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The Salvador Allende Memorial Lecture

The Chilean road to capitalism: The role of agrarian reform and peasant revolt before the coup

A lecture by José Bengoa, Rector and Professor of Anthropology, Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano, Santiago de Chile

26 October 2015, 5:15 pm (Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, University of Cambridge)

Co-organised by the Centre of Latin American Studies and the Department of Sociology

This lecture explains the triumph of capitalism in Chile from a historical perspective that emphasises the system of agrarian domination and its destruction by the Agrarian Reform and the peasant revolts of the period that occurred between 1967 and 1973.

The Agrarian Reform was the most important process of social change in twentieth century Chile. The system of rural servitude, known as ‘inquilinaje’, was for centuries the model of domination, subordination and integration which underlay the hierarchies of class, gender, ethnicity and race, as well as the morality of the whole society. Between 1967 and 1973 the hacienda system that had existed in the country since the Spanish Colony was destroyed. The peasant revolt was eventually brutally crushed, but it brought about the end of the monopoly of the oligarchy over landed property and the dissolution and transformation of the former servile classes into a labour force of temporary workers. On this foundation the new successful agrarian export capitalism was built, a free market in land and a mass of nearly half a million mainly women workers and seasonal workers who follow the harvest seasons up and down the country.

José Bengoa is one of Chile’s leading intellectuals. Professor of the School of Anthropology and Director of the Academia de Humanismo Cristiano in Santiago de Chile. He has held the Pablo Neruda Professorship at the University of Sorbonne , the Andrés Bello Professorship at the University of Leiden, as well as Visiting Professorships in Salamanca, Indiana University (Bloomington) and at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. For two decades he was a member of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. He was the President of the Comisión Especial de Pueblos Indígenas which drew up the Ley Indígena of 1993.

His many published books include  Historia del Pueblo Mapuche (1985), Historia de los antiguos mapuches del sur (2007) La emergencia indígena en América Latina (2000) and most recently Historia Rural de Chile Central.