Culture, Neoliberalism and Education in Peru’s Official Secondary School Textbooks


Gladys Reyna Pillaca Lizarbe

Universidad Femenina del Sagrado Corazón


Abstract: This article is framed in the field of study of school texts from the approach of critical analysis of discourse ACD (Atienza 2007, 2011; Achugar 2011; Oteíza 2009; Pinto 2011; Soler 2008; among others.), with a qualitative – interpretative methodology. In this sense, the school texts of the period of government of Alan García Pérez (2008 – 2012) and Ollanta Humala Tasso (2012 – 2016) are analyzed with the aim of knowing what type of subjectivities the texts build around culture as an economic resource for the students involved. On the one hand, in the school texts of 2008 – 2012, it is shown that students are positioned as sellers of their culture to tourists and as consumers of culture, specifically, as customers. On the other hand, in the school texts of 2012 – 2016, students are positioned as subjects committed to the commodification of cultural diversity within the framework of a discourse on sustainable development.

In both cases, subjects are constructed who must respond to the “needs” of the hegemonic culture, energize the global economy as sellers and customers of their culture. In this effort to construct a type of subject that responds to the demands of the global market and a neoliberal capitalist project, the discussion of social injustices, discrimination, conflicts and power struggles is made invisible and minimized, and the objective of forming critical and reflective students is left aside.

Keywords: neoliberalism, education, school texts, subjectivity, culture, tourism, commodification


         In the framework of globalization and neoliberalism, the representation of reality is being reconstituted under certain paradigms and demands of the global market. For example, culture has taken a turn in its conception and is seen mainly as an economic and political resource (Yúdice 2003, Zizek 2003), which apparently generates economic income to the region and the country through the promotion of national and international tourism, and solves social problems such as lack of employment and poverty. Likewise, in this scenario, there are new social mandates on what we should do or what our aspirations should be, and new subjects are being built that respond to the interests of the hegemonic culture (Portocarrero 2001), enterprising and successful subjects that are capable of energizing their country’s economy.

        Under this logic of contemporary capitalism, culture is commercialized in the framework of a discourse around the country’s progress and the improvement of the quality of life and becomes a tactic for economic development. This discourse includes the promotion of tourism which, according to Fuller (2009), “responds to the logic of capitalist production, which transforms everything that exists into a means of change, in such a way that natural resources and cultural traditions become consumer goods […] and in its most extreme form, turns populations and their culture into ‘exotic’ products” (96). The market requires that cultural expressions be adapted to the needs or demands of tourists in order to position the country as a desirable destination. Vich (2008) states in this regard that, in fact, “exotic” and “magical” representations of culture are a response to a “demand for exoticism” articulated from the hegemonic power and that the different countries have decided to meet these “needs” of consumers. This would explain the different ways in which countries are discursively constructed: as “magical”, “paradisiacal” and “exotic” places, where apparently there are no social conflicts of any kind.

        Within this context, for example, the new paradigm of National Brand emerges as a strategy of the countries to show a specific national identity in order to attract international tourists. However, it would also be a cultural policy oriented to the domestic sphere, that is, to the citizens of the same country. In this regard, Vargas (2013, p. 17) points out: “The country brand is essentially a cultural and political measure oriented to the interior that is directed to the citizens of the national State.” In other words, this strategy seeks to integrate the brand discourse into the collective social imaginary, so that citizens “live the brand”, i.e., act and think according to the parameters of the nation brand and become promoters and sellers of their culture.

        Therefore, the nation brand constitutes a contemporary paradigm that positions countries as a product in the global market through the creation and promotion of national identity and where citizens are built as “ambassadors” of their country (Aronczyk, 2013; Cánepa, 2013). In this regard, Cánepa (2013) points out that this “role” may seem attractive to a group of the population in Peru that has been historically excluded and that feels called to be part of “something.” This strategy would respond, then, to what Zizek (2003) calls the “new logic of capitalism” and specifically to the way in which it ensures that the exploited majority recognizes its desires[1], in order to function and remain in the global market.

        In Peru, in recent years, the different governments in power have also aligned themselves with the capitalist logic of commercialization of culture through tourism for development. In this sense, a series of strategies have been developed to increase tourism. To mention a few, during Alberto Fujimori’s government (1990-2000), the state entity PromPerú[2] (Comisión de Promoción del Perú para la Exportación y el Turismo) was created in 1999, “whose objective is to promote the growth of tourism flows, participate in events, establish alliances with diverse international organizations and create and promote Peruvian tourism products in the international market” (Fuller, 2009, p. 118). Later, during the government of Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), the product “Peru” was promoted more intensely with phrases such as “Peru, Country of the Inkas” (Fuller, 2009, p. 120). During Alan García’s government (2006-2011), the promotion of tourism activity continued at the national and international level and new strategies and promotions of tourism destinations were developed with slogans such as “Escape from Routine”, “Perú, mucho gusto” and “El Perú lo tiene todo”, launched by PromPerú (Fuller, 2009, p. 122); in addition, the Peru Brand was created in 2011 as part of the nation brand phenomenon undertaken by the different countries, under the slogan of “being ambassadors.” In this regard, Cánepa (2013) states that the success of the Peru Brand campaign and how it has permeated the imagination of the country’s inhabitants has contributed to the construction of a type of Peruvian identity and belonging to a national community. Moreover, this author argues that such a campaign has shaped the figure of the Peruvian entrepreneur within the framework of a local and cultural version of neoliberalism, with principles of effectiveness, efficiency and commercial rationality (see also: Lamas, 2017).

        However, education does not escape this neoliberal discourse that influences the construction of identities, the senses of belonging, and the organization of social ties. For example, school texts disseminate representations that respond to certain particular interests of political and economic power because, as Atienza (2007) argues, “The school system and its institutions tend to deliver particular representations, visions and interpretations of knowledge. Such representations can jointly express biases, prejudices, discriminations and stereotypes, under which certain ideological orientations underlie and with which a certain way of seeing reality is perpetuated” (545). In this way, school texts would become powerful tools for perpetuating or legitimizing certain ideologies and, in turn, building “a type” of subject that responds to particular interests. In this regard, Oteíza and Pinto (2011) state that school texts “have played a fundamental role in the construction of national identities of the new generations” (31). Likewise, Barletta and Mizuno (2011) maintain that “the text constructs an interpretation of the area of knowledge, its vision of science and the world, underlines some aspects and hides others, positions students in a particular way” (96), that an inexperienced reader without a critical reading competence could be easily manipulated or could assume the representation as the naturalized truth or as a single truth. For this reason, from the critical perspective offered by critical discourse analysis (CDA), there are many researchers who have been interested in studying textbooks: Achugar, Fernández and Morales, 2011; Atienza, 2007, 2011; Oteíza, 2006, 2009; Pinto, 2011; Soler, 2008; Tosi, 2013; among others, with the aim of revealing the type of relationships, identities and representations that are constructed in school texts and that, in some way, support forms of domination (Soler 2008) and respond to the interests of the hegemonic power, since it would not only arise from pedagogical motivations but also political and economic ones and, with even more reason, if these texts come from the Ministry of Education, they could be considered as official speeches (Oteíza 2011).

        Taking into account the above and from the perspective of the CDA, in this paper I analyze the secondary school texts that were developed during the administrations of Alan García Pérez (2008-2012) and Ollanta Humala Tasso (2012-2016) from a qualitative and interpretative methodology, with the aim of finding out what kind of subjectivities[3] the texts build around culture as an economic resource for the students involved. In that sense, on the one hand, I will show that in the secondary school texts of the Alan García Pérez government period (2008-2012) the student is positioned in two ways: a) as a seller of his culture to tourists; and b) as a consumer of culture, where the student is represented as a client. On the other hand, I will argue that in the secondary school texts elaborated during the period of Ollanta Humala Tasso’s government (2012-2016) the student is positioned as a subject committed to the sustainable commodification of cultural diversity.

        The methodology used for the analysis of the data is qualitative and interpretative. Although I do not apply the methodology of a specific author, I take into account the contributions of Atienza (2007), Soler (2008), Achugar (2011), among others. I first chose the school texts delivered by the Peruvian State, on the one hand, because they express the official discourses linked to political discourses and build representations of the State – Nation and a type of citizen (Atienza 2007, De los Heros 2013, Oteíza 2011, Oteíza and Pinto 2011, Tosi 2013); on the other hand, because, as I have argued in the previous paragraphs, school texts constitute sources and instruments for the production, reproduction and naturalization of representations of reality that empower oppressive systems. In this sense, my interest as a teacher and researcher is to unveil such representations, to denaturalize what is naturalized and to bring to the fore discourses that make forms of domination invisible and perpetrate social injustices and inequalities. Secondly, I selected the areas of Social Sciences and Communication of both periods, and Citizen and Civic Education of the 2012 – 2016 period, because of the large amount of data that existed around the topic of culture. Third, I looked for recurrent patterns in the use of certain discursive strategies. Finally, I chose the representative and illustrative fragments and analyzed them by applying the tools of the CDA.

         For the purposes of this research, a total of 25 secondary school texts were selected, corresponding to the areas of Communication, Social Sciences and Training, Citizenship and Civics. Of these, 10 school texts correspond to the period of Alan García Pérez’s government (2008 – 2012) and 15 texts to the period of Ollanta Humala Tasso’s government (2012 – 2016). It should be noted that these textbooks were distributed free of charge (as a loan) to students in the country’s public schools by the Peruvian Ministry of Education in 2008 and 2012, respectively. In addition, they have been prepared, after public tender and under criteria established by the Ministry of Education, by the publishing houses Norma, Bruño, San Marcos and Santillana, the latter being the one that would have won more tenders in both periods. Likewise, these texts are valid for four years.

        This article is divided into two parts. In the first one, I support the construction of a subject that sells and consumes culture in the school texts elaborated during the Alan García Pérez government (2008 – 2012). In the second, I analyze the positioning of a subject in favor of the sustainable commodification of cultural diversity in the school texts elaborated in the period of Ollanta Humala Tasso’s government (2012 – 2016). Finally, I present the final reflections of the research.


1. The construction of the student as a selling and consuming subject of his culture

In this first part, I argue two points: the positioning of students as sellers of their culture to tourists and as consumers of culture, that is, as customers. Based on the discussions on the commodification of public discourse developed by Fairclough (1995), I analyze how students are positioned as consumers of texts on the regions of Peru, texts that have been influenced by PromPerú’s discourse and by an advertising language that seeks to persuade and sell.

1.1 The student as a salesperson of his or her culture

In this section, I will argue that in the official school texts prepared during Alan García Pérez’s government (2008-2012) students are represented as sellers of their culture based on a series of strategies that position them as such: a) they are shown the advantages of tourism at an economic level and its possible disadvantages are made invisible; b) culture is presented to them as a monetary resource and, in that sense, they are sold the idea that archaeological remains, natural areas, etc. are “sources of wealth for development”; c) they are asked to carry out activities that are related to researching the cultural wealth of their locality and region, to produce brochures aimed at tourists and to discuss the problems that the country has in receiving tourists.

1.1.1 Tourism and its economic benefits

During the last government of Alan García Pérez, the period to which the school texts analyzed here belong, the tourism business intensified because it was considered a good development alternative and everything that could be “sold” was put to value. As García (2008)[4] mentions, this period was one of the hardest moments of the imposition of a neoliberal government model in our country. Alan García considered economic development as the right one and, therefore, the market as the “only” means to achieve such development.

        In this way, following the logic of extreme capitalism embraced by the then president of Peru Alan García (2006-2011), in the school texts analyzed, tourism activity is represented as “extraordinarily” advantageous because, supposedly, it allows the economic development of the country. It is assumed that tourism generates monetary income and that, apparently, everyone benefits from it. Its possible disadvantages are neither mentioned nor discussed. Let us look at the following extracts from the book on Social Sciences and Communication, which give an account of the above.

Extract 1

What advantages does tourism bring to our country? And to your region? (Communication 1;

MINEDU 2008-2012, p. 8).

Excerpt 2

Identify. What is the importance of tourism in your region? When and how did this activity begin?  (Social Sciences 4; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 73).

Excerpt 3

Statistical table:

Foreign exchange earnings from inbound tourism, 2006-2007

– Interpret the information you see in this statistical table:

How many times has our income from tourism gone up in a year? Does the upward line make you think that, for Peru, tourism is a good development alternative? Why?

What should we do, as Peruvians, so that this line continues to rise? (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 9).

        In these extracts, the assumption about the advantages of tourism is inferred from the way the questions are constructed. In extract 1, the way the question is formulated (“What advantages does tourism bring […]?”) assumes that tourism brings only advantages without giving the opportunity to think about its possible disadvantages. In the same way, in extract 2, by the form of the question (“What is the importance of tourism in your region?”), it is assumed that tourism is important, without the possibility of thinking otherwise. In both extracts, what would be interesting is that the student recognizes only the advantages of tourism and does not notice its disadvantages, nor that he or she questions the type of strategies used to promote tourism, the way in which its benefits are distributed, the type of employment or working conditions it produces, etc. As Asensio and Pérez (2012) state, tourism, like any other resource that generates benefits, is a space of social conflict and, therefore, should be problematized and discussed around its pros and cons.

       On the other hand, in extract 3, a statistical table is shown to show, in a clearer and “objective” way, the benefits of tourism. Again, the way the questions are elaborated directs the student to only one type of answer, in other words, to the expected answer. Thus, when faced with the question “Does the upward line make you think that, for Peru, tourism is a good development alternative?”, it is predictable that the student will respond in the affirmative and categorical manner: “Yes, tourism is a good development alternative”, since the “upward line” clause directs the student to a single answer and does not give the option of responding in the negative. Furthermore, the question “Why?”, which appears after the potential affirmative answer (“Yes, tourism is a good development alternative”), corroborates or confirms the affirmative answer to the previous question and, therefore, the hegemonic discourse that tourism is beneficial for the country.

        In this way, the possibility of thinking that tourism may have some disadvantage or questioning why the poverty rate does not decrease in the regions if income from tourism each year is on the rise, among other possible reflections, is relegated. It seems that the aim is only to make explicit and fix in the minds of the students involved the monetary advantages of tourism and to make its possible disadvantages invisible. Here, the questions arise: why is it that only one model of development (i.e. economic development) is sought to be established as the “right” or legitimate one? Who would benefit most and least from this type of development? Students are presented with naturalized realities and unquestionable ideas: tourism brings advantages for development. This representation would not be in discussion, but the way to continue increasing economic development through tourism would be.

        Thus, for example, in the question “What must we do, as Peruvians, so that this line continues to rise?”, the modal verb in the first person and plural “must” has a semantic charge of obligation that presupposes that we must do something to continue increasing tourism (because it is a “good alternative” for development). Who or who would have this obligation? The answer is an inclusive “we”, that is, “the Peruvians”, which is reinforced by the phrase “as Peruvians.” In other words, this question (“What must we do, as Peruvians, so that this line continues to ascend?”) is a strategy to make the student see that, as a Peruvian, he or she has the “obligation” or “duty” to be an active agent in the generation of economic wealth through tourism, an activity that, supposedly, is a “good alternative” for development. With this, we would be positioning the student as an agent of actions in favor of tourism.

1.1.2 Culture, an economic resource “usable” for development

        The notion of culture as a “usable” economic resource appears as a recurrent pattern in the school texts analyzed (2008-2012). For this reason, just like the reiterative discourse on the advantages of tourism, the discourse on culture as a monetary resource would be collaborating in the construction of a student-subject who sells his culture. Let’s see extracts 4 and 5, where it is revealed that the archaeological remains, the natural areas and the different cultural manifestations are considered as sources of wealth that can be “exploited” economically.

Extract 4

Many times you will have heard someone say with pride: “Peru is a country of a thousand cultures.” What does that mean? Do you think that by having “a thousand cultures” we have greater wealth than other countries? How can we take advantage of this wealth? (Communication 1; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 8)

Excerpt 5

Peru receives almost two million tourists a year, so do you think that our country has privileged places for tourism? (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 10).

        In excerpt 4, it is assumed that the students involved have heard that Peru is a country of a thousand cultures, but what they would not know is: “What does that mean? The following two questions help to answer that question. On the one hand, “Do you think that by having “a thousand cultures” we have greater richness than other countries”, assumes that we have a thousand cultures. Also, in the last question “How can we take advantage of this richness?” it is assumed that in Peru there is richness that we can all take advantage of. Now, the answer to this question is predictable: “Through tourism.” This is because in the lower left part of the text analyzed, there are web pages of PromPerú and other entities related to tourist activity to guide -and even manipulate- the answer to the question.

        In this way, a representation of culture as a resource that serves to generate economic income and of the population, as necessarily involved in its use through the promotion of tourism, is constructed. Here, it is interesting to note what Arrunátegui (2010) calls numerical hyperbolization when referring to large numbers, in this case, “one thousand cultures” or “two million tourists.” These are exorbitant figures that seek to attract attention and impact the reader. The culture thus represented looks like “a gold mine” that would only have to be sold to become a developed country.

        On the other hand, in extract 5, a cause and consequence relationship is presented between the “privileged places” for tourism and the “almost two million tourists.” In the face of the categorical assertion that “Peru receives almost two million tourists annually”, the question is asked (“Does it seem, therefore, that our country has privileged places for tourism?”). This is a rhetorical question that presupposes an expected answer, since the connector “therefore” guides the student to generate an affirmative answer: “Yes, our country has privileged places for tourism, since “millions” of tourists come here every year.” The form of the question leaves no option for a negative answer. In this way, one would be positioning “the privileged places” as a source of economic wealth.

        Likewise, in both extracts (4 and 5), the lexical chain that includes the signifiers “cultures”, “privileged places”, “take advantage of”, “wealth”, “millions of tourists”, “tourism” constructs the notion of culture in terms of economic resource. Culture is represented as a resource to be “harnessed” for “development.” Thus, the reiterative discourse appears that the archaeological remains, the ancient constructions, the religious festivals, the flora and fauna, etc. constitute tourist attractions for national and foreign visitors.

        In summary, in the school texts analyzed, for the period 2008-2012, the students involved are basically presented with only one way of representing culture: as an economic resource to be used for development. This representation, like the idea of tourism as an advantage, is neither questioned nor problematized; on the contrary, it is accepted as a naturalized and “unique” truth. These forms of representation of both tourism and culture, with or without intention, privilege the interests of neoliberalism, because they respond to the logic of capitalist production that transforms everything that exists into consumer goods (Espina, 2008; Fuller, 2009; Vich, 2008).

1.1.3. The student a selling agent of his culture

        At this point, I show that the activities proposed to the students are oriented to the construction of a selling subject of their culture. This representation arises from the analysis of the activities requested of them, which focus mainly on three points: a) finding out about the attractive places in their locality and region; b) producing tourist brochures promoting some place or cultural manifestation; and c) identifying and analyzing the problems the country has in adequately attending to tourists. Let’s see the following extracts that exemplify the first two points (a and b), in which students are asked to investigate the most important archaeological remains, and then develop a novel publicity.

Extract 6


  1. Investigate and prepare a report on the following points:

– What important archaeological remains are there in your region or locality?

– How many tourists do these places receive per year?

– Do you think that more could be done to encourage tourism to your area?

  1. Based on the research, prepare a tourist brochure for the town or region (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 29).

Excerpt 7

– Form groups and do research on an important place in your region. Then create a novel advertisement for the area you have chosen (Communication 3; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 195)

         In extracts 6 and 7, the question: “What important archaeological remains are there in your region or locality” (and the requested action: “Research an important site in your region […]”) presupposes the existence of “archaeological remains and important sites” in the students’ regions. The question would seek to make them aware of the existence of such places, and then ask them to carry out a certain action: investigate one of them. In addition, the question in extract 6 (“Do you think that more could be done to encourage tourism to your locality?”) assumes that tourism is encouraged, but perhaps not enough, and therefore encourages students to think about what more could be done to generate more tourists to their locality. They are also asked to develop “innovative advertising” to do so (“Develop a tourist brochure for the locality or region”, “Develop innovative advertising for the area”) and thus position themselves as promoters and sellers of their culture or, in terms of the nation brand paradigm, as “ambassadors” of their culture.

In addition to the above, the texts also introduce activities that are more related to making students think about possible solutions to the “difficulties they must overcome in order to serve tourists well.” Let’s look at some extracts.

Extract 8

Challenges and solutions:

Peru is a country of a thousand possibilities, but we have a thousand problems to solve. For example: the different regions offer great tourist treasures, but there is a lack of adequate roads for tourists to access these places. How do you think we can solve this problem? (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 8)

Extract 9

Class topic: The Panel

In reading you have seen the great wealth of tourist places that Peru offers to visitors, both national and foreign. However, Peru still suffers from many difficulties in adequately attending to tourists.

What are the tourist wonders of your region and what difficulties do they have to overcome in order to serve tourists well?

Form a group and hold a panel to exchange ideas to address these concerns (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 16).

        In both extracts, the statements have the same structure: the possibilities that Peru has are named and then the adverse connector is introduced to mention that there are problems (which are reduced to attending tourists well). For example, in the first statement of extract 8, it is stated that Peru has “a thousand possibilities” but, at the same time, it is emphasized that there are “a thousand problems to be solved” to satisfy the tourists. By the form of the question, it is assumed that we can all solve this problem: “How do you think we can solve this problem? In the same way, in extract 9, emphasis is placed on the “great richness of Peru’s tourist places”, and then it is mentioned that there are “many difficulties in adequately attending to tourists.” It is not only assumed that there are difficulties to be overcome, but that it is important to attend to the tourists well. In this sense, the difficulties and problems have to do with providing adequate attention to national and international visitors and not with the problems and needs of the area’s inhabitants.

        Students are not called upon to question a given problem, but rather to provide a solution and assume that it is natural: “How do you think we can solve this problem”, “Form a group and hold a panel to exchange ideas to respond to these concerns.” Here, “the panel” becomes a strategy to think about the tourism business and not to be critical of social issues such as injustice, inequality, discrimination, etc. For this reason, although the topic of the class does not have to do with the advantages of tourism, they are still presented with web pages about the competitive advantages of this activity in Peru or about the most visited places in the regions (for example, these pages are presented to them: and ).

1.2 The student as a consumer of his/her culture

In this section, I will demonstrate that, in the official school texts produced during Alan García’s government (2008-2012), students are positioned as consumers of culture, that is, as customers. On the one hand, through the strategy of intertextuality, they are presented with readings that belong to a specific type of discursive genre, such as PromPerú’s tourist brochures. On the other hand, through the strategy of inter-discursive, they are given texts that have as a characteristic the hybridization between the discursive genre of the school text and that of the tourist brochure. In both cases, there is an argumentative discourse that seeks to persuade the reader to carry out certain recommendations or suggestions in matters of tourist visit.

1.2.1 Intertextuality: PromPerú’s tourist brochures in school textbooks

        The discursive genre is an instance of discursive practice that is associated with the various activities of the human being in a specific cultural context (Bakhtin, 1985). According to Fairclough (1992), genders are “socially available resources” that refer to conventions in the use of language. However, these conventional forms are not totally fixed, but are subject to constant change according to interests and power relations. Tourist brochures are a type of discursive genre, since they respond to a particular use of language and fulfil a specific function that is different from the discourse of school texts. In this sense, it is interesting to find, in a recurrent way, readings that respond to this type of genre within school texts, whose recipients are school students. Let us look at the following excerpt which has PromPerú as its source.

Extract 10

Reading: Tourist Circuits in Peru (Source: PromPerú)

Before the reading:

What trips in Peru would you like to make? What would you like to visit there?

[…] The route starts in Arequipa, where you can arrive by air (1 hour aprox. from Lima) or by land (1.003 km / 14 hours aprox.) Your stay in Arequipa, at 2,335 meters above sea level, will allow you to acclimatize to the altitude […] In Chivay you will have a variety of possibilities to tour the valley […]. The Colca Valley offers countless possibilities […]. The city of Cusco offers endless possibilities for your visit […]. You will be able to appreciate the exquisite art product of the mestizaje between the indigenous cultures and western […]. Its surroundings offer interesting attractions […]. In this option, we recommend using the air route […]. In Manu you will be able to appreciate the impressive number of species […]. We recommend your visit between the months of May and August, as well as the use of repellent and sunscreen […].

After the reading:

– Investigate the mission of the organism called PromPerú, which is responsible for the text.

– What is the communicative purpose of this text?

– Now, explain if the text you have read helps to fulfill PromPerú’s objectives. To do so, answer the questions: Is the language used simple? Does the information it provides serve to motivate tourists to undertake the trip? (Communication 5; MINEDU; 2008-2012, pp. 10-12).

         In excerpt 10, the narrative is constructed from conversational style statements that establish a direct relationship between the institution (we, PromPerú), the one who suggests and recommends (“In this option, [we] recommend using the airway”, “[we] recommend your visit between the months of May and August”) and the reader (you, you), the potential client (“If [you] go to Cajamarca, [you] can’t stop trying”, “In Ucayali [you] will find”, “You won’t be able to resist! “In Chivay you will have a variety of possibilities”, “You will be able to appreciate the exquisite art”). This is a strategy of advertising that Fairclough (1995) refers to as a conversational style, as it establishes a direct, personal, empathic and interactive relationship between the author of the text and the reader involved. The discourse is made up of imperative statements in which the author of the text (we, PromPerú) addresses or challenges, in a direct way, the student involved (you, you) to make a trip to the proposed places. In addition to this, the student is also offered the number “Tourist Information (01)574-8000” and is suggested to visit the web pages that, coincidentally, advertise other places in Peru.

        All the above positions the student as a client interested in traveling and PromPerú as the authorized voice to suggest and recommend, that is, to convince the potential client and tourist to carry out the trip. On the other hand, the questions after the reading position the student as “one more” of PromPerú’s workers, who take care and watch over the fulfillment of this entity’s objectives. It is also assumed that the tourists must be motivated to “undertake the trip” (“Does the information provided serve to motivate the tourists to undertake the trip?”).

        In this sense, we can point out that here the student’s actions are reduced to reproducing the status quo, since the proposed reading, the particular interests pursued by the author of the text, and the apparent objectivity of PromPerú as the person responsible for the preparation of the brochure are not questioned. On the contrary, the “mission” and “objectivity” of PromPerú are assumed to be naturalized truths that are not problematized. Furthermore, it should be noted that there is no evidence of a reason that justifies the presence of this type of reading in the school texts.

1.2.2 Interdiscursiveness: Hybridization between school textbooks and tourist brochures

        Textbooks respond to a type of discursive genre and have characteristics and objectives different from the genre of the tourist brochure or advertising text. The latter seeks to sell “a product” with persuasive strategies, while the school text tries to explain, inform, analyze and discuss different topics. However, in the school texts analyzed, both genres are merged, giving rise to a hybrid between the school text and advertising genre. Let’s look at the following quotes from the section “We visit the regions.”

Extract 11

On a journey to freedom:

In Trujillo you can visit a nice place: The Toy Museum of Trujillo, which holds more than 130 pieces from different periods. One of the oldest is a whistle of the Virú culture that is 2,300 years old (Comunicación 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 28).

Excerpt 12

It is almost impossible for tourists to reach the site (El Gran Pajatén), as practically only researchers get there; but nothing is lost by trying and we assure you that it is worth it (Communication 5; MINEDU, 2008-2012, p. 29).

        The extracts 11 and 12 show the hybridization or fusion between the school textual genre and the advertising one. Although these extracts have not been extracted from tourist brochures in a literal way, they have the characteristics of a brochure. In other words, there are qualities of both genres in the speech presented. For example, in extract 11, on the one hand, there is the exhibition speech that informs about the place (“the Toy Museum of Trujillo, which holds more than 130 pieces from different periods. One of the oldest is a whistle of the Virú culture that is 2,300 years old”); but, on the other hand, there is the persuasive discourse that seeks to awaken the student’s interest in taking a trip to the place that is recommended, in this case, the Toy Museum of Trujillo. For this, the phrase: “In Trujillo [you] can visit…” is used, and it is also assumed that the student wants to travel.

        In extract 11 something similar happens to what has already been stated. That is, the discourse oscillates between two discursive genres: the school text and the advertising one. The former serves the function of informing the students about how difficult it is to get to the Great Haystack (“For tourists it is almost impossible to get to the site [The Great Haystack] […]”), while in the latter case the advertising discourse (tourist brochure) persuades the student to go on an expedition to the Great Haystack by saying: “We assure you that it is worth it.” In extracts 11 and 12, it is evident that there is a hybrid between the discourse of the school text and that of the tourist brochure and the positioning of the student as a client interested in taking tourist trips to consume culture.

        In summary, the positioning of the student as a consumer of cultures is evident in the discursive strategies of intertextuality and interdiscursiveness. With regard to the former, tourist brochures (some produced by PromPerú) are included as comprehension readings in the texts; while, in the latter, there is a hybridization between the two genres mentioned. In both cases, the student is positioned as a client, since it is we (PromPerú, the institution) who offer and persuade the student (client) to carry out some of the suggestions and recommendations made.

  1. The student as a subject committed to the commercialization of cultural diversity

         In this second part, I demonstrate that in the secondary school texts elaborated during the period of Ollanta Humala Tasso’s government (2012-2016), students are positioned as subjects committed to the commodification of cultural diversity, but within the framework of a discourse around sustainable development and not economic development. In this sense, students are informed about the importance of “taking advantage” of diversity within this type of development. They are also asked to draw up proposals to promote tourism and take advantage of culture in a responsible manner, and to make proposals to conserve and disseminate heritage.

2.1. Turismo sostenible: protección del sitio y satisfacción de los visitantes

         In the school texts analyzed from this period, the meaning “sustainable” appears to represent tourism as that which will satisfy visitors and ensure the care of the environment to generate capital. However, it also alludes to the benefit that the settler would have. In this way, tourism is positioned as something that helps to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants: “The adequate management or enhancement of an archaeological site […] favors a better quality of life” (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 126); “The idea of the project is to contribute to improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of the place” (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 128). It should be noted that school textbooks do not clearly state how the quality of life of the inhabitants is improved, only mentioning the idea in a general way. In this sense, it would seem that its inclusion is only a strategy to create the illusion that betting on tourism is for a good cause and thus build an image of concern for social welfare. However, although several extracts like the ones above refer to the improvement of the quality of life of the population, many others position sustainable tourism as that which ensures the care of the environment and satisfies the visitors. Let’s look at the following extracts.

Extract 13

Ancash: Chankillo is the oldest astronomical observatory in the Americas. It is approximately 2,400 years old and dates back to the end of the Chavin era, according to research by archaeologist Ivan Ghezzi […] The Chankillo project has been operating for ten years and is currently preparing the archaeological site to receive tourists […] (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 127).

Excerpt 14

Cajamarca: […] On the slopes of Mount Cumbe, 20 km from Cajamarca, is the archaeological site of Cumbemayo […] As of mid-2011, the process of developing the site began, which will provide the coitions required for its care and the infrastructure necessary to receive tourists and ensure the protection of the site (Social Sciences 1MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 155).

Excerpt 15

Sustainable tourism. According to Mincetur, 832,143 people visited Machu Picchu in 2011. Of those visitors, 608,897 were foreigners. The benefits of tourism are many. However, inadequate planning of this activity has been negatively affecting the environment […].

The challenge  of Cusco today is to develop sustainable tourism, which is to ensure the satisfaction of visitors, guarantee the quality of service according to international standards, control access of tourists according to the maximum carrying capacity of the archaeological site, diversify the supply of services and provide for future needs ensuring environmental sustainability (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 194).

         In these extracts, sustainable tourism is represented mainly as that which ensures the care of the environment and meets the needs of tourists. Thus, extracts 13 and 14 state that the main objective of the “Chankillo project” and “the enhancement of the Cumbemayo archaeological site” is to prepare the site to receive tourists. In extract 15, the actions that imply the enhancement are subordinated to what the tourist demands, satisfies him (“to ensure the satisfaction of the visitors”) and needs (“to foresee future needs”). Likewise, the service and the offer of tourism in the country are always in function of the demands of the visitors (“diversify the offer of services”) and of the global market (“quality of service in accordance with international standards”). The tourist is the one who requires and the country is acting according to the look of this Other. In this eagerness to meet the expectations and desires of the visitors, many times one goes to extremes and assumes “the position of a colonized country whose agency is reduced only to satisfying the desires of the colonizer” (Vich, 2007) in order to achieve the so longed-for “progress or development” that, in the end, is reduced to the benefit and profit of the large tourism companies, but not of the inhabitants (Fuller, 2009). Within this logic, the representation of sustainable tourism as “improving the quality of life of the inhabitants” becomes a mere discourse, although effective in persuading the students involved that planned tourism is the best option for the development of the country. If the focus is on what the tourist demands, where are the villagers, their needs and their own well-being? What role do they play in this framework of sustainable tourism? Is the population only there to welcome the tourist and protect the site with the excuse that tourism will improve their quality of life?

2.2.2. The cultural diversity (and national identity): an economic resource that can be “harnessed” through sustainable tourism

        In the texts analyzed for this period (2012-2016), cultural diversity is positioned as an economic resource. This is achieved through two representations. On the one hand, cultural diversity is constructed as a competitive advantage that should be exploited economically without affecting the environment; and on the other hand, as the basis of the “new” national identity that would involve the protection, conservation and dissemination of heritage. Both constructions collaborate with the representation of cultural diversity as a generator of capital.

2.2.1 Cultural diversity as an economic asset

        Bearing in mind that the discourse around tourism responds to the logic of contemporary capitalism, where everything that exists is transformed into a means of change (Asensio & Pérez, 2012; Espina, 2008; Fuller, 2009; Vich, 2008, 2014; among others), in the school texts analyzed, cultural diversity is represented as a “great wealth” that must be exploited through sustainable tourism. Let us look at the following extracts.

Extract 16

Learning Project 18: We carry Peru in our hearts

Thanks to our multicultural richness, Peru is a country that arouses a lot of interest in the world. Every year, millions of tourists come to our country attracted by the diversity of customs, traditions, ancestral cultures, gastronomic richness, etc.

We Peruvians have this immense treasure here, with us, but sometimes we do not value it. It is time to spread the great wealth we possess. Let us carry this idea throughout the community (Communication 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 177).

Excerpt 17

Peru is a multicultural country; that is to say, many cultures live together in our territory, and among all of them have been creating our identity as a nation. This diversity of cultures (and languages) makes us a country of great wealth. That is why Peru is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world (Communication 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 63).

Excerpt 18

Piura: […] Yapatera lives mainly from the cultivation of rice, lime and mango. They are also developing an increasingly intense tourist activity, based on the diffusion of the Afro-Peruvian identity. The history, customs and art of this town are a great attraction for visitors (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 31).

         In these three extracts, cultural diversity is represented as an “immense treasure”, a “great richness” and a “great attraction” that arouses the interest of millions of tourists and positions the country as “one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.” Thus, in extract 16, it is categorically stated that the multicultural richness generates the visit of “millions” of tourists per year to the country. Terms such as “millions”, “hundreds” (“[…] there are various archaeological monuments and beautiful natural spaces that can attract hundreds of tourists”) (Social Sciences 1; Minedu, 2012-2016, p. 247) respond to a type of “numerical hyperbolization” strategy that seeks to highlight the number of tourists in the country “thanks” to cultural diversity. Furthermore, extracts 16 and 18 argue that this diversity is a great attraction for visitors, since it “attracts” and “awakens” the interest of national and international tourists. In the texts, we can also observe that traditions, the diversity of customs, ancestral cultures and gastronomic wealth appear as agents that do something based on a mechanism of depersonalization and objectification (Van Leeuwen, 1996). In this way, by mentioning objects (and not actors and their actions), the subjects linked to these artefacts are made invisible and the tensions that could arise around the tourism enterprise are hidden. This type of representation responds to the discourse of the nation brand paradigm which, according to Aronczyk (2013) and Cánepa (2013), among others, positions countries in the international market as “exotic” products to attract consumers (tourists) based on the characteristics or particularities they have.

        It should be noted that, in order to argue in favour of cultural diversity as a resource that can be exploited in a responsible or sustainable economic manner, the strategy of intertextuality is used and official documents are cited to give greater force to the central argument. Thus, for example, some documents that were produced by the former National Institute of Culture are cited, which obviously reinforces the discourse already set forth in other parts of the school text regarding the economic value of cultural diversity.

2.2.2 Cultural diversity as a basis for national identity

        In the school texts studied during this period, cultural diversity is represented as the basis of national identity. This is understood as the protection, conservation and dissemination of heritage in order to make economic use of it. On the one hand, students are asked about the importance of building “a new national identity” based on respect for cultural diversity. On the other hand, they are told that having a national identity involves protecting and conserving heritage. Let us look at the following extracts, which show why it would be important to build an identity based on cultural diversity understood as heritage, and then discuss how national identity is linked to the protection and conservation of this heritage.

Extract 19

…] In every country there are different cultures. In ours, these are manifested through countless artistic expressions, traditions, languages, customs, etc.

This diversity should not be seen as an obstacle to the construction of a national identity, but rather as a factor that enriches it (Formación Ciudadana y Cívica 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 8).

Excerpt 20

Peru is a diverse and multicultural country […]. In the past, this diversity was little valued, since it was considered that in order to form an integrated State, it was necessary to unify language, beliefs and traditions, which led to the discrimination of many cultures and even their subsequent oblivion. Today, on the contrary, we are building a new identity based on the appreciation of our original cultures and respect for our diversity.

Our challenge: How can we build a national identity where all the cultures of our country are represented? (Formación Ciudadana y Cívica 3; MINEDU, 2012-2016, pp. 8-9).

Excerpt 21

Culture and national identity

The great cultural richness of our nation is the basis of our national identity. …] Therefore, for people to identify with their nation, it is essential that they know, appreciate, disseminate and value their culture …

…] From this, a positive sense of national identity can be built because it is based on the pride of belonging to a nation on the basis of diversity and the appreciation of the cultural production of peoples. This is how we combat those chauvinisms that promote a negative nationalism, which is based on the rejection of others. (Formación Ciudadana y Cívica 3; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 16-17).

         The three extracts, with different nuances, assert the importance of building a national identity based on respect and appreciation of cultural diversity. Extract 19 argues that cultural diversity enriches national identity, although it is not explained how; while extracts 20 and 21 argue that an identity based on respect for diversity would apparently avoid rejection and discrimination against other cultures. However, despite the assumption of the importance of building a national identity in which all cultures are represented (“How can we build a national identity in which all cultures in our country are represented?”), the notion of culture refers to external cultural manifestations, that is, the image that should be projected outside the country and not to social links and relations between the people and communities that populate Peru. The diversity in this national identity presents a celebratory vision where conflicts are hidden. Likewise, the national identity is reduced to feeling proud of the country because of the diversity of “cultures” it possesses (artistic expressions, traditions, languages, customs, native cultures, etc.).

         But what does a national identity based on respect for cultural diversity imply? According to the texts analyzed, it mainly implies that people “know, appreciate, disseminate and value their culture”, where culture refers to heritage. Let us look at other extracts where this appears more clearly.

Extract 22

Peru has an extraordinary archaeological heritage that identifies us and makes us united in the world. […] When management plans for the administration and development of the archaeological site are successfully executed, the cultural identity of a region is strengthened, that is, the inhabitants are proud of their heritage and strive to care for and promote it (Social Sciences 1; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 126).

Excerpt 23

The national heritage. A central element in the assimilation of a nation’s identity is respect for the national heritage, made up of all the natural and cultural wealth of a country, unique in the world. This wealth helps to consolidate national identity (Formación Ciudadana y Cívica 3; MINEDU, 2012-2016, p. 34).

        In the above excerpts, we can see that both heritage and cultural wealth appear as agents of material processes or action verbs (such as “identifies us”, “makes us united in the world” and “helps to consolidate national identity”) within the framework of depersonalization and objectification mechanisms. This generates the naturalization effect of the union among Peruvians, since it would be an object -the heritage- that would be guaranteeing it. The agency of personalized subjects is only present when it comes to caring for and promoting heritage, where the relationship of people is with cultural objects and not with other fellow citizens (“[…] that the inhabitants are proud of their heritage and that they strive to care for and promote it”). In this way, national identity is not related to the bond between Peruvians. Furthermore, under the logic of extract 23, where it is held that to have a national identity is to respect heritage (“a central element in the assimilation of a nation’s identity is respect for the national heritage”), it is assumed that someone who does not respect “the natural and cultural wealth” of the country would not have a national identity. Moreover, the categorical forms of the statements give strength to the idea presented and help the reader involved to internalize this representation of reality.


Final conclusions

       The aim of this study was to investigate what kind of subjectivities are built in official school texts around culture as an economic resource for the students involved. In that sense, from the analysis of the school texts elaborated during the periods of Alan García Pérez’s government (2008-2012) and Ollanta Humala Tasso’s (2012-2016), it can be concluded, on the one hand, that in Alan García Pérez’s, the student is positioned as a promoter and ambassador of his culture to tourists and as a consumer of cultures. On the other hand, in Ollanta Humala Tasso’s period, he is positioned as a subject committed to the commodification of cultural diversity, but in a sustainable manner, within the framework of a more politically correct and celebratory discourse on diversity. These representations acquire a different nuance in each period, since they would be aligned with two types of development models: economic and sustainable, respectively. Such representations, found within the framework of these two governments, continue to this day, so it would be necessary to study their continuities and changes.

        Therefore, what I have shown in this study goes beyond the inclusion in educational texts of some topics that decades ago were not addressed. Neo-liberalism and entrepreneurship have begun to colonize unexpected social activities and domains, including education (Holborow, 2015). Aligned with the neoliberal system, the texts analyzed contribute to disseminate a type of discourse and to form a new type of subjectivity that distances itself from the models of citizenship of the past (Foucault, 2008). The student must become a promoter and ambassador of tourism who sells his culture to promote a competitive and distinctive country product in the global market. Education no longer seems to be so interested in forming critical and reflective citizens capable of analyzing their reality in order to intervene in it, but rather subjects who are now sellers and publicists who seek to attract tourists and investors within the framework of a capitalist system that never questions its premises of injustice and inequality. Although the term entrepreneur is not used in the texts, they are contributing to form subjects with this profile. After all, the entrepreneur has become what we should all aspire to be and is the social icon of our neoliberal era (Holborow, 2015).

         In the analysis we have also been able to appreciate that, beyond the need to improve the country’s positioning in the global rankings, the texts promote the construction of identity inwards. However, there does not seem to be any tension between promoting tourism outwards and inwards. The strengthening of identity and the sense of belonging among Peruvian citizens themselves is reduced to protecting, conserving and disseminating heritage in order to contribute to the generation of economic income and to continue satisfying the external global outlook. After all, an inward orientation is a necessary condition for the success of the neoliberal project, since it cannot be effective without the participation of citizens who have become representatives, shareholders and consumers of the national brand. In this way, the individual is placed at the center of social and economic life and made responsible for the economic conditions of his or her existence.

        What we have seen in school textbooks is only part of a larger phenomenon that is taking over all contexts at different scales. Language as an instance of social practice plays a crucial role in creating powerful representations, categories and subjectivities that result in unequal and inequitable material conditions. And studying it critically contributes to a better understanding of the contemporary socio-cultural processes that run through our societies.



 Corpus of the school text

2008 – 2012

1) Ministry of Education, (2008-2012) Social Sciences 4. Lima.

2) Ministry of Education, (2008-2012). Communication 1. Lima.

3) Ministry of Education, (2008-2012). Communication 3. Lima.

4) Ministry of Education, (2008-2012). Communication 5. Lima.


2012 – 2016


1) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016) Social Sciences 1. Lima.

2) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016). Communication 1. Lima.

3) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016). Communication 2. Lima.

4) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016). Communication 3. Lima.

5) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016). Citizen and Civic Training 1. Lima.

6) Ministry of Education, (2012-2016) Citizen and Civic Training 3.



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[1] “The dominant ideas are not precisely the ideas of those who dominate. How did Christianity become the dominant ideology? By incorporating a number of fundamental motives and aspirations of the oppressed–the truth is on the side of those who suffer and are humiliated, power corrupts, and so on–and rearticulating them in such a way as to make them compatible with existing relations of domination. (Zizek 2003, p. 140).

[2] PromPerú is a recurrent source that is cited in the school texts analyzed, basically in those produced under Alan García Pérez (2008-2012).

[3] For the purposes of this research, subjectivity is understood as a type of positioning of the subject on the basis of the representations evident in the text.

[4] Author of the essay “ The discourse of the gardener’s dog and the current articulations between politics and the media in Peru “, where she analyzes five articles by Alan García Pérez published in the newspaper El Comercio (October 2007-November 2008).

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