The other day I attended one session of a multi-part, multi-day colloquium on Marxism in Latin America held at the San Marcos University.
The talks were interesting enough, but there was nothing particularly revelatory in them. Nonetheless, I was glad to have attended, but what really got my interest was the university campus itself.
The last time I had been there was, I think, 25 years ago, still during the war between the Peruvian state and the Shining Path guerrillas.
At that time, the university had been practically taken over by the Shining Path, who had infiltrated its student body and employees, and had cowed everyone into leaving them relatively undisturbed. Guerrilla flags flew over the campus and the walls of the classrooms were covered in red-painted slogans in support of their "People's War."
The government, meanwhile, stuck in fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis, and disdainful of the university, let San Marco's coffers become nearly drained, such that repairs went undone, salaries were low and late, and even basics such as desks or chalkboards were not kept up, nor the campus repainted --not that anyone would have dared erase the guerrilla slogans. A truly sad state for the oldest university in America (it was chartered in 1551).
Today, by contrast, despite signs left over from the recent university elections, the campus was neat, clean, and orderly. The atmosphere was truly relaxed, and young people milled about chatting and smiling.
It was neat, but also a little odd because of the contrast with all my previous experiences there. It was, though, nice to see.