Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA)


Liberal Arts

Document Type



Sendero Luminoso first appeared in Peru in May 1980 by burning several ballot boxes and hanging dogs from streetlights. This unusual event signaled the beginning of one of the most violent insurgencies in the Western hemisphere. Abimael Guzmán, the founder of Sendero Luminoso, set out to utterly destroy Peruvian society in order to replace it with his vision of a utopian communist society by creating a peasant uprising starting in the Andean highlands and spreading throughout Peru, eventually surrounding the capital, Lima. The government of Peru virtually ignored Sendero Luminoso for two years, which allowed the group to establish strong base areas in and around the department of Ayacucho. When the government finally reacted, it was forced to declare a state of emergency in the south central highlands and send in the military to regain control. Through successive administrations over the next decade, Peru was engulfed in violence and destruction, human rights abuses, corruption, and economic catastrophe. Sendero Luminoso demonstrated an uncanny ability to avoid the military’s concentrated efforts while expanding into new regions of Peru. The group also benefited from the drug trade to finance the insurgency by providing protection to coca farmers and narcotraffickers in the Upper Huallaga Valley. Only after Guzmán’s capture in 1992 did the government witness visible progress in the fight against the insurgents. Sendero Luminoso rapidly declined without Guzmán’s leadership and the remnants withdrew to the Upper Huallaga Valley. Yet many of the conditions that led to the creation of Sendero Luminoso still plague the country, including corruption in the government, poverty, and a weak economy. The missing catalyst is another leader like Abimael Guzmán.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stanley E. Hilton