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Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780-1840 / Edition 1

Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780-1840 / Edition 1


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Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780-1840 / Edition 1

In Smoldering Ashes Charles F. Walker interprets the end of Spanish domination in Peru and that country's shaky transition to an autonomous republican state. Placing the indigenous population at the center of his analysis, Walker shows how the Indian peasants played a crucial and previously unacknowledged role in the battle against colonialism and in the political clashes of the early republican period. With its focus on Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, Smoldering Ashes highlights the promises and frustrations of a critical period whose long shadow remains cast on modern Peru.

Peru's Indian majority and non-Indian elite were both opposed to Spanish rule, and both groups participated in uprisings during the late colonial period. But, at the same time, seething tensions between the two groups were evident, and non-Indians feared a mass uprising. As Walker shows, this internal conflict shaped the many struggles to come, including the Tupac Amaru uprising and other Indian-based rebellions, the long War of Independence, the caudillo civil wars, and the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Smoldering Ashes not only reinterprets these conflicts but also examines the debates that took place-in the courts, in the press, in taverns, and even during public festivities-over the place of Indians in the republic. In clear and elegant prose, Walker explores why the fate of the indigenous population, despite its participation in decades of anticolonial battles, was little improved by republican rule, as Indians were denied citizenship in the new nation-an unhappy legacy with which Peru still grapples.

Informed by the notion of political culture and grounded in Walker's archival research and knowledge of Peruvian and Latin American history, Smoldering Ashes will be essential reading for experts in Andean history, as well as scholars and students in the fields of nationalism, peasant and Native American studies, colonialism and postcolonialism, and state formation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822322931
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 04/05/1999
Series: Latin America Otherwise Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Charles F. Walker is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the editor of Entre la retórica y la insurgencia: Las ideas y los movimientos sociales en los Andes, Siglo XVIII.

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Smoldering Ashes

Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780â"1840

By Charles F. Walker

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1999 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-8216-4



"Cuzco is the only place where you can gain a true idea of Peru."—Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzman, 1781

"The only word to sum up Cuzco adequately is evocative."—Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries

On May 18, 1781, horses dragged José Gabriel Condorcanqui into the central plaza of Cuzco. A local leader who claimed descent from the last Inca ruler of the sixteenth century, he had taken the title Tupac Amaru II to lead the largest rebellion in colonial Latin America. Backed primarily by Indians, the uprising had spread throughout much of South America and had nearly overthrown the Spanish. Six months into the fighting, however, colonial authorities captured Tupac Amaru II and several other key leaders. The punishment meted out to the rebels reflected the scope of the uprising and the panic of Spanish authorities. Tupac Amaru was forced to watch the execution of his comrades and family members, including his wife and key confidante, Micaela Bastidas, whose tongue was cut out before she was strangled. Executioners then tortured José Gabriel at length and tied him to four horses to be quartered. When his limbs did not separate from his torso, he was beheaded. The arms, legs, and heads of José Gabriel and Micaela were displayed throughout the viceroyalty.

Sixty years later, on November 18,1841, the Cuzco Caudillo and president of Peru, Agustín Gamarra, was killed when attempting to rouse his troops in Bolivia. Some contend that one of his own soldiers shot him. General Gamarra had participated in all of the major political events in the region since 1815. He had fought on both the loyalist and rebel sides in the War of Independence (1809-24), invaded neighboring countries, conspired in and put down coup attempts, and held the Peruvian presidency for two terms, 1829-33 and 1839-41, as leader of the conservative coalition. Throughout his political and military career, this quintessential caudillo maintained a strong base in his native Cuzco.

These two deaths bracket the narrative of this book. The lives of Tupac Amaru II and Agustín Gamarra symbolize the challenges of converting Peru from an ethnically diverse but highly stratified viceroyalty into an independent nation. In these sixty years, people fought for a variety of options to Spanish colonialism, with republicanism finally taking hold. The Indian leader of a mass uprising in the twilight of Spanish colonial rule and the conservative mestizo caudillo at the dawn of independence confronted many of the same obstacles. They had to address the sharp divisions between Peru's Indian majority and non-Indians, as well as other social and geographic tensions, such as the animosity between coastal Lima and highland Cuzco. Above all, they had to search for ways to reconcile the demands of disparate and contentious groups into a formula for the seizure and practice of power. In the pages that follow, I show that the practice of caudillismo and its relationship to state formation—in Peru and throughout Spanish America—can be understood only through a careful examination of the desires and political efforts of the lower classes and of their relationships to regional and national political movements.

Throughout this book, I demonstrate that the vast population of highland Indians—often understood to be passive and usually presented as an anonymous mass rather than as individuals—is the key to understanding the turbulent transition from colony to republic. In fact, from the Zapatistas in southern Mexico to the indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador, they remain today at the center of struggles over nation-state formation. Indians played important and often overlooked roles in the mass movements that fought (and defended) Spanish rule and clashed in the caudillo-led civil wars decades later. Indians not only followed leaders such as Tupac Amaru and Gamarra, but also influenced the movements' platforms by negotiating the terms of their participation. Historians have far too often accepted contemporary views that deemed Indians incapable of political consciousness and indifferent to the battles over the state.

I argue that local, regional, and "national" political struggles can be understood only when studied together. Community-based struggles were connected to and affected broader political movements in two ways. First, members in the community—and at times the entire community—would couple their opposition to a particular authority or a set of policies with a broader coalition, as was the case in hundreds of Indian communities during the Tupac Amaru uprising, but also during less tumultuous and historically visible periods. Second, Andean communities used less confrontational tactics to resist the onerous demands of the Bourbon and republican states. For example, they took abusive authorities to court with surprising success. I demonstrate that they not only defended their political and economic rights, but limited the course of action that political groups could take in the Andes. These efforts help explain why, despite their claims to omnipotence, the colonial state and the republican state could not freely impose their programs on Andean society.

Similarly, I also emphasize that the debates about postcolonial Peru were not limited to elite ideologues. I show that ideological battles over the nature of colonial and postcolonial society are at the heart of Spanish American state formation and nation building. The interplay between national identities and those based on region, ethnicity, religion, and other markers shape politics in the early republic as much as it does in the late twentieth century. To address these questions, theorists have increasingly emphasized how diverse groups "imagined" or "invented" the nation and how the state implemented its particular vision. In recent years, scholars have explored how different groups, elite and nonelite, constructed opposing notions of nationalism. In Peru, ideologues crafted a definition of Peruvian citizenship that excluded the vast majority of the population. The exclusionary policies and discourses that characterize the Andean republics today can be dated from this period. However, Indians and other lower-class groups also participated in these discussions, and in doing so, they contested the narrow notions of citizenship and political rights propagated by elite groups.

In this study, I examine the intricate and difficult relations among national ideologies and policies, regional political movements, and the lower classes. These different spheres need to be integrated in order to understand the difficulties in nation-state building that Spanish America encountered. Integrating them requires both a careful reconstruction of political movements that pays attention to a variety of tactics beyond insurrection and collective mobilization, and an examination of diverse ideological debates. I show how political movements included or excluded the dark-skinned lower classes, and how they were, in turn, influenced by and affected these groups. Subaltern political movements are neither autonomous nor fully dependent. Examining the connections and misconnections between "peasant politics" and multiclass regional and national movements illuminates Spanish Americas difficult postindependence history.

A program that stresses the role of the lower classes and highlights ideological battles can be accomplished only by paying close attention to the political battles themselves. Far too often, the dizzying change of presidents and other signs of turmoil after independence in Spanish America have led scholars to interpret the postindependence period as mere chaos or as elite machinations and lower-class failures. Anecdotes about several politicians simultaneously claiming the presidency in Peru or statistics that show a dozen presidents in a decade serve as symbols for political and social backwardness. This book, in contrast, seeks to illuminate the logic and nature of these struggles. Although postindependence caudillos largely agreed on republicanism as the proper form of government in Peru, they incorporated strands of federalism, regionalism, and even Inca revivalism into their programs. Even as they apparently abandoned the Constitution when they seized power by force, they aligned with political parties and created multiclass movements. Examining the Gamarra movement highlights the ideological and social complexity of caudillo coalitions.

The related theoretical fields—political culture and the new cultural history—lend an explanatory hand. These schools have reinvigorated political history by examining how political behavior and language changed, rather than by searching for winners and losers. Both schools grant politics a certain autonomy, instead of seeing it as merely a product of broader structural processes, particularly economic. They also pay close attention to language, discourse, and practice, searching for patterns of behavior as well as shared and conflicting views on how politics was to be practiced in a particular period. Latin Americanists who read studies on European cultural history envy the availability of sources and wonder whether such studies are possible for a period marked by turmoil in a region that has not always carefully preserved historical documents.

My experience demonstrates that such analyses of politics and culture in this period and region are possible. After I had conducted eight months of research in the Cuzco Departmental Archive, an employee mentioned the Velasco Aragón Collection locked up in an adjacent room. After removing a great deal of accumulated junk, dust, and miscellaneous books, we uncovered dozens of bound volumes containing newspapers and political pamphlets from the nineteenth century. These sources allowed me to explore the practice and rituals of caudillo politics, and to examine how the Gamarristas, the followers of General Agustín Gamarra, created and sustained a coalition in Cuzco and how it operated throughout Peru. I look not only at mass political uprisings such as rebellions and civil wars, but also at elections, celebrations, and military campaigns. In the midst of civil wars, the groups vying for control of the state—which included a surprisingly broad section of civil society—competed for followers by expressing their views in the streets and in the active press. Throughout Spanish America, historians are dusting off old sources and discovering new ones that highlight politics, culture, and society. I emphasize the need to link the study of public rituals such as parades and elections and discourse with the examination of the power struggles at the heart of caudillo politics. Scholars of political culture in Spanish America have too often separated political practices or rituals from material interests and battles over the state. Such a separation not only overlooks changes in political culture through time, particularly in the transition from colony to republic, but also lessens the explanatory power of cultural approaches to postindependence state formation.


This book builds on current efforts to place the lower classes at the center of history. Taking advantage of the vast amount of research in "peasant studies" in recent decades, scholars from a variety of disciplines are correlating local histories or the "little tradition" with large processes such as state formation. They explore how local, regional, national, and transnational trends intersect and affect one another. Accenting the reciprocal nature of this relationship, these studies demonstrate not only that national trends modify local society, but that local or regional spheres influence national politics and identity creation. They recognize that "the move in social history away from state politics, and toward a focus on the 'small people/ has often gone too far by dropping the state out of the picture."

Throughout this book, I maintain that peasant and caudillo politics were not separate fields, but intimately linked. Caudillos relied on peasants, and inhabitants of the countryside often found themselves embroiled in political struggles. I contend that only by linking these two areas of study can the difficult path to political stability and state formation in Spanish America be understood. With few exceptions, political turmoil enveloped the nascent Spanish American republics. Throughout the continent, military chieftains fought for the control of the state. In some cases they formed alliances against the leading political groups, which were usually divided into liberals and conservatives; in many other cases they joined with them. Some fended off lower-class subversion, whereas others championed populist movements. Some remained in national office for decades, but others led small, isolated local movements. Through the analysis of the Cuzco caudillo Agustín Gamarra, this book attempts to understand why and how caudillos predominated.

The question has long troubled Spanish Americans. Dating from Domingo Sarmiento's classic study of Facundo Quiroga (1845), caudillo analysis constitutes a prominent form of national self-examination, an enduring genre of Latin American literature that stretches from Sarmiento's nineteenth-century romanticism to the literary boom of the 1960s and beyond. Caudillos are the subject of countless novels, biographies, and social scientific essays, serving as lively metaphors for national problems and even national potential. In this sense, as a symbol of "strong man" politics, caudillismo is not limited to the military chieftains prominent in the nineteenth century. The study of caudillos addresses enduring problems of instability, fragmentation, and disunity that outlasted the military leaders themselves.

Scholars have approached caudillismo in many ways. Richard Morse presented the military strongmen as a key element of postindependence efforts to resurrect Spanish patrimonialism. Others contend that the lack of experience with self-government in the Spanish colonies and the deleterious effects of the long wars of independence hindered political stability and placed the military in a position to assume authority. Social scientists frequently cite the continent's economic problems as another cause of political instability. In order to explain the difficulty in establishing stable political institutions and thus the rise of caudillismo, some emphasize regional conflicts. According to this view, elegantly espoused by John Lynch, the caudillo emerged to represent politically and economically backward regions threatened by centralism or to control lower-class insurgency in this context of political disorder.

One element missing from these works is a detailed examination of how caudillos built alliances, constructed programs, and ran the state. Despite the centrality of caudillismo to understanding Spanish America, few studies have concentrated on how caudillismo functioned. The bureaucratic structures and cultural projects created by figures such as Gamarra endured far longer than the caudillos themselves; they marked state and society for decades, if not centuries. For example, the tax system dating from the 1820s lasted for decades, and Gamarra's conservative "Cuzco First" discourse resonates even today. Consequently, I examine how Gamarra created his movement in Cuzco, stressing the administrative and ideological mechanisms of the postcolonial state. I focus on the question of why such diverse groups as the elite, the middle sectors, and the lower classes supported or opposed particular caudillos. This analysis seeks to fulfill Joseph and Nugent's plea to bring the state back in without leaving the people out.

I emphasize the influence of ideological struggles dating from the eighteenth century on the nature of postcolonial Peru. The caudillo-led civil wars were not simply power struggles between greedy military officers. Throughout the country, they involved intense debate in the press and in public forums about the postindependence state, particularly the questions of political stability and the role of the lower classes. Government representatives and their allies inculcated their notion of state and society—their cultural project—through different policies, performance, and the press. I follow how these views were disseminated and contested by different sectors of Cuzco society, from the urban elite to the rural peasantry.


The former center of the Inca Empire, the city and region of Cuzco affords a particularly rich case for analyzing the political culture of modern Latin America. Cuzco-based movements led the initial struggles against Spanish domination and, after independence was won, against efforts to centralize power in the capital, Lima. These movements proposed diverse counterhegemonic ideological projects, all of them involving an Andean Utopia. By invoking the Inca Empire, people in Cuzco attempted to create alternatives to colonialism as well as to coastal domination. These "invented traditions" ranged from revolutionary change, with Indians at the top of the social pyramid, to Incan monarchism—with an "Inca" replacing the Bourbon king, but social hierarchies otherwise remaining in place. These diverse projects failed not only because of opposition in Lima and other regions but because of the tensions and disagreements between Cuzco's urban population, particularly mestizos, and the rural Indian majority. Nonetheless, I show that even if not put into practice, these projects shaped efforts to build a postcolonial state and define who were to be deemed citizens. Gamarra himself incorporated the Incas into his discourse. In fact, I examine the transition of Inca revivalism from a revolutionary platform during the Tupac Amaru uprising to one that bolstered a conservative caudillo in the early republic.


Excerpted from Smoldering Ashes by Charles F. Walker. Copyright © 1999 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This

Tulio Halperi'n Donghi

This pioneering study of the changing links between the state and its Indian subjects during the transition to the Republic is not only a truly brilliant reconstruction of a complex and enigmatic process but a vital contribution to the current effort to make sense of the painful birth of modern Spanish America.
Tulio Halperi´n Donghi, University of California, Berkeley

Eric Van Young

This is a very good book, and may even come to be a classic in this cutting-edge sub-field of Latin American history. The research is impressively deep, the writing clear, engaging, and rising at points to lyricism.
Eric Van Young, University of California, San Diego

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ashclan cat's put your bio's here.