I started graduate school with the expectation of studying women's history. I think the struggle that women made to get the vote is an amazing topic, and something I thought I wanted to explore. However, my 1st graduate course was a Latin American course to satisfy my global credit requirement. I started the course and my professor tried to get me to study sugar plantations, but it was simply not something I was interested in. I remembered learning about Castro and Che Guevara in undergrad and I thought that was interesting, so I figured that was the route I would take for the class. Well, I really got into it. So I changed my focus and I dove head first into my new topic.
I did a survey of all guerrilla movements in Latin America, and I found one that scholars had not studied in depth, and that was The Shining Path, or Sendero Luminosa of Peru. The Shining Path was a Moaist insurgency started by a man named Abimael Guzman, known as Presidente Gonzalo. He led the movement for almost 2 decades. The people were caught in the classic struggle of guerrillas vs. the government. Both sides were armed and at time dangerous, and the
masses were stuck in between, often siding with the group who happened to be in the village that day. Under the leadership of president Alberto Fujimori, Peru was able to defeat the guerrillas. The Peruvian government was eventually able to find Guzman as well. He had been living in the capital city of Lima! The government knew that he smoked certain cigarettes, and that he had psoriasis and used a special cream. They found both in a garbage can at the house of a famous dancer. The took him in and he was tried by a hooded tribunal and found guilty. Currently, he is held in a subterranean cell, and when he travels, the government keeps him locked in a cage during transport because he is so dangerous.
I did my research, and actually was down in Peru and able to speak with several of the natives about their experiences with the guerrillas. The things they saw and experienced were horrifying. I heard stories about people being held hostage by the guerrillas. I heard stories about bombs going off in the streets. I heard stories about women and children being beaten.
However, Peru emerged from this horrible ordeal. Their scars still show, and the country is rebuilding, and rewriting its future.
I had a great time in graduate school, and one day, I expect that I will begin work on my ph.d. However, for now, I am simply enjoying the fact that my time is my own. I enjoy not living in a library or writing 30 pages a week, just to have it handed back to me smeared with red ink from my professors correction pen. My time is my own, and I am free to read silly books about subjects that don't matter. Yes, I am enjoying life.