Repartos y Rebeliones: Jürgen Golte

Jürgen Golte’s Repartos y Rebeliones, published in German in 1977 and translated into Spanish by Carlos Degregori in 1980, analyzes the implementation, evolution, and resistance to the repartimiento de efectos, put in place by Spain’s Bourbon reformers in the eighteenth century.[1] Golte sought to revise earlier studies that overlooked the role of the repartos, a system of forced mercantile distribution in the Andean highlands, and their role as a catalyst in the Túpac Amaru rebellion of the early 1780s.[2]

Building on a 1976 edited volume by Peruvian historian Alberto Flores Galindo, Golte was one of the first to provide detailed economic context to the uprising that swept through the central Andes in the penultimate decade of the eighteenth century.[3] Also, studies of rural revolts from the 1970s, such as Golte’s, were also fueled by interest in the Vietnam War, as well as by the depiction of Túpac Amaru as a Peruvian independence hero by dictator Juan Velasco Alvarado in the 1960s, according to Peruvian historian Charles Walker.[4]

Golte used archival material from the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, the British Library in London, and the Biblioteca Nacional in Lima to shed light on what is now seen as an important turn toward more-capitalist modes of production in the Andean highlands. His detailed research drew on letters from colonial officials and testimonies of indigenous participants in the rebellion; royal decrees and acts of government from the century before the rebellion; economic reports detailing colonial labor conditions, wages, tribute payments, and merchandise distribution; court cases; and colonial inventories and geographic descriptions of the territory. He used this material to argue for a deeper understanding of the prior role of the reparto in the subsequent bloody revolt. Much of this material was previously unpublished in modern form, increasing the importance of Golte’s work, and providing new directions for later scholars to pursue.[5]

Golte divided his monograph into five parts: commercial development; socioeconomic bases; the reparto system and its effects; indigenous protests against the reparto; and the end of the system and subsequent economic crisis that followed the uprising. In broad strokes, he shows how indigenous farmers were forced to purchase unnecessary imported merchandise, including silk stockings, lamps, and mirrors, in an attempt to coerce indigenous agriculturalists into becoming wage laborers and help revive the region’s stagnant economy.[6] The result was an increase in available workers for haciendas, mines, and textile workshops, as well as a steady market for the sale of consumer goods by Lima-based merchants. According to Golte, these measures spurred an almost thirty-year economic boom beginning in 1751.[7]

The third and fourth parts of the book are Golte’s strongest. Similar to Steve Stern’s “power groups,” as will be discussed later, Golte details the role of the colonial corregidor, in charge of distributing the merchandise, their political and economic connections with merchants in Lima, as well as the nuts-and-bolts of how the system was implemented. He also examines how the opposing economic interests of other social groups, from mestizos to the Catholic Church, were at times aligned against the repartos.[8] Beyond this system, corregidores also over-charged and exceeded their legal quotas, making a bad system worse.[9] By the mid-eighteenth century, the repartos were absorbing most of the economic surplus that indigenous communities could produce. Not all communities were impacted the same, however, creating a patchwork of responses, from resignation to revolt.[10]

Golte emphasizes the challenge officials faced to force Andean communities to work in colonial industries. Alongside solving the problem of labor shortages, the reparto was designed to serve as a moral tool to correct Andeans’ innate “desidia, floxedad, y pereza.”[11] In response, communities resisted by appealing to clergy, refusing to work, and fleeing into the eastern Amazon region to avoid the system altogether.[12] Some also resisted through spontaneous uprisings against corregidores when they tried to collect on fiesta days.[13] Furthermore, Golte’s attention to price differences between villages based on distances from the merchandise’s source sheds light on why some communities protested more than others, delaying widespread organization against the system for decades.[14]

The fourth part focuses on the transition of resistance from early forms of protest, as noted above, to more organized resistance as community surpluses and capacity to pay were eroded by the reparto. This process culminated in the 1780 uprising and the later abolition of the system as a whole. While acknowledging the relative difficulty of finding documents on these early protests, Golte uses a series of archived lawsuits found at the AGI to create a timeline of protests ranging from 1730 to 1780, demonstrating the content of early complaints against the system.[15] This section is accompanied by extensive quotations from the complaints, giving voice to the absurdity of the reparto and strengthening his overall argument. For example, in 1773 the corregidor of the village of Callalli was attacked and almost killed after trying to force the community to buy sick mules. The corregidor later returned with a gang and sacked the village in reprisal for their resistance.[16]

This work anticipates later studies of indigenous communities, like Stern’s Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest, by beginning to explore colonial class relationships between villagers, their caciques, priests, and non-indigenous residents.[17] This well-organized and detailed monograph is exceptional for its economic analysis, tracking both the socioeconomic pressures among Andean communities, as well as the trading boom it created for merchants in Lima. While beyond the scope of this work, it would have been interesting to see more about the broader political and industrial changes in Europe that drove these policies in the Americas. Still, Repartos y Rebeliones remains valuable precisely because it focuses on the economic processes that fueled what became the largest uprising against Spanish colonial rule in the Americas.

Golte, Jürgen. Repartos y rebeliones: Túpac Amaru y las contradicciones de la economía colonial. Translated by Carlos Degregori Caso. Primera edicón. Estudios históricos Colección clásicos 6. Lima: IEP, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1980.

[1] Jürgen Golte, Repartos y rebeliones: Túpac Amaru y las contradicciones de la economía colonial, trans. Carlos Degregori Caso, Primera edicón, Estudios históricos Colección clásicos 6 (Lima: IEP, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1980). The repartos are also known as repartimientos de mercancias[2] Ibid., 10–11; Golte specifically cites Boleslao Lewin (1957), Lillian Fisher (1966), and Carlos Valcárcel (1947, 1970) as examples of scholars who ignored the economic impact of the repartos in the buildup to the rebellion. [3] The volume includes essays by John Rowe, Scarlet O’Phelan, John Fisher, Oscar Cornblit, and Jan Szeminski. [4] Charles F. Walker, The Tupac Amaru Rebellion (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), 7. [5] Golte, Repartos y rebeliones, 245–56. [6] Ibid., 31, 120. [7] Ibid., 34. [8] Ibid., 85, 167, 184. [9] Ibid., 119, 138. [10] Ibid., 51, 124-125. [11] Ibid., 84. [12] Ibid., 124–25. [13] Ibid., 116–17. [14] Ibid., 110-111, 125. [15] Ibid., 129–31, 140-147. [16] Ibid., 148–49. [17] Ibid., 152–76; Steve J. Stern, Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest: Huamanga to 1640 (Madison, Wis: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982); see especially chapter 7.

By N. H. Gill
Chapel Hill, 2017

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