Monday, May 7, 2012

Rondas Campasinos/Neighborhood Watch Groups.

First off, I had heard about Rondas during training. We watched a Peruvian movie (Paper Doves. An interesting movie about a campo kid in Peru during the time of terrorism in the 80's... available on netfix... recommended if it's something that interests you). Then I heard a few interesting stories from my host-family when I got to site (Vigilantes in the isolated communities that would meme or kill for lesser crimes like theft). So when a meeting time I had hoped to schedule with mayor was taken by what his secretary told me was "a training for the local Rondas", I told myself I had to dust off the ol' "gringo all access card" and check it out (the GAAC: a maneuver where you act like you belong there, and if someone confronts you, you act like you don't understand what is going on. It almost never fails) .   

Second, "neighborhood watch groups", is probably the worst translation I've given on this blog*, but due to a lack of a succinct phrase to describe these people, let me explain their most recent history, and allow you to compose your own definition. 

Buckle up, because it goes... There have been many "positive" advancements in campo life in Peru in the last three decades (electricity to communities, motorized transportation becoming more common, sanitation project, paved highways, etc), but Sierra campo life in Peru also was shaped by negative aspects in the last 30 years. Specifically, by the presence of home grown terrorism groups (e.g. the Sendero Luminoso/Shinning Path). Although the effects of terror groups appeared to have crescendo in the late 80's/early 90's, there still are residual effects from this period (Sendero Luminoso is still technically present; however, they appear to similar to FARC in Columbia, in that they have lost their ideological foundations, along with their footholds in many communities).

Just like any successful terror group, violence was the go to tool, and the marginalized people from low soccio-economic/low education populations were the fodder. Terrorist stayed in camps away from villages, planning and training for their next terrorist attacks.  They would then raid the villages looking for government supporters, rations for their comrades, and sometimes kidnapping children as recruits. To combat them, the villages used their current neighbor hood watch groups, the Rondas, (which in my area have been around since the 1920's) to fight violence with more violence. The government supported the Ronda Campasinos as a type of ad-hoc paramilitary group, and as typical to any vigilante type mob, lots of bloodshed ensued.

With terrorism waning, the Rondas are still a group of neighborhood men who volunteer to patrol the barrio, who are still supported the government, and still tend towards violence for justice, but the new typical crimes are far less news worthy. Adulterous spouses, drunken fights, and an animal thefts are the new public executions, kidnappings, and other atrocities that were more common in the time of the terrorist.

Here's video I took during the training that I attended. I can assure you I was the only outsider in the place, which is always kinda of awkward, but it was pretty interesting. This video clip is a training of how your Ronda should deal with someone who has been caught stealing cuy in your barrio. In the skit, the Ronda are the simi-ninja looking guys who dole out the lashings at the end. Enjoy (For some reason the video won't upload to my blog, so please follow the link to my youtube account):

*I hope none of you are reading this blog in hopes of improving your Spanish skills. If so, I apologize to you and any native speaker you try to converse with...  I feel like my skills have taken a significant nose dive since arriving to sight (for various reason, a major one being too lazy to crack open my language books).