Modernization, Dislocation, and Aprismo: Origins of the Peruvian Aprista Party, 1870-1932

By Peter F. Klarén | Go to book overview

2. The Rise of a Rural Proletariat

While the growth of the sugar industry between the years 1870 and 1930 wrought profound changes in the landholding structure of the Chicama and Santa Catalina valleys, it also produced far-reaching alterations in the social fabric of society in this region. Responding to the critical shortage of labor needed to stoke the fires of the newly emerging sugar industry, the planters began, shortly after the War of the Pacific, to draw upon the heretofore neglected reserve of Indian labor in the northern sierra. By the late 1890's a steadily increasing stream of Indians was pouring into the region's sugar-producing valleys. Over the next several decades this migratory flow, periodically swelling to floodlike proportions or receding to a trickle, depending on the fortunes of the sugar industry, provided the basis for the emergence of a new rural proletariat in the north.

An adequate supply of labor had traditionally been a major problem for the region's sugar planters. At first largely dependent on Negro slaves, the planters had been forced to turn to the importation of Chinese coolies, particularly after Castilla's manumission decree of 1854.1 Between 1850 and

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1
The majority of Chinese went to work on the cotton or sugar plantations, while the remainder were utilized in the guano industry or for the construction of railroads ( Basadre, Historia del Perú, V, 2074-2075).

-24-

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