SPEAKER 1: In 1952, Alan Holmberg, the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Cornell, signed the lease for the Hacienda Vicos for $600 a year. This photograph of the hacienda was published in Natural History Magazine in 1953 and in Cornell University alumni news in May 1962.
The hacienda was a surviving vestige of a colonial land grant from the Spanish crown that not only granted land but also granted the people living on the land called encomiendas. That land tenure system was transformed into haciendas.
The first mention of Vicos is in a document dated 1593, which mentions the Hacienda Vicos belonging to the public Benefit Society of Lima. The hacienda was rented to various mestizo elites for three centuries, expropriated once in 1928 under the Villez government. When the government fell in 1932, the hacienda was returned to the Public Benefit Society. In 1946, the Santa mining corporation took over management.
Over this long history, the Quecha-speaking Indians living on the land were serfs to the managers or patrones of the so-called publicly owned hacienda. The boundaries of the hacienda were guarded so that the serfs could not escape.
In 1952, when Cornell rendered the hacienda, 1,700 serfs were listed in the lease as chattel. Even though the proceeds from the hacienda were supposed to support a hospital in the Juaras, the capital of the region, the earnings on the enterprise were in fact shared by the group of managers for whom the Indian population was required to serve as household servants or as field hands. Also, the patrones could sell the labor of the residents serfs to mines, textile factories, or other businesses. For example, Vicosinos were required to work in the textile mills that produced linen for World War II. Manuel Mesa, whom you will meet later in this presentation, recounts that his father was required to drive cattle and horses to the coast, an arduous trip that took four days on foot and then four days to return.
The Indians were never compensated. Some received the use of small plots for their own household consumption. However, out of the 363 families in Vicos in 1952, 100 families did not have access to agricultural plots and had to work for Vicosinos who were allocated plots by the hacienda.
After the hacienda harvest, women were permitted to glean the fields, an important source of food, especially for the landless. In 2005, I was told by elderly Vicosinos that they made sure a lot of produce was left in the fields. When Cornell arrived, members of the community were on the edge of starvation.
As Alan Holmberg stated in a publication, the hacienda was rented for five years with two major goals, one, to conduct experimental research on the process of modernization, and two, to assist the community to become relatively free and independent within the context of the Peruvian state.
And I quote from him. In 1952, as part of a research program and cultural applied science, Cornell University in collaboration with the Indigenous Institute of Peru arranged to rent Vicos, a publicly owned hacienda on which previous observational studies had been made, for an initial period of five years. Broadly speaking, the purpose of embarking on this experience was twofold. On the theoretical side, it was hoped to conduct some form of experimental research on the processes of modernization, now on the march in so many parts of the world. On the practical side, it was hoped to assist the community to shift, for itself, from a position of relative dependence and submission in the highly restricted and provincial world to a position of relative independence and freedom within the larger framework of Peruvian national life, end of quote.
Since one of Cornell's stated goals was to study modernization the hacienda labor structure was kept intact for one year without the obligation of forced labor. Cornell also retained the hacienda overseer who is still hated today for his harsh treatment of Vicosinos. Later, he was appointed manager of production for the commercialization of potatoes to be sold in the Lima market.
This photo was published in the Cornell alumni news in May 1962 with the caption, before they took orders from a mestizo foreman. When Cornell arrived, the hacienda was a losing enterprise. The patrones were absentee landlords with little concern for the education and well-being of their serfs. Even though the plan was for Alan Holmberg and the team of researchers to be present for five years, Cornell had a continuous presence in Vicos until 1966.
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What are the successes and failures of Cornell's development efforts in the Andean community of Vicos 50 years ago? How are the people of Vicos faring today, and can history teach us anything?
This video 2 of 7 in the From Serfs to Political Actors series.