ID305X: Sapnish American Film: Cultural Issues
B Term 2000
Prof. Ángel A. Rivera

Information about the Shining Path or Sendero Luminoso (Brittanica On Line, November 28, 2000): Handout 8

Byname of COMMUNIST PARTY OF PERU, Spanish SENDERO LUMINOSO, OR PARTIDO COMUNISTA DE PERU, Peruvian revolutionary movement that employs guerrilla tactics and violent terrorism in the name of Maoism. It was founded in 1970 in a multiple split in Peru's Communist Party (dating from the 1920s) and took its name in reference to the maxim of the founder of Peru's first Communist Party, José Carlos Mariátegui: "El Marxismo-Leninismo abrirá el sendero luminoso hacia la revolución" ("Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution").

The leader and principal founder was Abimael Guzmáán Reynoso, alias Comrade Gonzalo (b. 1934, Mollendo, near Arequipa, Peru), a long-time Communist and former philosophy teacher (1962-78) at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga, in the city of Ayacucho in the high Andes. He and his followers, known as Senderistas, sought to restore the "pure" ideology of Mao Zedong and adopted China's Cultural Revolution as a model for their own revolutionary movement. The party's other models were Stalinist Russia and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The Senderistas envisioned revolution as a long military offensive, relying primarily on the peasantry and making ruthless use of terror and violence.

With a following of young intellectuals he gathered in Ayacucho in the 1960s, Guzmán recruited armed supporters among Indians in the countryside and the poorer urban districts in the '70s. The Senderistas began their revolutionary campaign in remote areas of the Andes (their first act of violence occurred on May 17, 1980, near Ayacucho) and soon were bombing targets, committing assassinations, and engaging in other terrorist acts in various urban centres, including Lima and Callao. They gained control of poor rural and urban districts in central and southern Peru by violence and intimidation, meanwhile attracting sympathizers and supporters through their tight discipline, their organizing ability, and their emphasis on empowering Indians at the expense of Peru's traditional Spanish-speaking elite. By 1992 the Senderistas' terrorist activities had caused an estimated 25,000 deaths and seriously disrupted the Peruvian economy.

Guzmán, whose organizational and tactical abilities underlay the Senderistas' success, was captured in a police raid in Lima on Sept. 12, 1992, and in October he was sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism charges.