You seem to focus on two major time periods, 1920-1940 and 1960-1970. Why are those two time frames the focus of much of your work?
These are two time periods that were characterized by what me and others have called “redistributive pressures from below.” These were periods in which there was a lot of demand for redistribution. In these two time periods, those who were excluded from the projects of national development were demanding to not just be included economically, but also politically. I think it is interesting that for both countries in the 1920s and 1930s, the redistributive pressures did not lead to a lot of institutional changes towards redistribution. Despite the pressure, the status quo was preserved, in terms of distribution of economic and political resources in this initial period.
The second period, the 1960s and 1970s, was also marked by redistributive pressures, and we see that the countries differed in their responses to redistributive pressures. In Peru, we see institutional changes towards redistributive reforms — the land reform being the most important. In Colombia, in contrast, we see efforts towards land reform, but these efforts ended with what scholars have called a “failed land reform.” The importance of thinking about redistributive pressures and how economic elites and the states responded to such is what led me to focus on these two time periods.
Can you pinpoint anything significant or interesting that has emerged in the present from those redistribution efforts?
What scholarship has found to be different, and partly has to do with land reform efforts in Peru and failed land reforms efforts in Colombia, is the interaction with violence and civil conflict. One of the things that occurred is that in Peru’s conflict, is that Sendero Luminoso, an insurgent group that was at war with the state in Peru, had a very difficult time finding support for its cause among rural communities. This led to a shorter conflict and scholarship has found that this has to do with land reform.
In Colombia, as land reform efforts failed and violence against rural leaders intensified, rebel groups, especially The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) found a lot of support for their cause which extended the ongoing civil conflict. Even today, we are still discussing the importance of land reform. The new president that was elected in this past summer has a policy proposal to finally implement land reform.
Again, we are revisiting the importance of land reform to change the trajectory of inequality in the country. Right now, land redistribution remains one of the most contentious issues in Colombia — how do we make land property fairer and mitigate violence?