This volume of original documents compiled for the most part from private collections, offers far more than what is claimed as its purpose. Ostensibly, the study is a documentary account of two frustrated attempts by the Peruvian APRA Party to overthrow the government in 1936 and again in 1939. In both instances, incidentally, the principal agents were either military personnel or middle-rank party militants, individuals essentially manipulated by the party’s central committee and its chief, Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre.
What is most gripping about this volume is its revelation of the texture and substance of colonialism or underdevelopment, what José Carlos Mariátegui called “the legacy of Spanish pauperism.” A staggering portrayal of chronic weakness, shoddy treachery, and tedious manipulation abounds in these pages. For example, in 1936, the Bolivian government, at odds with the Peruvian dictatorship of General Oscar Benavides, offered support to APRA conspirators, including payment of 15,000 dollars “in Bolivian currency.” But the government couldn’t come up with the money. As another case, General Antonio Rodríguez, who served loyally under Augusto B. Leguía, Comandante Luis Miguel Sánchez Cerro, and Benavides, was duped by Haya de la Torre to head the flawed conspiracy of February 1939 because of his weakness for spiritualism. At the Centro Esotérico Nacional, Haya “spoke” to the general and other high military figures disguised as the voice of Marshal Ramón Castilla.
The documentation compiled by Davies and Retired Major Víctor Villanueva provides a detailed, if at times derisive, account of insurrectionary politics in one of the most traumatized societies of Latin America. Ever since Villanueva first gave us La tragedia de un pueblo y un partido (Santiago de Chile, 1954), he has remained the most lucid and original student of the career of Haya de la Torre and of the political movement he spawned, the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA).