Huarochirí: Karen Spalding

Karen Spalding’s history of colonial Peru, Huarochirí, begins with the origins of Andean society, following social changes from pre-Inca days until the height of colonial rule. Written in the mid-1980s amidst a brutal economic crisis that inordinately impacted indigenous communities in areas like Huarochirí, this monograph seems an attempt to revalorize Andean society at a particularly difficult moment in its history.

Unlike many histories of the Andes, Spalding spends significant time analyzing the environmental conditions and cultural innovations that allowed Andeans to develop the complex high-altitude societies that the Spanish encountered in the early sixteenth century. Relying on ecological and archeological data, she takes the challenge of moving beyond colonial European sources to understand Andean societies on their own terms. While the absence of historical documentation from Andeans themselves complicates this task, her work questions colonial sources in an an innovative way that earlier authors did not.[1] Furthermore, she makes the case for spending time in local archives, as opposed to prioritizing the AGI in Seville, because of the rich detail included in reports prepared for regional administrators as opposed to the more general synthesis that was included in reports that went back to Crown officials in Spain.[2]

The first three chapters of Huarochirí focus on the human-environment systems in place before Incan or Spanish conquest. By highlighting how both groups of conquerors adopted local customs, she challenges many earlier histocial narratives of Spanish colonization.[3] For example, she shows that both the Incas and then the Spanish allowed local communities to maintain their traditional forms of production based around kinship groups and dispersed farming of ecological niches as long as it created reliable sources of tribute.[4]

Later chapters on the colonial period largely coincide with Steve Stern’s assertions regarding the cooptation of the kuraka class. However, while she does not specifically engage with Stern’s arguments, she claims that the kuraka elite became intermediary power brokers who, when successful, were able to keep tribute flowing to the Spanish while preventing the Europeans from interfering with the internal structure of Andean society.[5] In this respect, both during Inca and colonial periods, she shows how rural areas like Huarochirí benefitted from de-centralized control that allowed them to continue many of their traditional practices.

Chapter eight discusses the social crises that led to the Taki Onqoy movement, also mentioned in Stern’s work, Peru’s Indian Peoples, which Spalding says shifted Andean resistance against colonial rule from the religious realm to the political.[6] Like Stern, she highlights the role Andean gods, or wak’as, in the fight against colonial rule and the counteroffensive deployed by Catholic priests to eradicate indigenous deities in an effort to control the protests. Spalding’s work highlights the role of economic and social crisis of Spanish hegemony as a major factor in the outbreak of the struggle.[7] While Stern spends more time discussing the colonizers’ reactions and reforms that followed the Taki Onqoy movement, Spalding’s longer period of analysis allows her to connect this period of revolt with the Túpac Amaru movement of the late eighteenth century, saying that “native Andean society began to turn from reliance upon the ancestors and tradition and to take charge of their resistance against the Spanish rulers themselves.”[8] In the seventeenth century, she notes a series of protests in Lima, an indigenous attempt to ally with England, and even attacks on Jesuit missions in the eastern Amazon region that were ultimately unsuccessful.[9] However, the existence of these plots undermines Stern’s claim that by 1640, Andeans were a “defeated people.”

In the period leading up to the Great Andean Rebellion of the 1780s, Spalding follows Jürgen Golte in documenting earlier eighteenth century protests. Instead of focusing on the well-studied events of the Tupac Amaru rebellion, she focuses on a 1750 plot to launch an indigenous uprising against Lima and overthrow Spanish rule. As a source for this section she uses the diary of a Spanish immigrant to Huarochirí, Sebastian Francisco de Melo, who claimed responsibility for frustrating rebel plans in that area.[10] Unlike Golte though, Spalding highlights how indigenous protestors tried to recruit slaves and free people of African descent to join them in the revolt.[11] In explaining the causes of the violence, Spalding emphasizes the role of new census, the reorganization of indigenous society, the suppression of Andean celebrations, and the decline of other elements of the Andean moral economy instead of the repartos.[12]

Finally, Spalding concludes her book on a more positive note than many Andean historians, saying that despite centuries of oppression, Andean communities survived. Not only that, their resistance forced the Spanish to adopt many of the features of their society in a negotiated process of colonization in which European control superimposed itself onto the Andes.[13]

Karen Spalding, Huarochirí, an Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1984).

[1] Ibid., 334–35. [2] Ibid., 336–37. [3] Ibid., 50–51. [4] Ibid., 90-91, 108. [5] Ibid., 210–11. [6] Ibid., 269. [7] Stern, Peru’s Indian Peoples, 70–72. [8] Spalding, Huarochirí, an Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule, 270. [9] Ibid., 270–71. [10] Ibid., 272. [11] Ibid., 274–75. [12] Ibid., 292–93. [13] Ibid., 296–99.

By N. H. Gill
Chapel Hill, 2017

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