'Turning guano into railroads': hopes for 'progress' in nineteenth-century Peru

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Abstract/Description: In the mid to late nineteenth century, politicians in Peru began to increasingly focus on railroad building as a tool for their country's development. Though the railroads had physical significance in their transportation capabilities, they also symbolized the hopes elite Peruvians had of transforming their country. They hoped to use railroads for Peru to better its global standing, appear more “civilized” in the eyes of the world, and bring modernity to rural indigenous communities that were previously difficult to reach. Despite the high hopes politicians had for their railways, however, this railroad system also presented an opportunity for the British to further extend their control into Latin America. Though Peru had gained independence years earlier, the British vision of imperialism and expansion meant that they sought to gain as much economic control in Peru as possible, particularly through railroad construction. Ultimately, railroad building in Peru sheds light on both the complexities of Peruvian nationhood and the issues associated with the neocolonialism of this era.
Subject(s): Peru -- History. -- Railroads -- Peru.