El Niño, Floods, Droughts, and the Unmaking of the Peruvian Agrarian Reform, Peru 197273

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:20 AM
Salon 7 (Palmer House Hilton)
Javier Puente Valdivia, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
A major agrarian experiment raveled the Peruvian countryside beginning in 1969. After decades of reformist proposals and revolutionary attempts, a group of military officers and technocrats unleashed a series of socioeconomic policies intended to transform the schemes of rural labor and land property. A self-proclaimed “revolution” mandated spatial and social rearrangements that re-centered the state as the cornerstone of a renewed institutional infrastructure of rural governance. As agrarian cooperatives became the quintessential expression of rural reformism, military authorities paid little attention to the environmental limits for state interventions. This presentation contributes to unveiling the neglected role of climate in the collapse of political projects of social and spatial engineering. While the 1969 Peruvian agrarian reform primarily focused on land exploitation rearrangements, military officers and rural bureaucrats often overlooked the ecological transformations triggered through dwelling reconfigurations, population displacements, and the intensification of agrarian productivity. As agrarian regimes experienced a combination of both land parceling and estate reconsolidations, water availability became a pivotal source of concern and distress for campesinos. In the summer of 1972, the impact of a strong El Niño aggravated preexistent dislocations, with floods destroying the agrarian infrastructure of northern coastal cooperatives and drought threatening the subsistence of family parcels throughout the southern sierra. Ultimately, in discussing the role of a climate event in the unmaking of the agrarian reform, this presentation also exposes the role of state infrastructures of power and production in the creation of socioenvironmental vulnerabilities, the making of rural poverty, and the rise of contemporary geographies of “natural” disasters.