining Path
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