PERU: The Bad Intentions (Las malas intenciones, 2011)

“I’ll Run Them Over”: Classism in Las Malas Intenciones

By: Mariana Espinoza

The film Las malas intenciones takes place in the 1980s in Peru. In 1980, the communist terrorist group, the Shining Path was running rampant. Although the Shining Path was present throughout Peru, they were mainly centered in the rural mountains of Apurimac, Ayacucho, and Huancavelica. A majority of its inhabitants lived in extreme poverty, isolation and were “disenfranchised from the nation’s power center in Lima” ( They were also active in Lima, where, they detonated a car bomb in one of Lima’s districts– killing 25.

Las malas intenciones, directed by Rosario García-Montero, takes place during this time in Peru’s history. The film revolves around eight year old Cayetana, a girl who lives with her upper-class mother and stepfather.  The film’s plot is about how Cayetana thinks she’s going to die the day her brother is born. Throughout the film we see symbols of class division; such as the numerous scenes where Cayetana’s in a car. As well as a boat scene where we see Cayetana’s white family inside and the boys of color holding onto the boat from the outside. Cayetana and a boy quickly make eye contact before he looks away.

This video essay is an analysis of the background characters in Las Malas Intenciones and the portrayal of the social classes that are present in Peru. This analysis further delves into the interactions that are seen between the wealthy and poor in the film. Particular scenes highlight this; such as where Cayetana’s  mother encounters a beggar while Cayetana and her are in the car. The mother looks at Cayetana, smirks and says “I’ll run them over” to which Cayetana looks disgusted. Depictions such as this one of the rich versus the poor are not only relatable to citizens of Peru; it can be argued that such socioeconomic discrimination is seen in countries throughout the world. The begging for money on the street as well as the loitering about are situations that are seen worldwide in real life and through the nation’s cinema.

The film shows the discrimination that exists in Peru. A 2013 survey by the Ministry of Education showed that “81% of the population agreed that discrimination happened all the time and that nothing was being done about it,” ( The film also indicates a relationship between socioeconomic standing and the color of an individual’s skin. Noted in Culture, Class, and Hierarchy in Society, “The Selva tribes, like native highlanders, Afro-Peruvians, and other people ‘of color,’ are those who feel the discriminatory power of the colonial legacy as well as modern stresses, especially if they are poor.” As we see background characters such as the maids, beggars, the old neighbor and Isaac; we see they are all people of color while Cayetana and her family are white. Alerta contra el racismo (Racism Alert) states that “there are very few administrative or judicial processes that are working to reduce the internal racism that the country is experiencing… most racial or ethnic discrimination goes unreported due to shame, negation and normalisation of racism.” (


Rosario García-Montero implements this balance between emphasis on the main plot as well as the underlying conflicts found not only in the rise of the Shining Path but in the background characters. It’s through this, that we, by the end of the film are left dumbfounded when a background character whom we thought didn’t matter, dies; leaving us heartbroken and saddened. As the audience goes through this main journey with Cayetana we clearly see the very real underlying issue occurring in the background regarding the communist group, the Shining Path. What may be overlooked, however, is the social standing between Cayetana and her family and the people who work for the family as well as others in society that Cayetana comes across. Through her interactions as well as her innocence, the differences in Peru’s social classes are highlighted. In one of the first scenes we see her chauffeur, Isaac, refer to her as Miss Cayetana. While unfazed by this we see how she interacts with a beggar; to which she offers him some pills she has that suppresses her appetite.

Although we see that her treatment towards lower class individuals is no different from how she treats her family; we get glimpses of what will become of Cayetana when she’s older. In a different scene she ends up stealing her mother’s money, thinking it’s going to be for her baby brother. Upon her parents realizing it’s gone, they ask her if she took it to which she replies no; resulting in her parents firing a maid. Cayetana sees this, even sees the maid crying and instead of telling the truth and saving this woman she keeps quiet; this may be because she is after all a child. However, this further shows her privilege in being able to keep this innocence instead of being aware of reality.

We see Cayetana’s mother as a prominent figure who will end up shaping how she will view the world. In one scene we see Cayetana use a small ladder to look over the brick wall that surrounds her house. She waves to an old woman who appears to be speaking Quechua, a language used by the indigenous population of Peru. Her mother tells her to leave them alone and a family friend pipes in saying “You don’t even know who they are” to which Cayetana replies “Of course I know who they are! They’re my neighbors.” The family friend mutters to Cayetana’s mother saying “Maybe you can make that wall higher?” Such discrimination among the indigenous population has been around in Peru for many centuries. In a report with the Vice-Minister of Cross- Culturalism at the Ministry of Culture, Alfredo Luna discusses the fact that the number of people speaking Quechua is decreasing due to “…parents’ and grandparents’ decision, so that their children won’t be mistreated… We are seeing the results of a normalisation of discrimination in our society,” (

Works Cited

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