People of the Volcano: Andean Counterpoint in the Colca Valley of Peru

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While it now attracts many tourists, the Colca Valley of Peru’s southern Andes was largely isolated from the outside world until the 1970s, when a passable road was built linking the valley—and its colonial churches, terraced hillsides, and deep canyon—to the city of Arequipa and its airport, eight hours away. Noble David Cook and his co-researcher Alexandra Parma Cook have been studying the Colca Valley since 1974, and this detailed ethnohistory reflects their decades-long engagement with the valley, its history, and its people. Drawing on unusually rich surviving documentary evidence, they explore the cultural transformations experienced by the first three generations of Indians and Europeans in the region following the Spanish conquest of the Incas.

Social structures, the domestic export and economies, and spiritual spheres within native Andean communities are key elements of analysis. Also highlighted is the persistence of duality in the Andean world: perceived dichotomies such as those between the coast and the highlands, Europeans and Indo-Peruvians. Even before the conquest, the Cabana and Collagua communities sharing the Colca Valley were divided according to kinship and location. The Incas, and then the Spanish, capitalized on these divisions, incorporating them into their state structure in order to administer the area more effectively, but Colca Valley peoples resisted total assimilation into either. Colca Valley communities have shown a remarkable tenacity in retaining their social, economic, and cultural practices while accommodating various assimilationist efforts over the centuries. Today’s population maintains similarities with their ancestors of more than five hundred years ago—in language, agricultural practices, daily rituals, familial relationships, and practices of reciprocity. They also retain links to ecological phenomena, including the volcanoes from which they believe they emerged and continue to venerate.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

People of the Volcano is simply the best micro-regional account of colonial Peru available in English. It sets a new standard for ethnohistorical research in Spanish America.”—David J. Robinson, Dellplain Professor of Latin American Geography, Syracuse University

“Noble David Cook’s People of the Volcano is a masterpiece of history writing. The story is set in one of the most rugged and dramatic landscapes in the Andes—the Colca Valley, in the southern highlands of Peru, near the city of Arequipa. From his close reading of the Spanish chronicles and administrative documents, Cook fashions a virtual ethnography—the closest approximation we are likely ever to have of a “thick description”—of everyday life in the Colca Valley during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was the period when the inhabitants of this remote valley were incorporated into the Inca empire, the last great state of the pre-Columbian Andean world, and then, following the Spanish conquest, when they became the unwilling and troublesome provincial subjects of the first global empire of the modern world, that of the Hapsburg kings of Spain. Cook’s account of the imposition of the sixteenth-century Toledan reforms in the Colca Valley will stand for many years to come as the most informative and readable account of this critical, transformative process in colonial Andean history.”—Gary Urton, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies, Harvard University

“The first chronological history, in English, of Peru’s Colca Valley, People of the Volcano displays Noble David Cook’s intimate knowledge of the valley’s geography, people, and past.”—Susan Elizabeth Ramirez, author of To Feed and Be Fed: The Cosmological Bases of Authority and Identity in the Andes

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822339717
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Noble David Cook is Professor of History at Florida International University. He is the author of Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492–1650; The People of the Colca Valley: A Population Study; and Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520–1620.

Alexandra Parma Cook is an independent scholar. They are the coauthors of Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy and the coeditors and translators of The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, by Pedro de Cieza de León, both also published by Duke University Press.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations and Tables     ix
Preface     xi
Beneath the Soaring Condor     3
Return of the Viracocha     29
Crisis of the New Order     51
The "Republica de los Indios"
Constructing an "Andean Utopia"     79
"Republica de los Indios": Social and Political Structure     105
Tribute and the Domestic Economy     131
Extractive Economy     155
Indoctrination and Resistance     181
The "Republica de los Espanoles"
Crisis in the "Republica de los Espanoles"     215
Epilogue: Andean Counterpoint     243
Notes     261
Bibliography     285
Index     311
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