UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Interview with LAIS Alumnus Steve Pent

Steve Pent

LAIS MA Alumni ’07


What is the main contribution/argument of your book?


One of the main contributions of my book will have been to draw attention to the significant role rural communities played in Peruvian history, for the period of 1917-1927. I feel compelled to challenge a historiography that has tended to highlight urban protagonists on the national stage, relegating rural players to the role of victims or supporting actors. I argue in my book that these are projections by certain entities to stifle legitimate displays of citizenship on the part of rural actors, who traditionally had not even been considered citizens, but rather relics from the past. I argue that much of the conflict generated in the southern Peruvian Andes during this period pitted urban centers and rural communities in their demands before the Leguia administration, which had opened up the political spectrum for all.  My focus has been on the Comité Pro-Derecho Indígena Tawantinsuyo (CPDIT), a national organization of rural communities under whose auspices peasant delegations were able to air their complaints and demands regarding land seizures, corvee labor, ecclesiastical fees, abusive authorities, and political-commercial autonomy from urban centers. These efforts were fiercely resisted and later curtailed by a united urban opposition that sought to defend the status quo. The violence generated against the CPDIT and its delegates was an attempt to make these displays of citizenship disappear and a cloistered statement that citizenship does not belong in the countryside. My work has been an attempt to define and map out the division between urban and rural spaces in the southern Peruvian Andes, and to show that the CPDIT organization effectively bridged this gap and transgressed the status quo.


What is the connection between your MA thesis and the book?


The book is a revision of my Master’s thesis, after having incorporated a couple of important works that had come out since my thesis was approved in 2007. In 2016, I was approached by a publisher in Germany after they had seen my thesis posted on academia.edu. I feel that the book has helped reach a wider audience and has given legitimacy to my argument that rural communities have played an important role in Peruvian history.


What led you to pursue an MA in LAIS?  What was the most valuable aspect of the experience?


Being able to do an MA in LAIS afforded me the opportunity to approach my thesis from an interdisciplinary perspective, including  the fields of history, anthropology, political science and performance studies. Interaction with professors from each of these disciplines has been invaluable as well. The idea for my thesis came about from a course in Andean History with Professor Cecilia Méndez, specifically from the reading of Marisol de la Cadena’s book, Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919–1991. The author had a chapter regarding the CPDIT, which after further research, I found was underrepresented in the historiography for that period. Both Professor Méndez and I immediately picked up on that gap and I decided it was worth researching further.


What advice do you have for current Graduate students in LAIS?


You have to have a passion for your area of interest that stems from a deep-seated connection, a personal experience, or maybe from a sense of justice. My own interest in Andean studies, particularly Peruvian rural history and anthropology, stems from my experience of living in Costa Rica, and my own father’s stories of growing up in rural Peru. When it comes to researching for your thesis, corresponding with fellow graduates and interaction with professors is extremely important. Of course, your graduate advisor is a key player in guiding you through the process of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together for your thesis.


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