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Cambridge University Press
Shadows of Empire: The Indian Nobility of Cusco, 1750-1825

Shadows of Empire: The Indian Nobility of Cusco, 1750-1825

by David T Garrett


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The Indian nobility of the Andes--largely descended from the Inca monarchs and other pre-conquest lords--occupied a crucial economic and political position in late colonial Andean society, a position widely accepted as legitimate until the Túpac Amaru rebellion. This volume traces the history of this late colonial elite and examines the pre-conquest and colonial foundations of their privilege and authority. It brings to light the organization and the ideology of the Indian nobility in the bishopric of Cusco in the decades before the rebellion, and uses this nobility as a lens through which to study the internal organization and tension of late colonial Indian communities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521846349
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 07/31/2005
Series: Cambridge Latin American Studies , #90
Pages: 345
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.98(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

David T. Garrett is Associate Professor of History at Reed College. He is the author of articles in the journals Revista Andin and Hispanic American Historical Review. He has traveled extensively in the Andes, particularly in Peru and Bolivia.

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Shadows of Empire
Cambridge University Press
052184634X - Shadows of Empire - The Indian Nobility of Cusco, 1750-1825 - by David T. Garrett


On June 8, 1824, when Lima had fallen to Bolívar, Peru's viceroy had retreated to Cusco, and Spanish rule in the Andes had less than a year to go, Cusco's Inca nobility petitioned the viceregal court that on "...the eve and day of the glorious apostle Lord Santiago the functions of the Royal Standard be celebrated [by] of the Indian nobles of the eight parishes of this capital, named by the 24 electors of the [Inca] cabildo; being the said functions, the most vivid demonstration of our fidelity, gratitude, and jubilee, that are performed according to the example of our ancestors."1 A reminder of the existence, nearly three centuries after the conquest of the Inca empire in the 1530s, of an indigenous Andean nobility, the request wonderfully captures the complexity of colonial Andean society. The descendants of the Inca royalty whose vast empire had been seized by the Spanish did not simply swear allegiance to Ferdinand Ⅶ as the viceroyalty collapsed, but insisted on their right to do so. With them, the highland Indian nobility generally repudiated the creole-dominated drive for independence, just as in the 1780s their fathers and grandfathers had rallied to the defense of the crown against the massive indigenous uprisings of Tupac Amaru and the Cataris. While there is a superficial irony in the transformation, over three centuries, of the descendants of the Inca royalty and other preconquest elites into "Indian nobles and faithful vassals of His Majesty," their defense of the colonial order underscores how these Indian nobles were, simultaneously, an artifact of preconquest civilization and the continuously evolving creation of Spanish colonialism.2 This duality emerges clearly in their petition, where - in a practice with centuries of precedence - the nineteenth-century Incas called on the Spanish crown to preserve their peculiar privileges.

A study of Cusco's Indian nobility and its role in colonial society from the middle of the eighteenth century through the rebellions of the 1780s to the moment of the Incas' petition in support of a collapsing empire, this work both uses that group as a lens through which to analyze late colonial society more generally, and argues that the Indian elite was an essential, and accepted, part of that society until the crises of the late eighteenth century. From its inception, the structure of Spanish rule - dividing Andean society into two ethnic "republics" of Indians and Spaniards, with their own laws, hierarchies, and relation to the crown - had depended on a symbiotic, if often contentious, alliance between the crown and an indigenous elite.3 Both to show its own obedience to natural law and to limit the control of private Spaniards over the indigenous Andean population, under Philip Ⅱ the crown established a system of colonial governance that placed the rule of (and collection of tribute from) individual Indian communities under the control of an Indian nobility, a privileged stratum through which the crown would lead the people of the Andes from pagan barbarity to Christian civilization. While over two centuries there was considerable social movement within indigenous society, the basic contours of this colonial order remained unchanged until the late 1700s.

As a result, the Indian elite occupied a liminal position in the colonial order, on the frontier between the two republics. Their privilege and authority derived simultaneously from their rootedness in the Indian republic and from their obligation to bring indigenous society into conformity with Spanish ideals. Whether the Incas of Cusco or the great Aymara lords of the Titicaca basin, Indian elites grounded their hereditary precedence in ancestors dating to the "time of the gentility," yet they relied for its perpetuation on the legal structure and economic organization of the viceroyalty of Peru. But although situated on this colonial frontier, the Indian nobility was marginal to neither the Indian nor the Spanish republic. The pinnacle of indigenous society, Indian nobles dominated ceremonial, political, and economic life in their communities, and in many instances - above all, the Inca nobility around Cusco - were aggressive performers of a self-conscious, indigenous identity. They were also by far the most hispanicized segment of indigenous society, often literate and fluent in Spanish, the owners of private property, and active participants in the market economy and ceremonial life of creole Peru. Indeed, given the dual nature of the colonial order, their very liminality placed them at the center of colonial society, with strong ties of kinship and material interest to both their communities and highland Spaniards. If the actions and position of the Indian nobility appear contradictory, it is simply because they were the fullest embodiment of the contradictions of colonial rule in the Andes, with its simultaneous efforts to conjoin and to keep separate Spanish and Indian. As a result, the Indian nobility was inextricably enmeshed within the colonial order, and did not survive the collapse of the viceroyalty: if in 1750 "indio noble" was a basic category of highland society, by 1850 it was an oxymoron. For independence replaced the ideal of a society divided into two republics, each with its hierarchies, with that of a unitary society stratified by ethnicity, one with no space for Indian privilege.

Peru's colonial Indian nobility began to attract academic attention in the 1940s, with Ella Temple Dunbar's articles on colonial Inca lineages.4 Growing interest in the Great Rebellion (1780-3) further fed interest in the Indian elite, as John Rowe sought in them an anticolonial protonationalism culminating in Tupac Amaru.5 However, Andean historiography greatly lagged behind Mesoamerican in the study of colonial, indigenous society, which - both because of the influence of Charles Gibson's pioneering works of the 1950s and because of the survival of substantial archives in indigenous languages - has focused on ethnohistory and the transformation of societies during the colonial era.6 In contrast, only in the past three decades has a large canon addressing colonial indigenous societies in the Andes developed; and in lieu of the emphasis on negotiation and evolution in the Mesoamerican literature, the Andean historiography first focused on the destructive and dislocative effects of Spanish rule - or, as Steve Stern put it, "how conquest transformed vigorous native peoples of the Andean sierra into an inferior caste of 'Indians' subordinated to Spanish colonizers and Europe's creation of a world market."7 These studies have generally focused on the economic exploitation and political marginalization of native Andeans, and on indigenous resistance to the imposition, or emergence, of the colonial order.

With their materialist concerns, many of these works devoted considerable attention to the cacique (or curaca), a cross between local lord, tax collector, and justice of the peace who personified the point of contact between the Indian community and the Spanish colonial order, and organized the flow of tribute into the royal coffers and the market economy of Spanish Peru.8 In this paradigm, indigenous elites generally occupy one of two roles: that of resister and defender, or that of collaborator.9 For some, the novel forms of property and new material logics of class imposed by the Spanish transformed the caciques and "indios ricos" of colonial Peru into (incipient) agrarian capitalists, necessarily in conflict with the communities whose land and labor they expropriated.10 Others have stressed the disruption of cacical succession provoked by demographic collapse, the colonial economy, the intervention of Spanish officials, and the imposition of Spanish ideals of succession.11 Coupled with the colonial cacique's economic activities as a violation of the Andean moral economy is the colonial cacique as a usurper of traditional Andean political authority. Implicit in these analyses is an assumption of the "illegitimacy" of colonial innovation in the material and social relations of Andean society, as the history of colonial indigenous societies becomes the erosion of the authentically Andean and its replacement by the colonial.

This meta-narrative has created challenges largely absent in the Mesoamerican literature, with its greater interest in the transformation of indigenous society than in the collapse of preconquest organization. Most important is that of late colonial Andean society: under the Bourbons as well as the Habsburgs, overwhelmingly the indigenous peoples of the Andes lived in self-governing pueblos, under the rule of the Indian nobility. Certainly these communities differed profoundly from their preconquest forebears, but they remained "Andean," and "Indian." Two trends in recent historiography have addressed this question, in somewhat different ways. Glave and others have focused on the histories of particular communities and societies over the longue durée, using a paradigm of evolution and re-creation rather than one of loss to explore the colonial (and postcolonial) histories of native Andeans.12 Similarly, recent studies of colonial Andean religion and culture have emphasized the complexity of the beliefs, identities, and relations constructed by Peru's indigenous people during the colonial period.13 Others have turned to the eighteenth century, and in focusing on the structures, contradictions, and political beliefs of late colonial indigenous societies in the area of the Great Rebellion have revealed their complex politics.14 Here, too, the narrative has been of collapse, but of the larger colonial order, with a resulting restructuring, and democratization, of authority within indigenous communities. These studies have focused primarily on the popular classes, and the Indian nobility appear only as individuals, or, insofar as they form a group, as the object of class antagonism in the highly stratified societies of Upper Peru.15

This book continues both of these projects by examining in detail the organization of Cusco's mid-eighteenth-century Indian nobility and their role in society, and locating this group temporally in two stages of Spanish Andean colonialism: the consolidation of the "mature" order of the early Bourbons and the collapse of the entire colonial order from 1780 to 1825. In doing so, the work has three major foci: the history of the Indian nobility's legal and economic space within the colonial order; the organization of Cusco's Indian nobility and their role in society in the mid-1700s; and the collapse of the colonial order, and with it of this indigenous elite, from 1780 to 1825.

Central to this work is the argument that the defining relations and institutions of mid-eighteenth-century Andean society were primarily products of the sixteenth-century Toledan reforms, which in turn co-opted and transformed significant aspects of the Inca order. Chapter 1 concentrates on the 1500s and the material, political, and ideological factors that created a space for an Indian elite within the emergent colonial order. Although these parameters left enormous room for negotiation and localized contestation, the general rejection of the basic elements of Spanish hegemony was almost unheard of for two centuries. The imposition of this colonial order, and the collapse of the indigenous population, did, however, effect profound changes in Andean society over the long seventeenth century, and these are discussed in Chapter 2. In particular, it examines the impacts of population decline, migration, and the imposition of monogamy and reformulation of kinship and community bonds on the indigenous elite, and the impact of the expansion of the Spanish population, rural Spanish landholding, and the market economy on Andean society generally. While these changes could have disastrous effects on particular families, groups, and communities, they did not fundamentally alter the legal ordering established in the sixteenth century.

The remainder of the book focuses on the Indian nobility from 1750 to 1825. In concentrating on the late colonial period in Cusco and the Titicaca basin, I have attempted to negotiate two, often competing, goals. The first has been to examine the organization of the indigenous nobility and its role in mid-eighteenth-century Andean society. Certainly that society was marked by contradictions and tensions, but it also shared widely held understandings of its proper order and functioning. If, in hindsight, the fitful collapse, from 1780 to 1825, of the colonial order established in the sixteenth century appears inevitable, in 1750 it did not. I have sought to balance a reading of mid-eighteenth-century society that exposes the internal contradictions leading to its collapse with one that examines the habitus of the late colonial Indian nobility and emphasizes the mechanisms by which they reproduced their authority.16

The central portion of the book thus provides a longitudinal study of the Indian nobility in mid-eighteenth-century Cusco, one that pays particular attention to regional variation within the bishopric (and northern La Paz), particularly between the Inca nobility of Cusco and the Aymara cacical elite of the Titicaca basin. Chapter 3 assesses the extent to which hereditary, provincial elites existed within the Indian republic, and, where they existed, examines their histories and their strategies for reproducing their authority. Chapter 4 is a study of the role of indigenous elites in the material economy of the Indian pueblo, concentrating on the structural role of the cacique in the pueblo economy, the importance of private property in eighteenth-century indigenous communities, and the household and familial economies of the upper ranks of the indigenous elite. Chapter 5 turns to the politics of the Indian republic. It first analyzes competition for and conflict surrounding cacicazgos to identify multiple, interrelated loci of social conflict in the late colonial pueblo, and then explores various mechanisms by which individuals and families sought to legitimate their possession of the office. Thus, Part Ⅱ as a whole examines the Indian nobility of mid-eighteenth-century Peru by exploring the interrelated dynamics of hereditary status and family organization, material relations, and the political and performative aspects of indigenous authority.

The final section turns to the breakdown of the Andean colonial order in the face of rebellion, the crown's repudiation of the Indian nobility, the expansion of creole authority in the countryside, the collapse of the Spanish empire, and, finally, the formal abandonment of the two-republic system at independence. Using the Indian elite as a vantage point allows an examination that exposes the interaction of various processes that led to the restructuring of Andean politics and society at all levels. In examining the Great Rebellion(s) of 1780-3, Chapter 6 illuminates the central role of the loyalist Indian nobility, both highlighting the complex relations of class and ethnicity in the Indian republic and excavating the political ideology and strategies of the loyalist elite. Chapter 7 then turns to the royal response to the rebellion, and argues that while the rebellion greatly weakened the Indian nobility - particularly in the Titicaca basin - the collapse of this indigenous elite was ultimately the product of the crown's redefinition of the relations between the two ethnic republics in a way that eliminated the legal protections of Indian privilege. Here I seek to explain the collapse of a powerful Indian elite committed to the corporate order of colonial society in the decades preceding independence, thereby clearing the way for the creole imposition of the problematic liberalism of postcolonial Peru.

As a social history of a large group, this book relies overwhelmingly on archival sources. Indeed, the Indian nobility is the one stratum of indigenous society in colonial Peru for whom substantial archival evidence survives, both because they were the members of indigenous society with the resources to leave their mark in the written record and because they were the Indians to which literate, Spanish Peru paid most attention. Almost all the information is filtered through the notary's lens, and the rare documents actually written by Indian nobles were carefully crafted to appeal to crown officials; I have attempted to be attentive to the challenges that reading such documents present. But wills and other notarized documents; genealogies and proofs of nobility; lawsuits - between rival cacical claimants, between caciques and their communities, between the Inca nobility and colonial officials; petitions to the crown, all allow the study of genealogy, kinship, domestic economy, self-presentation, and ideology among the Indian nobility - and, through them, allow us to peer a bit deeper into the world of the colonial pueblo.

The area under study in this work is best described as either the bishopric of Cusco or the intendancies of Cusco and Puno (established in 1784).17 Or, using the divisions of Inca rule, the area covered consists of the Inca heartland within a fifty-mile radius of Cusco, along with the northern portion of the Inca quadrant of Collasuyo (extending southeast from Cusco into northern Argentina) and the eastern section of Condesuyo (stretching southwest toward Arequipa and the Pacific). A third of these roughly 75,000 square miles are tropical jungle, outside the regional political economy until the twentieth century. Half the remaining area is above 12,000 feet, and a considerable portion above 15,000, effectively uninhabitable. The population ranged from perhaps a million under the Incas to scarcely one hundred fifty thousand in the late 1600s and more than a quarter of a million a century later.

The area divides into several distinct regions, ecologically, culturally, and economically. The city of Cusco and its immediate hinterland are located in an area of rugged, temperate highland valleys at an altitude between 7,000 and 14,000 feet. Most communities are located in the quechua and suni: these are agricultural societies, whose foundation was corn, with potato cultivation and llama herding on the higher slopes; the Spanish added wheat, sheep, and cattle.18 Historically Quechua-speaking, this area was the heartland of the Incas; the region was also the site of intensive Spanish colonization and settlement. The city of Cusco was a center of Spanish population and authority in the highlands and the largest city between Potosí and Lima; as a result, urban society and the urban economy were extremely important to the colonial Inca nobility.

To the south and west, the upper reaches of the Vilcanota and Apurímac valleys were home to hundreds of communities with roots in the preconquest Aymara societies of Condesuyo and Collasuyo.19 At altitudes of 10,000-14,000 feet, these communities' material foundation was the potato and Andean camelids and, after the conquest, sheep. Just as the Pumanota-Chimboya mountain ridge divides the Titicaca and Amazonian watersheds, so the societies along it divided the Incas of Cusco from the societies of the Titicaca basin. Historically Aymara, but linguistically Quechua-speaking by the eighteenth century, the pueblos of Chumbivilcas, Tinta, and northern Lampa had a colonial history quite different from that of the Inca pueblos to the north. Subject to the mining mitas of Potosí and Cailloma, the Indian communities of this region bore particularly heavy colonial burdens and were subject to high rates of migration and dislocation; they also saw relatively little Spanish settlement and landowning. These puna communities also differed considerably from those further south where, in the Titicaca basin, larger Aymara societies continued to hold sway. Also subject to heavy mita burdens, these societies were historically more hierarchical and politically organized than those to the north - perhaps because they were more agricultural, depending for their subsistence on the fertile farmland of the lake's floodplain and tributary valleys. Their agricultural lands; their position at a critical juncture in the colonial economy, where the roads from Cusco and Arequipa join to head to Upper Peru; and the crown's early policy, to protect the mita, of discouraging Spanish settlement here combined to make the communities unusually rich and well-defended from Spanish settlement, allowing a high level of stratification to continue from the preconquest era to the end of the colonial period. United by Spanish rule, these regions nonetheless had distinct colonial histories.

© Cambridge University Press

Table of Contents

Part I. Indian Elites and the Colonial Order: 1. Spanish conquest and the Habsburg reforms; 2. The long seventeenth century; Part II. The Indian Nobility of Bourbon Cusco: 3. Cacical families and provincial nobilities; 4. Communal economies and Indian fortunes; 5. The politics of the Cacicazgo; Part III. Crisis and Collapse: 6. From reform to rebellion; 7. The breakdown of colonial order.

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