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A community’s transition from ‘no man’s land’ to an inclusive cultural space in Peru

Young Monzón residents participated in cultural activities. Photo credit: International IDEA

Young Monzón residents participated in cultural activities. Photo credit: International IDEA

Creating a culture of democracy to re-envision the Monzón Valley’s future

In the Monzón Valley in the Peruvian Amazon, drug trafficking, terrorism and violence has been the norm for over 30 years. About a decade ago, Monzón’s economy was focused on the production of coca leaf for the illegal drug trade, producing 16 per cent of all illegal crops in Peru. The state had little control in the area, which was often described as ‘no man’s land’. The coca farmers union exercised very strict control over the zone, which was characterized by the expression ‘coca or death’.

The drug production and trafficking network was closely linked to the Shining Path, a communist guerrilla organization that launched a war against the Peruvian state in the 1980s. The Shining Path provided armed protection for the coca leaf production, fuelling a growing distrust of the government. Terrorist acts in the Monzón occurred frequently, violating human rights and free transit.

In 2012, the Peruvian government began a campaign to eradicate illegal coca farming in Monzón district, replacing coca with alternative crops such as coffee and cacao. The state also managed to set up three police stations allowing Monzón Valley and its inhabitants to initiate a process towards development, peace and inclusion. The process continued throughout 2018, when International IDEA began its work to support the process and strengthen democracy in public cultural meeting spaces.

In 2019, cultural fairs, theatre performances and cinema forums were organized to provide a forum where families could meet, learn, reflect and discuss important issues. The focus has been on democratic coexistence in society, but the events have also given people in the area an opportunity to enjoy public space in a new way. Feedback from Monzón citizens has been positive; many are surprised that the squares could be a centre of cultural activities.

‘I am very happy to see that now this square is a place where people can entertain themselves as a family, until a few years ago this same place was used for public executions, among other forms of popular justice.’ — Mayor of Cachicoto Town

This initiative, supported by the US Agency for International Development, has helped recognize that public space as a meeting point for culture can be a key to strengthening democratic coexistence, particularly in localities that have suffered long periods of violence and isolation, such as the Monzón Valley.

 

International IDEA inspired citizens to engage in public spaces to build trust and change relationships in a society shattered by conflicts.

Read more stories about International IDEA's results in our Annual Outcome Report 2019: Democracy In Action.