This book is a worthwhile contribution to the anthropological literature both of development and of eastern Peru. While Shoemaker’s Satipo peasants do not represent the full range of peasants in Peru’s oriente—the title is somewhat misleading—they do represent an important sector, the coastal and highland migrants to the montaña frontier and the Campa Indians they are displacing. Shoemaker examines some important reasons for more than fifty years of economic stagnation and poverty suffered by the colony of Satipo. Ethnic conflict, bureaucratic bungling and shortsightedness, the argicultural credit structure, trying terrain, and the colony’s market relations with the nation are all indicted. At another level, Shoemaker sides firmly with dependency theorists in assigning metropole/satellite economic relations as the underlying cause of Satipo’s underdevelopment. If I have any problem with the book, it is that it comes a full seven years after the author’s fieldwork. Lately in Peru, seven years is a long time. Shoemaker wisely refrains from overspecificity in suggesting solutions; he limits his advice to the general prescription that a “thorough transformation of the metropolis-hinterland structure of Peruvian economic integration” is needed (p. 251), and that the solutions must involve the peasants’ own perceptions of their problems. Many can agree with that; meanwhile, Shoemaker’s ethnographic description and analysis of the problems of the frontier is both apt and welcome. The Satipo peasants are highly significant in terms of Peru’s stated goal of “conquering” its portion of Amazonia. If the Satipo colonists’ problems cannot be alleviated, there is little hope for the newer colonies currently planned by the government. Let us hope that Shoemaker’s “middle-range” anthropology of Satipo is read by policy-makers.
Book Review| August 01 1982
The Peasants of El Dorado: Conflict and Contradiction in a Peruvian Frontier Settlement
The Peasants of El Dorado: Conflict and Contradiction in a Peruvian Frontier Settlement. By Shoemaker, Robin.
Cornell University Press,
Tables. Notes. Figures. Bibliography. Index. Pp.
265. Cloth. $19.50.
Hispanic American Historical Review (1982) 62 (3): 544–545.
Anthony Stocks; The Peasants of El Dorado: Conflict and Contradiction in a Peruvian Frontier Settlement. Hispanic American Historical Review 1 August 1982; 62 (3): 544–545. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182168-62.3.544a
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