The Digital Journalist
© David Leeson

Shining Path. Peru

I had traveled to Huancayo, Peru, into the heart of Sendero Luminosa rebel territory, to photograph the funeral of a priest who had been murdered in the brutal guerilla war they waged against the government. Sendero, or Shining Path rebels, were known for their summary executions. They once killed 12 Peruvian journalists who had traveled in the false premise that there was "safety in numbers." They brutally murdered a female American aid worker and had killed peasants and government officials in small Andean towns by the thousands.

I knew the story was dangerous before I left. My family did not. For them it was a welcome respite from the stories I usually covered in other parts of the world. I did not tell them that it was probably the most dangerous story of my career.

To this very day, if asked, I always say my trip to Huancayo was the most treacherous. On the way back to Lima, along a dirt road winding through the Andes, we encountered a group building a barricade in the rain on a Sunday afternoon. Each of us, a good photographer friend and a writer, knew immediately that this was trouble. We quickly made the decision to run the barricade. As we revved our four-wheel-drive vehicle, one man jumped in front of us as though planting a mine. We didn't stop and as we roared past we heard, in Spanish, "We will strip the skin off the imperialists."

The old woman was walking past the church, moving very slowly as a Peruvian anti-terrorist soldier watched from the corner.