This book is a collection of 84 newspaper articles and essays published primarily during the 1960s and 1970s by Dr. Luis Alberto Sánchez, eminent Peruvian polemicist, literary critic, and standard-bearer of the APRA party. As the book’s title indicates, the purpose of this volume is to provide una vista lasiana of Peruvian “history and political life” from the colonial era to 1980 (p. xi). The texts selected by editor Donald Henderson clearly reflect Dr. Sánchez’ abiding interest in Peru’s historical struggle to establish a democratic society and to overcome economic dependence. Within the context of these two overarching themes, Dr. Sánchez addresses a broad range of historical issues: the origins of chronic political instability and military dictatorship in Peru, the relationship between the oligarchy and the military, the impact of tariff policies, the role of intellectuals and the press in politics, and APRA’s promotion of democracy and social reform. These subjects and others are examined primarily in relation to twentieth-century Peruvian politics.
Like most of Dr. Sánchez’ writings on historical topics, these texts are more anecdotal commentaries than formal historical analyses. Undoubtedly, historians will find many insightful observations mixed in among the exceptionally witty and humorous passages. This work, however, presents several difficulties for historians of Peru, and particularly for nonspecialists. Without the benefit of editorial notes, the myriad references to historical personalities and events are likely to confuse most readers. Another problem is Dr. Sánchez’ tendency to project present-day political sensibilities onto the past. In fact, many of the essays are historical allegories containing explicit or implicit criticisms of the military regime of Juan Velasco Alvarado, which governed Peru at the time of most of these writings.
Dr. Sánchez’ viewpoint, as expressed in these writings, conforms largely to the official APRA version of Peruvian political history. Despite claims to the contrary (p. ix), Dr. Sánchez’ political bias profoundly influences his interpretations. In fact, APRA is repeatedly characterized as the single organized progressive force in Peruvian politics. Students interested in making a comprehensive assessment of Dr. Sánchez’ interpretation of Peruvian political history ought to consult his Testimonio personal and Apuntes para una bibliografia del Apra. In addition, Dr. Sánchez’ correspondence, previously published by Donald Henderson in an excellent volume titled Literature and Politics in Latin America, should also be examined.