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Indians and Mestizos in the "Lettered City"

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Through newly unearthed texts virtually unknown in Andean studies, Indians and Mestizos in the "Lettered City" highlights the Andean intellectual tradition of writing in their long-term struggle for social empowerment and questions the previous understanding of the "lettered city" as a privileged space populated solely by colonial elites. Rarely acknowledged in studies of resistance to colonial rule, these writings challenged colonial hierarchies and ethnic discrimination in attempts to redefine the Andean role in colonial society. Scholars have long assumed that Spanish rule remained largely undisputed in Peru between the 1570s and 1780s, but educated elite Indians and mestizos challenged the legitimacy of Spanish rule, criticized colonial injustice and exclusion, and articulated the ideas that would later be embraced in the Great Rebellion in 1781. Their movement extended across the Atlantic as the scholars visited the seat of the Spanish empire to negotiate with the king and his advisors for social reform, lobbied diverse networks of supporters in Madrid and Peru, and struggled for admission to religious orders, schools and universities, and positions in ecclesiastic and civil administration. Indians and Mestizos in the "Lettered City" explores how scholars contributed to social change and transformation of colonial culture through legal, cultural, and political activism, and how, ultimately, their significant colonial critiques and campaigns redefined colonial public life and discourse. It will be of interest to scholars and students of colonial history, colonial literature, Hispanic studies, and Latin American studies.

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1 INTRODUCTION

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THE WORLD OF LETTERS in colonial Spanish America was a terrain of cultural interaction and contention. With important antecedents in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Peruvian indigenous and mestizo writers continued to make inroads into the world of the literate while attempting to achieve social change during the mid- and late colonial period. During these years, literate Andeans crossed the Atlantic, showing up in metropolitan seats of power with their writings, their demands, and their representatives and fundamentally complicating our reflections on the nature and variety of responses to Spanish colonial impositions.

This book tells the story of a group of Andean writers and their scholarly works rarely acknowledged in studies of political or cultural resistance to colonial rule in the Andes. It shows that the production of Andean critical renditions of colonialism and efforts to reform society continued and developed broadly from the mid-1600s through the late 1700s, far beyond the well-known pioneering works of writers such as Santacruz Pachacuti Yamki Salcamaigua, Titu Cusi Yupanqui, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, and Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala. Later writers developed intellectual and social activism, engaging themselves and their fellow collaborators in political projects that revealed their continually evolving consciousness and unstated effort to challenge the definition of Andeans as “Indians.”1

 

2 FOUNDATIONS OF SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ANDEAN SCHOLARSHIP

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THE PRODUCTION OF CRITICAL REPRESENTATIONS of the social state of affairs in the seventeenth century was embedded in the major transformations Spanish colonialism brought to the Andes.1 This chapter offers an overview of Andean scholarship, introducing the most critical issues of the time, the writers, their texts, and the social practices associated with Andean writing during that century. The production of fairly complex social critiques and reform programs by literate mestizos and Indians was part and parcel of a wider complex of political and cultural practices developed during, and prompted by, the cycles of social unrest brought about by the implementation of the Toledan reforms. The composers of these tracts/texts created informal networks of Indian authorities and supporters to advance their struggles against the impact of the reforms and used writing as a strategy for negotiating social change with viceregal and royal authorities on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

3 ANDEAN SCHOLARSHIP IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

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Writers, Networks, and Texts

THE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY COUNTERPARTS OF Juan de Cuevas Herrera, Jerónimo Lorenzo Limaylla, and Juan Núñez Vela de Rivera lived and wrote in a different social milieu. Preexisting conflicts deepened in the 1700s and new ones appeared, prompting the creation of more comprehensive agendas and forms of legal activism that shed light on the politics of the “Indian nation” and its historical construction through a more sophisticated discourse, cabildo politics, and Andean lobbying in the core of the Spanish empire. The networks of scholarly and activist collaboration expanded and their issues diversified as Andean intellectuals and leaders in Spain struggled to obtain socially empowering royal decrees. This chapter explains the new elements of this social milieu and introduces the most visible writers of the eighteenth century, identifying their roles as Andean leaders within such a context and in connection with the collective circuits of knowledge, logistics, and activism they developed. Their texts are described and contextualized, and issues of authorship of anonymous texts are discussed.

 

4 THE EUROPEAN BACKGROUND OF ANDEAN SCHOLARSHIP

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COLONIAL ANDEAN WRITING REMAINS A KEY EXAMPLE of the trans-culturation of early-modern European forms of communication, areas of knowledge, and categories of thought that made their way to the Americas with the Spanish invasion, which became transformed during the process of colonialization. This chapter builds on the notion of trans-culturation, which Cuban sociologist Fernando Ortiz first introduced in 1940, to counteract oversimplified and racist notions of the “acculturation” and “de-culturation” of indigenous peoples under Spanish colonialism. In the transition from one culture to another, Ortiz maintained, a process of cultural creation occurs that expresses not only the acquisition of the new culture but also the loss of the previous one. The new culture that emerges is unique, incorporating something of both cultures while remaining a new creation that is different from the previous two.1 This notion of trans-culturation was later redefined as the ways subordinated groups in colonial settings chose and reworked the cultural messages implanted by the predominant culture, an idea that describes even more precisely the nature of colonial Andean writing.2 Inasmuch as the colonizers imposed values and practices on the colonized, however, they could not control Andeans’ ability to make “something else out of them,” not necessarily by rejecting the colonial culture but by “subverting it from within.”3

 

5 ANDEAN DISCOURSES OF JUSTICE

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The Colonial Judicial System under Scrutiny

FOR MODERN SCHOLARS, the work of Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala and the increasing amount of Indian litigation in the royal courts initiated the tradition of social criticism by colonized subjects in the Andes. This tradition continued and was developed beyond Guamán Poma’s time by the mid- and late-colonial scholars studied in this book. The textual work of these later Andean authors is permeated by recurrent critiques of key aspects of Spanish rule, which express their understanding of the colonial crisis in the seventeenth century and the impact of the changes introduced in the eighteenth century to resolve it. The critiques appear in their texts often as a prelude to the enunciation of specific changes or reforms they deemed necessary to restore social balance, a format similar to the memoriales of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas in the first half of the sixteenth century.1 The critical approaches of these writers delve into the continued ineffectiveness of the justice system and provide a record of the conflicting relationships of Indians vis-à-vis colonial authorities and the church from the perspective of Andeans themselves.

 

6 THE POLITICAL CULTURE OF ANDEAN ELITES

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Social Inclusion and Ethnic Autonomy

ANDEAN ELITES AVIDLY SEARCHED for avenues of social recognition within the colonial world and viewed such spaces as niches from which to reassert their sense of nobility in a world that increasingly denied them the opportunities and rights to which they felt entitled. In her intriguing discussion of the links between pureza de sangre and religion, María Elena Martínez maintained that the incorporation of the Castilian notion of purity of blood had implications for the definition of Indian corporate rights and that the royal recognition of Indian purity introduced concerns about blood, genealogy, dynastic histories, and race among the native elites of Mexico.1

Underlying the recurring critique of colonial rule by Andeans is the idea that Spanish rule introduced ethnic discrimination in the Andes—a practice foreign to Andeans—in which only Spanish Christians received ecclesiastical and secular honorific positions. Ladino scholars articulated this position in their indictments of the Spanish monopoly over positions of power, although at times they voiced a longing for the Spaniards’ love and respect. Eventually, they expressed their position as part of a hope that Spaniards and Andeans could live together as Christians without conflict, merging fully “in body and soul.” Alongside their discursive criticism of Spanish discrimination, then, since the late seventeenth century, Andeans had supported a coherent agenda of social inclusion that developed further in the eighteenth century, including access to positions of power they were denied given their status as “newly” Christian Indians.

 

7 THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY FORMATION IN COLONIAL ANDEAN SCHOLARSHIP

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COLONIAL ANDEAN TEXTS become key windows for studying the discursive formation of identities and the politics that underlie them, since in writing, Indian and mestizo intellectuals found a crucial tool to convey their social and political aspirations and worldviews. The process of identity formation is an important aspect of colonial ethno-genesis, which also involves the conscious efforts of the colonized to redefine themselves and their “others” in situations of social distress and upheaval. Karen Powers’s notion of ethno-genesis as a constant re-creation of ethnicity helps us understand changes in group and individual identity. In the Andean context, the interethnic encounters Spanish colonialism provoked through migration produced such a re-creation, a process of contention in which the disparate forces of the colonized and the colonizers gave birth to a distinctive society in which Andeans “reinvented themselves as a culture.”1

In colonial Peru, interethnic encounters took place in different regions but mostly in Lima, a unique cosmopolitan city in the viceroyalty. Uprooted Indian immigrants (mitayos, artisans, yanaconas [native retainer subject to a colonial overlord]) of different ethnicities from the highlands, the coast, and perhaps from the Amazon rainforest had come to reside and sojourn in the “city of Kings,” as had a significant portion of Afro Peruvians. In these diverse communities, Spaniards, Indians, and other castes came to coexist in places such as the segregated Indian town of El Cercado and other Indian neighborhoods, including San Lázaro, La Magdalena, and Santa Ana.2 Lima was especially a meeting place for native authorities from the Audiencia of Lima, who converged on the royal court while carrying through judicial appeals—a task that usually resulted in prolonged sojourns in the city.

 

8 CONCLUSION

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ASUBTLE CURRENT OF RESISTANCE to the effects of Spanish colonialism in the lives of Indian elites and their mestizo kin developed in the areas hardest hit by the impact of both the Toledan and the Bourbon reforms in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, respectively. The social movement thus generated articulated a social and intellectual leadership through Andeans’ writing, petitioning in the royal courts, and traveling across the Atlantic to negotiate their agenda with the kingdom’s top authorities and further the enforcement of justice. They struggled for repositioning as ethnic elites in a colonial society whose rulers implemented policies that undermined Indian authority and downgraded mestizos, intensified racial discrimination, and altered the fabric of Andean societies in different but drastic ways; eventually, the most dramatic result was widespread rebellion. Andean intellectuals contributed extensively to the writing of colonial critiques and advocated for imperial reform and social change. Thus, their changing political and religious cultures emerged almost naturally as the salient themes of this history.

 

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