“Regionalism and Centralism” – Jose Carlos Mariategui

Basic Premises

How is the question of regionalism presented in our time? In some departments, especially in the south, there is an obvious regionalist sentiment. But regionalist aspirations are not defined in explicit and vigorous protests. In Peru, regionalism is a vague feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction, rather than a movement or a program.

This can be explained by our economic and social situation and by our historical development. The question of regionalism can no longer be approached in terms of the radical or Jacobin ideology of the nineteenth century.

I believe that our study of regionalism should start from the following premises:

  1. The dispute between federalists and centralists is as anachronistic as the controversy between conservatives and liberals. In theory and practice the battle has moved from an exclusively political to a social and economic terrain. The new generation is no longer interested in the form, the administrative mechanism, of our regime, but in its substance, the economic structure.
  2. Federalism does not appear in our history as a popular cause, but rather as a justification of gamonalismo and its clientele. The mass of Indians do not participate in it and its converts are limited to the bourgeoisie of the old colonial cities.
  3. Centralism is supported by regional bossism and gamonalismo, prepared on occasion to say or feel that they are federalist. Federalism recruits its followers among the caciques or gamonales in disfavor with the central power.
  4. One of the defects of our political organization is its centralism; the solution, however, does not lie in a federalism rooted and inspired in feudalism. Our political and economic organization needs to be completely revised and transformed.
  5. It is difficult to define the limits of regions historically existing in Peru as such. The departments originated in the artificial intendencias of the viceroyalty. They therefore have no tradition or reality derived from the Peruvian people and their history.

The idea of federalism has no deep roots in our history. The only ideological conflict, the only doctrinal difference in the first half-century of the republic, was that of Conservatives and Liberals. It did not reflect opposition between the capital and the regions but antagonism between large landholders, descended from colonial feudalism and aristocracy, and the mestizo demos of the city, heirs to the rhetorical liberalism of independence. This struggle spread, naturally, to the administrative system. By eliminating municipalities, the conservative constitution of Huancayo expressed the conservative position on self-government. But neither Conservatives nor Liberals of that time considered administrative centralization or decentralization to be a cardinal issue. Later, when the old landholders and aristocrats, allied with merchants made wealthy by contracts and business deals with the government, turned into a capitalist class, they recognized that the Liberal program was more suited to their interests and requirements than the aristocratic. Conservatives and Liberals, without distinction, declared themselves favorable or opposed to decentralization. In this new period, conservatism and liberalism, which were now not even given those names, no longer corresponded to class interests. In that curious period, the wealthy became somewhat liberal and the masses became somewhat conservative.

But, in any case, the civilista caudillo Manuel Pardo designed a decentralization policy with the creation of departmental councils in 1873. Years later, the Democratic caudillo Nicolas de Pierola, a politician and statesman of conservative mentality and spirit, although his demagoguery would appear to indicate the contrary, wrote in the “declaration of principles” of his party the following statement: “Our diversity of race, language, climate, and terrain, no less than the distances between our population centers, demand that a federal system be established as a means of satisfying our needs of today and tomorrow; but in conditions that take into account the experience of countries similar to ours with this system, as well as the peculiarities of Peru.”[1]

After 1895, declarations against centralism multiplied. The Liberal party of Augusta Durand came out in favor of a federal system. The Radical party lost no opportunity to attack and criticise centralism. And suddenly there appeared, as if by magic, a Federal party. Centralism was then defended solely by the civilistas, who in 1873 had demonstrated their willingness to practice a policy of decentralization.

But all this was theoretical speculation. Actually, the parties were not anxious to abolish centralism. Sincere Federalists were not only few in number and scattered among the different parties, but they exercised no real influence on opinion. They did not represent a popular cause. Pierola and the Democratic party had governed for several years. Durand and his friends had shared the honors and responsibilities of power with the Democrats for some time. Neither group had used the occasion to deal with the problem of changing the administrative system or of reforming the constitution.

After the decease of the unstable Federal party and the spontaneous dissolution of Gonzalez-Pradist radicalism, the Liberal party continued to wave the banner of federalism. Durand realized that the federalist idea, which the Democratic party had exhausted in a platonic and cautiously written declaration, could serve to strengthen the Liberal party in the provinces by attracting forces hostile to the central authority. Under or rather against the government of Jose Pardo, he published a federalist manifesto. But his subsequent policy clearly revealed that the Liberal party, notwithstanding its profession of federalist faith, only brandished the idea of federation for propaganda purposes. The Liberals formed part of the cabinet and of the majority in congress during Pardo’s second administration. And they did not show, either as cabinet ministers or as members of congress, any intention of renewing the federalist battle.

Billinghurst, perhaps with a more passionate conviction than other politicians who used this platform, also wanted decentralization. Unlike the Democrats and the Liberals, he cannot be reproached for forgetting his principle when in power; his experience in the government was too brief. But it must be stated objectively that Billinghurst took presidential office as an enemy of centralism and that this was of no benefit to the campaign against centralism.

At first glance some may infer from this rapid review of the attitude on centralism taken by Peru’s political parties that from the date of the Democratic party’s declaration of principles to Dr. Durand’s federalist manifesto there has been an effective federalist movement in Peru. But appearances are deceiving.

This review really proves that the federalist idea has aroused neither energetic resistance nor ardent support. A worthless slogan, it could not alone signify the program of a movement or a party.

This is not to ratify or recommend in any way bureaucratic centralism. But it is evidence that the diffuse regionalism of southern Peru has not yet materialized into an active federalist affirmation.

Regionalism and Gamonalismo

Any keen observer of our historical development, whatever his point of view, must be struck by the fact that Peruvian thought is at present concerned less with politics—and in this case “politics” has the broad connotation of “old-time politics” or “bourgeois politics”—than with social and economic issues. The “problem of the Indian” and the “agrarian question” are much more interesting to modern Peruvians than the “principle of authority,” “universal suffrage,” the “reign” of intelligence,” and other subjects discussed by Liberals and Conservatives. This is not because the political mentality of previous generations was more abstract, more philosophical, more universal, and that, to the contrary, the mentality of today’s generation may be, and is, more realistic, more Peruvian. It is because the controversy between Liberals and Conservatives was derived on both sides from the interests and aspirations of a single social class. The proletariat lacked any program or ideology of its own. Liberals and Conservatives looked down on the Indian as an inferior, different class. They either tried to ignore the problem of the Indian or they did their best to reduce it to a philanthropic and humanitarian problem.

Today, with the appearance of a new ideology that expresses the interests and aspirations of the masses, who gradually have acquired a class consciousness, a national movement has arisen that sympathizes with the lot of the Indian and makes the solution of his problem basic to a program for the reform and reconstruction of Peru. The problem of the Indian has ceased to be, as in the time of the discussions between Liberals and Conservatives, a secondary or subordinate theme and has become a paramount issue. The foregoing demonstrates that, contrary to what superficial, self-styled nationalists suppose and suggest, the spirit of this generation has conceived a program that is a thousand times more nationalist than that which in the past was nourished only on aristocratic sentiments and superstitions or on Jacobin concepts and formulas. A spirit that considers the problem of the Indian to be of supreme importance, is simultaneously very humane and very nationalist, very idealistic and very realist. And its timeli-1 ness is proven by the identical approaches of both those who support it from within and those who judge it from without. Eugenio d’Ors is a Spanish professor who is extravagantly admired by Peruvians who associate nationalism with conservatism. On the occasion of Bolivia’s centennial, he has written:

In some American countries especially, I see very clearly what the justification of independence should be according to the law of Good Works. I see what should be the work, the task, the mission in your country. Bolivia, like Peru and Mexico, has a great local problem, which at the same time signifies a great universal problem. It has the problem of the Indian, of his situation in the national culture. What to do with this race? There have traditionally been two contrasting methods. The Saxon method has been to drive it back, decimate it, and slowly to exterminate it. The Spanish method, on the contrary, tried to approach it, redeem it, and mix with it. I do not want to say now which of these methods is preferable. What has to be established in all fairness is the obligation to work with one or the other method. It is morally impossible to follow a line of conduct that simply evades the problem and tolerates the existence of a teeming mass of Indians beside the white population, without worrying about its situation except to exploit it—selfishly, greedily, cruelly—for the most wretched and back-breaking labor.[2]

This is not the moment to argue with Eugenio d’Ors about his contrast of the presumed humanitarianism of the Spanish method with the relentlessly destructive will of the Saxon method. Probably the author identified the Spanish method with the noble spirit of Father de las Casas and not with the policy of the conquest and the viceroyalty, which was impregnated with prejudice against not only the Indian but even the mestizo. I just want to point out that the opinion of Eugenio d’Ors is a recent testimony of the way in which both the enlightened combatants and the intelligent spectators of our historical drama agree in their interpretation of the message of the times.

Assuming that “the problem of the Indian” and the “agrarian question” take priority over any problem relative to the mechanism of the regime if not to the structure of the state, it is absolutely impossible to consider the question of regionalism or, more precisely, of administrative decentralization from standpoints not subordinate to the need to solve in a radical and organic way the first two problems. A decentralization that is not directed toward this goal is not even worth discussion.

And decentralization in itself, simply as a political and administrative reform, would not signify any progress toward solution of the “problem of the Indian” and the “problem of land,” which fundamentally are one and the same. On the contrary, decentralization carried out for no other reason than to authorize a degree of autonomy to the regions or departments would increase the power of gamonalismo against any solution in the interest of the Indian masses. To become convinced of this, it is enough to ask oneself what caste, what class, what category opposes the redemption of the Indian. There is only one, categorical, answer: gamonalismo, feudalism, bossism. Therefore, is there any doubt that the more autonomous a regional administration of gamonales and caciques, the more they would sabotage and resist any effective attempt to redress the wrongs done to the Indian?

There can be no illusions. The decent groups in the cities will never prevail against gamonalismo in regional administration. The experience of more than a century has taught us what to expect of the possibility that in the near future a democratic system will function in Peru that will fulfill, at least on paper, the Jacobin principle of “popular sovereignty.” The rural masses, or the Indian communities in any case, would remain outside suffrage and its results. Therefore, even if only because the absent are never right—les absents ont toujours tort—the organisms and authorities that would be created “through election,” but without their vote, would have neither the ability nor the knowledge to do them justice. Who would be so naive as to imagine that, within the present economic and political situation, the regions would be governed by “universal suffrage”?

Both the system of “departmental councils” of President Manuel Pardo and the federal republic proclaimed in the manifesto of Augusto Durand and other proponents of federation have not represented nor could they represent anything but the ambition of gamonalismo. In practice, the “departmental councils” would transfer to the caciques of the departments a series of powers independent of central authority. The federal republic would have performed more or less the same function and had the same effect.

The regions and provinces are absolutely right to condemn centralism, its methods, and its institutions. They are also right to denounce an organization that concentrates the administration of the republic in the capital. But they are completely wrong when, deceived by a mirage, they believe that decentralization will suffice to solve their basic problems. Gamonalismo is an accessory to and responsible for all the evils of the central regime. Therefore, if decentralization only serves to place regional administration and the local regime directly under control of the gamonales, the substitution of one system for the other does not correct or promise to correct any deep-seated injustice.

Luis E. Valcarcel endeavors to demonstrate the survival of “Inca-ism without the Inca.” Here is a subject that is far more significant than the outdated topics of political studies in the past. It also confirms my statement that contemporary concerns are not exclusively political, but principally economic and social. Valcarcel probes the question of the Indian and his land, and seeks the solution not in gamonalismo but in the ayllu.

The Region in the Republic

We come to one of the serious problems of regionalism: the definition of regions. I find that our regionalists of the old school have never approached the problem realistically, which indicates the abstract and superficial nature of their arguments. No intelligent regionalist would claim that the boundaries of regions coincide with our political organization, that is, that “regions” are “departments.” Department is a political term that does not designate a reality, much less an economic and historical unit. The department is primarily a convention that only satisfies a functional need or criterion of centralism. I cannot conceive of a regionalism that abstractly condemns a centralist regime without objecting concretely to its peculiar territorial division. Regionalism logically is translated into federalism. In any case, it is expressed in a specific plan for decentralization. No true regionalism is satisfied with municipal autonomy. As Herriot says in the chapter of his book Creer that he devotes to administration, “regionalism superimposes on the department and the commune a new organ, the region.”[3]

But it is not a new organ except in its political and administrative function. A region is not created by a government statute. Its biology is more complicated and it can trace its origin farther back than the nation itself. In order to claim autonomy from the latter, it must already exist as a region. No one can doubt the right of Provence, Alsace-Lorraine, and Bretagne to feel and call themselves regions; not to mention Spain, where the national unit is less stable, and Italy, where it is less old. In Spain and Italy, the regions are clearly differentiated by tradition, character, people, and even language.

According to its physical geography, Peru is divided into three ^regions: the coast, the sierra, and the montaha. (In Peru only nature is well defined.) And this division is not altogether physical. It is related to all our social and economic reality. Sociologically and economically, the montaña or, better, the tropical forest, is still not significant; it can be thought of as a colonial possession of the Peruvian state. The coast and the sierra, on the other hand, are the two regions in which it is possible actually to distinguish the differences in terrain and people.[4] The sierra is Indian; the coast is Spanish or mestizo (in this case, the adjectives “Indian” and “Spanish” acquire a very broad meaning). I repeat here what I wrote in an article about a book by Valcarcel:

The dualism in Peruvian history and the Peruvian soul is expressed in our time as a conflict between the historical development on the coast and the Indian sentiment that survives in the sierra and that is deeply rooted in nature. Modern Peru is a product of the coast and modern Peruvianism was formed in the lowlands. Neither the Spaniard nor the criollo could conquer the Andes. In the Andes the Spaniard was always a pioneer or a missionary, which are also the ; roles of the criollo until the Andes extinguishes the conquistador in him and little by little creates an Indian.[5]\

The Indian race and language, displaced from the coast by the Spaniard and his language, have fearfully taken refuge in the sierra. Therefore, in the sierra are combined all the elements of a region, if not of a nationality. The Peru of the coast, heir of Spain and the conquest, controls the Peru of the sierra from Lima; but it is not demographically and spiritually strong enough to absorb it. Peruvian unity is still to be accomplished. It is not a question of the communication and cooperation of” former small states or free cities within the boundaries of a single nation. In Peru the problem of unity goes much deeper. Instead of a pluralism of local or regional traditions, what has to be solved is a dualism of race, language, and sentiment, born of the invasion and conquest of indigenous Peru by a foreign race that has not managed to merge with the Indian race, or eliminate it, or absorb it.

The regionalist movement in the cities or districts where it is most active, if it does not reflect simply the dissatisfaction of gamonalismo, is obviously although unconsciously promoted by this contrast between coast and sierra. When this is its motivation, it indicates a conflict not between capital and province but between the Spanish Peru of the coast and the Indian Peru of the sierra.

The above definition of regions does not advance us in our examination of decentralization. On the contrary, this goal is lost to view in order to fix on a much greater goal. The sierra and the coast are two regions geographically and sociologically; but they cannot be two regions politically and administratively. Distances within the Andes are greater than distances from the sierra to the coast. The natural movement of the Peruvian economy is trans-Andean and demands that roads of penetration be given preference over longitudinal roads. Development of centers of production in the sierra depend on an outlet to the sea. Any positive program of decentralization has to be inspired chiefly by the needs and directions of the national economy. The historical purpose of decentralization is to encourage not secession but union, not to separate and divide regions but to assure and perfect their unity within a more functional and less forced association. Regionalism does not mean separatism.

These statements lead, therefore, to the conclusion that Peruvian regionalism and its program are imprecise and nebulous solely because there are no well-defined regions.

One of the facts that forcefully supports this belief is the sincere and profound sentiment of regionalism in the south, specifically in the departments of Cuzco, Arequipa, Puno, and Apurimac. These departments constitute our most clear-cut and integrated region. Trade and other relations between them keep alive an old unity inherited from the Inca civilization. In the south, the “region” rests solidly on its historical foundations with the Andes as its bastions.

The south is basically of the sierra. Here, where the coast shrinks to a slender strip of land, coastal and mestizo Peru has not been able to establish itself. The Andes advance to the sea, converting the coast into a narrow cornice dotted with ports and coves and forcing the cities into the sierra. The south has been able to maintain its sierra, if not its Indian, character in spite of the conquest, the viceroyalty, and the republic.

To the north the coast widens and becomes economically and demographically dominant. Trujillo, Chiclayo, and Piura are cities with a Spanish spirit and flavor. Commerce between these cities and Lima is easy and frequent, but what really links them to the capital is their common tradition and sentiment. A map of Peru explains Peruvian regionalism better than any complicated, abstract theory.

The centralist regime divides the national territory into departments; but it accepts and at times employs a more general classification that assigns the departments to three groups: North, Center, and South. The Peru-Bolivia Confederation of Santa Cruz split Peru into two halves, a division basically no more arbitrary and artificial than the boundaries set by the centralist republic. Departments and provinces that have no contact with one another are grouped under the labels North, South, and Center. The term “region” appears to be mainly a convention.

However, neither state nor parties have ever been able to define Peruvian regions in any other way. The Democratic party, to whose theoretical federalism I have already referred, practiced its federalist principle within its own system by placing a central committee over regional committees for North, South, and Center. (This might be called a federalism for internal consumption.) When the constitutional reform of 1919 instituted regional congresses, it set up the same division.

But this delimitation of departments conforms solely to a centralist criterion. Regionalists cannot adopt it without appearing to base their regionalism on premises and concepts peculiar to the metropolitan mentality. All attempts at decentralization have suffered from precisely this original defect.

Centralist Decentralization

Decentralization, no matter what form it has taken in the history of the republic, has always represented an absolutely centralist concept and design. Parties and caudillos have occasionally adopted, for reasons of convenience, the idea of decentralization; but when they have tried to apply it, they have not had the knowledge or the ability to break away from centralist practice.

This centralist tendency is easily explained. Regionalist aspirations do not constitute a concrete program or propose a definite method of decentralization and autonomy because they express a feudalist sentiment instead of a popular cause. The gamonales were concerned only with increasing their feudal power. Regionalism was incapable of drawing up its own program. In most cases it only managed to mouth the word “federation.” Therefore, the decentralization program turned out to be a product typical of the capital.

On a theoretical plane, the capital has never defended the centralist system with too much ardor or eloquence; on a practical plane, it has skillfully conserved its privileges intact. It has had little difficulty in making a few concessions in theory to the idea of an administrative decentralization, but the solutions sought to this problem have been moulded by centralist standards and interests.

The first effective attempt to decentralize was the experiment of departmental councils instituted by the 1873 law of the municipalities. (The federalist experiment of Santa Cruz is not included in this study, not so much because it was shortlived, as because it was a supranational concept imposed by a statesman whose ideal was the union of Peru and Bolivia.)

The departmental councils of 1873 were centralist not only in form but in inspiration. The model for the new institution originated in France, citadel of centralism. Our legislators tried to adapt to Peru a system enacted by the Third Republic, which was manifestly anchored to the centralist principles of the Consulate and the Empire.

The reform of 1873 was a typically centralist decentralization. It did not satisfy any of the specific grievances of regional sentiment. Furthermore, by strengthening the artificial political division of the republic into departments or districts according to the needs of the centralist regime, it opposed or discouraged all effective regionalism.

In his study of local government, Carlos Concha states that “the organization given to these bodies, modeled on the French law of 1871, did not conform to the political culture of the period.”[6] This is a civilista judgment on a civilista reform. The departmental councils failed because they were in no way related to the historical reality of Peru. They were designed to transfer from central authority to regional gamonalismo part of the former’s responsibilities—primary and secondary education, the administration of justice, and law enforcement. Regional gamonalismo was as little interested in assuming these responsibilities as it was capable of discharging them. Furthermore, the operation and mechanism of the system were too complicated. The councils were like small parliaments chosen by the electoral colleges of each department and representing the provincial municipalities. The caciques would have liked a less unwieldy machine, something simpler in composition and easier to manage. Such annoying obligations as public education were not their concern, but the central government’s. The departmental council did not rest on either the people—above all the peasants, who took no part in the game of politics—or on the feudal lords and their clientele; it was, therefore, a completely artificial institution.

The War of 1879 ended the experiment, but the departmental councils had already failed. In their few years of existence they had demonstrated that they could not fulfill their mission. After the war, when the administration was reorganized, the law of 1873 was forgotten.

The law of 1886, which created the departmental juntas, was oriented in the same way, only this time centralism took less trouble to give it the appearance of decentralization. The juntas operated until 1893 under the presidency of the prefects and, in general, they were entirely subordinate to the central government.

This apparent decentralization did not propose to gradually give administrative autonomy to the departments nor did it establish juntas in order to attend to regional aspirations. Its purpose was to reduce or eliminate the central government’s responsibility in the distribution of funds available for education and road construction. All administration continued to be strictly centralized. The only administrative independence granted the departments was the independence of their poverty. Without recourse to the central government, every department was supposed to maintain its own schools and roads out of its income from excise taxes. The departmental juntas were used to allocate the budget for education and public works among the various departments.

That this was their real purpose is proven by the way in which the departmental juntas declined and disappeared. As its finances recovered from the consequences of the War of 1879, the central government began to reclaim the functions it had entrusted to the departmental juntas. It took over public education completely and extended its authority in proportion to the expansion of its overall budget. Departmental revenues became so insignificant compared to national revenues that centralism was further reinforced. The departmental juntas were finally left with only a few supervisory and bureaucratic activities, at which time they were abolished.

The constitutional reform of 1919 had to give some kind of token recognition to regionalist sentiment. The most important of its decentralizing measures, municipal autonomy, has yet to be implemented. The principle of municipal autonomy has been incorporated into the national constitution, but the mechanism and structure of local government have not been touched, except in a negative way; the government appoints municipal authorities.

On the other hand, no time was lost in organizing regional congresses. These parliaments of North, Center, and South are offshoots of the national parliament; they incubate for the same period, in the same electoral climate; they are born of the same womb, on the same day; their legislative mission is subsidiary and complementary; and by now their own parents are certainly convinced that they are useless. In any event, six years of experience show them to be an absurd parody of decentralization.

Actually, there was no need to wait for proof of their ineffectiveness. Regionalism wants an administrative, not a legislative, decentralization. It is not possible to conceive of a regional diet or parliament without a corresponding executive body. To create more legislatures is not to decentralize. The regional congresses have not even served to relieve the pressures on the national congress. Many local issues continue to be debated in both congresses. The problem, in short, remains unchanged.

The New Regionalism

I have examined the theory and practice of past regionalism. I must now express my own points of view on decentralization and define the terms in which, in my opinion, this problem is presented to the new generation.

First of all, it is necessary to make clear the alliance or agreement between regional gamonalismo and the centralist government. Gamonalismo could declare itself more or less federalist and anti-centralist as long as it was negotiating this alliance. But ever since it agreed to become the centralist government’s most useful agent, it has renounced any program that would displease its allies in the capital.

It is time to announce the end of the old opposition between centralists and federalists of the ruling class, an opposition which, as I have observed in the course of my study, never was very dramatic. Theoretical opposition has turned into a practical understanding. Only the gamonales in disfavor with the central government are disposed to take a regionalist attitude, which, of course, they are prepared to abandon as soon as their political fortune improves.

Government form is no longer our paramount concern. We live in an era when economics only too obviously dominates and absorbs politics. In every country in the world, discussion of the economic bases of the state now takes precedence over reform of its administrative machinery.

The remains of Spanish feudalism are more deeply and firmly embedded in the sierra than in the rest of the republic. If Peru is to progress, it is imperative that this feudalism, which represents a survival of the colonial period, be liquidated. The redemption and salvation of the Indian, here are the program and goal of Peruvian reform. The new generation wants Peru to stand on its natural biological foundations. It feels in duty bound to create a more Peruvian, more autochthonous Peru. There can be no doubt that the historical and logical enemies of this program are the heirs to the conquest, the descendants of the colony, that is, the gamonales.

It is necessary to absolutely repudiate and to utterly discourage a regionalism that originates in feudal sentiments and interests and therefore aims at increasing the power of gamonalismo. Peru has to choose between the gamonal and the Indian; it has no other alternative. In the face of this dilemma, all questions of the system’s structure become secondary. The new generation’s primary concern is that Peru proclaim itself against the gamonal and for the Indian.

As a consequence of the ideas and events that daily confront us with this dilemma, regionalism begins to separate into two distinct and totally different tendencies. In other words, it begins to shape into a new regionalism. This regionalism is no mere protest against the centralist regime. It is an expression of the sierra conscience and of the Andean sentiment. The new regionalists are, above all, pro-Indian and they cannot be confused with the old-style anticentralists. Valcarcel sees the roots of Inca society intact under the flimsy layer of colonialism. His work belongs to Cuzco, to the Indian, to the Quechua, not to a region. It is nourished on Indian sentiment and autochthonous tradition.

For these regionalists the primary problem is the problem of the Indian and of land. And here they are in agreement with the new generation in the capital. Today it is no longer possible to speak of the contrast between capital and regions, but of the conflict between two mentalities, between two ideologies, one that declines and the other that ascends, both spread throughout sierra and coast, province and city. Those of our youth who continue to speak the vaguely federalist language of the past are mistaken. It will fall to the new generation to build Peruvian unity on a solid foundation of social justice.

Acceptance of these principles and goals does away with the possibility of my dissension arising out of regionalist or centralist self-interest. To condemn centralism is to condemn gamonalismo and the two condemnations are motivated by the same hope and the same ideal.

Municipal autonomy, “self-government,” and administrative decentralization cannot be discussed alone but only from the standpoint of a radical reform. They must be considered and judged in the light of their relationship to the social problem. No reform that strengthens the gamonal against the Indian, no matter how much it appears to satisfy regionalist sentiment, can be a good and just reform. Any formal triumph of decentralization and autonomy is subordinate to the cause of the Indian, which must be defended and given first place in the revolutionary program of the vanguard.

The Problem of the Capital

Regionalists have often expressed their feelings against centralism by denouncing Lima. But here, as elsewhere, they have never gone beyond flowery speeches. They have made no serious and thoughtful effort to put the capital on trial, although they would have had more than sufficient evidence for holding such a trial.

This task, undoubtedly superior to the objectives and motives of gamonalismo regionalism, can and should be undertaken by the new regionalism. Meanwhile, I shall complete my explanation of the old topic “regionalism and centralism” by posing the problem of the capital. How far is Lima’s privileged position justified by national history and geography? Here is a question that needs to be cleared up. Lima’s hegemony rests on less solid ground than mere mental inertia would lead us to believe. It belongs to a period of national historical development and is subject to age and termination.

The spectacle of the development of Lima in recent years moves our impressionable limeños to deliriously optimistic predictions about the future of the capital. The new suburbs and the asphalt avenues down which automobiles race at sixty or seventy kilometers per hour easily persuade a limeño—under his skin-deep and cheerful skepticism—that Lima is not far behind Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.

All their predictions are based on the physical impression of the growth of the urban area. They see only the opening of new surburbs and point out that, given its rate of urbanization, Lima will soon be connected with Miraflores and Magdalena. “Urban developments” actually now cover, on paper, a city of at least one million inhabitants.

But by itself the rate of urbanization proves nothing. Without a recent census, we cannot calculate the population increase of Lima from 1920 to date. The 1920 census set Lima’s population at 228,740.[7] Although the percentage of growth in the last eight years is not known, available data indicate that neither increase in births nor increase in immigration have been very high. Therefore, it is only too apparent that Lima has expanded much more in area than in population. Urbanization proceeds on its own.

The limeño ’s optimism concerning the future of the capital is nourished largely by his confidence that Lima will Indefinitely enjoy the advantages of a centralist government, assuring its place as the center of power, pleasure, fashion, et cetera. The development of a city, however, does not depend on political and administrative privileges; it depends on economic privileges. Therefore, the issue is whether or not the natural development of the Peruvian economy guarantees that Lima will continue to play the role necessary for its predicted or, rather, hoped for future.

Let us rapidly examine the biological laws of cities and see how favorable they are to Lima. The essential factors in a city are the geographic factor, the economic factor, and the political factor. Of these three factors, Lima maintains its supremacy only in the political.

Lucien Romier writes on the development of French cities: “Whereas secondary cities grow out of local changes, large cities are formed by national and international connections and movements; their fortune is bound up in a network of vaster activities; and their destiny crosses administrative and even territorial borders to follow the general trade routes.”[8]

In Peru, these national and international connections and international movements are not concentrated in the capital. Lima is not geographically the center of the Peruvian economy. It is not, above all, the outlet for Peru’s commercial traffic.

In an article on “the capital of esprit,” published in an Italian journal, Cesar Falcon makes some wise remarks on this subject. Falcon states that the reasons for the impressive growth of Buenos Aires are basically economic and geographic. Buenos Aires is the port and market for Argentina’s agriculture and livestock. It is the crossroads of Argentine trade.[9] Lima, on the other hand, can be only one of the outlets for Peruvian products. The products of North and South have to use other ports on the long Peruvian coastline.

All this evidence is incontrovertible. In customs statistics, Callao will long remain the leading port. But the growing exploitation of land and its resources will not be principally to the advantage of Callao. It will promote the expansion of several other ports. For example, Talara has become in a few years the second port of the republic in volume of exports and imports.[10] The direct benefits of the oil industry are lost to the capital. This industry exports and imports without using either the capital or its port as intermediary. Other industries that emerge in the sierra or on the coast will follow the same course.

A glance at the map of any nation whose capital is a large city of international importance will show, first of all, that the capital is the focal point of the country’s railways and highways. A great capital in our time is a great railway center and its function as an axis is most clearly marked on a railway map.

Although political privilege partly determines the organization of a country’s railway grid, the primary factor is still an economic one. All production centers naturally and logically connect with the capital, the most important station, the richest market. The economic factor coincides with the geographic factor. The capital is not a product of chance. It has been formed thanks to a series of circumstances that have favored its hegemony; but none of these circumstances would have operated if its location had not been suitable.

The political factor does not suffice. It is said that without the papal seat, Rome would have died in the Middle Ages. This may or may not be true. In any event, it is just as true that Rome was chosen to receive the papal seat because it was the capital of the greatest empire in the world. The history of the Terza Roma precisely demonstrates that political privilege is not enough. Notwithstanding the magnetic force of the Vatican and the Quirinal, the seat of the church and the seat of the government, Rome has not prospered at the same rate as Milan. (The Risorgimento optimism about the future of Rome ended in the failure told about in the novel by Emile Zola. The business enterprises that enthusiastically rushed into construction of an enormous subdivision were ruined. Their undertaking was premature.) The economic development of northern Italy has assured the predominance of Milan, which owes its growth to its position in the traffic of this industrial and commercial Italy. Any great modern capital has had a complex formation, deeply rooted in tradition. Lima, however, has had a somewhat arbitrary beginning. Founded by a conquistador, a foreigner, Lima appears to have originated as the military tent of a commander from some distant land. Lima did not compete with other cities to win its title as capital. The creature of an aristocratic age, Lima was born into nobility and was baptized City of Kings. It was created by the colonizer or, rather, the conquistador, not by the native. Then the viceroyalty consecrated it as the seat of Spanish power in South America. Finally, the War of Independence—an uprising of the criollo and Spanish population, not of the Indian population—proclaimed it the capital of the republic. The Peru-Bolivia Confederation temporarily threatened its hegemony. But this state, when it reestablished the dominion of the Andes and the sierra, looked too far south for its axis, in an instinctive, subconscious effort to restore the Ta-wantinsuyo. And, for this among other reasons, it fell. Lima, armed with political power, reclaimed its privileges as capital.

The work of the Central Railroad in this period was not only on behalf of the mineral wealth of Junin but, above all, on behalf of Lima. Peru, heir of the conquest, had to leave the dwelling place of the conquistador, the seat of the viceroyalty and the republic, in order to fulfill its mission of scaling the Andes. Later, after the Andes had been spanned by rail and the montaña lay beyond, a railroad was similarly envisaged to connect Iquitos with Lima. The time was 1825 and the president was the man who in his declaration of principles a few years earlier had professed his federalist faith. More mindful of Lima than of eastern Peru, he approved the route from Pichis, thereby once again behaving as a typical centralist.

To date the Central Railroad is one of Lima’s greatest sources of economic power. The minerals of the department of Junin which, thanks to this railway, are exported through Callao were our leading mineral export. Although they are now second to the petroleum in the North, this does not indicate any decline in the Center’s mining activities. The central railway also brings down the products of Huanuco, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, and Chanchamayo. The railroad to Pachitea, the railroad to Ayacucho and Cuzco, and in general the overall design of the state’s railway program combine to make it the trunk of our transportation system.

But the future of this railway is threatened. The Central Railroad climbs the Andes at one of the steepest points. Because of its very high operation costs, freight charges are expensive. Therefore, the railway that is planned for construction from Huacho to Oyon will become to some extent a rival of this line. The new railway, which will transform Huacho into a first-ranking port, will carry a substantial part of the production of the Center to the coast. But in any case, a railroad into the sierra, even if it is the principal one, is not enough to assure Lima a dominant position in the transportation system of the country.

Although centralism may continue for a long time,, Lima can never become the nucleus of the network of roads and railways. The nature of the territory forbids it. In order to develop their resources, the sierra and montaña require roads into the interior, that is, roads that will provide various outlets along the coast for their products. Maritime transport will not for some time need coastal roads. Lengthwise roads will be inter-Andean. A coastal-plain city like Lima cannot be the central station in this complicated network, which inevitably will look for cheaper and closer ports.

Industry is one of the primary factors in the formation of modern cities. London, New York, Berlin, and Paris owe their size chiefly to industry. Industrialism is a phenomenon characteristic of western civilization. A great city is basically a market and a factory. Industry has created first the force of the middle class and then the force of the working class. As many economists have observed, industry today does not follow consumption; it precedes and overflows the market. It is not satisfied with meeting demand; it sometimes creates it. Industrialism appears to be all-powerful. And although mankind, weary of machines and other devices, occasionally declares itself willing to return to nature, there is still no sign that machines and manufacturing will disappear. Russia, the motherland of a burgeoning socialist civilization, works feverishly to develop its industry. Lenin dreamed of the day his entire country would have electric power. In short, whether a civilization is rising or ebbing, industry remains mighty. Neither the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat can conceive of a civilization that is not based on industry. There are some who predict the decay of the city, but there is no one who predicts the decline of industry.

No one denies the power of industry. If Lima combined the conditions necessary for a great industrial power, it would undoubtedly become a great city. But the possibilities of industry in Lima are limited. This is not only because they are limited all over Peru—a country which for some time will have to remain a producer of primary materials—but also because the formation of great industrial centers is also governed by laws, as often as not the same laws that govern the formation of cities. Industry springs up in capitals because, among other reasons, the latter are at the heart of the country’s transportation system. A centralized network of highways and railroads is as indispensable to industry as it is to trade. We have already seen in preceding essays that the physical geography of Peru runs counter to centralization.

Industry is also attracted to a city because certain raw materials are produced in the vicinity. This law operates especially for heavy industry like smelting. The great iron and steel mills arise near mines that can supply them. The location of coal and iron deposits determines this aspect of the economic geography of the West.

And in these days of worldwide electric power, a third factor that attracts industry to a site is the proximity of hydraulic resources. “White coal” can work the same miracles as black coal to create industry and cities. Lima has none of these factors; its surroundings do not attract industry.

It should be mentioned that the industrial possibilities based on natural resources—raw materials, hydraulic power—would not have much immediate value. Because of its disadvantageous position in terms of geography, human resources, and technology, Peru cannot dream of becoming a manufacturing country in the near future. For many years it will have to continue its role in the world economy as exporter of primary products, foodstuffs, et cetera. Another disadvantage is its present condition as a country with a colonial economy subject to the trade and financial interests of the industrial countries of the West.

Today there is no indication that Peru’s emerging industrial activities are concentrating in Lima. The textile industry, for example, is widely scattered; although Lima has the most factories, a high percentage is in the provinces. It is probable that the manufacture of wool cloth, as can be seen already, will develop in the ranching regions where there is also a supply of cheap native labor due to lower living costs.

Finance and the banking system are another factor in a great city. The recent experience of Vienna has shown the value of this element in the life of a capital. After the war, Vienna was impoverished by the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was reduced from the capital of a mighty nation to the capital of a tiny state. Its commerce and industry, drained and weakened, were prostrate. It no longer could lure tourists with the promise of pleasure and luxury. In the middle of this crisis, Vienna was saved from final disaster by its situation as a financial market. The Balkanization of Central Europe, which ruined it commercially and industrially, benefited it financially. Vienna, because of its geographical location in Europe, was uniquely qualified to be an important center of international finance. International bankers were the profiteers of the bankruptcy of the Austrian economy. The darkened, empty halls of Vienna’s cabarets and cafes were turned into banking and foreign exchange offices. Here is another object lesson that a great financial market must be at the crossroads of international traffic.

The political capital may be distinct from the economic capital. I have already mentioned the contrast between Milan and Rome in the history of democratic and liberal Italy. The United States avoided this problem with a solution which may be very wise, but which is especially adapted to the federal structure of that country. Washington, the political and administrative capital, is aloof from all conflicts and competition between New York, Chicago, San Francisco, et cetera.

The fate of the capital depends on significant political changes, as is demonstrated in the history of Europe and of America itself. A political order has never been able to establish itself in a seat hostile to its spirit. The Europeanization policy of Peter the Great moved the Russian court from Moscow to Petrograd. Perhaps a presentiment of its mission in the East made the Bolshevik revolution feel more secure, in spite of its Western ideology, in the Kremlin in Moscow.

The Spanish conquest in Peru ended the power of Cuzco, capital of the Inca empire.[11] Lima was the capital of the colony. It was also the capital of the independence, although liberty was first proclaimed from Tacna, Cuzco, and Trujillo. It is the capital today, but will it be the capital tomorrow? This is not an irrelevant question in terms of a bold search into the future. The answer depends on whether first place in Peru’s social and political reform is given to the rural Indian masses or to the coastal proletariat. The future of Lima, in any case, is inseparable from the mission of Lima, or even the will of Lima.


  1. Jump up Declaration de principios del partido democrata (Lima, 1897), p. 14.
  2. Jump up Eugenio d’Ors, in a letter written on the occasion of the centennial of Bolivian independence, published in Repertorio Americano.
  3. Jump up Edouard Herriot, Creer (Paris: Payot, 1919), vol. II, p. 191.
  4. Jump up Miguelina Acosta tells me that the value of the montaha in the Peruvian economy cannot be measured by recent data. These years are exceptional in that they mark a period of depression. Exports from the montana today are negligible in Peru’s trade statistics, but they were very significant until the World War. Loreto is now in the situation of a region that has suffered a disaster. This is an accurate observation. The importance of Loreto cannot be appreciated by looking only at the present. The production of the montaña played a leading role in our economy until a few years ago. During the period when rubber appeared to be of immense value, the montaña began to be thought of as El Dorado. About twenty years ago, Francisco Garcia Calderon wrote in Le Perou contemporain that rubber was the wealth of the future. Everyone shared this illusion. In reality, the fortune of rubber was aleatory, depending on temporary circumstances. We did not realize this at the time because we are easily carried away by a Panglossian optimism when we tire of our superficially frivolous skepticism. Logically, rubber could not be put in the same category as a mineral resource produced almost exclusively by our country. The depression in Loreto is not the result of a temporary industrial crisis. Miguelina Acosta knows very well that industrial activity is only beginning in the montaña. Rubber was a forest resource that was exploited, actually devastated, because it was located in an area accessible to transportation. The economic past of Loreto does not, therefore, invalidate the substance of my statement. When I write that the montaña still lacks economic importance, I refer to the present; and I compare its importance to that of the sierra and the coast. It is a relative judgment. I use the same standard of comparison to judge the sociological significance of the montaña. I recognize two fundamental elements, two main forces, in Peruvian society. I do not deny the existence of other elements, but I believe them to be secondary. I prefer not to be satisfied with this explanation. I want to give fair consideration to Miguelina Acosta’s observations and her basic argument that too little is known about the sociology of the montaña. The Peruvian of the coast, like the Peruvian of the sierra, is unaware of the Peruvian of the montaña. In the montaña, or more exactly in the department of Loreto, there are people with customs and traditions almost unrelated to the customs and traditions of the people of the coast and the sierra. Loreto has evolved differently in our sociology and history; its biological layers are not the same. In this respect, it is impossible not to agree with Dr. Acosta Cardenas, who is the person most qualified to explain Peruvian reality with a thorough study of the sociology of Loreto. Discussion of regionalism must regard Loreto as a region, because Loreto is the montaha. The regionalism of Loreto more than once has risen up in protest. Although it has not produced theory, it has produced action, which means that it has to be taken into account.
  5. Jump up Jose Carlos Mariategui, “De la vida incaica,” Mundial, September 1925.
  6. Jump up Carlos Concha, El regimen local, p. 135.
  7. Jump up Extracto estadistico del Peru (1926), p. 2.
  8. Jump up Lucien Romier, Explication de notre temps (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1925), P- 50.
  9. Jump up Cesar Falcon, Le vie d’ltalia dell’America Latina (1925).
  10. Jump up According to Extracto estadistico del Peru, the port of Talara follows Callao, with the value of imports at Lp. 2,453,719 and of exports at Lp. 6,171,983.
  11. Jump up In his book Por la emancipation de America Latina (pp. 90-91) Haya de la Torre contrasts and compares the colonial histories of Mexico and Peru. “In Mexico,” he writes, “the races have mixed together and the new capital was built in the same place as the old. Mexico City and all of the country’s large cities are located in the heart of the country, in the mountains, on the high plateaus that are crowned with volcanoes. The tropical coast serves for communication with the sea. The conquistador in Mexico fused with the Indian, became one with him in the very heart of his sierras, and forged a race which, though not absolutely a race in the strict sense of the word, is one nevertheless because of the homogeneity of its customs, the tendency toward a complete mingling of blood, and the continuity, without violent solutions, of the national ambience. That never happened in Peru. Indigenous, mountain Peru, the real Peru, lay beyond the western Andes. The old national cities—Cuzco, Cajamarca, et cetera—were disregarded. New and Spanish cities were built on the tropical coast where it never rains, where there are no changes of temperature, where that sensual, Andalusian atmosphere of our gay and submissive capital could develop.” It is significant that these observations—more strongly worded than almost all of the usual complaints and boasts by Lima’s critics—come from a native of Trujillo, that is, of one of “those new and Spanish cities” whose predominance he considers responsible for many things he detests. This and many other signs of the present revising of attitudes should be pondered by those who say that the revolutionary and regenerative spirit is exclusively of the sierra.

Recepti za kolače i slana jela


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *