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Entrevista Con La Bailarina
January 20, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

The Dancer and the Terrorist. When Peru’s most wanted man, Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, was captured in 1992, a young ballerina, Maritza Garrido Lecca, went to jail too, for harbouring him at her studio. The story was turned into a novel and film, “The Dancer Upstairs” (trailer). This year, the author of the novel, Nicholas Shakespeare, flew to Lima to meet the dancer at last — and to ask her whether she was guilty.
posted by zarq (13 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
the question is? any comparison (by owning the studio) to the famous case of Mary Surratt's Boarding House, Washington, DC. Hell, her only connection to John Wilkes Booth was that she owned the bordering house he stayed in, she was hanged in public, although she was not included in the plan to shoot president Lincoln.
posted by tustinrick at 5:57 PM on January 20, 2011


See, a couple pictures of a fiery Latina ballerina would have gone a long way to improving the legibility of that article for me.
posted by newdaddy at 5:58 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can see pictures of her here. English translation of the page. A more recent picture.
posted by zarq at 6:24 PM on January 20, 2011


For the record, ballet instructors, and ballet dancers, are not ballerinas unless they are principal soloists with established companies.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


See, a couple pictures of a fiery Latina ballerina would have gone a long way to improving the legibility of that article for me.

I think that in the context of the Shining Path's violence and a 25 year sentence in Peruvian high security prisons, "I'd hit it" is a bit less funny.

It's a good movie; I haven't read the novel so I don't know how close the two are. The article read to me like he was really wanting her to prove her innocence, and he wasn't prepared for her coy hintings at her complicity. For whatever reason of charisma and circumstance, Guzman inspired incredible, fanatical loyalty, and she seems to have been caught in it as well.
posted by Forktine at 6:48 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I half suspect that he wrote it entirely to use the ballet/bullet line.
posted by Abiezer at 7:06 PM on January 20, 2011


Nicholas Shakespeare also wrote one of my favorite biographies ever: Bruce Chatwin. Shakespeare actually manages to tell the story of his life with all of its contradictions, without fawning over him, without condemning him for his fictions, and make it an enjoyable read. A reviewer does a better job than me at explaining the book. Apparently there's a a collection of Chatwin's letters that was recently published.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


The movie was interesting - somewhat flawed, but drastically underrated. The opening scene (I recall it as the opening scene, anyway) in which Guzmán's fictional counterpart and some allies are driving in some cold, remote part of Peru, listening to a live Nina Simone version of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes," with its lengthy spoken word introduction, is fantastic. Javier Bardem plays the policeman who eventually makes the capture.

Nicholas Shakespeare is a fine writer. Sometimes his novels don't coalesce perfectly, but his style and use of language are always top-rate. The Dancer Upstairs is one of his best works, and the book and film don't deviate in any ways that are hugely obvious to me.

I stumbled across this story yesterday, and I'm delighted that you made this post, zarq. I think it's quite clear that Maritza is a total liar about her involvement with Sendero Luminoso baddies, especially Guzmán, though. Shakespeare has always been honest about his disappointment in not being able to interview her, as she was a central character in the book (fictionalized) and her motivations and actions are both mysterious and bewildering. I've seen pictures of her (not in links presented here) and it's obvious from them just how relatively education / upper class / refined / beautiful / privileged she was . . . which makes her engagement with one of the world's more relentlessly violent and unforgiving terrorist organizations harder to fathom.

Shakespeare wrote two books about the Shining Path, The Dancer Upstairs and The Vision Of Elena Silves. His own background growing up for some time as the son of a diplomat in South America, not to mention his literary skill, made him the perfect English-language writer to tackle this subject. While I'd normally be hesitant to recommend a writer of fiction for informative background on a non-fiction subject such as the Shining Path, his books are a great place to begin. (Though this magazine piece, as well as his biography of Bruce Chatwin, go a long way to show what a tremendous journalist he is, too.)

What blew me away about this article was the odd revelation that the actual arresting police officer had no idea that there was a film about him (!) and the fact that some odd elements of Guzmán's life that could not have been known when (Nicholas) Shakespeare wrote of them - such as his great suffering from psoriasis, his deep love for (William) Shakespeare and for American cigarettes - ended up being true!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:44 PM on January 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thanks, sciencegeek, for mentioning Shakespeare's collation of the Chatwin letters. He was the perfect guy for the job, precisely for the reasons you mention in regard to the biography. Chatwin was a brilliant writer, but an absolute fabulist and exceedingly complex figure. Shakespeare, despite having a strong style himself, somehow manages the perfect distance in writing about him.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:47 PM on January 20, 2011


Yeah, was gonna say. The film is really underrated.
posted by fire&wings at 4:26 AM on January 21, 2011


Dee Xtrovert: " I stumbled across this story yesterday, and I'm delighted that you made this post, zarq. I think it's quite clear that Maritza is a total liar about her involvement with Sendero Luminoso baddies, especially Guzmán, though.

Me too. Of course, it's not unusual for people who have been imprisoned to stick to an innocence narrative, but she was just so coy about it, even when confronted with pointed, direct questions.

What blew me away about this article was the odd revelation that the actual arresting police officer had no idea that there was a film about him (!)

That surprised me as well.
posted by zarq at 8:37 AM on January 21, 2011


I went to the same school she went to, I am a few years younger, but we were in school at the same time. I remember when she was captured, it was so surreal. I was in high school then, the nuns wouldn't talk about it, it was painful. We went to the Instituto del Sagrado Corazon Sophianum.

My school is also about 3 blocks from the former Japanese ambassador's residence, wich was taken hostage on December 17, 1996. That was my graduation night, we were just done with the diploma ceremony and were still in the auditorium when we heard the explosions and then the lights went out. No one was allowed to leave or go out for the next 3 hours.

Not until I left Peru and was away for a few years is that I realized we lived through hell, it just seemed normal at the time, the blackouts, the bombs, deaths every day...my parents' flat is 4 blocks from the school, surrounded by the Japanese embassy (bombed and remember seeing it from the living room), the Japanese ambassador's residence, the Italian embassy, a tv station (which was bombed in '92 if I remember correctly), a hospital, a university and a navy base...I guess I can say we saw a lot of things during the 80s and 90s. I remember been driven to the school every day during a period of time, word was that my parents had received threats of kidnapping us. Which I didn't know until all these things were over.

My mother is a lawyer and has been a judge, a politician and lawmaker. At the time, she was a juvenile terrorism judge, her work and her personal nature allowed us to see, learn and experience things my peers never did. The crimes committed by the Shining Path are so vile and evil, I can't have much sympathy for this woman and even less for Guzman.

Entire villages would be annihilated in their so called "popular justice trials" where they would torture a person in front of their entire village, then kill everyone else, take their children for soldiers.

Anyone who could even start to defend or romanticize the Shining Path or their leaders has obviously never lived through those years of horror.
posted by ratita at 8:59 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


the question is? any comparison (by owning the studio) to the famous case of Mary Surratt's Boarding House, Washington, DC. Hell, her only connection to John Wilkes Booth was that she owned the bordering house he stayed in, she was hanged in public, although she was not included in the plan to shoot president Lincoln.

There's a huge difference with this. Garrido Lecca knew perfectly well who this person was in terms of being a sought after terrorist. She was involved in the "Cupula" (leadership) of the organization. And sorry, but a single-target assassination plot is not comparable with 20 years of massacres and terror.
posted by ratita at 9:08 AM on January 21, 2011


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