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Abstract

In 1969, the Peruvian military launched a coup and quickly enacted what has been called Latin America’s ‘most radical agrarian reform’. The focus of this study is a key reform structure, the Cooperative Túpac Amaru II; Peru’s largest. Yet, despite being envisioned as a blueprint to address historic underdevelopment, the Cooperative quickly came into conflict with its charges. Angered by receiving little benefits just a few years later local communities united in a dramatic series of land seizures -the first against an agrarian reform apparatus- a process which finished with the Cooperative’s liquidation in 1979. This paper looks at how local life and social relations defined a particular course of events during the unprecedented shift from hacienda dominion to the Cooperative’s collapse. Using as a point of departure the question as to how the camaraderie on display in the seizure dissipated after liquidation, this paper asks how could communities come together in such a meaningful way just for this unity to fall apart so soon after? Tracing local history reveals the zone’s campesinos were far from a united monolithic group. Rather, key differences existed between communities, while internal relations were defined by individualistic orientations to land and creeping stratifications. In the end, such difference proved relative faced with the more absolute political economies of the Cooperative.

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