In 1969, Juan Velasco Alvarado’s military government began an ambitious land reform program in Peru, transferring holdings from large estates to peasant cooperatives. Fifty years later this reform remains controversial: critics claim it unjustly expropriated land and ruined the Peruvian economy, while supporters emphasize its success in addressing rural inequality and exploitation.
Moving beyond agricultural policy to offer a fresh perspective on the agrarian reform, Land without Masters shows how ideological assumptions and state interventions surrounding the reform transformed Peru’s political culture and social fabric. Drawing on fieldwork in three different regions, Anna Cant shows how the government adapted its discourse and interventions to the local context while using the reform as a platform for nation-building. This comparative approach reveals how local actors shaped the regional impact of the agrarian reform and highlights the new forms of agency that emerged, including that of marginalized peasants who helped forge a new social, cultural, and political landscape.
Making novel use of both visual and cultural sources, this book is a fascinating look at how the agrarian reform process permanently altered the relationship between rural citizens and the national government—and how it continues to resonate in Peruvian politics today.