In the long weeks that we spent without a proclaimed president, things happened that already augured a new era to flourish in Peru. Every day the memes were degenerating, that is, surpassing themselves, from “no more Vargas Llosa in a country of José María Arguedas” to “no more McDonalds in a country of Pachamanca“.
Moreover, while the media continued to join in the maneuver of Fujimori and the Peruvian elites to falsify and delay a fraud scenario and thus take over the election, On a prime-time show, one of those musical talent shows, a woman came out to sing “Flor de retama”. Not to sing one of Madonna or Alejandro Sanz like any other day, he came out singing an Andean song whose lyrics he recalls the massacre of 20 students in Huanta, Ayacucho, in 1969, product of police repression. The university students had taken to the streets to defend state and free education in the face of attempts by the military government to impose fees; although with martyrs, thanks to student resistance the decree was repealed.
The history of education in Peru is not a photographic and inspiring story of resilience, it is a story of discrimination, pain, tragedy, protest and mourning. During the entire electoral campaign, the Flor de Retama was “terruqueada “ by opponents of Pedro Castillo and treated as an anthem of the Shining Path. But that night it was in prime time. And more than half the country sang it with bristling skin, no longer half but full voice. Because the broom flower blooms with all its brilliant yellow color in the highest lands, the driest, the most inhospitable.
It is no coincidence that a song about the struggles for public education in Peru has become the theme that is sung in all Castillo rallies, turned into an emblem of the electoral feat of the recently proclaimed president and his rural voters, whom the guarantors of the attempted coup wanted to take away their vote in a demonstration of racism and classism rarely seen. What they said is that they could not write or read, which was the fault of their bad education.
Documentary The Professor, directed by Álvaro Lasso.
Castillo is “the teacher”, a village teacher and union leader who led the national educational strike of 2017, the most powerful in memory, and who has offered to make that long-awaited great investment in education, the revolution that a country of profound inequalities, in which education has become the profit of the few. Peruvian teachers have earned meager salaries for decades and when they have complained they have been silenced and ruined. Rural schools are falling apart. Children die of cold. They don’t have internet. They have been without classes for a year and a half due to the pandemic. While in Lima a private school can charge $ 15,000 entrance fee.
If there are people with whom the Peruvian State has a historical debt, it is with their teachers. It makes all the sense in the world that a union teacher is now going to rule us.
Among the many things that the national elites do not forgive Castillo is that in a few days he will be invested as the “president of the bicentennial.” They did not imagine it. They thought he was going to be another white man in the club, renewing colonial ties rather than breaking them once and for all. To support the idea of fraud, Ayuso said that in Peru “they had voted dead.” They believed them dead, of course, but they are very much alive. This year marks the 200th anniversary of Peru’s independence and the celebration of the “Bicentennial” has been in the works for a long time. What they did not expect is that we would do it with a president who is not of their orbit. Never in the entire short history of our republic has this country had a democratically elected president even suspected of being on the left or of implementing left-wing policies – except for the occasional measure introduced in a government; Peru has never been ruled by the left and much less has it been by a man of peasant, Andean, rondero, teacher, poor and red origin like Castillo. Poetic justice falls short.
It is a key moment for the left in Latin America, the expectation grows to live constituent changes, reform the bases of the States, change the economic model hungry and introduce more just and egalitarian, diverse, feminist and anti-colonial political participation processes, also thinking about the continuity of the planet, that include women, indigenous peoples, racialized communities and LGTBQI equally. That is why now we celebrate not the unexpected but the expected president of the bicentennial, who finally represents the other half of the country. But we also do it, without hiding the hope that it is also bicentennial, for the women and dissidents who hope to flourish as the broom.