María Elena Moyano

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María Elena Moyano

María Elena Moyano Delgado (29 November 1958 – February 15, 1992) was a Peruvian community organizer and activist of Afro-Peruvian descent who was assassinated by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) insurgent movement. Although only one of many atrocities committed during the most violent period of Peru's modern history, her death resulted in a public outcry.

Early life

Moyano was born in the Barranco district of Lima. Her activism began in her teens, as a member of the Movimiento de Jóvenes Pobladores, a youth movement in Villa El Salvador, a vast shantytown (pueblo joven) on the outskirts of the capital, largely populated by migrants from the interior of the country.

In 1984, at age 25, she was elected president of the Federación Popular de Mujeres de Villa El Salvador (Fepomuves), a federation of women from Villa El Salvador. Under her leadership, it grew to encompass public kitchens, health committees, the Vaso de Leche program (which supplied children with milk), income-generating projects, and committees for basic education. In 1990, Moyano left her position in Fepomuves and shortly thereafter was elected deputy mayor of the municipality of Villa El Salvador.

Vaso de Leche (Glass of Milk) was an organization Maria Elena Moyano supported. This organization’s goal was to deliver milk to Lima's poor neighborhoods so that children could have at least one cup of milk a day. [1]

Maria Elena Moyano’s mother laundered clothes for a living. She grew up with six siblings: Rodolfo, Raul, Carlos, Narda, Eduardo, and Martha. For many years Maria Elena wanted to be a secretary, but her mother would insist of her to study law. Gustavo, her husband insisted her to apply at Garcilaso de la Vega University so she could study sociology. It is said, in the movie about her that when studying the poverty in Peru she denied God, and instead decided to believe in socialism. Moyano believed that soup kitchens were a form of expressing grievances.

Shining Path in Peru

At this time, Shining Path was trying to consolidate its hold on the poorer neighborhoods of Lima. Shining Path guerrillas was found by a man named Abimael Guzman Reynoso. They were suspicious of all social organizations in Peru. Shining Path guerrillas planted a bomb on September 9th, 1991 in a distribution center and blames Maria Elena Moyano. Clearly, falsely accused her in order to silence her.

The Shining Path followed the ideas of Marx, Mao, and Lenin. They wanted something similar to the Chinese Revolution to happen in Peru. This revolution, would demolish the government, and Peruvian institutions. The Shining Path did not believe that social organizations were helping the country, but they were of no use. The government to the Shining Path was meant to be destroyed, and in their attempt to do so they killed mostly peasants (30,000). That does not count the many innocent people that died once the Peruvian military was involved in their attempt to capture the Shining Path. The people lived in fear: if they supported by the military they would be killed by the Shining Path, and if they supported the Shining Path they would be killed by the government.

The fear, and terror pushed women (who lived in poverty) to speak up, and get involved in organized groups. The war between the Shining Path and the military affected women for most of them were raped by both parts. Cholas (the pejorative term for indigenous Peruvian females) were raped the most by men in the military, reported by Robin Kirk on report she created for the Women’s Rights Project of Human Rights Watch. The Shining Path additionally intimidated those that worked in social organizations through death threats, and ultimately killed quite a few.

Guzman, the leader of the Shining Path was captured in September 1992. This was during the government of Alberto Fujimori who had dissolved congress in April 1992, suspending the constitution. He went on creating a tight bond with the military. Under Fujimori’s rule many were arrested, and executed (many of them innocent).

The Shining Path considered Maria Elena as a revisionist and deemed her as manipulator. Maria Elena blamed the leftist group in Peru for supporting the Shining Path. Maria Elena went on to confront the Shining Path by calling them terrorist, no longer revolutionaries. Maria Elena even went on to confront the police of Peru. She accused them of violence, and murder.

In a distributed pamphlet, the Shining Path attacked Maria Elena. The Shining Path accused her of cheating, lying, and placing bombs. Maria Elena rebutted each attack by stating that she would never “destroy what [she] has built with [her] own hands.”

On February 14, Maria Elena protested. She was the leader of a march against the Shining Path. The people carried white banners as a symbol of peace. After the protest, she was gunned down at fund-raising meal for a group of women. [2]


After actively confronting Maria Elena Moyano, she began to contemplate her death. She had good reason since many women activists in Peru were murdered. Maria Antenati Hilario and Margarita Astride de la Cruz were murdered for their attempt at change. Most importantly was the death of Juana Lopez in August 1991, where two weeks later Maria Elena began receiving death threats. The Shining Path began to tell her to leave her post, or she will die.

Shining Path guerrillas assassinated Maria Elena Moyano on February 15, 1992. It was the defiance that Maria Elena Moyano illustrated was what triggered her death. She was killed in front of her son: Gustavo and her husband David Pineki (she married him in 1980).

Thousands of people attended her funeral. Later, in a plaza in the center of Villa El Salvador, a statue honoring Moyano was erected, and her autobiography was published.

The assassination of Moyano was one of the last major atrocities carried out by Shining Path. In September 1992, Guzmán was arrested and the leadership of the organization fell shortly thereafter. Subsequently, Shining Path was largely eradicated.

Moyano has been honored through a film after her death: Coraje (Courage). The film was written and directed by Alberto Durant.

A country filled with violence, inequality and danger; Maria Elena Moyano proved to be a signal of hope when approximately 300,000 people accompanied her coffin.


  1. Moyano, Maria E. The Autobiography of Maria Elena Moyano: The Life and Death of a Peruvian Activist. Trans. Patricia S. Taylo Edmisten. University Press of Florida, 2000. Print.
  2. Shaw, Lisa and Stephanie Dennison. Pop Culture Latin America: Media, Arts and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO, 2005. Print.

External links


  • Shaw, Lisa and Stephanie Dennison. Pop Culture Latin America: Media, Arts and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO, 2005. Print.
  • Moyano, Maria E. The Autobiography of Maria Elena Moyano: The Life and Death of a Peruvian Activist. Trans. Patricia S. Taylo Edmisten. University Press of Florida, 2000. Print.
  • Heilman, Jaymie Patricia. Before the Shining Path: Politics in Rural Ayacucho, 1895-1980. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2010. Print.
  • Gorriti, Gustavo, and Robin Kirk. The Shining Path. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1999. Print.