SPEAKER: The Cornell team set out to improve health and education. They built a school to accommodate 250 students using communal labor, replacing the old school, which fewer than 30 boys attended. The Cornell-Peru project can be proud of the advances they initiated in education. They also established a school lunch program that vastly improved the children's nutrition. In the 1960s, Peace Corps volunteers were brought in to teach in the school and to work in the clinic.
Schoolboys and their uniforms stand beneath the Cornell University seal that was proudly displayed in the new school. What does this photograph signify? Certainly, Cornell's presence. But what does Cornell's presence signify? Perhaps the pinnacle of modernization.
Health issues were a major issue the Cornell team's agenda. A new health clinic with a visiting doctor, nurse, and dentist were established. In publications, the Cornell team contrasted the arrival of modern medicine with such traditional practices as shown here. A woman cured rubbing a patient's body with a Guinea pig. She then cuts open the Guinea pig to diagnose the disease. It was believed that the Guinea pig absorbs the patient's disease into its organs. A doctor is shown giving the same patient a shot.
These photographs were published in the Cornell University alumni news in 1962 to contrast modern and traditional medicine. What the Cornell team was not aware of was the vast knowledge of medicinal plants that the Vicocinos grew and collected. Today, we know that Peru is recognized as one of the 12 megadiverse regions of the world. Over 4,000 species of native plants are known, providing low-cost medicine to 80% of Peru's population.
Scientific research was also performed on the Vicos population. In this photograph, a biological anthropologists takes measurements for racial classification. In addition, experimental drugs that were not on the market in the United States were administered.
Photographs often provide clues of the underlying assumptions of a development program. For example, progression from traditional, poor, ragged, and illiterate Indian status to modern, educated, integrated into national mestizo society is depicted in the staged photograph showing three boys on three steps, with the one on the lowest step dressed in rags and looking dejected. The boy on the highest step is dressed in a full school uniform, modeled after military uniforms, with the boy on the middle step in between. He has a traditional vest and woven belt, but proudly wears the school uniform, complete with hat.
Note that both boys wear the homemade leather thong sandals, while the poorest boy on the bottom rung is barefoot. Shoes were the most expensive marker of modernity. Clothing remains a marker of ethnicity today, and Vicocinos, especially women, like many other Indian populations, have retained their traditional dress-- especially when they travel or receive visitors-- as a declaration of their ethnic identity.
Other Cornell-Peru project photographs explicitly compare levels of modernization, as in this one, taken in 1963 of two young brothers. The one dressed in Western clothing is the most educated young man in Vicos, who is also a veteran. His brother wears the traditional clothing.
The older brother insists that his younger brother get an education and join the military reserves. The military was promoted by the Cornell project staff as a means of integrating Vicos men into the national culture and economy. It was believed that once men served in the military, they would become part of the urban workforce.
Today, we can re-evaluate, with over 50 years of hindsight, the achievements of the project. Over 30 Vicocinos are studying in post-secondary institutions. But most of those who receive a higher education return to Vicos. The primary goal of the Cornell-Peru project was to integrate the Indian population into the national culture. But Cornell could not predict the continued racism that led to the rejection of the Indian population, their heritage, and culture.
This racism became the motivation for numerous rebellions in Peru that have occurred between 1950 and the present. The last rebellion-- the war that Shining Path waged against the government of Peru between 1985 and 1992-- cost over 70,000 lives. Most were Quechua-speaking peasants.
Instilling democracy and self-determination was another of the primary objectives of the Cornell-Peru project. A government structure representing the 10 barrios, or sectors of the Hacienda Vicos, was set up with an elected village council. That structure exists today. Moreover, Vicosinos have become strong actors in the regional politics, serving in elected offices. Shown here are photos of a woman voting for the first time, and communal meetings with a Peruvian Cornell researcher taking notes at an assembly.
The story of Cornell's agricultural innovations is complex, and provides us with a cautionary tale. On the one hand, the commercialization of potato production for the Lima market, with mono-cropping, the introduction of Cornell's improved varieties, chemical fertilizers, and insecticides was an initial success. In 1954, the first year of these new techniques, production doubled. 10 years later, Vicos it was providing 2% of the total potatoes sold in the Lima market.
But on the other hand, production began to fall shortly thereafter in the mid-60s, and eventually failed due to insect infestation of the introduced varieties. Nevertheless, the 10 years of commercialisation of production allowed Vicos to purchase the hacienda in 1962, after 70 years of difficult negotiations with the Benefits Society, which at one point, raised the price 900%. From a capitalist perspective, this is an enormous success.
Surprisingly, one of the people who intervened with the president of Peru was Edward Kennedy, shown presenting a Peruvian presidential document to Vicosinos in 1961. Kennedy was not the only prominent North American to arrive in Vicos. More than 500 foreigners arrived in Vicos during the Cornell-Peru project to visit the, quote, "miracle of modernization."
For example, Walter Cronkite and Howard Cosell of CBS traveled to Vicos to make the film called So That Men Are Free. You can view it online. Just Google Cornell Vicos, and you'll be taken to a site that I developed with an innovation and teaching grant. A film crew from the BBC also produced a film on the project.
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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 3 of 7 in the From Serfs to Political Actors series.