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A Brief History of The New People's Army: Background information when reading America Is Not the Heart

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America Is Not the Heart

by Elaine Castillo

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo X
America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2019, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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A Brief History of The New People's Army

This article relates to America Is Not the Heart

Print Review

A large part of protagonist Geronima de Vera's backstory in Elaine Castillo's novel, America is Not the Heart, is entwined with the communist rebellion group, The New People's Army, a real-life collective that continues to forcefully oppose elected Philippine governments. The New People's Army (NPA) is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which was founded in 1968 by student activist Jose Maria Sison. The two entities are often referred to under the collective acronym CPP-NPA since from the very start they worked closely together. The group's primary objectives are to establish a new political state led by the working class as well as to expel U.S. influence from the Philippines.

The current flag of the NPA As a rebellious force, the NPA began with sixty fighters and thirty-five rifles and while its purpose was to fight government oppression, it initially focused its efforts on recruitment and growth. Activists would organize demonstrations, rallies and marches to help spread the CPP's political message among students and the rural poor.

In early 1970, the CPP-NPA held several protests against President Ferdinand Marcos, who served as head of state from 1966 to 1986, and who established an authoritarian regime that heavily suppressed democratic processes. He ordered forceful military action against the protests, which only served to boost the CPP-NPA's popularity among the working class. Fearing the sudden growth of the communist movement, Marcos imposed martial law on the Philippines on September 21, 1972. He had thousands of opposition politicians and outspoken protesters jailed and the nation's armed forces became part of his regime.

The NPA soon began guerrilla warfare against Marcos' regime and assassinated several government officials and army troops in the process. While Marcos did announce the end of martial law in January 1981, he continued to rule in an authoritarian manner under various constitutional formats. By 1985, the ongoing violence between the NPA and Marcos' army had resulted in more than a thousand deaths on each of the three sides: military and police; civilians and CPP-NPA.

By the late '80s, the CPP-NPA had amassed more than 20,000 members, thereby becoming the chief threat to the elected government of President Corazon Aquino, with whom they refused to find a peaceful settlement. To this day, the CPP-NPA has continued to conduct attacks and clash with Philippine governments, and the parties have been unable to agree on conditions for the resumption of negotiations.

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Dean Muscat

This "beyond the book article" relates to America Is Not the Heart. It originally ran in May 2018 and has been updated for the April 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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