Tashta Ocharutunan, in the department of Ancash, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Lima, is the name of my family’s expropriated farm. It had belonged to the Pretel family since 1913, but then–one day in July 1969–the military came and told my family to leave. My father called me over the telephone. “Son, we have been made poor. We have nothing to eat, not even a sheep or a loaf of bread.”
The leftist military junta, which seized power in a coup d’état on October 3, 1968, had promised “to give justice to the poor” by–among other things–carrying out an “agrarian reform.” But the reform was limited to expropriating lands and passing them on to untrained, under-capitalized laborers, who–in the end–remained as poor as before. In the process, they managed to reduce the productive potential of the expropriated lands, setting back Peru’s relatively modern and highly productive agricultural sector for decades.