CaMD Scholar John Sanchez ’23 Analyzes Spanish Colonialism and Capitalism Through Lens of Peruvian Miners

John Sanchez ’23 delivered his Community and Multicultural Development (CaMD) Scholar presentation, titled “Peruvian Miners and the Fight Against Colonial and Capitalist Exploration,” on January 27 in Kemper Auditorium. In his talk, Sanchez detailed the struggles of Peruvian miners initially under Spanish colonialism and later, in the early 20th century, under the dominance of foreign companies.

During his presentation, before exploring the unions built across the Peruvian working class, Sanchez called on audience members to turn and talk about different hierarchies that came to mind. Later, he highlighted the importance of visualizing hierarchies in the context of colonization, where power was taken away from people and redistributed over time.

“Notice with a hierarchy there’s more space towards the bottom and there’s less space the higher up you go. The masses are located at the bottom, while the higher you go, there are less people. Power does not originate from [the bottom]. Power is kept [at the bottom], but power is mainly concentrated towards the top. Power is piercing through people [to the top] and portraying an ideology,” said Sanchez.

Dr. Patricia Har, Director of Brace Center, appreciated how Sanchez introduced the central concepts of his presentation to the audience before engaging with the content in more detail. As Sanchez’s CaMD Scholar Faculty Advisor, Har noted Sanchez’s dedication to his research over the summer.

“One of the things I really thought was cool about John’s presentation was the way he talked about and explained structures to ground the audience in his own thinking, and use that as a through line throughout his presentation… There was so much information in [the presentation] and it really showcased how much research John had done over the summer. [But] as thorough as the presentation was, that only scratched the surface of his actual research,” said Har. 

Sanchez concluded his presentation by describing how Peruvian miners were able to overcome their stratified society by unionizing. In light of the Peruvian miners, Sanchez challenged audience members to defy hierarchies, emphasizing the revolutionary power of togetherness. 

“If there’s anything the miners showed us today, it’s that unionization can happen anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance, and it happens to begin with people. We can come together. We can make this world a better place. [These hierarchies] try to divide us and separate our power, but instead, we can choose to come together. We can choose to bring our powers together to collectively craft a new world,” said Sanchez.

Chloe Rhee ’24, an attendee of the presentation, described how she was inspired by Sanchez’s message about the importance of taking collective action. Rhee also highlighted the interactive nature of Sanchez’s talk.

“I think it was really fun that John got everyone up on stage, to listen to the song, which I know was about revolution, and to vibe with it. I think that’s something that hasn’t been done in any of the recent CaMD presentations that I’ve gone to. It was just something unexpected. I also really liked the fact that John had us discuss the concepts of social class and hierarchy,” said Rhee.

With family sharing a similar experience to the Peruvian miners described in Sanchez’s presentation, Inti Stephenson-Castro ’25 was eager to attend the event. Though his family is from Bolivia, Stephenson-Castro felt connected with Sanchez’s story on the coalition and revolution formed by the Peruvian working class.

“What really resonated with me was probably when [the miners] finally gathered together to fight the company, because as we can see, from multiple examples in the world, many of these multi-millionaire capitalist companies try to put divisions within the working class. But when these people [are] able to band together after realizing there were zero differences among them, they [are] finally able to stop this harassment within their own country and get some justice,” said Stepheson-Castro.