Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes

Indigenous Intellectuals: Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes

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ISBN-13: 9780822356608
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 04/18/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 1,067,489
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Gabriela Ramos is University Lecturer in Latin American History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow and College Lecturer at Newnham College, Cambridge. She is the author of Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670.

Yanna Yannakakis is Associate Professor of History at Emory University. She is the author of The Art of Being In-Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca, also published by Duke University Press.

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Indigenous Intellectuals

Knowledge, Power, and Colonial Culture in Mexico and the Andes

By Gabriela Ramos, Yanna Yannakakis

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2014 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7674-3


Indigenous Intellectuals in Andean Colonial Cities

Gabriela Ramos

In this chapter I examine the background, position, and activities of indigenous intellectuals in the cities of Lima and Cuzco, and discuss the means by which they acquired, developed, and administered the knowledge that allowed them to stand out from their peers. Through the study of several individual cases I aim to show how they were positioned in society, either by gaining a place in the colonial administration, practicing a trade, or associating with others to meet specific ends. Whenever possible, I examine the social relations these individuals established, and assess their participation in and contribution to the production and dissemination of knowledge.

I start by assessing the conditions that allowed indigenous intellectuals to thrive. Briefly comparing the Andes and Mexico, I ask if cities and political centralization played a role in the formation of intellectuals in the period before the Spanish conquest, and hypothesize about the reasons behind the contrasting performance of indigenous intellectuals in the two main centers of Spanish colonial rule. Next, I compare the conditions under which the Andean cities of Lima and Cuzco were created after the conquest, and examine how they affected the position of Cuzqueño and Limeño indigenous elites. I argue that these conditions significantly shaped the kinds of indigenous intellectuals who emerged in each colonial city and the relationship they established with the colonial government and other groups in society. Finally, I consider the instances in which Andean indigenous intellectuals acquired and used the knowledge that allowed them to attain positions of leadership, an achievement that fortified and transformed certain sectors of indigenous society, but ultimately helped to strengthen the colonial system as a whole.

Intellectuals, Cities, and Political Structures

One of the most striking contrasts between pre-Columbian Mexico and the Andes at the time of the Spanish conquest is the abundance of urban centers in Mexico and a correspondingly decentralized political structure, compared with the small number of Andean cities and a governmental structure characterized by a powerful imperial state. To what extent did these differences determine the numbers, behavior, and influence of local intellectuals? Considering the distinct forms in which indigenous intellectuals engaged with Spanish colonial culture and politics in the years immediately following the conquest of Mexico and Peru, I hypothesize that the locations, functions, ways of producing and administering knowledge, and the social relations maintained by both local and imperial intellectuals were greatly influenced by their precontact urban experience and the form of doing politics that city states encouraged, which was dynamic and relied on specialized agents. Although in both Mexico and the Andes local rulers had to negotiate continuously with imperial authorities, it seems that the Inca were more successful than the Mexica at imposing themselves by force upon their neighbors. Perhaps aggressive Incan imperial policy left local Andean intellectuals with more limited means of survival after the Spanish conquest than their counterparts in Mexico. During the early colonial period, specialized knowledge in the Andes rested in very few hands, which, in contrast with the case of Mexico, appears to have limited its endurance and circulation.

The art of record keeping offers a useful comparison with which to examine this question. Although references to Andean cord keepers or quipucamayocs appear throughout the colonial period, they are not abundant; nor are they easy to find outside the obvious former imperial center of Cuzco. Compared to Mexico, in the Andes one is far less likely to distinguish a direct link between ancient record keepers and colonial indigenous scribes and notaries (see also Burns, chapter 10). It could be argued that the abundance of indigenous writers in colonial Mexico can be explained by the existence of a greater number of local bureaucracies charged with the rule of city-states and, more important, by the development in pre-Columbian Mexico of forms of representation that engaged better with European writing, drawing, and painting than did Andean devices. For their part, the Spanish were better able to understand Mexican recording systems and allowed them to survive, whereas their attitude toward Andean quipu was ambiguous at its best. In addition, precolonial Mexico's political decentralization must have favored the dissemination of knowledge and the formation of a pool of scribes and writers whose duty it was to pass on their skills to the next generation.

Andean Indigenous Power/Knowledge and Early Colonial Urbanism

The spatial reorganization launched shortly after the conquest to facilitate Spanish colonial rule led to the creation of cities and urban settlements in the Andes. Urbanization involved the relocation of both local and foreign populations, the creation of new jurisdictions, and the adaptation of those previously existing to the newly created spatial patterns. These changes were compounded by intense demographic transformations. It was not rare for new indigenous leaders to be brought into the newly created urban centers to take charge of various aspects of their administration. Thus the Andean political landscape was significantly transformed after the conquest. The changes effected had implications for the indigenous elites' participation in government as well as for population distribution and migration patterns.

Pizarro's decision to establish the main colonial administrative center of the viceroyalty in Lima, at a significant distance from the former imperial capital of Cuzco, crucially shaped the social profile of the indigenous intellectuals who in the following years were incorporated into the colonial administration. Aided by the rapid and massive depopulation of the coast, the Spanish easily dispensed with most of Lima's precolonial past as they founded their main political center in the valley of Lima and conducted themselves as if no significant collectivity had ever existed there before their arrival. Thus the city appeared as an innovation, a true starting point of political life.

In contrast, the Spanish could not proceed in the same way in the ancient Inca capital as they did in Lima, because Cuzco and its surrounding area possessed stronger symbolic, material, and human resources, a much denser population, and a cohort of Inca elite intellectuals whose presence could by no means be overlooked. Thus it is worth considering the variances emerging between the two cities that affected the participation of indigenous intellectuals as colonial officers. In both cities the Spanish colonial administration relied on "traditional" and "new" indigenous intellectuals, although in distinct ways. I argue that their function and degree of authority were constructed according to the local sociopolitical conditions existing in each place. Hence it is necessary to explore how these intellectuals and officers were recruited, and how they attained a position within the governmental structure. Focusing on caciques, notaries, and interpreters and on their separate or interrelated roles, I further argue that indigenous involvement as colonial officers was dependent upon shifting values assigned to key aspects such as tradition, nobility, language, and social changes surrounding the elusive subject of "race."

A confederation presided over by chiefs or curacas ruled the various groups that populated the Lima valley at the time of the Spanish conquest in the early 1530s. Most of these chiefs were related to one another through marriage alliances. Archaeological evidence and early colonial documents suggest that in precolonial times the scope of their activities transcended the boundaries of their own kinship groups to embrace large portions of Peru's central coast and beyond. These chieftains were subordinated to a paramount curaca whose domains encompassed the area that after the Spanish conquest became Lima's city center.

The conquistadors interpreted the paramount curaca's approval of their request for permission to establish a settlement in his jurisdiction as an unlimited authorization to seize land. Soon the Spanish were assigning an increasing number of lots to the new vecinos—individual or corporate—and moving the original inhabitants and their authorities to the periphery of the new Spanish city, while the town council issued decrees that shaped the public space and regulated its use. As Rostworowski has noted, in spite of his petitions to defend his land rights and those of his subordinates, within a few years of the founding of Lima the paramount curaca's power was severely weakened. It seems that by the 1560s, a main indigenous authority no longer existed. The several curacas (chiefs), principales (authorities), and other elite Indians scattered in the pueblos or reducciones (settlements) that surrounded the viceregal capital were left with no single, chief indigenous representative. In these new conditions, their political weight was severely diminished. Although these elite Indians performed governmental duties in their respective localities, their position in the public life of Lima was marginal. Most, if not all, were quickly assimilated to Spanish culture. Evidence suggests that young elite males were taken to the convents where they received religious indoctrination, learned Spanish, and were taught to read and write. These elite Indians, some of whom later became curacas or chiefs, functioned in the colonial administration, and to an extent served as pillars of Spanish rule, promoting the dissemination of Spanish culture and values among their subjects (see also Charles, chapter 3). Curacas and their families maintained a degree of authority and prominence within the boundaries of their own small jurisdictions. However, various circumstances operated to their disadvantage; their proximity to the viceregal capital was only one of them. Over time their position became increasingly precarious because of the acute population crisis, the loss of land, and Christianity's restrictions that forced them to form nuclear families, a mandate that diminished their chances of procreating and increasing the number of their kin. Thus they were left with fewer possibilities of having successors, with fewer subjects to rule, a smaller provision of laborers, and overall with scarce resources to guarantee their support and survival.

The position of curacas in Lima and its surroundings was further weakened by the appearance of individuals occupying posts that the colonial administration created to provide the services the Spanish required to deal with the indigenous population, like interpreters and alguaciles (bailiffs). In most cases these posts were new. In other instances they complemented those already existing, and in still others, they replaced indigenous governmental structures. The provenance of indigenous officers settled in Lima suggests that not only did conditions allow upwardly mobile Indians to succeed in finding a placement but also that Spanish authorities found it convenient to promote indigenous individuals foreign to the region to key positions within the colonial administration, as opposed to employing local people. These individuals became instrumental to Spanish colonial rule (see also Yannakakis, chapter 4).

Besides relegating the indigenous curacas to a marginal place, the rapid transformation of the local population contributed to creating conditions that favored the emergence of alternative sources of political authority. Since its founding, Lima had received a flood of migrants coming from most areas of the viceroyalty, to the point that a census taken in 1613 shows that the overwhelming majority of Indians living in the city at that time had been born elsewhere. Although a number of urban Indians were still connected to their places of origin, many had severed their ties with their original authorities. Issues of government, labor and trade, or even survival increased the need for indigenous representatives and intermediaries. In the years following the founding of Lima, different posts, both religious and secular, had been created to lead and channel the indigenous population's participation in urban life. Positions such as alguaciles, confraternity leaders, and alcaldes (mayors) were filled up by men who themselves had arrived in Lima as migrants. Given the marginal place local ethnic authorities were allocated within the administration of the viceregal capital, and the consolidation of Lima as the new bureaucratic and ceremonial center, it is not surprising that in the late sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries, the most important position an Indian could hold in Lima was not that of curaca, but of interpreter general to the Real Audiencia. To understand the significance of this indigenous office, it is worth examining its political, social, and cultural implications (see also Schwaller, chapter 2, and Yannakakis, chapter 4).

The procedures for appointing the General Interpreter show how the post suited the needs of colonial rule and reinforced the conditions of subordination in which the Indian population of Lima lived. In the first place, the pivotal role of the Spanish judiciary and the Real Audiencia was highlighted at the crucial juncture when colonial administration was reformed under Viceroy Toledo (1569–1581) (see also Burns, chapter 10). Toledo endeavored to shape the curacas' role within the Spanish administration, and the appointments he made did much to erode the authority and legitimacy held by traditional indigenous authorities. Unlike other areas of Spanish America like central Mexico, where arrangements to share administrative tasks between Spaniards and locals were fairly common, the Peruvian viceroyalty's indigenous authorities had limited control over the administration of justice, since this function was placed within Spanish hands.

Situated at the top of the governmental hierarchy, second only to the viceroy, the Real Audiencia was the most powerful colonial body the indigenous inhabitants could approach when seeking justice. Often curacas traveled to Lima to follow up their cases, dedicating a significant amount of their time and resources to dealing with the colonial bureaucracy. Thus the individual who acted as a link between indigenous society and the Real Audiencia was unquestionably more influential than any ethnic authority. It is therefore noteworthy that the first interpreter general to the Real Audiencia appointed by Toledo was a man named don Pedro Maíz, a foreigner to the Lima valley. Adding to the distinction attached to the position, when Toledo allocated mita or Indian draft laborers to the vecinos (elite residents) of Lima, Maíz appears in the colonial registers as the only Indian beneficiary. He also became a city and religious leader, for soon after his appointment he figured as patron of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, the most active Indian confraternity in Lima, sponsored by the Franciscans. His successor, don Diego Solsol, was not born in Lima either. He was the cacique of a repartimiento in the remote Chachapoyas province, in the highlands of northeast Peru. His repartimiento was composed of so few people that it is not difficult to understand why he found it more advantageous to move to Lima and become a colonial officer rather than stay in his homeland as curaca. Don Diego Solsol also became a patron of the same confraternity as his predecessor and, besides performing his job at the Real Audiencia, he usually served as interpreter to the few Spanish notaries who offered their services to Indian customers. An additional indicator of the recognition both men enjoyed in the city was that they often acted as guardians of orphaned children, executors, and representatives on behalf of several Indian men and women of varied socioeconomic status.

To better understand the interpreters' significance and long-lasting effect of their function it is necessary to consider the social relations in which they were immersed. These social relations hinged on the knowledge they owned and disseminated, and on the role they performed in their twofold position as representatives of the colonial administration and of the indigenous population. In considering the position of these men, I would like to emphasize three points: first, their relation to writing and to record keeping; second, the social networks they built; and third, the status of the language they spoke (see also Yannakakis, chapter 4).


Excerpted from Indigenous Intellectuals by Gabriela Ramos, Yanna Yannakakis. Copyright © 2014 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Foreword / Elizabeth Hill Boone ix

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction / Gabriela Ramos and Yanna Yannakakis 1

Part I. Indigenous Functionaries: Ethnicity, Networks, and Institutions

1. Indigenous Intellectuals in Andean Colonial Cities / Gabriela Ramos 21

2. The Brothers Fernando de Alva Ixtilxochitl and Bartolomé de Alva: Two "Native" Intellectuals of Seventeenth-Century Mexico / John Frederick Schwaller 39

3. Trained by Jesuits: Indigenous Letrados in Seventeenth-Century Peru / John Charles 60

4. Making Law Intelligible: Networks of Translation in Mid-Colonial Oaxaca / Yanna Yannakakis 79

Part II. Native Historians: Sources, Frameworks, and Authorship

5. Chimalpahin and Why Women Matter in History / Susan Schroeder 107

6. The Concept of the Nahua Historian: Don Juan Zapata's Scholarly Tradition / Camilla Townsend 132

7. Cristóbal Choquescasa and the Making of the Huarochirí Manuscript / Alan Durston 151

Part III. Forms of Knowledge: Genealogies, Maps, and Archives

8. Indigenous Genealogies: Lineage, History, and the Colonial Pact in Central Mexico and Peru / María Elena Martínez

9. The Dawning Places: Celestially Defined Land Maps, Títulos Primordiales, and Indigenous Statements of Territorial Possession in Early Colonial Mexico / Eleanor Wake 202

10. The Quilcaycamayoq: Making Indigenous Archives in Colonial Cuzco / Kathryn Burns 237

Conclusion / Tristan Platt 261

Bibliography 279

Contributors 307

Index 311

What People are Saying About This

The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada - Joanne Rappaport

"It is refreshing to come across an edited volume whose every contribution displays an equal standard of excellence. In Indigenous Intellectuals we have such a volume. Here, we encounter a series of actors from Mexico and Peru–indigenous historians, interpreters, cartographers, notaries–whose presence on the colonial stage belies the notion that the 'lettered city' was composed exclusively of university-educated Spanish officials and clerics. The stories of these indigenous men of letters are the products of intensive archival research and are narrated in lucid prose; we come to know these colonial actors as thinkers and as individuals. The various contributions come together into a coherent book with a persuasive argument: it is clear that this volume was the product of a dialogue. Once you are introduced to Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, you want to meet Cristóbal Choquecasa and you will understand why they are included in the same book. The Mexico-Peru comparison is cogent, fresh, and insightful."

Latin America in Colonial Times - Matthew Restall

"This superb volume brings together a veritable who's-who of the scholars who have pushed the study of indigenous intellectuals into a coherent subfield of ethnohistory. Their essays are populated by a wide array of educated, native men from colonial Mexico, Oaxaca, and Peru, from interpreters and translators to lettered noblemen. The colonial cultural patterns that emerge are as fascinating and illuminating as the indigenous individuals who are brought to life in the essays. A must-read for all scholars of colonial Latin America."\

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