Sunday, 8 March 2009

Peru: Remembering Maria Elena Moyano

On International Women's Day, it seems appropriate to remember a true Peruvian heroine, Maria Elena Moyano.*

This video (in Spanish) makes the point that some young people have never heard of Maria Elena Moyano, even in Villa El Salvador itself. I think her life is worth commemorating.

Moyano was an Afro-Peruvian grassroots leader in Villa El Salvador, one of Lima's largest shanty towns. She worked in community kitchens, 'glass of milk' schemes, and education committees. She became vice-mayor and spoke out bravely against the attacks of the Shining Path. The Shining Path was opposed to all forms of leftist and social organisation that were not Shining Path organised, because they believed that the moderate left bolstered the status quo and hindered the revolution. Therefore, all leftist, trade union, and community organisers were fair game for Sendero.

In 1991, Moyano said in an interview,
I believe that we women have a lot of strength. If we believe in what we are building, there's no reason to be afraid. We are working for the well-being of our people, solidarity, justice. I believe it's necessary for us to debate Shining Path members. I have done it. I say to them, "If you are ready to give up your lives, many other people also are and in this way fight for development and justice, but without terror and murder."
[Trans from The Peru Reader, ed. by Orin Starn, Carlos Ivan Degregori & Robin Kirk, p374]

Five months later, she was gunned down by the Shining Path in front of her children. Yet, as La Republica reported at the time, her struggle lived on.

* Hat tip to Daniel Salas at Gran Combo Club, whose post alerted me to the video of MEM.
** I somehow closed a tab too many and can no longer find the source for the last image in this post; apologies. I'm happy to add a credit if desired.

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