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Javier Puente

Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino/a Studies; Chair of Latin American and Latino/a Studies

Javier Puente


Hillyer Hall 313 / Wright Hall 119


Javier Puente is an interdisciplinary scholar of Andean environments and campesino politics. Originally trained as a historian of the Andes at Georgetown University, he has spent his career researching and teaching about the trajectories of Latin American agrarian reforms, the land struggles of campesinos and, more recently, their experiences of socioenvironmental suffering. At Smith, he currently serves as Chair of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program and Faculty Liaison of the Phoebe and John D. Lewis Global Studies Center. 

Javier Puente’s first book, The Rural State: Making Comunidades, Campesinos, and Conflict in Peru’s Central Sierra (University of Texas Press, 2022), documents how people living in the Peruvian central sierra in the twentieth century confronted emerging and consolidating powers of state and capital and engaged in an ongoing struggle over increasingly elusive subsistence and autonomies, uncovering the surprising and overlooked ways that Peru’s rural communities formed the political nation-state that still exists today and offering a fresh perspective on how the Andes became la sierra, how pueblos became comunidades, and how indígenas became campesinos. The Rural State received the 2023 Marysa Navarro Best Book Prize from the New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS).

Javier Puente is currently working on two book-length projects. A first one, tentatively titled Children of Collapse: El Niño and the Making of Andean Livelihoods, reconstructs how peoples and places of the southern central Peruvian Andes have experienced, endured, and adapted to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Combining archival resources, ethnographic accounts and climatological data, this study evaluates a major environmental phenomenon within a two-century narrative of internal conflict and civil strife. The second one, titled Boom! An Explosive History of Peru, explores the role that dynamite has had in physically and politically transforming the Peruvian Andes. A quintessential element of the Anthropocene, dynamite facilitated the construction of railways, enabled mining to reach more profound depths, made fishing a more ecologically depleting activity, and even served the terrorist strategies of an insurrectionary movement. 

Javier Puente’s teaching interests focus on Andean history and environmental history, the agrarian question in Latin America, insurrectionary and revolutionary processes, the intersection of ecological transformations and sociopolitical conflicts, and the material roots of rural violence. He is broadly interested in the centrality of the agrarian countryside in the making of the modern world and how global forces shape everything rural. In recent years, he has become increasingly concerned about the relationship between the lives of rural peoples and how they make sense of their changing environments. In 2022, the Student Government Association (SGA) at Smith College distinguished him with the annual Faculty Teaching Award for junior faculty members. 

Javier Puente’s research has been funded and supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, the John Carter Brown Library, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Lehigh University, the Program of Latin American Libraries and Archives at Harvard University, Georgetown University’s Center of Latin American Studies, and the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History. Outside Smith, he serves as a contributing editor of NACLA, the North American Council on Latin America.

Selected Publications


PUENTE, Javier. The Rural State: Making Comunidades, Campesinos, and Conflict in Peru’s Central SierraAustin: University of Texas Press, 2022.

Edited Volumes and Special Issues

Modelando Regiones Naturales: Capitalismo, Medio Ambiente y la Geografía del Perú Pos-Colonial. Historia Ambiental Latinoamericana y Caribeña, 12:3, 2022.

The Environmental and Ecological Impacts of Guerrilla and Irregular Warfare. Global Environment, 14:1, 2021.


PUENTE, Javier. “Peru’s Antisystem Impulse,” in: NACLA Report on The Americas, 55:1, 2023, pp.15-19.

PUENTE, Javier and Adrián LERNER. “Modelando Regiones Naturales: Capitalismo, Medio Ambiente y la Geografía del Perú Pos-Colonial,” in: Historia Ambiental Latinoamericana y Caribeña, 12:3, December 2022, pp. 20-27.

PUENTE, Javier.“Monumentos de papel: la narrativa histórica del Gobierno Revolucionario de la Fuerza Armada,” in: Grecia Barbieri and Gonzalo Benavente, eds. La revolución imaginada, pp. 45-50. Lima: Debate/Penguin Random House, 2021.

PUENTE, Javier. "Irregular Conflicts, Disrupted Ecologies: The Environmental Impacts of Unconventional Warfare in the Global South,” in: Global Environment, 14:1, pp. 7-14.

PUENTE, Javier. “The Enduring Climate of Conflict: Drought, Impoverishment, and the Long Aftermath of Civil War in Peru,” in: Global Environment, 2021, 14:1, pp. 146-179.

PUENTE, Javier. “De comunero a campesino: el ‘corto siglo veinte’ en el campo peruano, 1920-1969,” in: Investigaciones Históricas, 40, December 2020, pp. 9-26.

PUENTE, Javier. “Tierra para el que la trabaja: El Proyecto 206 y la circulación de conocimiento agrario en América Latina, 1964-1974,” in: Fernando Purcell and Ricardo Arias, eds., Circulaciones, Chile: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2020, pp. 229-254.

PUENTE, Javier. “The Military Grammar of Agrarian Reform in Peru: Campesinos and Rural Capitalism,” in: Radical History Review, 133, January 2019, 78-101.

PUENTE, Javier. “Una guerra de ocupación: la territorialización del Conflicto Armado Interno en Perú, 1981-1986,” in: Revista Folia Histórica del Nordeste, 32, May - August 2018, pp. 175-197.

PUENTE, Javier. “Making Peru’s Sendero Luminoso: The Mega Niño of 1982-1983,” in: Age of Revolutions.

PUENTE, Javier. “Livestock, Livelihood and Agrarian Change in Andean Peru,” in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, February 2018, 30 p.

PUENTE, Javier. “La ‘masacre’ de Ondores: reforma, comunidad y violencia en la Sierra Central (1969-1979),” in: Revista Argumentos, 4:10, pp. 23-30.

PUENTE, Javier. “Second Independence, National History, and Myth-Making Heroes in the Peruvian Nationalizing State: The Government of Juan Velasco Alvarado, 1968-1975,” in: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research, 23:3, December 2016, pp. 231-249.

PUENTE, Javier. “Archivos Campesinos: San Juan de Ondores, Actas Comunales e Historias Rurales en el Perú, 1937-2012,” in: Carlos Aguirre and Javier Villa Flores, eds. From the Ashes of History: Loss and Recovery of Archives and Libraries in Modern Latin America. North Carolina: A Contracorriente Press, 2015, pp. 267-306.

PUENTE, Javier. “El Problema del Museo como Espacio de Representación: de Benedict Anderson al Lugar de la Memoria en el Perú,” in: Juan Andrés Bresciano, ed. La Memoria Histórica y sus Configuraciones Temáticas. Montevideo: Ediciones Cruz del Sur, 2014, pp. 565-582.


Office Hours

Spring 2024
Wednesdays 2–4 p.m., Wright Hall 119; and by appointment


Ph.D., M.A., Georgetown University
B.H., Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Selected Works in Smith ScholarWorks