Women and participation in sendero luminoso


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Women and participation in sendero luminoso
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McDivitt, Anita Marie

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Without the help of numerous people this thesis would not have been

possible. Special thanks for institutional and in-kind support goes to Carlos

Basombrio, who warmly welcomed me to the Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) in

Lima, and all of those who work at the Institute-especially the lawyers and

social worker in the Area Penal, who endured my endless questions, and those

in the Area de Educaci6n, for their intellectually challenging conversations.

Thanks go the thesis committee at University of Florida, especially to Dr.

Mark Thumrner, who was a visiting scholar at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos

while I was in Lima, and to Dr. Paul Doughty, for extensive comments and

criticisms of the thesis.

I would also like to acknowledge those who gave me the emotional and

practical support to leave the newsroom and attempt this-Marty Rosen, reporter,

mentor and friend at the St. Petersburg Times and my good friend Carol

Hernandez, currently a reporter at New York Newsdav.

Finally, I would like to give my love to my parents, Barbara Louise Funk

McDivitt and Malcolm Douglas McDivitt, and living grandparents, Ralph Smith

and Anna Mary Dinkel Funk Smith, for their enduring patience and faith while I

completed this project.



ACKNOW LEDGMENTS ........................................ ii

ABSTRACT .................................................. v


Latin American Models of Women ........................... 1
Latin American Feminine Revolutionary Tradition .......... 3
Female Revolutionaries in Peru ....................... 10
Women in Peruvian Revolutionary Movements ............... 12
Women and Political Participation in Peru............... 13
Revolutionary Movements in Peru ..................... 17


Sendero Luminoso and the "Lucha Armada" ................. 21
Women and Sendero .................................... 27
Methodology ........................................... 34
Conclusions ............................................ 40


General Texts and Women's Participation in Sendero ........... 41
A Lack of 'Serious Inquiry' into Women and Sendero .......44
Other Authors and Women in Sendero .................. 57
The Effects of Violence on Women's Organizations ....... 62
Conclusions ............................................ 63

THE SAVAGE GUERRILLERA ................................... 65

Breaking Down Simplistic Binaries .......................... 65
Women in Sendero and the Popular Press............... 68
Academic Images of Women in Sendero ................ 76
Conclusions ............................................ 83


Statistical Profiles of Female Senderistas ..................... 84
Profiles of Female Senderistas from Legal Cases ............... 93
Case 1: Antonia, 41, and Her Daughter Maria, 14 .......... 98
Case 2: Patricia, 21, the "Mistress" of a Regional Sendero
Leader .................................... 102
Case 3: Maribel, 21, and an Armed Strike in La Victoria .... 105
Case 4: Veronica, 19, Tricked and Threatened by Sendero.. 107
Case 5: Mariana, 14, Forced to Cook for a Sendero Patrol.. 109
Conclusions ............................................ 112


Interviews with Female Prison Inmates ...................... 114
Female Senderistas in Prison and On Video ................. 114
Foreign Correspondents Inside Peru's Prisons ................ 119
Female Senderistas Inside Prison and in the Peruvian Media .... .126

WHY WOMEN PARTICIPATED IN SENDERO ..................... 135

IN SENDERO .................................... 143

APPENDIX B 1994 INPE CENSUS DATA ........................ 189

APPENDIX C FINDING SOURCES .............................. 200

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................... 204

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ...................................... 218

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts



Anita Marie McDivitt

May 1996

Chairman: Paul L. Doughty
Major Department: Center for Latin American Studies

Recent efforts to counter stereotypes of guerrillas, either via quantitative

analysis or through the presentation of case studies, generally have not taken

into account the cultural politics of defining who and what constitutes a

senderista. Consequently, received images of female senderistas unwittingly

reinforce patriarchal binarisms: women are either mothers (nurturers and givers

of life) or soldierly assassins (takers of life). Such a binary review has obscured

the cultural politics behind these images. Defining who is and who is not a

senderista in Peru inevitably becomes a political act in the war of images. Great

care must be taken when subjectifying senderistas, especially when the primary

sources largely consist of counter-insurgency reports (police, military and martial

court records) and sensationalist newspapers.


Latin American Models of Women

The images, or models, that are used to understand women in Latin

America are varied and often contradictory. In the 1970s, researchers spent

considerable time and research investigating the marianismo model of women,

(Stevens 1973; Burkett 1977; Burkett 1978; Lavrin 1978; Fuller 1993) while other

models of Latin American women failed to generate as much interest. Many of

these models--from the "beauty queen" to the female revolutionary-are not

separate entities, but rather overlap and combine in contradictory ways to form

complex conceptions of what constitutes "woman" in Latin America. This study

will examine one of these models-that of the female revolutionary and

specifically the female combatant in Peru's Shining Path-in a growing body of


Some scholars suggest that to understand the participation of women in

the Shining Path of Peru, the organization must be analyzed as if it were one of

various other new social movements which arose in the newly democratic

governments of Latin America in the 1980s. An estimated thirty to forty percent

of the organization's membership were women, and eight of the nineteen

members of the Shining Path's Central Committee reportedly were women. This

study argues that understanding the participation of women in the Partido

Comunista del Peru--Sendero Luminoso (PCP-SL) can be done in the context of

a Latin American feminine revolutionary tradition. This study contends that

Sendero was a child, albeit a long-gestating one, of the international socialist

revolutionary movement that swept through Latin America and other developing

nations in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This study will not, therefore, examine the

large body of "women in new social movements" literature.

Although the literature on new social movements is voluminous, exactly

what defines a social movement is not very clear. However, while authors such

as Escobar and Alvarez (1992) refrain from defining what does constitute a

social movement, they do make a useful distinction between "old" ways of

interpreting "reality" and "new" social movement theories.

"The most recent literature on social movements takes for granted the fact
that a significant transformation has occurred in both reality and its forms
of analysis. The 'old' is characterized by analysis couched in terms of
modernization and dependency; by definitions of politics anchored in
traditional actors who struggled for the control of the state, particularly the
working class and revolutionary vanguards; and by a view of society as
an entity composed of more or less immutable structures and class
relations that only great changes (large-scale development schemes or
revolutionary upheavals) could significantly alter." (Escobar and Alvarez
1992: 3)

This description of "old" ways of analyzing and thinking is characteristic of

Sendero Luminoso's ideology and strategies, and clearly demonstrates that

Sendero does not fall into the "social movements" literature. This and other

studies (Poole and Renique 1992; Degregori 1990) show that Sendero

dogmatically adhered to an interpretation of Peruvian history and reality that

conformed to the "old" as opposed to the "new" reality characterized by the

social movements literature. Therefore, this study focuses on women's

participation in Sendero as part of the socialist revolutionary movement in Latin

America, as it traveled from Russia to China and finally to Peru. Herein.

women's participation in Sendero is considered within a Latin American, and

specifically a "feminine" Latin American revolutionary tradition. This study

provides a brief sketch of the growth and development of Sendero and includes

a brief examination of how Sendero viewed women's participation in its ranks.

The Latin American Feminine Revolutionary Tradition

To begin with, as Jane Jaquette makes clear in a not very often cited

article, "there is a female revolutionary tradition in Latin America. (Jaquette

1973)" It is possible that this tradition influenced women's participation in

Sendero, and informed how others perceived women's participation in the party.1

Finding examples of female revolutionaries in Latin American history is not

difficult, although many of the women's names and their deeds in armed conflicts

went unsung for decades. Re-animated by feminist scholars of Latin America in

the 1960s and 70s, these examples of female combatants and women political

actors throughout Latin America often traveled thousands of miles, as

intellectual if not concrete concepts, to be utilized as models for the (sometimes

mis-)understanding of women's contemporary participation in revolutionary


1 I rely primarily on Jane Jaquette's (1973) article and to a lesser degree Linda Lobao-Reifs
(1986; 1990) informative articles for this review of the topic in order to establish a basis for the
Peruvian case.

According to Jaquette, women's participation in revolutionary movements

of the 20th century in Latin America first caught the attention of foreign

correspondents covering the Mexican Revolution of 1910. They "commented on

the 'spectacular role' women were playing in the Revolution, and an Argentine

journalist sought to explain this unusual fact by pointing out that 'technical

advances' made weapons both 'abundant' and 'lighter and easier' to carry.

(Jaquette 1973: 345-346)" Women had the opportunity to be political actors in

the Revolution due to "certain significant changes (that) began to occur during

the Revolution, including the breakdown of loyalty to the family and of the

isolation of women from national events and the explicit appeal to women as a

political support group. (Ibid.)"

Their participation in the Revolution led to the creation of a women's

sector in the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), a model that was

replicated by political parties throughout Latin America well into the 20th century.

Examples of female combatants in the Revolution include Margarita Neri, who

commanded a group of 400 Indians, and Elisa Acuna, who fought with Emiliano

Zapata until he died. Jaquette notes that in these two as well as other prominent

cases from Mexico's armed struggles, "women were most often active as

messengers and spies and as cooks. (Jaquette 1973: 346)" Women primarily

participated in support roles during the Revolution, and when they fought on the

front lines, that participation was later identified through their connection to a

male power-figure. "In post-Revolutionary Mexico, as in Cuba under Fidel, the

most powerful women were the presidents' private secretaries. (Jaquette 1973:


Perhaps the model that diffused most widely throughout Latin America is

that of Cuba. Jaquette and Lobao-Reif2 (Reif 1986; Lobao 1990) open their

discussions of women's participation with three examples of women who took

part in the 26th of July Movement and fought in the Sierra Maestra. Haydee

Santamaria originally was taken along as a nurse for the attack on the Moncada

barracks, and after fighting in the Sierra went to Miami to raise funds for the

revolution from the United States. Celia Sanchez, eventually Fidel's second-in-

command, began by helping to organize the 26th of July Movement in the cities

and later fought in the Sierra Maestra. And finally Vilma Espin, who helped plan

the 1956 attack on Santiago and also fought in the Sierra Maestra, later was

known for her role as president of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). Like

the women of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, "all these women are closely

linked to important male leaders-Celia as secretary to Fidel, Vilma as the wife of

Raul Castro, and Haydee as the wife of Armando Hart Davalos, party leader.

(Jaquette 1973, 346-347)" A women's Red Army battalion was formed in the

Cuban Revolution, (Rowbotham 1972) although there was very little active

recruitment of women, especially peasant women until after the Revolution's

success (Kauffman Purcell 1973). In 1958 only an estimated one in twenty

Fidelista troops was female (Chapelle 1962). With exception of one sniper

2 This author has published under two very different names. She is listed in the bibliography as
Linda M. Lobao and Linda L. Reif. For ease, I have referred to her in the text as Lobao-Reif,
although citations are of her specific articles.

platoon, women in the Cuban Revolution "performed support roles and engaged

in combat only sporadically, generally in relief capacities (Reif 1986: 156)."

The Cuban model traveled to Bolivia, where the most famous female

participant of Che Guevarra's National Liberation Army was "Tania," Tamara

Haydee Bunke Bider. Tania, who was not Bolivian but rather the daughter of

East Germans who fled to Argentina during World War II, was active in

communist parties and apparently practiced shooting rifles at an early age

(Jaquette 1973: 351). Tania returned to Argentina after her parents went back to

East Germany and in 1960 she was invited to Cuba. In 1963, Cuban

revolutionaries determined that "she was needed in future activities to support

revolution in the Third World," and after establishing a false identity as an

ethnologist, she went to Bolivia in 1964. There she "worked to gain access to

the highest levels of Bolivian society and government officials and to establish a

communications network which would provide urban contacts for the projected

rural foco (Jaquette 197: 352)." During one of her visits to Che Guevarra's

camp, deserters reported her presence to army officials and she was forced to

stay in the camp. Because she became sick and was suffering from a fever, Che

placed her in the rear guard when he split his forces. The entire group was

killed in an ambush on August 30, 1967. The National Liberation Army's appeal

to "feminine heroines. . are clear indications that the guerrilla group viewed

itself, as Tania did in 1958, as part of a self-conscious, world-wide revolutionary

movement, not as a force arising out of, or even directed toward, immediate local

concerns of peasants" or women (Jaquette 1973: 352).

The model of the rural female revolutionary as a woman who almost never

was a peasant or Indian but rather a middle- to upper-class, university-educated

member of an intellectual elite sent to rural areas to lead peasant and Indian

"masses" carried over into urban-based movements. In Uruguay, the

Tupamaros, founded in 1962, were, according to Jaquette, one of the few

guerrilla groups that specifically addressed "revolutionary women" in 1971. The

overall goal of the foquista group was to establish a socialist regime thereby

ending foreign hegemony, oligarchic rule and government repression (Reif 1986:

157). Uruguay, however, is vastly urban, and therefore they began their

formation of focos in the capital city and not in the countryside. Their position on

female participation was that "women had been disadvantaged by a classistt'

education which avoids physical training and 'limits, over a period of time, their

creativity, their initiative, and even their aggressivity.' (Jaquette 1973: 351)3 "

Unlike other groups previously mentioned, women participated in significant

numbers and in various different ways. A study of arrest records showed that in

1966 women made up only 10-percent of the group. But by 1972 women made

up twenty-five percent of total membership (Reif 1986). They filled both combat

and support roles, although the increase in their numbers over the seven-year

3 Jaquette is citing a Tupamaro document, Actas Tupamaros, Buenos Aires, 1971.

period may have reflected that police were initially reluctant to arrest women or

did not conceive of women as combatants in the movement.

Jaquette provides a list of women who took part in robberies,

kidnapping, and "other operations, including an assault on the Women's Prison

which freed twelve female revolutionaries (Jaquette 1973: 351)." Lobao-Reif

likewise lists a variety of roles women played in the movement: decoys, liaisons,

logistics, operation of safe dwellings, guarding prisoners, passing out leaflets

(Reif 1986: 157). For example, police believed that Lucia Topolanski, who

escaped in the assault on the prison, was a leader in the kidnapping of a British

ambassador. The Tupamaros lawyer was also a woman--Marie Esther Giglio

(Jaquette 1973)4. Again, it is supposed that most of these female participants

came from middle-class backgrounds, although that is not known for sure (Reif

1986) and the movement failed to establish a mass base.

Perhaps the most well-known revolutionary movement that succeeded

and established a mass base was the Sandinista National Liberation Front

(FSLN) in Nicaragua. The movement was militarily active against the Somoza

regime from 1960 to 1979 and experienced repeated defeats of guerrilla fronts

throughout the 1960s, with the insurrectionalists (Tercerista faction) making a

successful shift from rural to urban strategy in 1975-77. The Sandinistas led

insurrections in the major cities in 1978. Although they were defeated by the

National Guard in that campaign, they came back a year later (after reunifying

4 Jaquette is citing Le Monde, English Weekly Edition, Feb. 3, 1971.

the factions that split from the FSLN) to defeat the Somocista forces. The Junta

of National Reconstruction took power on July 19, 1979 (Vanden and Prevost


Among the most powerful female figures in the revolution was Luisa

Amanda Espinoso, the first known Sandinista woman killed in the revolution.

She was later the namesake of the Nicaraguan Women Luisa Amanda Espinoso

(AMNLAE), one of FSLN's most successful mass organizations (Vanden and

Prevost 1993: 58-62). "By time of the triumph, one third of the Sandinistas were

female and many, like Dora Maria Tellez and Monica Baltodano, occupied

important leadership positions (Vanden and Prevost 1993: 58)." However, at the

start of the revolution women occupied "support roles," although Lobao-Reif

does not specify what those roles were, and emphasizes instead that toward the

end of the struggle women "engaged in combat. In fact, they achieved positions

of leadership, commanding 'everything from small units to full battalions.' At the

major battle of Leon, four of the seven Sandinista commanders were women

(Lobao 1990: 222)."

Women were also actively recruited by the Association of Women

Confronting the National Problem (AMPRONAC), founded in 1977, although this

organization "served as a forum for women whose families or relatives had been

victimized by the Somoza regime" and did not out-right endorse the role of

women as combatants on the front lines of the struggle (Reif 1986: 158).

Members of this organization, again, were mostly middle-class women with

higher education, although it did eventually achieve "mass support.

incorporating women from all social classes opposed to the dictatorship (Reif

1986: 159)." The Sandinistas were able to do this by addressing the specific

needs of women, which were "oriented around social welfare issues and an end

to discrimination (Reif 1986:159)."

Female Revolutionaries in Peru

How did these historical precedents contribute to the development of the

Shining Path's and others' conceptions of women participating in a militarily

active Maoist revolutionary movement in the 1980s? In many cases, they

provided models, intellectual and practical ones, upon which Abimael Guzman,

Sendero's ideological founder, members of Sendero (male and female) and

others (Peruvians at the butt of Sendero's attacks as well as the international

press, academics and feminists) based their interpretations of women's

participation in the PCP-SL.

The most common model, by far, was of female combatants from the

upper- to middle-classes with at least some university education. They were

generally white European women, or women with mestizo and non-indigenous

physical characteristics. According to Jaquette and Lobao-Reif, peasant women

participated less often in such movements because they faced more barriers--

they did not have the time, resources, or the education to participate in

ideologically motivated revolutions. Peasant and poor urban women had the

most to lose by participating as combatants, and they also had the most

restraints upon their taking up such roles.

The women who did participate in Latin American revolutionary

movements were often motivated by an international campaign for socialist,

communist revolution or ideology. In the beginning of the 20th century women

acted primarily, with a few exceptions, in support roles to male combatants, but

in the 1950s and 1960s as spaces traditionally occupied by men opened to

women, women acted as combatants on the front lines of these movements.

These women carried arms when barriers to their participation as militants, such

as patriarchal ideologies and beliefs about women being the naturally weaker

sex, were challenged by socialist ideologies calling for the participation of

women in "successful" revolutions. Other factors that facilitated women's

participation as militants included the incorporation of women into the work

force, especially after the World Wars, and the subsequent questioning of the

reproductive versus productive roles of women. Maria nismo and machista

stereotypes broke down under scrutiny and international criticism, or they simply

were not maintainable when revolutionary movements faced unforeseen

emergencies and crushing defeats.

The majority of these Latin American women participated in revolutionary

movements led by charismatic men--Zapata, Fidel and Che. Sometimes women

achieved leadership positions but ultimately they were under the authority of a

male figure. This is not to belittle the power these women wielded. Women

often acted as major influences on male leaders, forcing them to address or at

least incorporate some women's issues, such as social welfare and laws

regarding divorce and suffrage, in the revolutionary struggle. Only in a few

cases were these revolutionary movements or their members (male and female)

interested specifically in gender issues. These revolutionary movements were

waged on classist principles, not feminist ones. They were based on

international socialist ideologies that articulated a belief that if women were not

engaged or included in the class struggle, then social and economic revolution

ultimately could not succeed. As Jaquette and Lobao-Reif found, movements

that were interested in women's rights and eliminating discrimination between

the sexes usually manifested such programs after the armed struggle had

ended, as in the Cuban and Nicaraguan cases.

Women in Peruvian Revolutionary Movements

Women's participation in Sendero possibly was part of this larger Latin

American tradition of women's participation in revolutionary movements, yet it

also undeniably has roots in a distinctly Peruvian history and political tradition.

Most discussions of a revolutionary tradition in Peru, and especially of

guerrilleras in the Latin America, attempt to establish a foundation with the 1780

Tupac Amaru rebellion against Spanish domination. Jaquette (1973), for

example, begins her essay with a discussion of Cecilia Tupac Amaru, sister to

Jose Gabriel Condorquanqui, leader of the rebellion against the Spanish in

1780. Even more referred to than Cecilia, however, is Micaela Bastidas. the wife

of Tupac Amaru, who also was a leader in that unsuccessful rebellion. Micaela

is the image most often invoked by women's and feminist groups and Peruvian

leftist parties, including Sendero (Herzog 1993; Andreas 1985; Lazaro 1990; El

Diario 1988). Due to the space restraints and scope of a Master's thesis, rather

than look back several hundred years to the time of conquest or to the 19th

century struggle for Independence for examples of this "revolutionary tradition," I

will keep this discussion focused on the revolutionary political tradition of Peru,

and women's participation in it, since the turn of the century.5

Women and Political Participation in Peru

In 1924 Victor Raul Haya de la Torre founded the Alianza Popular

Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), a highly authoritarian and paternalistic party.

Much the way Guzman is considered the leader of Sendero, Haya de la Torre

was considered the "Maximal Chief' and "Great Teacher" of APRA (Poole and

Renique 1992: 107). The party's members were infused with a "powerful

mystique of sacrifice" and "believed themselves to be creating a 'civil army'

composed of new and more moral Peruvians. Through their discipline they

hoped to end the 'decrepit institutions, hatreds and low passions' which they

believed had made Peru a decadent nation (Poole and Renique 1992: 107)."

For many of the party's members, "APRA was a way of life which called for

5 This discussion is based primarily on Poole and Renique's (1993) book, which outlines
Peruvian political history.

uncritical devotion to Haya de la Torre and commitment to the party's slogan,

'Only APRA Will Save Peru.' (Poole and Renique 1992:109)"

The same year the party was founded by Haya de la Torre a secci6n

feminine was also founded by Magda Portal. The formation of feminine sections

of political parties, in which women's participation was characterized by tokenism

and segregation, was a fairly well-established practice in Peru and throughout

Latin America. Women met separately and had little real contact with policy

making committees. Thus, the involvement of women in the party was controlled

by the creation of a special "feminine ambiance," or the creation of an

autonomous space, apart from men, that focused on women's needs in order to

solicit their participation in the party. The comando femenino did not expect its

female members to give up their traditional roles or compromise their femininity;

rather, a system of supports through youth groups, counseling services, and

community cafeterias as well as legal, medical and dental services were made

available to female members. (Miller 1991).

There also was a tendency, described by Elsa Chaney in her studies on

Peru and Chile, for the male leadership of political parties to employ women in

supportive capacities--either as "electoral capital" during elections, or as

organizers, secretaries and enthusiastic supporters at political rallies (Chaney

1973; Chaney 1979). These roles supposedly stemmed from women's "natural

occupation" of motherhood, and emphasized the reproductive over the

productive capacity of women in politics. Furthermore, they were roles that did

not step outside the patriarchal ideal of separate public and private spheres for

the sexes--with urban women in the middle- and upper-classes confined to the

private sphere (the house and the secci6n feminine) and men actively involved

in politics and policy making. So long as women worked inside this definition of

political activity, and sought to articulate their demands and needs within the

proscribed channels, women were allowed to participate in political parties.

However, when they sought to go outside established channels, or when their

growing disillusionment forced them to directly challenge the party structure, as

Portal did in 1945 when she was consequently demoted and stripped of all her

political powers within APRA, the women were either isolated, censured, or

pushed out of the party (Miller 1991). Participation in APRA was mostly

characterized by the urban-working and / or middle-class, and among women, it

included mostly white, upper- to middle-class, highly educated women.

Ironically, it was a military dictator and not a leftist political party that was

responsible for handing women the right to vote. While women in most other

Latin America countries had to struggle for suffrage, Peruvian women were

given the right by General Odria in 1954. He hoped that the "natural

conservative tendencies" of women would benefit him in an upcoming election.

Not only did the vote catch most women by surprise, but "it came as a gift for

which they had not expanded any large amounts of energy (Chaney 1979: 73)."

Scholars speculated that it was partly because women never organized a

successful movement to fight for suffrage that they were subsequently unable to

build a unified "women's movement" in Peru (Chaney 1979).

The Confederaci6n Campesina del PerO (CCP) was formed in 1947.

Peasants organized against hacienda owners who encroached upon their land

or with whom they had long-standing land disputes. They fought against

unequal tenancy terms and by the 1950s, hacienda workers and tenants began

to initiate strikes. Landless peasants and peasants from indigenous

communities invaded hacienda lands, and in general peasant militancy swept

the countryside, culminating in the 1963-64 nationwide land invasions. Peasant

women were often at the forefront of these strikes and land invasions, put there

by male leaders under the general (and incorrect) assumption that armed

authorities would not strike out against defenseless women (Radcliffe 1993).

However, women did not take part as elected representatives on the national

governing bodies of the peasant confederations, such as the CCP and the

Confederaci6n Nacional Agraria (CNA), until the late 1980s (Radcliffe 1990). By

that time, women also actively participated in peasant self-defense committees,

known as rondas campesinas.

Women peasants were also a crucial force in the slow process of peasant

accumulation. As several scholars found, the labor and resources they brought

to peasant households often were the keys to establishing small entrepreneurial

businesses, such as moneylending and small merchant stores. Women were

crucial in the maintenance of family households once migration to mines or

coastal haciendas by men became an economic necessity. Women also took

advantage of expanding markets and became proletarianized, occupying wage-

labor positions in the countryside, such as they existed, as milk-maids, for

example (Mallon 1983; Deere 1990). Although their roles in social and

economic spheres increased, women did not necessarily experience similar

growth in their roles in the political sphere. Women continued to be

marginalized in the peasant confederations, with numerous women ignored or

laughed off the podium by male members of the confederations at national

conferences and congresses. They were viewed mostly as "the 'shock troops' at

the level of spontaneous mobilization or mass action, taking a leading role in

mining strikes, urban riots, rural land invasions, and most other forms of protest

directly connected to issues of subsistence and family survival (Mallon 1986:


Revolutionary Movements in Peru

Peasant invasions of haciendas as well as several unsuccessful guerrilla

movements alarmed the Peruvian military, which had already intervened in the

government in 1962. The military's 1962 intervention came on the heels of a

presidential election in which Haya de la Torre won by a narrow margin. It was

an attempt to "contain popular mobilizations, which included a generalized

peasant insurgency, the development of a vigorous working-class movement

linked with the new and broader middle class, and a series of partisan

organizations demanding anti-oligarchic and nationalist reform measures (Cotler

1986: 149-150)." The revolutionary movements that followed 1962 only

strengthened the military's conviction that further intervention was needed to

establish a stable political order.

The first of these guerrilla movements occurred in 1963, when Hugo

Blanco led an armed peasant uprising in La Convenci6n and Lares provinces.6

Peasant unions in La Convencion formed during the repressive military regime

of General Odria in the early 1950s, and continued to grow during General

Javier Prado's regime. Peasants in the Cuzco area aggressively re-took lands

and fought large landowners throughout the late 1950s. Blanco, who was from

Cuzco and spoke Quechua fluently, quickly came to lead the Frente de Izquierda

Revolucionario (FIR), which united the revolutionary left but also found

considerable mass support from peasants in the surrounding area. In leading

the short-lived guerrilla movement, Blanco rejected foquista theories of

revolution and relied on peasant strategies and leadership. He employed at

least one woman as a leader of an armed cell in the valley of Lares, (Blanco

1972: 40) although the peasant uprising did not articulate a platform that

mentioned women or was overtly concerned with women's needs. Blanco was

captured and jailed in 1963.

Another armed guerrilla movement, the Movimiento de la Izquierda

Revolucionaria (MIR), arose two years later. MIR was a response by young

members of APRA, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, who were disgusted with

6 This discussion is based on Blanco's (1972) book describing the events at La Convencion and
subsequent persecution of Blanco and peasants involved in the uprising.

APRA's right-wing leanings in the 1960s. Led by Luis de la Puente, the group

of mostly middle-class university students and professionals adopted the foco

theory of guerrilla warfare and established centers in the jungle of Junin and La

Convenci6n. Several women apparently fought with at least one MIR unit,

(Jaquette 1973: 349) although MIR never referred to the emancipation of

women in its platform. The movement was short lived and unsuccessful.

Contributing to its demise was the fact that none of the MIR members knew how

to speak Quechua and none were familiar with the sierra. They failed to garner

support among the peasantry, and the military defeated the movement six short

months after it appeared in 1965.

Yet another revolutionary movement fueled by the international socialist

(Trotskyist) climate in the 1960s also failed with record speed. Hector Bejar's

Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN) had even less support than MIR's and

never established a foundation with Peruvian workers or peasants. The event

that spurred the military to take over the government, however, was the dispute

over oil contracts with the International Petroleum Company (IPC). When the

controversy exploded in 1968, an already edgy military decided to step in and

take over the government. The Velasco regime, from 1968 to 1975, instituted

numerous reforms, among them sweeping agrarian reforms which are discussed

in detail in other sources (Lowenthal 1975; Lowenthal and McClintock 1983).

Army general Juan Velasco Alvarado was killed in 1975, but military rule

continued until 1980 when General Morales Bermudez returned power to a


popularly elected civilian, Fernando Belaunde, of the Accion Popular party.

Sendero Luminoso, which began organizing as a political party in the early

1960s, blew up a ballot box in the small sierra town of Chuschi on the day of the

elections. Thus, on the eve of Peru's return to democracy. Sendero began a 15-

year-war against the Peruvian state and the Peruvian Left.


Sendero Luminoso and the "Lucha Armada"

"Sendero doesn't listen to the rest of the country, nor does the rest of the
country listen to Sendero. The matter is reduced to denouncing the
'annihilations' of Sendero, its arbitrary conduct, its disloyal work with the
popular movement; but it isn't given to systematic debate." 1 (Pedraglio

A vast literature surrounds Sendero Luminoso's development. This

discussion will only attempt to briefly describe its political formation and how

women figured in the political party before the start of armed conflict. Sendero's

ideological assumptions are rooted in the organization's development during the

pre-agrarian reform period of 1959 to 1960 in the province of Huamanga2 (Poole

and Renique 1992; Seligmann 1995). Before agrarian reform, Huamanga was

the poorest Andean region in Peru, and had been so since the 19th century.

Unlike many provinces, where mestizaje was more prominent, Huamanga was

characterized by an overwhelmingly indigenous population which spoke mostly

Quechua rather than Spanish. There was no significant industry in the province,

and the infrastructure was severely underdeveloped. Only three bad roads

linked the area to large urban centers elsewhere, and there was no electricity

and poor health care. On the surface, the province appeared to those who

1 All translations are my own, unless otherwise stated.
2 The following discussion is based primarily on Poole and Renique's book (1992).

would later become Sendero's leaders, such as agronomist Antonio Diaz

Martinez, as feudal. Diaz Martinez in particular made his life's work the study of

large estates that capitalized upon and exploited the majority of the population,

which lived in poverty tied to landowners by serfdom and other traditional service

obligations and discriminatory behaviors (Harding 1988).

In 1962 when Abimael Guzman came to the Universidad Nacional San

Cristobal de Huamanga (UNSCH) in Ayacucho, president Belaunde was

completing a program of revitalization and investment in the university. With

relatively large amounts of foreign aid and the attraction of foreign and some

Limeho scholars to UNSCH, the university not only gained some prestige but

also acted as a magnet for many of the sons and daughters of the elite, middle-

class, and even lower-classes in the region. Much of the development aid

received by the university was devoted to the applied sciences and enabled

professors and students to conduct field work that was virtually unheard of

previously. Through this field work, the students at UNSCH were brought into

contact with the reality of the countryside they had fled, and many were

convinced that what they were learning in the university held at least the

potential for social transformation in their home villages.

Many of these students were greeted and welcomed to UNSCH by

Abimael Guzman, who was made director of Youth Worth by the Peruvian

Communist Party's Comite Regional de Jose Mariategui upon his arrival in

Ayacucho. After the PCP split into Unidad and Bandera Roja factions in 1964,

following the Sino-Soviet split, the pro-Chinese PCP-BR faction came to

dominate university and student life (Taylor 1983: 6-13). Frequent Indian

invasions of the region's large estates in 1963 and 1964 provided food for the

Maoist-oriented PCP-BR.

In 1968, after the Velasco regime took power and declared sweeping

agrarian reforms using the military to carry out its project, the PCP-BR split into

two factions over how to respond to the military's program. A small group known

as Patria Roja split from the PCP-BR, while a majority remained with the

Bandera Roja faction headed by Saturnino Paredes. The PCP-BR was

represented by the Frente Estudiante Revolucionanria (FER) at UNSCH, the

Universidad Nacional de Ingeneria and the Universidad de San Martin de Porres

in Lima (Taylor 1983: 9). By 1968 there was also a facci6n feminine of the FER

active in Ayacucho and Lima. Abimael Guzman remained the head of

propaganda for the party until 1970, when he split from the PCP-BR and formed

Sendero. He and his followers criticized the PCP-BR for failing to build a

military apparatus within the party. Differences between Guzman and Paredes

were also fueled by the two men's reactions to the sweeping reforms of

agriculture and industry initiated by the Velasco regime. Paredes and members

of the PCP-BR decided to accept the Velasco regime, while the PCP-SL, with

Guzman at its head, declared the regime fascist and vowed to get revenge on

the "collaborationist" Left.

The PCP-BR pursued their base with the peasants in Ayacucho while

Sendero opted to control student life at UNSCH. In the university, Guzman's

ideology of "scientific Marxism" as a "unifying theme of a historical process in

which all material facts, from the earth's geological formation to the 20th-century

history of Peru, could be seen to lead to the inevitable emergence of the PCP-

Sendero Luminoso and its programme for a 'people's war,' dominated (Poole

and Renique 1992: 39). Sendero was an ideologically purist group, with

"scientific Marxism" being taught in the university as an absolute "truth."

From 1970 to 1977, Sendero retreated from political participation, during

which time the party built its political organization and formed regional

committees and cadres in the central sierra and Lima. Sendero's retreat from

national politics came at a time when China was emerging from the Great

Proletarian Cultural Revolution. The failure of the Cultural Revolution, which

lasted from 1966 to 1969, signaled a crisis in the development of Sendero. The

Cultural Revolution was Mao's "supreme effort to cleanse the superstructure of

bourgeoisie values that had crept back into drama, literature, party work,

education, and in fact into all phases of Chinese work. Mao's mission was to

root out the old values, replace them with proletarian values, and in the process

rebuild some of the key institutions that would advance socialism and lead to the

restoration of his authority (Gurley 1988: 170)." When he failed, Guzman took

Sendero in a radical direction.

Sendero re-emerged in 1977 from its self-imposed seclusion and the first

inklings of the hard-line, dogmatic, orthodox Maoist stance of the PCP-SL were

evident. Mao died soon after Sendero's re-emergence in traditional politics and

China's "Gang of Four" were put on trial in 1976. The "Gang of Four" included

Mao's widow, Chiang Ch'ing, who was "accused of attempting to use the militia

to usurp party and state power, of opposing Chou En-lai, of attempting to

assassinate Mao, of sabotaging the economy, of being enemy agents, and of

much else (Gurley 1988: 177)." With the conclusion of the trial and purging of

Mao's supporters from the new government, China began moving toward a

political and economic development fundamentally different from the socialist

economy and society envisioned by Mao. What appeared to be a blow to

Guzman only spurred Sendero to take an even more adamantly dogmatic

stance. Guzman declared himself the "Fourth Sword of Marxism," tracing his

theoretical development from Marx, Lenin and Mao, to himself and pensamiento

Gonzalo, and fancied himself the shining beacon of revolutionary thought in the


"Gonzalo Thought" was primarily concerned with ideological purity and"..

the identification of revisionism as one of communism's foremost enemies

(Poole and Renique 1992: 47)." Without the proper guidance from Sendero to

ensure ideological purity, "revisionism is a natural waste product of a class

struggle which unfolds" naturally (Poole and Renique 1992: 47). These two

aspects of Sendero meant that militarily and politically Sendero attacked all

other Leftist organizations, political parties, their members and representatives

in Peru. Sendero also viewed peasant leaders, community leaders, leaders of

squatter settlements around Lima and basically any independent organization as

competition and therefore a threat to be "annihilated'." Parties and organizations

to the Right of the political spectrum, on the other hand, were virtually ignored.

Sendero fulfilled its promise to exact revenge on parties of the Left that

supported the Velasco and later the Morales military regimes. Beginning with

the party's first military action in Chuschi in 1980, Sendero followed a systematic

program of selected assassinations, terror tactics, and massacres of Leftist party

members. Guzman, in the speeches and writings of Sendero, was apt to use

the metaphor of disease and curative "cleansing" to describe these tactics

against other members of the Left. As such, "it provides simple answers to the

complex problems of Peru and its largely futureless youth. . More than a

simple quest for power, the PCP-SL sees the armed struggle as an Olympian

battle between good and evil which is fought at all levels of existence, from the

universe to the individual soul (Poole and Renique 1992: 48)."

The upshot of Sendero's "purge" was to wipe out or silence effective

resistance to the neo-liberal conservatives that called for the implementation of

International Monetary Fund (IMF) measures on the inflation-ridden Peruvian

economy. Although conservative-Rightist candidate Mario Vargas Llosa did not

win the elections of 1990, one week after the election, outsider-populist Alberto

Fujimori "announced a package of economic shock measures designed to

control inflation and to enable Peru to re-establish relations with international

lending agencies (Poole and Renique 1992: 22)." Furthermore, Sendero's

campaign against the Peruvian Left and the general chaos it produced in society

was reason enough for Fujimori to take an authoritarian stance toward anti-

government protest. In 1992, Fujimori, with tacit approval from the military,

carried out a coup, gave virtually complete control to the military to deal with

Sendero, and "justified closing Congress and reorganizing the judiciary as

necessary to the fight against 'terrorism.' In the months following the coup, the

military and police dealt several severe blows to Sendero, with the violent attack

on the Castro Castro prison and the arrest of Guzman (Poole and Renique 1992:

166)." The result did not lead to a "polarization of society" as Sendero had

hoped. Instead, approval of Fujmori's tactics and support for his re-election in

1995 was widespread.

Women and Sendero

Little is known about the extent of women's participation in Sendero

during its formative years in Ayacucho. The involvement of groups of female

high school students in protests in Ayacucho, beginning with Velasco's changes

to the university and public school system in 1969, has been at least partially

described (Degregori 1990). It is important to note, however, that it is during the

period of Sendero's retreat from politics from 1970 to 1977 that the earliest

document which addresses the question of women's participation in the party

was published.

El Marxismo. Mariatequi v El Movimiento Feminino: "Por una linea de

clase en el movimiento feminino popular," was published in 1970. It is cited by

Carol Andreas in her 1990-91 article for NACLA Report on the Americas

(Andreas 1990-91) as one of her first exposures to the group, with which the

North American scholar, who conducted research in Chile and Peru and later

came to the United States to teach and publish a newsletter supporting Sendero,

clearly identifies. The 75-page booklet reveals a striking image of women and

their role in Sendero's radical project. The opening paragraphs state the

"feminine problem" in Peru must be viewed in the context of increased

mobilization of women in politics in the late 1960s, and such mobilization was

worthwhile only from a working class perspective that served the popular

masses-not when it was propelled solely for the benefit of the "exploiting

classes" or used as a divisive tool or obstacle to the "popular struggle." The

importance of the process of "mobilization, organization and politicization of

women" along class lines and in that specific order is established early in the

text. Because class, and not "sex" or gender, is postulated as the main factor

responsible for the subordination of women, "the necessity for a scientific

understanding of the feminine problem unquestionably requires a conception of

the working class, of Marxism (Centro Femenino Popular 1975: 11)."

This "scientific understanding of the feminine problem" begins in the text

with the refutation of "theories of women" coming from the "exploitative classes,"

specifically the theory of a naturally weaker sex. According to the booklet, as

greater numbers of women were incorporated into the process of production in

the developing capitalist system, those women-now freed from the four walls of

their homes and unpaid domestic drudgery and servitude-were able to establish

an economic base upon which to launch a struggle for emancipation. However,

Sendero maintained that this struggle unfortunately concentrated on winning

legal rights, such as suffrage, for women. Ultimately, Sendero believed this

feminine movement was unsuccessful because women such as Luisa Michel, of

the Paris Commune of 1871, made the mistake of thinking that pursuing voting

rights and parliamentary positions would establish equality. While the struggle

for suffrage often ended in victory, the text states, it was a hollow one because it

did not provide the means for women to "truly" transform their subordinate

condition in society. Legal emancipation, according to the text, meant

emancipation for a select few women.

Marxism, on the other hand provided a conception of "women as social

products whose transformation requires the transformation of society (Centro

Femenino Popular 1975: 19)." But Marxism in itself was not sufficient to achieve

a correct understanding of the feminine problem; it also had to be approached

from a proper "scientific perspective." According to Sendero's "correct"

interpretation of Frederick Engels' The Origin of the Family. Private Property and

the State, private property rights and private rights over the means of production

were responsible for the subordinate condition of women, and the only way of

achieving women's emancipation was therefore through the "complete

destruction of such rights (Centro Feminino Popular 1975: 21)." Marxism was

also able to offer, according to the booklet, the proper process of politicization

for women. Women, as they were incorporated into the productive process and

were transformed from "women" to "women workers," took part in the process

that forged the most advanced and "ultimate class in history"--the working class.

The text states that women began their radical process of politicization by means

of this mobilization and organization in the workers' struggle. They were

incorporated into the workers' party because it was responsible for organizing

and directing the working class through its political vanguard. In this historical

process a new type of female combatant emerged. The booklet cites several

examples of these new women, such as Luisa Michel, N. Krupskaya, Rosa

Luxemburg and Liu Ju-lan. It is also interesting to note that the only Peruvian

woman mentioned in this list of "new women" is Micaela Bastidas, wife of Tupac

Amaru II, whose name and historical example is used by Sendero repeatedly in

other contexts, such as its daily newspaper, El Diario. One suspects that

Sendero appropriated Bastidas much the same way it appropriated the works

and name of Jose Carlos Mariategui--as a means to legitimize its ideological

program, as Bastidas is an icon among women's, feminist and peasant groups

in Peru.3

From this Leninist vanguardistt" position, Sendero maintained that the

feminine masses had to be made to understand the necessity of their

3 For an interesting discussion of how the image of Micaela Bastidas was used by SINAMOS and
interpreted by peasant women during the 1970s, see Sara A. Radcliffe (1993).

incorporation and participation in politics and the workers' struggle, and that

women needed to be educated, organized and prepared for all forms of struggle,

including armed ones. Although emphasis in the text is on working women, it

mentions briefly that campesinos should not be forgotten since the "peasant"

class was identified by Jose Carlos Mariategui as the primary class of Peru.4

The booklet also claims that since workers' parties began to organize in

Peru in the early twentieth century, these new parties paid specific attention to

the situation of women in society. Sendero believed women of the previous

century were limited in their capacity to mobilize and organize because their

access to education was prohibited or severely restricted. Even when women

were allowed into universities in Peru in 1908, the curriculum they were allowed

to study was limited to courses in health, education, and similar professions

thought to be "appropriate" for women. However, the text states that

mechanization and the two World Wars meant that growing numbers of women

were incorporated into factory production in Peru. Sendero claimed that these

women "naturally" sided with the working class struggle and "adhered" to parties

fighting for higher salaries, an eight-hour working day and better working

conditions and safety regulations. Women participated alongside men in strikes

and fights for workers' rights, developed a proletarian ideology, and finally, in

some militant political parties, were viewed as combatants in the revolutionary

4 It is interesting that the authors of the booklet seek to legitimize their ideological program by
using Jose Carlos Mariategui, an intellectual icon in Peru for virtually everyone, left and right. As
noted before, the works cited in the booklet and allegedly authored by Mariategui cannot be

struggle. These women, according to the booklet, were willing to ". . seal with

their own blood their adhesion to their class (Centro Feminino Popular 1975:


The text claims that Mariategui's application of universal Marxist-Leninist

theory "scientifically" identified the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of

Peruvian society. Therefore, Sendero believed the "naturally weaker sex theory

was rejected by Mariategui because he conceived of women as products of the

semi-feudal and semi-colonial society in which they evolved. Women, at least

according to Sendero's interpretation of Mariategui's writings, did not possess an

essential, unchanging character, but rather were dynamic and capable of

change, in as much as society was viewed as dynamic and capable of change.

Mariategui, according to the booklet, also analyzed how the relationship

between "Yankee imperialism" and oppressed nations was imprinted on the

"feminine mentality" of the Limerlo bourgeoisie, which legislated and enforced a

supposedly feudal moral code that upheld an ideal image of the "Latina woman"

falsely projected by Yankee imperialists seeking to exploit Peru.

Sendero saw female workers, although having access to an economic

base to fight for their emancipation, as being doubly exploited when employers

routinely paid them forty to sixty percent less than men for performing the same

work in all sectors of society. The condition of indigenous women and

campesinas also did not improve with Peru's dependency on Yankee

imperialism. The document states that campesinas, often married with families

of their own, were still forced to provide free "services" to landowners and

regional authorities in many parts of Peru. According to Sendero, the

campesina's "miserable condition" had only one root and that was the

perseverance and maintenance of the latifundia and peonage in the provinces.

The booklet maintains, furthermore, that the emancipation of women

could only be achieved if the "new women" forged by the proper process of

politicization emerged at the same time a new society was being constructed.

The document cites Mariategui as stating that focusing on other themes of

"liberation," such as divorce, love and marriage would take attention away from

the revolutionary struggle and sow confusion and disorientation among the

feminine ranks. The development of a feminist movement following the "correct"

and "scientific" path of Mariategui therefore meant choosing a "feminism" led by

the Peruvian working class party--the PCP-SL. To do this, the document calls

for the construction of the Movimiento Feminino Popular (MFP) in Ayacucho.

Sendero believed that only through the MFP could women form a nucleus of

activists to implement the published principles and organization program. The

booklet also claimed that women had to work to establish the proper process of

politicization of women by mobilizing and organizing women according to the

orientation and politics of the proletariat. The four-page declaration of principles

(with an introduction and listing of nine principles) reiterates most of the points

brought out in the main text.

The document was re-printed in 1975 after the United Nations declared

1975-1985 the "Decade on Women." Added to the second printing was a short

introduction explaining the reasons for the re-edition and including a copy of the

MFP "program." The two-page program, a separate document written in 1973,

was somewhat more concrete than the original declaration of principles and

called for equal pay for equal work, equality of women before the law, equal

opportunities for education, and the creation of an outlet in the press for

Peruvian women expressing a classist perspective titled Rimarivna Warmani.

More vaguely, the program asserted the need to form a National Federation of

Women of Peru and a Socorro Rojo, responsible for "economic campaigns so

the people can support themselves by their own means (Centro Feminino

Popular 1970: 76)."


This study originally proposed to attempt to understand how women

conceived of their participation in Sendero by interviewing women imprisoned on

terrorism and / or treason charges in Peru. For this purpose, approximately four

months were spent in Lima from September to December of 1995.

Unfortunately, the entire month of October was spent in hospitals in both Peru

and the United States recuperating from an appendectomy and other health-

related problems. Fluency in everyday Spanish was achieved during these

months, while technical Spanish skills relating to legal and police documents

improved but did not achieve fluency.

While in Peru, this study was conducted with the support and guidance of

the Instituto de Defense Legal (IDL) in Lima, a non-governmental human rights

organization which, after reviewing the research proposal, offered to assist in

gaining access to the prisons where many female senderistas are housed. Work

was conducted in close cooperation with IDL's legal team, composed of lawyers.

social workers and legal secretaries who investigate cases of terrorism and

treason and defend those men and women they feel are unjustly accused of

these two crimes.

On several occasions I was allowed to accompany the Institute's social

worker on visits to the squatter settlements in Canto Grande surrounding the

Castro Castro prison. During these visits I listened to the social worker speak

with family members, friends and neighbors of men and women the Institute

believed were unjustly incarcerated. The social worker was primarily concerned

with the well-being and health of children left in the care of relatives, friends and

sometimes neighbors while their parents spent unspecified lengths of time in


Through the Institute I also was introduced to women who had recently

gained their freedom due to the work of defense lawyers on the legal team. On

three occasions I interviewed Sefora Santosa Layme at her home in

Cooperative Santa Marta. Her case received international attention through an

Amnesty International letter campaign and the efforts of other human rights

organizations (Burt 1995; IDL 1995: 267-269).

I was also introduced to several religious figures prominent in the human

rights struggle in Peru. Father Hubert Lanssiers provided vital background

information on the internal organization of the women's prisons in Lima.

Through him, contact was made with several other women who had been

unjustly accused of being senderistas and incarcerated on those charges, but

who recently attained their freedom. Interviews with these women were vital in

forming an understanding of how female inmates organize inside the prisons and

how they construct the categories of "terrorists" and "innocents."

The project's main goal of interviewing women in prison charged with

terrorism or treason, however, proved difficult to implement and ultimately was

impossible. Two weeks after arriving in Lima, with the assistance of IDL and a

letter of introduction provided by the University of Florida, I formally asked for

permission to access the prisons from the General in charge of the women's

prison of Chorillos, Lima. Initially the request was denied. However, two weeks

after receiving the rejection, the Institute learned that the National Police

promoted another man to the post of prison administrator, and the petition was

re-submitted. After waiting a month, permission to enter the prison was granted.

Through the IDL social worker who often visited women in the prison,

arrangements were made to interview two alleged female senderistas. The

women were notified that I would be coming to talk to them, and through the

social worker they requested basic information about me and the nature of the


However, I was recuperating from an appendectomy and left Peru for two

weeks, flying back to the United States do to other health complications. I was

unable to take advantage of the General's offer immediately. Upon my arrival in

Lima and shortly before I was to enter Chorillos accompanied by the Institute's

social worker and a lawyer for the defendants, the General sent my request to

be reviewed by the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE). He postponed my visit

pending INPE's approval of his request. Several weeks later INPE formally

denied my request to enter the prison. Lawyers and officials at IDL stated that

they felt access might have been granted if: 1) I had not been recuperating from

surgery and had visited Chorillos immediately after receiving the go-ahead from

the prison administrator, or; 2) I had spent more time in Lima and re-petitioned to

enter the prison. Due to time and money constraints the second option was not

feasible. The possibility of travel to provinces outside Lima where access to

prisons is easier to obtain was eliminated by further medical complications.

While recuperating from surgery and waiting for entrance to Chorillos to

be denied or granted, several other approaches to this topic were explored. The

possibility of conducting a study of female senderistas based on interviews with

arrepentidos, similar to that conducted by Ponciano del Pino (1995), was briefly

considered. Father Lanssiers agreed to ask several arrepentidas who were out

of prison and living in Lima if they were willing to be interviewed. However, there

are several significant dangers to this approach and therefore it was abandoned.

First, this method of investigation provided no way of assuring the safety

of the interviewer. Convicted terrorists who took advantage of the Ley de

Arrepentimiento in from 1992 to 1994 often rekindled contacts with Sendero or

the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) either voluntarily or out of

fear and coercion once they were released from prison. There was significant

danger of exposing the interviewer to attack if interviews with such arrepentidos

were conducted. Furthermore, several sources stated that arrepentidos often

continued to suffer persecution from police long after they were released from

prison. Father Lanssiers and lawyers at IDL maintained that police routinely re-

arrest and re-interrogate arrepentidos to see if they have, indeed, re-established

contact with the revolutionary movements (or the revolutionary movements have

established contact with them). If the interviewer's name was mentioned during

a police interrogation, there existed the possibility that the interviewer could be

falsely accused and imprisoned on charges of apology to terrorism and / or

association with terrorists under the current Peruvian legal code (Gamarra


Second, because most human rights organizations were closely watched

by the National Police and the military during this time, there was no way to

assure the safety and anonymity of the arrepentida interviewees from police

persecution. Nor was there any way to protect interviewees from exposing them

to attacks by rival terrorist organizations. Therefore, another less risky approach

to the topic was pursued.

Since I had already established a relationship with the legal team at IDL. I

asked for permission to do a study based on the information contained in their

legal archives. Permission was granted to study the materials in the case files,

or expedientes, of five women whose cases were investigated and reviewed by

IDL lawyers and ultimately rejected based on the doubts of the defendants'

innocence. The one condition was that these women's names be changed to

protect their identity, since many had yet to be judged or sentenced. These case

studies are summarized and presented herein.

The Institute's lawyers also had access to documents otherwise restricted

by INPE. One such document, a national census of all inmates in 1994 charged

and / or sentenced for terrorism and treason, was very useful in establishing

background information for this study (INPE 1994; McDivitt 1996). Analyzing

this document provided a concise picture of exactly how many men and women

were in prison on these charges, where they were imprisoned, how many of

these people were sentenced or still being processed, and how many

considered themselves senderistas or MRTAistas by registering with either of

the two groups upon incarceration (See Appendix B). These statistics should be

considered with care, however, since the census contained numerous errors

such as counting the same person twice due to different variations of name


Other information regarding the topic was further obtained from visits to

several organizations and libraries in Lima (See Appendix C) and by paging

through the volumes of three Peruvian magazines, Caretas, Oiga and Si, to

compile a list of articles that touch upon the topic (See Appendix A).


Latin American models of female revolutionaries in the 20th century

incorporate various and sometimes conflicting elements. This is to be expected,

as culture in complex societies is anything but homogenous. A brief sketch of

the Latin American and Peruvian models that preceded Sendero's war against

the Peruvian state and Peruvian Left by scholars such as Jaquette and Lobao-

Reif reveals that most female revolutionaries fit an unofficial and unarticulated

profile. These women conformed to other models of Latin American women--that

of mother, wife, personal secretary--that stress their participation in support

roles as opposed to leadership roles of male compatriots. They were also

overwhelmingly upper- to middle-class women, of white, European or mestizo

origin. Indigenous and poor women were almost entirely excluded from

revolutionary movements until after the success or failure of the particular

movement was determined. That Sendero would attract and / or recruit women

with similar socio-economic and educational characteristics to its ranks during its

formative years in the 1960s and 70s is not surprising. What is interesting, as

will be demonstrated in the chapters to follow, is that the phenomena of women's

participation in Sendero received so much sensationalized attention--from both

scholars and academics as well as Peruvian and international journalists.


General Texts and Women's Participation in Sendero

In a widely read and oft-cited article by Orin Starn, the anthropologist who

is best known for his research on Peru's rondas campesinas, states that,

"despite the ubiquity of female Senderistas, the phenomenon has drawn almost

no attention in the academic literature on Sendero. Serious inquiry into why

women enlist, and also in the broader issue of the construction of gender within

the party, should definitely be a priority for future research (Starn 1992: 218)."

In a footnote to this comment, he cites newspaper articles from Sendero's daily

paper, El Diario, and an unpublished document by Robin Kirk as the only

example of academic writing on the subject. Starn reiterated this point on the

final day of an international symposium on Sendero Luminoso at the University

of Wisconsin-Madison in April 1995.1

What this chapter will demonstrate is that, even at the time of his article in

1992, and certainly at the symposium in 1995, the supposed "lack of serious

inquiry" surrounding this topic was more a myth than a reality, and in fact

reflected a general reluctance on the part of scholars and others to acknowledge

1 "Shining and Other Paths: Anatomy of a Peruvian Tragedy, Prospects for a Peruvian Future: a
conference to analyze and historicize the phenomenon of the Shining Path and other
oppositional movements in Peru." University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 27-30, 1995.

non-academic forms of investigation (for the most part, journalistic). It also may,

either consciously or unconsciously, reflect the conventions of scholarly

procedure among U.S. and European scholars studying Sendero, and a

tendency on their part to de-emphasize Peruvian sources of information and

analysis, since many citations do not appear in prestigious, well-respected

journals or other academic publications (Poole and Renique 1991).

Carol Andreas (Andreas 1985; Andreas 1990-91) and more recently,

Robin Kirk (Kirk 1991a; Kirk 1992a; Kirk 1992b; Kirk 1993) and Kristin Herzog

(Herzog 1993) are the three most widely read sources regarding women's

participation in Sendero. Andreas, a North American woman who spent several

years doing research in Chile, states in her 1985 book, When Women Rebel:

The Rise of Popular Feminism in Peru, that she came to Peru in 1973 after

fleeing the military coup in Chile. She states that she had been "working with

women in a farm workers' union during the last year of the Popular Unity

government, hoping to make a permanent home in Chile... I brought to Peru the

same expectation of finding a niche for myself living and working in an

environment where social transformation was underway (Andreas 1985: xi-xii)."

The personal, testimonial style of her writing, which is exhibited

throughout both her book and the article she wrote for NACLA Report on the

Americas several years later, is a deliberate strategy used to get the reader to

identify with her position as an oppressed woman, in the sense commonly

employed by the second-wave, international feminist movement of the 1970s. It

is also used to lend credence, validation and an authoritative voice to her

writings, which, as will be explained here and in the following chapters, are

structured around her ideological beliefs-which just happen to coincide with

Sendero's ideology regarding women's participation in the organization.

The other well-known author on this topic, Robin Kirk, also employs a

testimonial writing style in order to present a point of view antithetical to that of

Andreas. Kirk avoided putting a testimonial spin to her writing style when she

was writing for newspapers, but did utilize it in her book, Grabado en Piedra: Las

Muieres de Sendero Luminoso. published by the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos

in 1993. Prior to the publication of her book, which is based on a 1992 article

she did for Image magazine, Kirk exhibited a typical detached observer

perspective common to journalism and journalistic writing, which may have been

a result of the medium in which she was publishing. Working as a foreign

correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the San Francisco

Chronicle and the Pacific News Network, she also published on human rights

issues and how the war in Peru affected women of the highlands. (Kirk 1991b)

She is now, however, probably better known for providing an alternative model

(to that of Andreas) for framing the issue of women's participation in Sendero

and for her role in America's Watch in Washington, D.C.

Much less known, and certainly less-frequently cited, is an outstanding

analysis by Kristin Herzog (Herzog 1993). Perhaps because the body of

literature surrounding Sendero is so large, or because of her distinctly

theological viewpoint, her book, Finding their Voice: Peruvian Women's

Testimonies of War, is very rarely considered in the literature about women's

participation in Sendero. She also employs a testimonial and personal

perspective in her writing style, yet she allows the perspectives and opinions of

women other than herself-Peruvian women, both victims of the war and

advocates for it--to shine through her text. She questions and contemplates the

viewpoints of others, attempting to examine them in the light of different

theoretical paradigms. However, unlike Andreas, Herzog does not impose a

pre-conceived theoretical stance upon the women she presents in her book.

A Lack of "Serious Inquiry" into Women and Sendero

In the early 1980s, as has been pointed out by Poole and Renique (Poole

and Renique 1991), some scholars were able to buttress theories of Sendero as

a peasant-based social movement by only considering, due to the conventions

of scholarly inquiry, a limited body of literature and information regarding

Sendero. Writers such as Cynthia McClintock and David Scott Palmer, for

example, drew on and contributed to analyses of Sendero published mainly in

European and U.S. academic journals, and in the process overlooked many

important analyses of Peruvian scholars, such as Carlos Ivan Degregori and

others. These "new chroniclers of Peru," as Poole and Renique dubbed such

scholars, blinded themselves to alternative explanations and analyses by failing

to incorporate information and analyses of Sendero published in Peruvian

magazines and journals that were considered unconventional and generally not

recognized within academia. Thus, these scholars were able to cite the 1983

funeral of Edith Lagos, which drew an alleged 30,000 to 10,000 people to

Ayacucho in a massive outpouring of grief and support, as evidence of

Sendero's mass-based support among peasants. (McClintock 1984; McClintock

1988; Palmer 1986) Other authors postulated that Sendero drew its support

among peasant women who found Sendero's "moralizing influence" on drunken,

abusive husbands a major attractant. (Tarazona-Sevillano 1992: 180-181)

More research into Lagos' death and the significance of her funeral needs to be

done before coming to concrete conclusions. Undoubtedly, one cannot cite this

disputed figure and assume the population of Ayacucho felt similarly ten or even

five years after her funeral. Similarly, popular and academic conceptions of

Sendero have not remained static, and, even after the capture of Guzman,

continue to change radically (Balbi 1991). It is probable that popular and

academic conceptions of women's participation in Sendero has undergone such

changes as well. A particular water-shed event, responsible for changing the

opinions of many about Sendero and its tactics, was the assassination of barrio

leader Maria Elena Moyano in Villa El Salvador in 1992 by a Sendero squad,

composed partially of women, in broad daylight.

Writers focusing on women's or gender issues inside Sendero may have

allowed the conventions of scholarly inquiry, which consider only analyses and

information presented in well-respected academic journals and texts (more often

that not published in English or French in the U.S. and Europe), to allow their

writings to go unchallenged. Most notable for this was Andreas, who in her book

and journal article relied heavily on Sendero's daily newspaper, El Diario, for

most of her information. She deliberately cultivates the idea in her book that

there isn't much information regarding the topic, when in fact women's

participation in Sendero was a topic which had engaged the imagination (if not

the scholarly investigation) of Peru's popular and sensationalistic press from the

very beginning. (See Appendix A) Among the more than 8,000 news reports

cited by DESCO (DESCO 1989), there are frequent notations of women's

activities with Sendero from 1980 to 1988.

In her book, Andreas portrays the MFP, or Movimiento Feminino Popular,

as an autonomous women's group without ever mentioning its direct links to

Sendero. In fact, Sendero is not mentioned at all until the second to last

chapter, titled "Native Revival and Rebellion." When she does mention

Sendero it is in a rather glowing context. For example, Andreas writes that, "In

the central provinces of Ayacucho and Apurimac, it was the guerrillas of Sendero

Luminoso who began, in the 1980s, to provide a dramatic outlet for women's

frustration and anger against the powerful men who controlled their lives

(Andreas 1985: 178)." On the next page, in a brief explanation of Sendero,

Andreas writes that the revolutionary movement began at the Universidad de

San Cristobal de Huamanga as "a social movement . born in the early 1970s,

and it was to become the greatest challenge to the Peruvian government since

the revolt against the Spanish crown in the early 1800s (Andreas 1985: 179)."

A little further on she makes a factually unsupported and highly controversial

statement that although Sendero became a "tightly disciplined clandestine

organization... it never abandoned its commitment to sexual equality within the

party (Andreas 1985: 180, 182)." Ironically, Andreas does an excellent job of

documenting some women's struggles to gain basic rights, such as better

working conditions and wages in a fishmeal factory in Chimbote. Curiously

despite this, she never mentions that many of the women's organizations she so

highly praises were, in fact, the targets of assassination and terror campaigns by

Sendero, which viewed almost all grass roots organizations and movements as

competitors and members of the "revisionist left."

Furthermore, Andreas' technique of footnoting leaves much to be desired.

After presenting quotes in the text, or presenting specific ideas and concepts

concerning women's oppression in Peru, the footnotes to which the reader is

referred often do not contain the information needed to find where the

information came from. Instead, the footnotes are explanatory, often referring to

Andreas' personal experience or observation. She mentions women's

conferences and meetings but never the dates on which they were held, where

they were located, or who organized them. Most importantly, she cites only a

few, obscure Sendero documents which specifically address women, giving the

reader the distinct impression that women "naturally" and "freely" sought out

Sendero and that the party was not forced to recruit women. This referencing

technique thus prevents the reader from verifying many of her statements about

Sendero's policies toward women. Despite the image that Andreas portrays.

women's participation in Sendero attracted the attention of the international

press at an early stage in the armed conflict. There is a pervasive overlap

between journalistic and academic writings on Sendero, so these sources of

analysis cannot be overlooked.

Since the 1992 capture of Guzman, there has also been an explosion of

academic writing on the issue. In the face of the abundance of information

regarding this topic, it is amazing that scholars continue to predominantly cite

Andreas or Kirk when there are plenty of other sources to consider. It is now a

relatively accepted opinion among scholars that Andreas was a supporter and

sympathizer of Sendero. The structure of Andreas' book, for example, when

placed side-by-side with the previously discussed 1970 Sendero document,

(Centro Feminino Popular 1975) reveals a striking similarity to the "proper

process of mobilization, organization, and politicization" outlined in the Sendero

document. After charting examples of female revolutionaries in Peruvian history,

include the obligatory mention of Micaela Bastidas, Andreas describes the

process of "mobilization" of Peruvian proletarianized women into the global

economy, and of rural women via agrarian reform measures. She progresses to

the "organization" of women in the pueblos jovenes and in workers' parties

throughout the country, citing their participation in strikes, labor marches and

tomas de tierras in the countryside. And from that, she finally describes

Sendero members, such as Edith Lagos and Carla Carlota Tutti (who took over

for Lagos after her 1982 death) as examples of "model" Peruvian feminists,

without directly mentioning that they were members of Sendero.

Kirk's analysis takes a fundamentally different approach, and is not

informed by theory as is Andrea's works. Her analysis is primarily based on the

quotes and her personal observations taken from one interview conducted with

an ex-senderista ("Betty") in the backseat of a rented car, and on her

impressions of a brief trip to the women's section of the Castro Castro prison in

Lima. The interviews and her visit to the prison form the basis for her article in

Image magazine (Kirk 1992a) and are expanded upon in the book version.

Kirk's book introduces a host of new sources on the topic, but unfortunately

several are impossible to find due to incomplete citations. Although it is clearly

not her intent, Kirk in certain respects perpetuates and reinforces a stereotype of

female guerrilleras world-wide as being "remembered for their savagery or for

their fatal beauty (Kirk 1993: 15)." For example, after opening her magazine

article with a very humanizing vignette about "Betty," the ex-senderista Kirk

interviews in the back-seat of a rented car, Kirk gives three examples of the

senseless violence that characterized Sendero's armed conflict during the 1980s

and 1990s. Her first illustration, that of the assassination of barrio leader Maria

Elena Moyano by a senderista cell, clearly exemplifies Kirk's designation of

these women as "deadly assassins (Kirk 1992a)." Kirk writes that among the

senderistas who killed Moyano there were several women, one of whom

reportedly delivered the tiro de gracia, or single gunshot, to the head which killed

Moyano in broad daylight, and a second woman who was responsible for

dynamiting Moyano's body.

The second and third vignettes that follow in the text, however,

unintentionally reinforce a stereotype of female combatants as savage and

brutal. This is partially because unlike the first example, which gives specific

examples of female senderistas, who clearly are individual women who took part

in the assassination of Maria Elena Moyano, the second and third examples

move to generalizations. In other words, Kirk switches from describing

differences among specific, individual women grounded in a particular historical,

cultural and political context to postulating-by writing about its opposite, the

savage female senderistas-a universal, essentialist "Woman." (de Lauretis

1987) Briefly, the second example provided by Kirk is of the assassination of an

Ashaninka leader who is crucified, castrated and whose testicles are shoved in

his mouth. At first glance, the reader may make the (possibly mistaken)

assumption that female senderistas participated in, and were responsible for,

this attack. However, Kirk does not supply concrete evidence for the reader to

confidently make that leap. Instead, because this example directly follows that

of the assassination of Moyano, and because of the gender-specific nature of

the act (castration and the placing of the man's testicles in his mouth), the text

conveys the literary impression that female senderistas were responsible for the

attack while at the same time avoiding making a direct statement as to the

gender of the attackers.

The third example uses a similar literary technique to convey an

impression that is also not supported by concrete data. This example is of

Sendero's massacre of thirty-four villagers, whom Kirk describes as being

"mostly women and children," in Santo Tomas de Pata. (Kirk 1992a: 16) Kirk

provides this example as more proof of Sendero's senseless violence against

society's "innocents," namely women and children. Such attacks are considered

gross moral transgressions to begin with, but their impact upon the reader is

exacerbated in Kirk's text by the unstated, although implicit, assumption that the

massacre in Santo Tomas de Pata was committed by female senderistas. Once

again, Kirk fails to mention the gender of the senderistas involved in the attack,

and one suspicions that men as well as women were involved in both of these

examples. By not stating clearly that both genders were probably involved in

these horrific attacks, Kirk perpetuates a stereotype that portrays female

senderistas as being deviant and somehow more devoid of moral fiber than their

male counterparts, who were equally, if not more, active in Sendero's brutal

attacks. In essence, Kirk moves from a very concrete example of women who

were senderistas and who committed an atrocious, inexcusable act of terrorism,

to, as Italian film theorist and critic Teresa de Lauretis explains, "examples of

women who .. become one and the same with embodiments of an 'archetypal

essence of Woman,' or "more or less sophisticated impersonations of a

metaphysical-discursive femininity (de Lauretis 1987: 2)."

Throughout the article as well as the book, it is clear that Kirk attempts to

avoid doing this. She is well aware of the specificity and individuality of female

senderistas, and labors to present the one female senderista she interviewed at

length-"Betty"-in such a way that she does not become the diabolical opposite

of archetypal Woman, but rather remains an individual woman who made an

individual choice based on her "investments'"2 in Sendero's political platform and

her own emotional and physical needs at the time she made her decision. At the

end of the magazine article, for example, Kirk states that the female senderistas

she interviewed are as much victims of the "hopelessness and misery to which

most people in Latin America are fated ... as were the thousands of innocents

slaughtered in Sendero's senseless violence. (Kirk 1992a: 21)" She writes that

these female senderistas acted out of the "highest idealism" and later found their

"ideals horribly twisted (Ibid.)." As she closes the article with her observations

about "Betty," the 27-year-old woman who joined Sendero when she ran away

from home at age 17, Kirk states that compared with the other "innocent" victims

of Sendero's 15-year-war, it is difficult to feel pity" for a woman whom Kirk

portrays as completely unrepentant of her violent actions (Ibid.). More pointedly,

in the preface to her book, Kirk laments, "Is this all feminism gave them (the

women who participated in Sendero)-the option between killing or not killing

another woman in the name of a utopia that they can't even describe? (Kirk


2 The term is de Lauretis'. She defines "investment" as "something between an emotional
commitment and a vested interest, in the relative power (satisfaction, reward, payoff) which that
position promises (but does not necessarily fulfill.) (de Lauretis 1987: 16)

The purpose of this critique is not to advocate that authors like Kirk

should condone the violent acts committed by women over the last fifteen years

in the name of Sendero. Rather, I hope that it will point out that authors such as

Kirk, who, even when deliberately attempting to break away from universalized

and essentialist representations of female senderistas, often inadvertently

reinforce a double moral standard when writing about male and female

senderistas. This is partially is due to the fact that in these and other texts,

"women continue to become Woman, continue to be caught in gender as

Althusser's subject is in ideology, and that we persist in that imaginary relation

even as we know, as feminists, that we are not that, but we are historical

subjects governed by real social relations, which centrally include gender (de

Lauretis 1987: 10)." As a part of this tendency, these authors tend to hold

women who participated in Sendero to a much higher and more rigid standard of

morality that is rooted in Latin American traditions of marianismo and beliefs that

women are the givers and protectors of life, not its adversaries. Kirk, for

example, states that she had, "Like most people ... always thought of women as

natural pacifists, life-givers." (Kirk 1992a: 16) The violent acts of female

senderistas, in Kirk's texts and in other texts discussed below, are therefore

condemned with more vehemence and, perhaps, more ease than are equally

atrocious acts committed by male senderistas.

In the same vein, Kirk is aware that one particular source of information

used in her book and article, an assessment by Peruvian National Police of


female "subversives," echoes this "murderous version of the feminine mystique."

(Kirk 1990d: 16) Kirk and others have questioned the practice of relying

primarily military communiques and National Police documents for analyses of

women's participation in Sendero (Castillo Cisneros 1991: 7). In both her

magazine article and her book, Kirk claims that Sendero was dominated by

women and only reservedly cites "police intelligence documents" as proof. In

particular, the document that Kirk draws from is one in a series of working

papers produced during a seminar on subversive activities held by the National

Police of Peru (PNP 1990a; PNP 1990b; PNP 1990c; PNP 1990d). These

documents are dominated by the theoretical assumption that ten years of

violence penetrated all major structures of Peruvian society and fundamentally

changed their character. Among the structures affected by the violence include

the family, workers' unions and the Catholic church. Included in these papers is

one in which Gustavo Gutierrez, a well-known Peruvian liberation theologist and

human rights activist, is named by police as a "prominent leader" of Sendero

(PNP 1990c). In the paper that discusses women's participation in subversive

forces, police write that they believe women participated in organizations such

as Sendero and the MRTA due to a "radical feminism" that permeated Peruvian

society and "the majority of feminist organizations that exist in our country (PNP

1990d: 6)." Flora Tristan, Center for Peruvian Women, is named by police as a

prime example of an organization of "radical feminist tendencies" present in


In particular, the police state that the tendency of Sendero and the MRTA

to militarize women stems from the theory that men and women are on equal

footing within the subversive organization.

"The subversive woman has the same possibilities as the man in their
organizations, able to rise within the party hierarchy ... At the very least, the
communist conception re-valorizes 'woman,' but with the end of using her in its
long-term objectives, and it is for this reason that in armed groups one notes a
great quantity of women that must have been brainwashed, manipulating the
vulnerabilities that any society possesses--especially this belief that women
must participate in everything without preventing them from any duties within the
(subversive) organizations." (PNP 1990d: 10)

In this document, the National Police base their evaluation of "female

subversives" on this highly debatable premise, and in fact several Peruvian

sociologists and psychoanalysts discussed herein question whether or not

Sendero merely paid lip-service to gender equality within its own party structure.

Also included is a very interesting "psycho-social" profile of female subversives

that makes no distinction between differences in women who participated in

Sendero or the MRTA (PNP 1990d: 14-17). Thirteen categories combine to

provide a profile that is at once specific and uncannily vague. According to the

National Police, female subversives are age 19 to 25, mestizo,3 of "middle to

superior" level of education and intelligence "for which they are exaggeratedly

dogmatic in ideology and politics," and have personalities considered to be

"more determined and dangerous than men . they consider themselves to be

capable to complete any mission, while at the same time possessing the

3 For scholars who study identity and ethnic politics, this is listed under the category of race.
Listed as the second most common race of female subversive is the "andino," and thirdly the
"blanco," or white.


dichotomy of fragility and durability, indulgent but severe. . impulsive and risk

takers (PNP 1990d: 15)." They are single,4 unable to maintain stable

relationships with men, lead hermetic, nomadic and clandestine lifestyles and

primarily are of "low social status." 5 The majority were students, although it lists

that some women were professionals in the fields of sociology, psychology,

social work, anthropology and university teaching, while the least number of

women were servants and domestic workers. Police said their work habits were

irregular, the majority have prior police records (although the types of offenses

are not enumerated) and these women come first from the central sierra,

secondly from the coast, implying Lima, and thirdly from the jungle. Almost all

the women are atheists who "take an oath to die and shed their blood for the

party (PNP 1990d: 17)." The source of this psycho-social profile is not given,

although I assumed it was compiled from National Police experience in arresting

and investigating Sendero and the MRTA throughout the 1980s. The remainder

of the document is an interesting and much more factually based discussion of

women in "anti-subversive," i.e. police and military, forces in Peru. But in the

paper's conclusions, it returns to the premise that "there exists in modern

psychology the idea that women have special qualities, and ways in which they

are better than men. . therefore . they are more vulnerable to risk and total

4 It then states that those who are married are involved with the subversive organization ".. with
the end of evading their family responsibilities." (Ibid.)

5 This is listed under "Socio-Economic Level." It states that women from the "middle" classes
were in leadership positions and the party "maintained and financed" their lives. Those from the
"lower" classes were found in "basic to intermediate levels of organizational work."

surrender to ideals which convert them into 'special beings' and potential

dangers when the subversives capture them (PNP 1990d: 24)."

Other Authors and Women in Sendero

The two fields that have generated a fair amount of scholarly analysis of

women's participation in Sendero by Peruvians is sociology and psychoanalysis.

Two women, Imelda Vega-Centeno (Vega-Centeno 1992; Vega-Centeno 1994)

and Matilde Ureta de Caplansky (Ureta de Caplansky 1992; Ureta de Caplansky

1994) have published on this topic. Generally speaking, these two authors are

not cited when discussing women's participation in Sendero, and perhaps for

good reason. What I am primarily attempting to do herein is bring these articles,

whatever their strengths or weaknesses, to light for others to study. As others

have argued, skepticism about sources on this topic should be taken seriously,

and clearly not all sources are equal. It is precisely because these two authors,

in particular, and other Peruvians of lesser academic stature (i.e. journalists),

have received so little attention that they will be discussed, although briefly,

herein. Even if these analyses are flawed, considering the paucity of reliable

accounts on the topic, just discovering how they are flawed or not may

eventually help to re-formulate an understanding of women's participation in


Vega-Centeno's first article is a short, six-page essay that does not add

concrete details to the knowledge of women's participation in Sendero, or of

Sendero's recruiting tactics for women, but does pose some very interesting


questions for further research into the topic (Vega-Centeno 1992). She

theorizes that while Sendero may have developed a political strategy that

appeals to women, the treatment of women within the party, once they became

members, was no different from the subordination and oppression that women

faced from society in general. As a sociologist, she points out the respect and

submissive roles women showed when interacting with Guzman, and that

Guzman referred to and treated the women on the central committee as his

daughters. She questions whether women were empowered through their

participation in Sendero or were just being used, as other political parties used

women in Latin American and Peruvian politics in the past.

Her second article, published two years later, (Vega-Centeno 1994)

reflects a more sophisticated and historically complex analysis of the

participation of women in Sendero. She outlines what she believes are the

fundamental elements of the domination of women in Peruvian machista society,

and then lists the "feminine characteristics" that she believes Sendero was

exploiting in women. Her provisional conclusions examine female senderistas

against the historical background of women's participation in APRA in the 1920s.

Yet she also acknowledges that her analysis is derived from "journalistic and

official information; we are not in the position of being able to study the female

senderista, for obvious reasons of security and the hermitism of the clandestine

group (Vega-Centeno 1994: 210)."

Matilde Ureta de Caplansky has also written about women's participation

in Sendero. While I am not sufficiently well-versed in psychoanalytic theory to

analyze her interpretation of women's participation in Sendero (Ureta de

Caplansky 1992; Ureta de Caplansky 1994), it is obvious that she relies heavily

on excerpts from interviews conducted with female senderistas by both Robin

Kirk and Carlos Ivan Degregori.6 Another psychoanalytic study, also recently

published, is by Cesar Rodriguez Rabanal (Rodriguez Rabanal 1995). Although

his book, La violencia de las horas: Un studio psicoanalitico sobre la violencia

en Peru, is based on profiles of individuals (victims of the violence of the 1980s)

who are in group therapy sessions, it does include a significant number of

profiles of women who suffered from Sendero's actions, and later contrasts

those with an extensive three-hour interview conducted with an ex-senderista


The limitations of all of these studies include the fact that it is difficult to

conduct research on Sendero, due to the fact that the organization is

clandestine, a large number of its members were killed in prison massacres in

1986 and 1992, and that interviewing men and women members of Sendero

must be done inside Peruvian prisons and jails, where researchers and

journalists have had only sporadic opportunities to pose their questions.

However, new methods of doing investigation on the topic have opened up,

including a 1995 study by Ponciano del Pino of the Universidad de Huamanga

6 Since I know absolutely nothing of psychoanalysis, I would encourage someone who does to
read her works and do an appraisal of her theories.

(Ayacucho). The preliminary results of his study were presented in a paper at

the 1995 symposium in Madison. Del Pino's study was based on extensive

interviews with arrepentidos, or convicted members of Sendero who were

released from prison between 1992 and 1994 after naming their fellow comrades

and providing details to police about Sendero's actions and crimes in the 1980s

and 90s. He was able to sketch the daily activities of Senderistas in Ayacucho,

and, combined with previous studies about the organizational structure of

Sendero (Taylor 1983; Degregori 1989; Degregori 1991), it provides a good idea

of what daily life was like for these senderistas (del Pino 1995). Although in his

paper he does not address women's participation in Sendero per se, he does

present quite a few cases of female senderistas and their roles in daily activities.

Finally, there is limited consideration of women's participation in Sendero

as part of a "female revolutionary tradition" in Latin America. The only article

which considers women's participation in this manner is by Juan Lazaro (Lazaro

1990) published in Dialectical Anthropologyav next to Lobao-Reifs article about

female revolutionaries in Latin America (Lobao 1990). It is also one of the

longer analysis of the topic, although it reverts to considering women's

participation in Sendero as part of the "woman question" in Peru's history.

Lazaro believes that, in order to understand women's participation in Sendero,

one must first examine the role of women in the social, economic, political and

cultural context of the Andes. Secondly, he considers how the transition to

capitalism has reinforced a sexual division of labor and women's place in the

lower classes of society. Finally, he ends by examining Sendero's approach to

the "woman question" in a violent, revolutionary context. Included in his article

is a discussion of several documents published by Sendero in the 1970s and an

analysis based on these documents of why women were attracted to Sendero

during this time in Peru's history.7

Other journal articles touching upon women's participation in Sendero

include a fairly well-known study by Carmen Rosa Balbi and Juan Carlos

Callirgos (Balbi and Callirgos 1992) published in DESCO's magazine,

Quehacer. Citing statistics of the percentage of women who have been

sentenced for terrorism in comparison to men's conviction rates for the same

offense, this article seeks to understand why women participated in Sendero and

what Sendero possessed and / or could offer that attracted women. The key

factor that is discussed is the disproportionately high level of education of

women who were convicted of committing terrorist acts: some 56.7 percent of

women compared to 31.4 percent of men had received higher education

(secondary or university level).8 The article surmises that Sendero targeted

young women with heightened gender and class awareness who were

dissatisfied and frustrated with their inability to translate their education into

71 have been unable to locate these documents, which lead me to believe they are part of a
private collection. If anyone has information regarding the following titles, I would appreciate it if
it were passed along: "Bajo las Banderas de Mariategui Desarrollemos el Movimiento Feminino
Popular" MFP, Ayacucho 1975; "Gloria a la Madres del Pueblo," Ayacucho 1977; and the
newsletter Voz Popular published by the Center for Popular Information of the Universidad de
Huamanga, 1970-75.
8 This information is based on a study conducted by Dennis Chavez de Paz (1989) which is
discussed at length later in the thesis.

opportunities for economic and personal growth on par with those that were

available to men with similar or less education. Accompanying this article is

another by Rosa Mavila Leon, (Mavila Leon 1992) which is a bit more typical of

the way the Peruvian press tended to sensationalize the issue of women's

participation in Sendero. As a result, it apparently is generally not included in

bibliographies on the subject.

The Effects of Violence on Women's Organizations

Another perspective to the issue of gauging women's participation in

Sendero also flourished in the last few years. As Isabel Coral commented at

the symposium in Madison in 1995, there are a host of Peruvian scholars who

are not interested in women's participation in Sendero as a phenomena, but the

effects that their participation had on women leaders of other grass-roots

movements, such as ollas communes, the government-funded vaso de leche

programs, clubes de madres, and comedores populares.9 She argued that many

young women participated in Sendero because other avenues of political

participation were closed or blocked off--deliberately by Sendero--and because

they saw a significant number of women participating in Sendero.

However, popular opinions of Sendero underwent drastic changes,

especially after the 1992 assassination of local political leader Maria Elena

9 Ollas communes literally translates to "common pots" and refers to the practice in the squatter
settlements of families sharing food among kin and neighbors on a reciprocal basis; the vaso de
leche, glass of milk, program distributes milk to families with children; clubes de madres, or
mothers' clubs, were traditionally organized by the Catholic church and provided opportunities for
women to learn sewing and other domestic techniques; comedores populares, or popular
kitchens, refers to the practice of women within a community in the squatter settlements who
pool resources to buy and cook food for the entire community. There is a vast literature on these
and other forms of organization in the squatter settlements that surround Lima.

Moyano in Villa El Salvador, a vast squatter settlement outside Lima. Moyanos

body was blown to pieces, dynamited, by two female senderistas after she had

been shot to death. The effects her assassination had on galvanizing women of

grass-roots movements in the pueblos jovenes, or "young towns" as the squatter

settlements are sometimes referred to, has only just begun to be explored.

There is evidence that Moyano's assassination radically changed many poor

women's opinions of Sendero. (Guzman and Pinzas 1995; Miloslavich Tupac

1993) Scholars, including Maruja Barrig, (Barrig 1993) Cecilia Blondet (Blondet

1993) and Isabel Coral Cordero (Coral Cordero 1991) have investigated the

shrinkage of political space in which women participated politically and socially

in Peru during the 1980s and 90s due to attacks and threats by Sendero in the

pueblos jovenes and barrios.


Despite persistent claims to the contrary, women's participation in

Sendero has been reviewed and reported in academic texts and journals.

Similarly, there is considerable information to be found in newspapers and

popular magazines, both nationally and internationally. It is not unscholarly to

deem certain sources to be of little use, but considering the paucity of reliable

accounts and detailed analyses of women's participation in Sendero, reflecting

upon the pros and cons of various attempts to explain why women participated in

Sendero may help to refine future attempts to theorize women's participation in


Sendero. By the same token, information selected only to fit a mold, or a pre-

conceived theoretical approach (as in the case of Andreas), do all a disservice.

A systematic approach to studying female senderistas that is not dependent on

idiosyncratic cases alone has yet to be devised.


Breaking Down Simplistic Binaries

Beginning with Andreas (Andreas 1985; Andreas 1990-91) and her

attempt to find a basis for women's participation in Sendero in pre-historic

depictions of women warriors with "toothed vaginas" painted on cave walls in the

Andes, there has been a persistent attempt to portray women who participated in

Sendero as particularly savage and cruel. Enrique Mayer, in his response to

Mario Vargas Llosa's article in the New York Times regarding the massacre of

eight journalists in Uchuraccay, states that one of the fallacies committed by

Llosa and others who attempted to explain the violence in Sendero's conflict

against the state was "to point to historical evidence of cruelty, bloodthirstiness,

and ritual involvement with violent acts using pre-Hispanic iconography,

historical text and hearsay as proof of the 'inherent violent nature of the Indian, a

psychological or racially inherited trait (Mayer 1991: 473).' It is just as

fallacious to use the same or similar strategy in trying to explain the participation

of women in Sendero by pointing to vagina dentata images of pre-Hispanic

female warriors or to mythical, unsubstantiated reports from the conquistadores

of a tribe of fierce Amazonian women living in the tropical interior of Peru.

The idea that women who participated in Sendero were somehow more

savage or cruel than their male comrades is clearly the articulation of a cultural

norm regarding perceived gender roles for women, which many authors on

Sendero may have used unconsciously. As Robin Kirk notes, "Ordinary

Peruvians paint a similar picture of these senderistas as impossibly fierce

women, inhuman monsters of death (Kirk 1992a: 16)." In the case of Andreas,

the use of such an image is a calculated tactic, an attempt to validate and

legitimize Sendero's actions by drawing a parallel between them and their

supposedly pre-Hispanic roots. In her article for NACLA Report on the

Americas, Andreas cites archaeological evidence of "women warriors" in Peru.

The article she cites, however, contains no more than a brief mention of what is

described as a relatively common, world-wide phenomena (paintings on cave

walls depicting women warriors with toothed vaginas) not specific to Peru and

whose meaning and function in various contexts is certainly still unclear (Lyon

1979). Other attempts to demonstrate the fierceness and savagery of female

senderistas, with gory details of their deeds, must be considered in the context

of the Peruvian state's response to a decade and a half of violence. Direct

threats and attacks by Sendero against elected officials, infrastructure and

international business probably prompted, and at the very least contributed to,

the portrayal of female senderistas, at least in some media, as "inhuman


But representations are rarely that simple. The portrayal of female

senderistas as unholy creatures in magazine headlines such as "Abogada del

Diablo"' and "Bella y Satanica," 2 could be interpreted as attempts to exaggerate

and sensationalize, and thereby to a certain extent negate, the revolutionary

potential these women represented. The invocation of Christian symbolism in

these magazine covers resonates with notions not only of domination but also of

resistance. The predominantly Catholic marianismo notion of women's roles, for

example, was often used by women as a means of resisting unwanted marriages

or combating unethical and oppressive behavior of husbands, brothers and

fathers. As a form of resistance that undoubtedly fell well outside the popular

and idealized mainanismo model for women's behavior, women's participation in

Sendero was perhaps easily demonized in the popular media. Along these

same lines, both of these articles were accompanied by visual representations,

or photographs and drawings, of the women concerned, Martha Huatay and

Maritza Garrido Lecca, as objects of male sexual desire-specifically, of Huatay

in a tight-fitting bathing suit when she was a young girl and Garrido Lecca

(countless times) in dancer's tights and leotards. In the most simplistic analysis,

these representations in the popular press appear to be at extreme ends of a

1 Translates to "Devil's Lawyer," used as a cover for the magazine Caretas to refer to senderista
Martha Huatay Ruiz. Caretas, October 22, 1992: cover, 26-31, 77-78.
2 Translates to "Beautiful and Satanic," used as a cover headline in the magazine Oiga to
describe senderista Maritza Garrido Lecca. Caterina Vella, Oiga, September 28, 1992: cover,

binary which either positions women as Mothers and life-givers or as something

else-- something indescribably savage and cruel.

For this reason, it is possible that men who took up arms against the state

in either Sendero or the MRTA did not provoke the same sensationalized

reaction among the popular press as that of women who committed similar

violent acts. Men were and still are already positioned well within models of

masculinity that allow them a much wider range of action and representations

without the stigma and moral indignation attached to them. However, the woman

dedicated to ideological and military revolution who takes up arms and fights on

the front lines, may be viewed as a dual threat-she is as potentially dangerous

as any other soldier armed with a machine gun, but her capacity to reproduce

and inculcate children with revolutionary values is doubly menacing. Perhaps

an approach that utilized gender as an analytical tool might further a more

complex understanding of women's participation in Sendero, and would help

scholars to recognize when they create a "binary opposition between women as

self-sacrificing, or as radical guerrillas," in their writings and what purpose the

creation of such a binary serves (Radcliffe and Westwood 1993: 2).

Women in Sendero and the Popular Press

The portrayal of female senderistas as cruel and bloodthirsty is evident in

international press coverage of women's participation in Sendero. The press

has not always acted in the most responsible manner when reporting on

Sendero. Before Sendero began its war against the Peruvian state, the

phenomena of female terrorists was noted by several international publications.

Especially when feminist newspapers or journals reported on women terrorists,

as in the cases of Margrit Schiller, Astrid Proll, Petra Schelm and Andreas

Baader of the Red Army in Germany from 1969 to 1971, the tendency was to

emphasize how these women shed traditional gender roles in order to take up

arms. The theories put forward in the international press to explain the

guerrillera range from Freudian psychoanalysts, who felt that women who took

up arms considered themselves to be more virile than women who did not, to

sociologists who felt that women terrorists were a result of "women's

emancipation, and with it they can only arrive at violence (Angeles Arregui 1977:

46). Women's participation of women in Sendero quickly drew the attention of

the international press.3 Appearing as early as 1983 in the French journal Le

Monde, female senderistas were described as having "faces hardened by

military faith," with "eyes focused on an internal dream (Niedergang 1983: 17). "

At this early stage in Sendero's conflict, the majority of images presented in the

article are from interviews with women and men in prison (the Women's Prison

of Callao and the island prison of El Fronton, which was destroyed).

Presentation of these images is focused on the women who continued to defy

the state, even while imprisoned, by not renouncing ties to Sendero. This and

3 A search of the Lexis / Nexis database reveals several hundred articles on the topic not
mentioned here. Only the major articles by Robin Kirk, Nathaniel C. Nash and Marcel
Niedergang are considered here. Most other articles that appeared in smaller newspapers in the
U.S. were shortened wire versions of Nash's and Kirk's stories, often added to by a local travel
writer or travel section editor.

subsequent reports often noted that female senderistas organized peacefully

into cells of up to twenty women, and managed to keep "extremely clean" in

comparison to common criminals housed in similar conditions (Niedergang

1983; Kirk 1992a; Kirk 1991; Nash 1992).

Especially in the Peruvian press, reports of female senderistas were and

still are routinely sensationalized. As Kirk notes, "In the Peruvian newspapers,

the female senderistas are portrayed in two ways: either as sexless automatons,

cold as gun-metal, or as alluring bitch-goddesses, with the manners of coral

snakes (Kirk 1992a: 16)." These reports often rely on dubious sources of

information, such as regional police and military communiques. In the fiercely

competitive world of Peruvian publishing, women are regularly objectified and

used as ways to spice up headlines and magazine covers with so-called models

in skimpy bikinis.4 There is also a great deal of soft-porn in Peruvian popular

magazines. Most magazines have a back page dedicated to bare-breasted

and occasionally fully-naked women who are used to sell magazines. Caretas,

for example, is as well known for its calatas, or bare-breasted back-page "girls,"

as it is for its political commentary. Even Sendero's own fount of propaganda, El

Diario, sported bare-breasted women and female "entertainers" in skimpy

sequined bikinis on its back pages.5

4 In my survey of the Peruvian popular press, I distinctly remember a headline used to illustrate a
Caretas magazine cover that read "Dangerous Curves," referring to an IMF-imposed economic
reform package implemented shortly after the election of Fujimori. The lettering of the headline
followed the "curves" of a young woman's body, lying on her side in a provocative pose, dressed
only in a short mini-skirt and high-heel shoes. Her head was cut off at the edge of the magazine,
"decapitating" her.
5 This is based on a review of El Diario for 1987 and 1988.

Occasionally during the seven-year period in question (1989-1995),

women in camouflage and combat fatigues with automatic rifles appeared on the

front covers of Peruvian magazines. Caretas, for example, had a series of

covers dedicated to "La Cumpa," Mira Lucera Cumpa Miranda, of the

Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA). The articles appeared after

she, as the second-in-command of the revolutionary organization, escaped from

jail in 1991 .6 The photo on the cover was of Cumpa Miranda in full combat gear-

-green fatigues and black shiny boots clutching a machine gun in both her

hands. Si, another Peruvian magazine generally considered to be a much more

yellow publication than Caretas, twice sported gag covers of a female comedian

dressed in combat fatigues. In this context, the Peruvian press repeatedly tried

to sexualize women's participation in Sendero. Most often these attempts took

the form of un-authored articles claiming, for example, that male Sendero cell

leaders were assigned a woman for "satisfaction of sexual needs"7 to the

publication of what were supposedly "marriage vows" between Sendero

members8 and the penalties for getting pregnant without permission.9

Most articles surveyed in the Peruvian popular press from 1988 to 1995

did not portray women in Sendero as savage killers, although when

6 "Habla la Cumpa," Caretas March 24,1991, cover and p. 32-37.
7 "Amor Terruco," Si, November 2, 1992, p. 31.

8 "Boda Luminosa," Si, April 21,1991, p. 66-67.
9 "Crimen y Castigo," Caretas, August 7,1989, p. 34-35.

circumstances warranted such coverage, the headlines reflected it.1'0 Rather,

most female members of both the MRTA and Sendero were represented as

occupants of traditional gender roles for women in Latin American revolutionary

movements--as the private secretary to Guzman,11 leaders of Soccoro Popular

cells in charge of propaganda and agitation,12 or as lawyers employed to defend

Sendero members accused of crimes.13 Little is known of women's actual roles

in the organization due to the lack of structured investigation, although a study

by Ponciano del Pino, presented at the 1995 University of Wisconsin-Madison

symposium in 1995, dealt with the daily routines of Senderistas based on

interviews with arrepentidos, many of whom were women.

Curiously, the portrayal of female senderistas as beautiful but deadly was

a less common occurrence in the Peruvian press than in international coverage.

It became much more prominent in both mediums after the arrest of Maritza

10 "La Lugarteniente," Abilio Arroyo, Caretas, June 27, 1988, p.14-15. written after the
assassination of Luis Geldres by two female senderistas; "De Tal Tio," Si, Jan. 9, 1989, p. 18-21,
written after a female senderista attempted to kill the Commander General of the Navy; "La
asesina de Vega Llona," Caretas, March 13, 1989, p. 30-33, and "Queria Matarlo," Si, March 13,
1989, p. 18-21, 93 written after a female senderistas was arrested for the assassination of a
Navy general at the Peruvian embassy in La Paz, Bolivia.
11 "Secretos de secretariat Si, June 18, 1990, p. 28-29; Miguel Silvestre, "Secretaria Ejecutiva,"
June 25, 1990, p. 26-29. Both articles discuss the capture of Elvia Zanabria Pacheco,
supposedly the woman who took notes during Sendero's Central Committee meetings. Also, the
subtitle to the "Bella y Satanica" cover article about Maritza Garrido Lecca is: "Secretaria de
12 "El Soccoro de Sendero," Caretas, Jan. 11, 1988, p. 64-66; "El Habito de las Cuentas," Si,
Feb. 24, 1991, p. 32-33; "Los Traductores," Caretas, May 13, 1991, p. 34-36; "Cartas que
Acusan," Caretas, May 27, 1991, p. 34-35, 85; "Nido en Marbella," Caretas, June 10, 1991, p.
34-36, 38-39; "El Ama de Llaves," Caretas, June 22, 1992, p. 36-39, 88; "La guardaespaldas,"
Si, Alejo Marchessini, Sept. 19, 1994, p. 32-33, 74.
13 The image of Martha Huatay was heavily distributed throughout Peruvian magazines. In the
cover article "Abogada del Diablo," this fascination with Huatay culminates in the publication of
photos of her in a bathing suit taken in the 1960s under the subtitle, "Martha Al Desnudo," p. 30.

Garrido Lecca, the Peruvian ballerina who was arrested with Guzman in 1992 in

an upper-middle class home in Surquillo. Her image, dressed in a black and

white prison uniform (which lawyers and social workers who work inside the jails

told me was not routinely given to prison inmates) was broadcast on Peruvian

television as she shouted "iViva Gonzalo!" and raised her fist in support of

Sendero. In the written press, photos of her after she was arrested were

commonly juxtaposed with photos of her as a child in a ballerina's tutu, or as a

professional dancer in Lima.14 This national coverage spawned a at least two

significant articles that could be said to fall into the savage beauty stereotype of

guerrilleras used to describe women in Sendero.'5 The New York Times, for

example, ran an article headlined, "Shining Path Women: So Many and So

Ferocious (Nash 1992), 16 and Robin Kirk published an article on the topic, titled:

"The Deadly Women of the Shining Path (Kirk 1992a)."

Previous captures of prominent female senderistas such as Martha

Huatay and Laura Zambrano Padilla failed to generate similar comparisons in

14"Sendero en Calzoncillos," Si, Sept. 14, 1992, p. 10-23; "Siguiendo a al Bailarina Llegaron al
Asesino," Caretas, Sept. 17, 1992, p. 28-29; "El ultimo baile," Si, Sept. 21, 1992, p. 18-21;
"Maritza: Danza Siniestra," Caterina Vella, Oiga, Sept. 21, 1992, p 24-26; "En la danza de
Maritza: Otros detenidos," Caretas, Sept. 24,1992, p. 16-22; "Bella y Satanica: Secretaria de
Abimael," Caterina Vella, Oiga, Sept. 28, 1992, p. 37-39; "Atrapada sin salida," Lichi Garland,
Oijga, Oct. 5, 1992, p. 40-41.
15 My understanding of how national coverage of Sendero translated to international coverage
comes from interviews with David Adams, the St. Petersburg 77Times Latin American
correspondent in Miami, and Lynn Monahan, the Associated Press (AP) correspondent in Lima.
16 It is important to note here that Nash, an economics reporter for the New York Times, probably
did not write that headline and instead it was almost certainly written by a copy editor at the
paper who was unfamiliar with the complexities of the issue. Nash, who began his career 23
years ago at the paper as a copy boy after graduating from Harvard, died in April of this year in
the plane crash that also took the life of U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Nash began his
foreign career in Buenos Aires before he transferred to Frankfurt, out of which he was covering
the Brown delegation and other prominent business leaders on a mission to find ways to rebuild
the infrastructure and economy of the war-ravaged Balkan region.

the international press, although these senderistas were considered by the

national press as responsible for many more violent acts than was Garrido

Lecca. For the most part, their arrests and later releases for good behavior

went largely unreported in the international media. The major exception was the

arrest in 1988 of Sybila Arredondo, the second-wife of the late novelist and

anthropologist Jose Maria Arguedas. Her arrest generated widespread

international coverage and a campaign by scholars and academics in the U.S.,

France and Europe to free her from prison. Her release from prison, and

subsequent re-arrest a few years later, however, was a blow to many human

rights organizations that publicized her case. It is ironic that the arrest of

Garrido Lecca spawned the "beautiful but deadly" stereotype in the international

press. The national press definitely believed that other female senderistas,

such as Laura Zambrano Padilla, presented a greater threat to national safety.

The popular press repeatedly decried the "lack of an anti-subversive strategy"

when police and prosecutors lacked concrete evidence to link these women to

specific acts of violence perpetrated by Sendero. Indeed, in the mid to late

1980s, the Peruvian press was keenly aware of the fact that judges were forced

to absolve many accused senderistas of all charges against them due to lack of

concrete evidence-often the failing of over-ambitious prosecutors, a judicial

system that needed major overhauling, death threats against judges, poor

investigations conducted by Peruvian police and charges of coerced confessions

obtained from the abuse and torture of defendants by police and military

officers.17 It was not lost on the national press that many of these women, who

were absolved of charges released early from already lenient prison sentences,

were later recaptured and prosecuted by military tribunals for treason.18

The beautiful but deadly image of the female guernillera senderista had a

second important element-a combination of class and racial / ethnic

characteristics-that was very prominent in the articles surveyed from 1988 to

1995. Both national and international media ware much more likely to write

about a female senderista or member of MRTA if she was a white, well-educated

or professional, upper- to middle-class woman, than if she exhibited an ethnic or

urban poor background. There was, for example, one article about Ashaninka

women participating unwillingly in Sendero,19 and one interview with two women

of Andean origin,20 but these were the only examples of this kind of coverage

found in the eight years surveyed. Furthermore, the image of Edith Lagos, who

was killed in September 1982 and is regarded as an important martyr for

17 "Jueces y terrorism: La justicia de Pilatos," Caretas, Feb. 8, 1988, p. 36-39; "El Terrorismo
paga, el Robo no," Roberto Sacrustegui, Oiga, Feb. 8, 1988, p. 46-50; "Sobre el juicio a Laura
Zambrano," Si, March 14, 1988, p. 34-36; "Retorno a mal menor," Si, March 14, 1988, p. 26-27;
"El Crucigrama del Terror," Alberto Ku King, Oiga, March 28, 1988, p. 32-36; "Huancavelica:
Otro niio senderista," Carlos Saavedra, Caretas, April 4, 1999, p. 22-23; "La justicia del regimen
en la Picota," Oiga, April 4, 1994, p. 25-26.
18 "No Hay Estrategia Antisubversiva," Oiga, Feb. 25, 1991, p. 28-32; "Mecha Peligrosa,"
Caretas, May 6, 1991, p. 24; "iD6nde esta la Estrategia Antisubversiva," OiQga. Feb. 3, 1992, p.
42-45; ",Con licencia para matar?" Caretas, Feb. 10, 1992, p. 37; "Soltando terroristas: el
tremendo Juez," Caretas, Feb. 17, 1992, p. 34-38; "Ejecutivo: complice en liberation de
terroristss" Oiga, Feb. 17, 1992, p. 25; "Justicia Endeble," Caretas, March 30, 1992, p. 34-377,
82-83; "Estrategia de arrepentimiento o de reeleccion," Jaime Salinas Sedo, Oiga, June 27,
1994, p. 28-29.
19 "Los Hijos de Sendero," Caretas. Oct. 21, 1991, p. 40.

20 "Entregas Inmediatas," Miguel Silvestre, Si, June 5, 1990, p. 78-79.

Sendero, is almost completely absent from press coverage during this time

period. The Peruvian press was much more fascinated with Lime o and "white"

senderistas and foreign "gringas" accused of being senderistas. National press

coverage of North American anthropologist Cynthia Stowell McNamara

continued from the time of her arrest to end of her trial.21 The most recent

foreign female terrorist to capture both national and international attention is Lori

Berenson, who was arrested in December 1995 and convicted a month later of

being a member of the MRTA.22

Academic Images of Women in Sendero

In academic texts, authored by numerous well-known Peruvian and North

American scholars, the portrayal of cruel female senderista perhaps manifested

itself for other reasons. Although it is doubtful that it was used as a conscious

literary or theoretical strategy, this image can be found in the works of

academics such as Carlos Ivan Degregori and others. Curiously enough, is not

found in the works published by these same authors in Peruvian and other

Spanish-language sources, but in sources, such as the NACLA Report on the

Americas, written for predominantly North American consumption. There are

probably several reasons for this, but foremost it may have something to do with

the translation of the articles for a journal which is a more popular venue

21 ".Turista o terrorista" Oiga, Dec. 28, 1987, p. 39-41; "Gringa cautiva," Abilio Arroyo, Caretas,
Mar. 7, 1988, p. 41-42; "Cynthia Libre," Caretas, May 2, 1988, p. 22-23; "Cynthia: Turismo
Peligroso," Oiga, May 2, 1988, p. 65.
22 "Lori Berenson, la sentencia no esperada," Jose Luis Reyes, El Mundo, January 12,1996 p.

designed to reach activists and influence the media, although academics

frequently publish in NACLA. In other cases, it may be that scholars, such as

Carlos Ivan Degregori, while publishing extensively on Sendero in this and other

mediums, focus most of their attention on male senderistas, including interviews

with young, disillusioned males (Degregori 1991; Degregori and L6pez Ricci

1990), and therefore have very few examples of female senderistas upon which

to draw. This is particularly visible in the NACLA Report on the Americas 1990-

91 issue dedicated to different analyses of Sendero, in which many of these

same Peruvian scholars were writing next to a very controversial article by Carol

Andreas (Andreas 1990-91). In this article, which has a much more militant

senderista tone than the book she wrote some five years earlier, Andreas

defends women's participation in Sendero, and even proposes that it was

attractive to women because they had "more accounts to settle than do men

(Andreas 1990-91: 27).23" There was a disturbing tendency for other articles

authored in this edition of NACLA Report on the Americas to revert to a portrayal

of women in Sendero as savage and cruel in order to stress the terrorist nature

of Sendero. Women who led Sendero cells and participated in massacres,

murders and terrorist acts were portrayed as having doubly stepped outside their

socially accepted roles, threatening a perceived stable social order, invoking

fear and the threat of chaos stemming from the possible breakdown of a gender-

ordered society. Their participation in a militant political party also undoubtedly

23 See also Herzog's discussion of the "just war" theory and Andreas' articulation of it. (Herzog
1993: 65-66)

highlighted the ambiguity and changing nature of gender roles in Peru. Thus,

these women were represented as cruel by researchers and academics who

(either consciously or unconsciously) sought to re-assert certain gender roles

and therefore, to a certain measure, the stability of society.

Two such images are included in the works of the most renowned and

respected Peruvian scholars who has written about Sendero (and is considered,

in many circles, the foremost authority about Sendero in Peru and the United

States), Carlos Ivan Degregori, in his 1991 article for NACLA Report on the

Americas. Whether by design or the fault of a poor English translation, these

images are striking in Degregori's article. For example, in discussing how

Sendero targeted members of the "revisionist" left, he vividly describes the

"popular trial" of Zenobio Huarsalla, a campesino leader who sympathized with

Sendero until he ran for mayor in the town of San Juan de Salinas, in the

department of Puno, on the Izquierda Unida (a popular, coalitionist Leftist party)

ticket. As the peasants pled for his life, Degregori writes that, 'La Gringa'

jumps forward. She is a white woman famous in Puno for the savagery of her

attacks. People say she has even gouged out the eyes and cut out the tongues

of her victims. La Gringa moves toward Huarsalla and with one shot blows out

his brains." This example is then followed by the statistics and names of other

Leftist mayors, party officials and representatives that Sendero assassinated in

the Andes region from 1980 to 1988.

The power and horror of the example lies not in the death of Huarsalla,

but in the fact that is was a woman, "known for the savagery of her attacks" who

"jumps forward" to pull the trigger. Furthermore, the image is not just of any

woman, but of a gringa, a blonde, usually pale-skinned and sometimes foreign

woman. This image resonates with the popular profile of the pishtaku beheaderr,

cutter of limbs and extractor of body fat used for various purposes, especially the

lubricatin of machinery, etc.) except that that image is more commonly applied to

white men in the Andes. This particular image probably also alludes to a woman

of middle- or upper-class origins, even of North American or European descent,

and therefore also partially acts as a symbol of decades racial and ethnic

discrimination suffered by the masses of peasants and indigenous peoples in

Peru. The terror latent in the image is compounded by the fact that not only has

Sendero stepped outside acceptable social boundaries (by assassinating a

peasant leader whose life was pleaded for by his constituents), but also by the

fact that it was a woman who pulled the trigger-a woman who stepped outside

popularly accepted definitions of women occupying submissive, pliant and

obedient roles in relation to male leaders. Thus the image of the guerrillera is

transformed into a mythic monster or a general symbol of decades of oppression

by the landowning classes. In a sidebar to the main article (which deals with

how Sendero's actions clash with community values that stress a "punish but

don't kill" creed), Degregori again falls victim to this tendency when he describes

the murder of another Leftist mayor of the provincial capital, Huamangilla, in

April 1984, writing: "A young woman with a large knife approached him Then

his wife (of the mayor) and kids turned and started shouting, 'Don't kill him, don't

kill him.' The sefora offered them everything she had in her store, but the

woman paid her no heed and plunged the knife into his heart-in front of his

family, in our presence." In this case, the example of a brutal female senderista

is used in clear juxtaposition with a woman who fits the Latin American mold of

woman as wife, life-giver, willing to sacrifice "everything she had" for the survival

of the family unit. One woman clearly embodies the social and moral values of

the people, the punish but don't kill creed, and therefore a stable social order,

while the senderista represents chaos and everything that threatens society--a

woman stepping out of "traditional" gender roles, taking life instead of giving

birth to it or sacrificing to save it, destroying the structure of the sacred family

unit. It is also curious to note that, in these two articles, at least, Degregori

exclusively uses women as examples when he wants to showcase the savage

actions of Sendero.

In another article of the same edition of NACLA Report on the Americas,

similar images are present in an article by Jose Luis Renique. Even this article,

which is about a visit to an all-male prison, does not escape the bias of

portraying women as cruel and savage. The author mentions that one of the

men he interviews was a close personal friend, and that this man was arrested

not alone but with his compahera. Of her, Luis Renique writes: "She was the

daughter of a well-known landowning family from Azangaro, a province of Puno

famous for its extensive cattle-raising haciendas. She was said to be the most

beautiful girl in town, and to have a terrible temper. According to some

'Azangarihos,' she led military assaults and killed people with her own hands."

Again, the example is present when demonstrating how these women acted

outside gendered roles that are viewed as more natural for women than for men.

The assumption implicit in the example, although not stated outright, is that it is

more natural for men to engage in acts of violence against others--to wage war

and commit murder, for example-than it is for women. When such images are

present in the works of academics such as Renique and Degregori, the result is

to strengthen the idea that Sendero was something unnatural, dislocated from

Latin American and specifically Peruvian revolutionary and political history.

Without question, Sendero had warped visions of Peruvian reality, insisting on a

semi-feudal interpretation of land ownership and class relations even after

extensive land reforms during the 1960s and 70s practically eliminated the

traditional Peruvian landowning classes. But the emergence of Sendero, and

particularly its use of women combatants and militants, was not "unnatural" or a

phenomena "outside" Peruvian historical experience. Indeed, as was pointed

out in the beginning of this thesis, the roles occupied by women, and especially

white, middle- to upper-class, university educated and professional women, were

more common than extraordinary among women in the revolutionary tradition of

Latin American. (Reif 1986; Lobao 1990) In fact, it would have been more

unusual for women of the lower classes, peasants, street sellers, market women

and women of the pueblos jovenes, and of racial and ethnic groups that have

been systematically discriminated against and excluded from national politics for

centuries, to participate in greater numbers in Sendero (Reif 1986; Lobao 1990).

When Sendero did employ poor and campesina women on the front lines

of its war against the state, the strategy was not without precedent in Latin

America. Especially in Peru, campesina women often led strikes and marches

against government policies, acting as the front line of both attack and defense

of male members of political movements from police brutality and violence

(Radcliffe 1993). Women were often deployed by political parties and other

social movements which sought to take advantage of a common gendered

culture of violence--that which associated men, and not women, masculinity and

not femininity, with the commission of acts of violence against others. Women's

participation in Sendero was part of a Peruvian, and especially a Latin American,

revolutionary tradition, and their actions as militants and combatants were no

more savage and cruel than the actions of male combatants and militants in the

same or similar organizations. To portray their actions otherwise is to engage in

the reproduction of uncritical binaries which do little to further our understanding

of women's participation in Sendero and in Latin American revolutionary

movements in general.


The women who participated on the front lines of Sendero's war against

the Peruvian state and Left undoubtedly took part in selected assassinations,

power blackouts, car bombs, attacks against police and military personnel and

other terrorist strategies employed by Sendero. However, representations of

these women-by either the popular press or academics and scholars-that do

not question the simplistic binary of mother-nature-good versus terrorist-

unnatural-evil hinder an attempt at critical investigation of why these women

were attracted to Sendero. It also does not answer why these women were

willing to fight for a rigid, dogmatic, ideologically purist revolutionary movement

when so many other forms of peaceful organization and political action were

opening to women in this epoch of re-democratization of Peru and Latin


24 There is a whole body of literature which examines women's participation in new social
movements in Latin America in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Due to space considerations, it cannot
be considered here, but citations are included in the bibliography.


Statistical Profiles of Female Senderistas

If the women who participated in Sendero were not morally depraved,

cruel, savage or unnatural monsters, then the question remains: who were

they? The National Police's socio-psycho profile of female senderistas

presented earlier in the text speaks in only the most general, and obviously

gender-biased, of terms (PNP 1990d). Several scholars also raised the question

of who female senderistas are, and the answers vary depending on the

methodological approach to research. It is an important question to consider,

because knowing who these female senderistas are helps to provide answers to

the vital questions of: 1) why these women participated in a dogmatic Maoist

revolutionary organization which employed terrorist tactics and strategies in its

15-year-war in Peru, and; 2) why these women chose not to participate in

numerous and more peaceful outlets for political expression in the new social

movements of the 1970s and 1980s.

As noted in the literature review, scholars attempted to statistically profile

an average female senderista. Sources of information on these women is

scarce, and therefore most studies rely upon legal records of women convicted

of terrorism and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The best-known and oft-

cited study of this type is by Dennis Chavez de Paz (Chavez de Paz 1989). In

this study,' Chavez de Paz contrasted statistics taken from court cases

(expedientes) of sentenced common delinquents and terrorists from 1983 to

1986. His findings are widely relied upon and distributed in articles and other

sources regarding the participation of women in Sendero. They are cited by

Enrique Mayer in his response to Mario Vargas Llosa's New York Times article

regarding the findings of an investigation into the murder of eight journalists in

Uchuraccay (Mayer 1991: 482-483), and are included as one of several

statistical descriptions of women in Peru in La Situaci6n de la Muier en el Peru

1980-1994 (Blondet and Montero 1995: 98-99). Both of these studies use the

results of Chavez de Paz's study to, as Mayer puts it, "provide a profile of the

rank-and-file revolutionaries of Peru (Mayer 1991: 482)."

In this study, Chavez de Paz states that the "participation of women in

acts of terrorism is significant," since 16-percent of those sentenced to prison on

terrorism charges between 1983 and 1986 were women (Chavez de Paz 1989:

28). On the surface, this statistic appears to be conclusive proof that women

were significant participants in terrorist acts. However, the absolute numbers tell

a different story. Chavez de Paz considered 183 cases of men and women

sentenced to prison for terrorism over a three year period. Of these 183 cases,

153 were men and thirty were women. A sample size of thirty is generally

considered to be too small for statistical analysis, unless it is weighted

1 Chavez de Paz's study can be found in the University of Wisconsin-Madison library, as well as
at various organizations' libraries in Lima, such as IDL, IEP and DESCO.

accordingly (Johnson and Joslyn 1991:147-168). Furthermore, sample error.

which includes both the margin of error and confidence level, increases

exponentially rather than linearly according to the sample size. Political

scientists who conduct public opinion polls usually try to draw samples of 1,500

to 2,000 people, regardless of the size of the target population (Johnson and

Joslyn 1991: 163), although admittedly in this case such a sample size would be

next to impossible to find. If, however, as Linda J. Seligmann has recently

written (Seligmann 1995), Sendero's membership never exceeded more than

5,000 people at any given time (although the organization's total membership

over the 15-year period may have well exceeded this number due to attrition and

recruitment), then Chavez de Paz's sample of 30 women in a total population of

183 is roughly representative of the population as a whole, and his statement

that 16 percent of Sendero's membership was female would therefore be roughly

correct. However, estimates of the total number of terrorists pertaining to either

Sendero or the MRTA vary wildly from several hundred to tens of thousands,

depending on what figures the estimates are based, when the estimate was

calculated and who--Sendero, the Peruvian National Police, scholars or the

sensationalistic press--made the calculation. Clearly, statistics extrapolated from

these thirty women and applied to the female terrorist population in general must

be considered with the caution.

For example, Chavez de Paz concludes that, "Apparently women

participate more actively in the execution of acts of terrorism, and furthermore

they have more responsibility, if we consider their prison sentences (Ibid.)." He

supports this conclusion with the statistic that 76.7-percent of women, as

opposed to only 54.9-percent of men, convicted of terrorism were given prison

sentences of between five and twenty years. Once again, although the

percentages look impressive, the actual numbers are more so. The 76.6-percent

of women sentenced to between five and twenty years in prison for committing

terrorist acts corresponds to a total of twenty-three women. The 54.9-percent of

men sentenced to between five and twenty years in prison corresponds to a total

of eighty-four men-almost four times as many men as women. Furthermore,

although not by design, Chavez de Paz's analysis is clearly based on data taken

from a non-probability sample. Very little was known about the "terrorist"

population during these three years and certainly no one knew enough to even

estimate how many people were participating in Sendero and the MRTA. Non-

probability samples are generally chosen when, "Researchers may feel that they

can learn more by studying carefully selected and perhaps unusual cases than

by studying representative ones (Johnson and Joslyn 1991: 160)." There is no

way of knowing, yet if these thirty women are, indeed, "representative"

statistically of female terrorists. At best, more insight into why women

participated in terrorist acts between 1983 and 1988 might be gained if these

thirty women were considered as individual, rather than composite, and

descriptive, rather than general, cases.

For example, of these thirty women, four were between the ages of 18

and 20, fifteen between the ages of 21 and 25, six between the ages of 26 and

30, two between the ages of 31 and 35, one between the age of 36 and 40, and

two between the ages of 46 and 50. The overwhelming majority of the women in

Chavez de Paz's study are therefore between 20 and 30 years old. However,

the median age of 26 for both male and female terrorists may have inadvertently

been skewed by the nature of Chavez de Paz's study, since he did not sample

from the juvenile (under the age of 18) delinquent population. Therefore, it is

there is no way to state what the median age of female terrorists, in general is,

but Chavez de Paz is correct in stating that the median age of women convicted

of terrorism and sentenced to prison is 26. Unfortunately, when considering

characteristics such as marriage status, number of children and place of origin,

Chavez de Paz does not break his data down by gender. He states that 70-

percent (128 cases) of those sentenced to prison for terrorism were single at the

moment they committed the crime, and 64-percent (117 cases) declared before

a judge that they did not have children. He further states that looking only at

those cases of sentenced inmates age 25 or younger, then 83-percent (152

cases) were single and 79-percent (145 cases) didn't have any children. This

tendency, Chavez de Paz writes, was equally present for men and women,

although he does not break his data down by gender. (Chavez de Paz 1989: 30)

Considering that the majority of those sentenced for terrorism were men, the

possibility certainly exists that a significant number of men incorrectly reported

their marriage status and / or denied their parentage of children.2

Chavez de Paz's findings, however, are most often cited when

considering the level of education of sentenced senderistas. The most common

interpretation of Chavez de Paz's data is that these are women who have

obtained a university education and are frustrated in their attempts to turn that

education into employment opportunities equal to those available to men with

similar levels of education. Enrique Mayer, for example, uses Chavez de Paz's

study to provide a succinct profile of the average revolutionary as,

"overwhelmingly young, highly mobile, better educated, provincial migrants

earning a precarious living in occupations far below the levels that their

education had led them to expect (Mayer 1991: 482)." In the next paragraph,

Mayer buttresses this description by stating that, of the "high proportion" of

women sentenced for terrorism,3 "half have been in the university, compared to

28% of the men (Mayer 1991: 483)." Mayer is not the only scholar to cite

Chavez de Paz's interpretation of these statistics. As in an article by Carmen

Rosa Balbi and Juan Carlos Callirgos (Balbi and Callirgos 1992) these figures

are generally used to buttress the hypothesis that female senderistas possessed

2 Marital status is a slippery question in Peru anyway. There are several forms of marriage in
Peru, one of which is civil marriage-before a judge with a marriage license issued by the
Peruvian state. It is still relatively rare among people living in the impoverished provinces and in
the squatter settlements surrounding Lima, because it is expensive to apply and receive the
marriage license. Other forms of "marriage," such as religious marriage and a trial period during
which couples often live together and may even have children but not go through any marriage
ceremony, may last for years before being legalized by a civil marriage license.
3 Which, keep in mind, constituted five out of thirty women sentenced for terrorism in a three
year span.

an awareness of the discrimination and oppression of women in Peru which was

heightened by unsuccessful and often frustrating forays into the labor market.

Almost 60-percent (seventeen women) had, indeed, been in the university, some

43-percent (thirteen women) failed to complete their university education, and

only one obtained a Bachelor's degree and three others had either a

professional title or post-graduate studies, while nine women listed their

profession as "student (Chavez de Paz 1989: 44)." Clearly, these women were

exposed to the Peruvian university system, and it is undeniable that, in a country

where even the most menial customer service and secretarial jobs in the capital

specify that women be young (under age 35) and good-looking (by that I mean

possessing non-Andean physical features), these women were frustrated in their

attempts to translate their university exposure into well-paying jobs equal to

those available to men with similar levels of education.

From Chavez de Paz's data, it could also be speculated that Sendero, as

a highly patriarchal organization, encouraged these women not to finish and / or

prevented them from completing their university education, seriously limiting

their forays into the labor markets of Lima and the provinces and exacerbating

their sense of frustration. Although such a hypothesis is pure speculation, it is

possible that Sendero employed this and other strategies to make women

dependent on the revolutionary party apparatus. Combined with Sendero's well-

known clandestine tendencies, Sendero may have succeeded in further

estranging women from their kin and other support networks. These women

would therefore have been made more vulnerable to exploitation and

manipulation by male and female friends, as well as lovers and husbands. The

end result possibly meant that women who were distanced from their families

and denied the opportunity (a completed Bachelor's degree or other professional

skill) to find employment were forced to cling even more tightly to Sendero and

its male members (the pun is irresistible). Some of Chavez de Paz's own data.

at least in part, supports this preliminary conclusion. For example, among

women sentenced for terrorism, four were unemployed, while none of the men in

the sample were unemployed. In addition, four women worked as street sellers,

three as "service workers" and one woman was a housewife (Chavez de Paz

1989: 49, 51-52). But there is no way to know for sure, since Chavez de Paz

does not consider the testimony of the defendants in their court cases, which

often contains at least a partial recounting of how and why women chose (or not)

to join Sendero.

There are other significant issues that should be raised by Chavez de Paz

regarding the use of legal records as a source of socio-economic data,

specifically regarding the anti-insurgent nature of the documents. The first is

related to human rights and the administration of justice in Peru. By using only

those cases of convicted and sentenced terrorists, Chavez de Paz accepts the

Peruvian state's designation of these women as terrorists based on their

conviction in a Peruvian court of law. I made a similar assumption while

preparing the research proposal for the thesis fieldwork. Originally, I proposed

to investigate only cases of women sentenced to prison on terrorism and / or

treason charges. However, upon arrival in Lima and after only a few weeks of

working with lawyers at the Instituto de Defensa Legal, who represent numerous

women imprisoned in Chorillos, and speaking with members of other non-

governmental human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and

APRODEH, I quickly learned that a conviction and prison sentence for terrorism

or treason could not necessarily be equated with guilt. There are numerous

cases of women sentenced to prison on treason and / or terrorism charges who

clearly are innocent of the accusations brought against them, or at the very least

there remains doubt as to the voluntary nature of their participation in Sendero

(IDL 1995; IDL 1994b; IDL 1991). Chavez de Paz admits that it was impossible

to verify the final disposition of cases, which routinely are appealed to the

Supreme Court where the conviction and sentence are either ratified, remanded

for re-evaluation by a lower court, or dismissed altogether.4 Also significant is

that convictions and sentences on charges of terrorism began to be issued in

1982-the same year that accusations of torture and ill-treatment of male and

female prisoners were voiced by several international human rights

organizations. Although lawyers and academics at various institutions in Lima

expressed the opinion that most people arrested during the early 1980s were

"genuine, hard-core Senderistas," evidence to the contrary also exists. At least

one document produced by the Organizaci6n Feminista 'Mujeres en Lucha'

4 The judicial process is set forward step-by-step in a manual for defense lawyers recently
published by IDL. (Gamarra 1995)

(OFML) in 1982 provides moving testimony of women who were tortured, raped

and severely beaten by police and military personnel before being forced to

"confess" to being "terrorists (OFML 1982)."

A further complication to building upon his study is that all of Chavez de

Paz's data was collected prior to the prison massacres of 1986 and 1992, after

which drastic changes in the nation's prisons were instituted to insure that such

uprisings would not reoccur (Sanchez Leon and del Mastro 1993). Before the

prison reforms, senderistas and MRTAistas maintained themselves separately

from other criminals and delinquents housed in the same prisons. They were

able to maintain strict discipline and order, police their own members, and

provide regular meals, limited health care and education to their members. They

maintained a cleaner environment than that of similar areas where common

criminals were housed. These and other factors possibly acted as incentives for

some women to join Sendero in the prison setting. Chavez de Paz's study by its

nature (i.e. including only cases of women convicted of terrorism) excludes

senderista converts who were imprisoned on charges other than terrorism.

Profiles of Female Senderistas from Legal Cases

In part, the structure of Chavez de Paz's study exposes it to these and

other criticisms. By extracting purely socio-economic, and therefore statistically

manipulable, data-age, martial status, level of education, profession, and

income-from these cases, he overlooks a wealth (if you have the time to sort

through it all) of other information contained in the text of these cases. Primarily,

what Chavez de Paz's study does not tap into is the oral testimony of both the

accused and the accuser in these cases. As was previously stated, the initial

goal of my project was to conduct interviews with convicted and sentenced

female senderistas in the women's prison of Chorillos, Lima. According to

Sanchez Le6n and del Mastro, there is a need for detailed study of women's

prisons in Peru, since most scholars approach delinquency from a masculine

perspective. (Sanchez Leon and del Mastro 1993: 54) However, since the

prison reforms of 1992-93, access to prisons has been granted on a sporadic

basis, prohibiting long-term studies of convicted terrorists in jail and instead

encouraging journalistic accounts of one-time visits to the prisons.5 Legal

reforms in 1992, specifically Resoluci6n Suprema 114-92-JUS, established rigid

visitation rights for prisoners charged with terrorism. Those charged and / or

sentenced with treason and / or terrorism are allowed two visits on the same day

once a month from two direct members of their family. The monitored visits last

thirty minutes each, for a total of one hour of non-contact visitation monthly. The

only other people allowed to visit inmates, according to the law, are members of

the Red Cross. (IDL 1994: 276-277) Lawyers for the accused and convicted

usually are permitted entrance to see their clients, but sometimes even lawyers

are denied access.6 The Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) was successful, after

5 An excellent exception to this is a study of male delinquents in Lima's prisons by Abelardo
Sanchez Le6n and Marco del Mastro.
6 Personal communication with team of lawyers and social worker at the Instituto de Defensa
Legal, Lima.

Full Text
xml version 1.0 standalone yes
PreviousPageID P593

Crime Cases
Treason and Terrorism 5003
Other Crimes 15855 Treason
Total 20858 Terrorism


Figure 3. Prison Population in 1994 Charged with Treason, Terrorism and Other Crimes

Gender Cases
Women 728
Men 4275
Total 5003 women

Figure 4: Prison Population in 1994 Charged with Treason and Terrorism by Gender