The Lima Reader: History, Culture, Politics

The Lima Reader: History, Culture, Politics

by Carlos Aguirre, Charles F. Walker

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Covering more than 500 years of history, culture, and politics, The Lima Reader seeks to capture the many worlds and many peoples of Peru’s capital city, featuring a selection of primary sources that consider the social tensions and cultural heritages of the “City of Kings.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822373186
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 03/18/2017
Series: The Latin America Readers
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
File size: 154 MB
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About the Author

Carlos Aguirre is Professor of History at the University of Oregon and the author of The Criminals of Lima and Their Worlds: The Prison Experience, 1850–1935, also published by Duke University Press.  Charles F. Walker is Professor of History, Director of the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas, and MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in International Human Rights at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath and Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780–1840, both also published by Duke University Press.  

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The Lima Reader

History, Culture, Politics

By Carlos Aguirre, Charles F. Walker

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2017 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-7318-6


Pre-Hispanic, Conquest, and Early Colonial Lima

When Francisco Pizarro and his brothers in arms scouted areas in 1534 and early 1535 to establish a capital of Peru, they had the usual pragmatic concerns, above all securing sufficient water and agricultural land. Jauja in the central Andes had been an original favorite but was rejected, deemed too high and too distant from the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they selected a slightly inland spot along the Rímac River that could protect them from pirates yet lay on the coast, a good distance away from the center of the far-from-subjugated Inca Empire. On January 18, 1535, they laid out a classic Plaza Mayor just south of the river, with the state (what became the viceroy), the church, the municipality, and merchants occupying the four sides of the square and streets running from it at perfect right angles. It received two names, Lima and La Ciudad de los Reyes (The City of Kings). The first derived from a pre-Inca oracle in the valley, called Limaq (which also produced the name of the river and district, Rímac), and the second from the decision to found the city on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. The Spanish believed that they had set in stone (and adobe) an enduring symbol of Spanish rule, one that would house the different components of the conquering Iberians and oversee the domination of the Incas and all of South America.

They succeeded yet created a city very different than the one they imagined. The symbolic power of the plaza and its environs glorified Spanish domination and created a hierarchical society overseen by an omnipresent Catholic Church. Lima and its port, Callao (which now run together as the Lima Metropolitan Area), served as the entrepôt between Europe and South America and continue to be the nation's gateway to the world. Nonetheless, the Spanish built atop an indigenous religious center and decades later added an "Indian quarters" to the eastern part of the city. Colonial Lima counted on a sizable indigenous population — artisans, merchants, servants, and members of the indigenous aristocracy — and today Lima has more Quechua speakers (the Inca language) than any city in the world, approximately half a million. The decision to build the capital far away from Cuzco in no way isolated Europeans from indigenous Peru. Furthermore, the number of mestizos, the offspring of Europeans and indigenous people, increased rapidly.

African slavery bolstered the plantation economy and shaped Lima. By the eighteenth century, some referred to Lima as a predominantly black (African, Afro-Peruvian, and mixed groups) conglomeration. Lima and its nearby port also attracted immigrants and travelers from Asia (the Philippines) and northern Europe (including Protestants and Jews, to the chagrin of the Inquisition). Their presence as well as the surging mixed-race population imploded the official division of Peru into two republics, one of Spaniards and one of indigenous people. It should not be forgotten that Spaniards themselves were far from unified: bloody civil wars among the conquistadors raged for decades after Lima's foundation.

The Catholic Church was a full partner in the establishment of Lima. With the arrival of the Inquisition in 1570 and the building of more than one hundred churches, parishes, monasteries, and prayer houses, particularly of the Mendicant Orders and the Jesuits, the spiritual and social order would seem to have been well guarded. Nonetheless, authorities rapidly complained about widespread disregard for laws that sought to bolster the city's racial and class hierarchies and to control questionable public behavior. They blamed just about everyone, depending on the point of view of the critic, of course: lower classes and elites, men and women. Lima was almost from the start both a highly pious and highly sinful city, part of the nature of baroque cities, as explored in several texts here.

The texts highlight the rich ritual and public life of Lima, particularly its religious processions and festivals. Other writers underline the rich spiritual life behind convent doors. Social relations remained fluid and can be read in different ways. More conservative interpretations stress a harmony among different racial groups built around the shared piety and the devotion to public rituals. Others would stress tensions, noting the uneasiness about possible uprisings among the indigenous in Lima and far beyond as well as concerns about slave resistance. Lima not only feared pirates and European marauders — it also dreaded subversion from within or potential attacks by rebels. The walls that surrounded it from the 1680s to the 1860s aimed to protect the City of Kings from foreign invaders and from invaders within Peru.

Pre-Hispanic Lima

César Pacheco Vélez

Pizarro and his band of conquistadors sought to establish Lima in an area free of indigenous settlements. Not only were they following Castilian policy (disregarded, clearly, by the imposition of "Mexico City" on top of Tenochtitlan), they also feared the Incas and suffered in the high altitude of the Andes. However, finding a suitable place with adequate water and shelter and with no indigenous settlements would prove impossible. Both the Incas and other previous and contemporary cultures had settled in the best valleys and river streams in the highlands and the coast. Lima could never escape its proximity to pre-Columbian settlements, sanctuaries, and peoples. Even today, more than fifty huacas or large monuments and shrines rise up throughout the city, and excavations continue to find buildings and other remains that predate the Spanish. The historian César Pacheco Vélez (1929–89) underlines Lima's foundational ties to the indigenous people who not only surrounded it but also built it.

The Spanish Crown followed a policy — outlined in edicts by Charles V and Philip II — of not founding cities in the midst of preexistent native settlements. This is the case with the new capital of the kingdom of Peru. Chroniclers refer to the site where Pizarro founded the city on that pleasant January morning of 1535. But it so happens that this locale had an elusive, centuries- or millennia-long heritage, as some of the most ancient (over twelve thousand years old) human settlements known have been discovered in its vicinity. These include the ruins of Paraíso in the Chillón Valley, which was probably inhabited up to 4000 BC and constitutes one of the oldest stone monuments of the Western hemisphere; the settlements of Ancón, also ten thousand years old; Cajamarquilla, a pre-Inca village in the Rímac Valley, which was uninhabited when the conquistadors arrived; and the massive and densely populated sanctuary of Pachacamac in the Lurín Valley, which also represented the earliest sign of the region's predestination to host the new capital. The Spanish also discovered numerous huacas or shrines between the hamlets of Limatambo, Armatambo, and Maranga. ... The region boasts abundant evidence of an uninterrupted human presence spanning centuries or millennia: it was the southernmost frontier during the Chavin Period; the northwestern reaches — but not quite the northernmost border — during the Wari Period; a clearly defined local culture during the Late Intermediate Period; and a region recently subjugated by the Incas around the time of the Spanish arrival. The pre-Hispanic ethnic groups of the central coast of modern-day Peru, specifically those concentrated in the valleys of Huaura, Chillón, Rímac, and Lurín, constitute a common entity with those of the highlands of Yauyos, Canta, and Huarochirí, suggesting that the arbitrary borders of the modern Department of Lima — disjointed in both its roads and its economy — respect the cultural identity forged in the first half of the sixteenth century, during which they adjusted to domination by the Inca and subsequently by the Spaniards.

The concrete jungle of the megalopolis now straddles the Chillón, Rímac, and Lurín Valleys of the central coast, the former homogeneous territory of a series of señoríos (lordships) and kurakazgos. These señoríos carved up the territory in a different pattern than the European one. Due to the importance of irrigation in their desert-based agricultural society — in which hydraulic techniques were the key to well-being — they rebuffed fixed borders and instead favored different types of access. In the lower course of the three rivers that seem to converge into what would later become Lima, irrigation ditches and floodgates bear witness to a pattern of settlement that is both clever and prolific. The Spanish came upon about twenty villages of potters and farmers and four fishermen's coves in the entire region. The central valley of Lima — or Rímac, following the pronunciation by highlanders — features the señorío of Sulco or Surco, with its villages of Armatambo and Guatca or Huatica; the señorío of Lima proper, with its village of Rimactambo or Limatambo; and the señoríos of Malanga or Maranga, Amancaes, and Collique, all of which were associated with or subordinated to the señorío of Ychma or Pachacamac, and in whose ceremonial center priests seemed to wield more power than any kuraka could. And it is through the yunga valleys that these pre-Inca señoríos — which remained mostly unaffected by Inca conquest — and their neighbors to the north and the highlands (toward Canta and Huaura) articulated the millennia-old bonds between highlands and lowlands. Their alleged antagonism is disproven by this centuries-old relationship.

The yunga señoríos that had been recently conquered by Cuzco were peppered with many hamlets or villages, full of millennial human remains, that could not be considered cities in the Western sense. The nucleus of the entire territory was religious in nature: Pachacamac. It was one of these small settlements — Lima — that was chosen by Pizarro to make a reality out of this premonition of a city.

Pizarro followed the tradition of not founding a city next to a preexisting ceremonial center — Pachacamac was located several leagues away. Some believe, however, that the promontory of the atrium of the Cathedral of Lima may betray the presence of a small native huaca, or shrine, which was, as was common practice at the time, destroyed prior to the construction of the Christian temple. Nevertheless, pre-Hispanic Lima's main huaca lay farther east, by the orchard and mill that would later belong to Jerónimo de Silva. Located behind the convent of La Concepción and the Hospital of Santa Ana, in Barrios Altos, it may have been referred to as the Huaca Grande or Huaca of Santa Ana. It was later destroyed in order to prevent Indian worship of the oracle, the god Rímac, a rather vocal god, as opposed to the silent Pachacamac. It was this oracle that the river and the city of Rimactambo were named after: that is, "the town or village of the god who speaks."

Translated by Jorge Bayona

The Foundation of Lima

Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca

Garcilaso de la Vega (b. Cuzco 1539–d. Montilla 1616) embodied two of the conflicts that defined early colonial Peru: raging battles among the first generation of Spanish conquistadors and the debates about what to do with mestizos, the offspring of Spaniards and indigenous people. His mother, Chimpu Ocllo, was related to the Inca Tupac Yupanqui and was the niece of Huayna Capac, the Inca ruler, while his father, Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega Vargas, was a noble and conquistador. His father became embroiled in the Pizarro-Almagro civil war and was taken prisoner by Pizarro's brother Gonzalo. In 1549, after the defeat of the Pizarro clan, Spanish authorities ordered that all Spaniards who had encomiendas (the right to tax and exploit a group of Indians) marry Europeans. De la Vega Vargas complied, and Chimpu Ocllo also remarried (her new spouse was a less prestigious Spaniard). Their son's position in Cuzco and Peruvian society thus plummeted overnight; a mestizo such as Garcilaso de la Vega would not form part of the colonial aristocracy.

Garcilaso de la Vega grew up bilingual in Spanish and Quechua, well versed in both Spanish and Inca history. He lived in Cuzco at the point when the Incas moved their resistance to the jungle, but left for Spain in 1560. He continued to study, gained military experience, and settled in Montilla, near Córdoba. His landmark work, Royal Commentaries of the Incas, and its second part, called The General History of Peru (published posthumously in 1617), made him the first American-born writer to enter the Spanish literary canon. Baptized Gómez Suárez de Figueroa (in honor of a noble Spanish ancestor), he adopted the name of his father and added El Inca to distinguish himself from a distant relative and great Spanish Renaissance poet of the same name. He is best known for his history of the Incas, glorifying them and casting them in terms that Europeans could appreciate, and of the conquest. While Cuzco was the subject of much of his writing, he also left this precise account of the foundation of Lima, which he incorrectly dates as 1534 rather than 1535.

As soon as the governor [Francisco Pizarro] had dealt with Alvarado, he sent his companion Almagro to Cusco with most of the gentlemen who had come with Alvarado, so as to confer with Prince Manco Inca and the governor's two brothers Juan and Gonzalo Pizarro. He recommended them to serve the Inca and treat the Indians well, so that the natives should not be provoked or the Inca lose his affection for the Spaniards, to whom he had come of his own free will. The governor remained in the valley of Pachacamac, desiring to establish a city on the coast and take advantage of the traffic over the sea. Having consulted his friends, he sent people who were experienced in nautical affairs to explore the coast in both directions to find some good port, which was essential for what he had in mind. He learned from them that four leagues north of Pachacamac there was a good port at the bottom of the Rímac Valley. He went there and inspected the advantages of the port and the valley; and decided to transfer thither the town he had begun to build at Jauja, thirty leagues inland from Rímac. The city was founded on the Day of the Kings, Epiphany 1534.

With regard to the years of these events there is some disparity between the various authors, some of whom place events earlier and others later, while others give the decades, such as 1530, but leave the last number blank, so as to avoid errors. We shall leave opinions aside, and count the years by the most notable occurrences. It is certain, and all authors agree on this, that Pizarro, Almagro, and the schoolmaster Hernando de Luque established their triumvirate in 1525. They spent three years on the discovery before reaching Tumbes for the first time, and took two years more to come to Spain and obtain the right to conquer Peru and to return to Panama and prepare the expedition. They reached the island of Puna and Tumbes in 1531. The capture of Atahualpa took place in December of the same year, and his death was in March 1532. In October of this year they entered Cusco, where Pizarro remained until April 1533, when he learned of the coming of Alvarado. In September 1533 he left Cusco to pay Alvarado the sum agreed in their bargain, and he founded Lima on the Day of the Kings at the beginning of 1534. It was for this reason that Lima took as its arms and device the three crowns of the holy kings and the shining star that appeared to them.

The city was beautifully laid out, with a very large square, unless it be a fault that it is too big. The streets are broad and so straight that the country can be seen in four directions from any of the crossroads. It has a river that runs to the north of the city, from which many irrigation channels are drawn. These water the fields and are brought to all the houses in the city. When seen from a distance, the city is ugly, for it has no tiled roofs. As there is no rain in that region or for many leagues around on the coast, the houses are covered with thatch of excellent local straw. This is covered with two or three fingers' thickness of mud mixed with the straw, which suffices for shade against the sun. The houses are well built inside and out, and are daily improved. It stands two shaft leagues from the sea, and I am told that the part that has been built in recent years is approaching the sea. Its climate is hot and damp, a little less than Andalusia in summer: if it is less so, it is because the days are not so long and the nights not so short as they are here in July and August. The degree of heat lost by the later rising and earlier setting of the sun and the greater freshness of the night, which begins earlier and lasts longer, explains its greater coolness as compared with Andalusia. But because in Lima the heat is constant throughout the year, the inhabitants grow accustomed to it and take the necessary measures against it. They have cool rooms, wear summer clothes, and use light bed-covering; and take steps so that the flies and mosquitoes (which are numerous on the coast) shall not molest them by day or night. There are day and night mosquitoes in the hot valleys of Peru. The nocturnal ones are like those of Spain, with long legs and of the same color and shape, though they are much bigger. Spaniards emphasize how fiercely they sting by saying they can penetrate a leather boot. They say this because knitted stockings, even if of kersey or worsted, provide no defense, not even when linen is worn underneath. The mosquitoes are more savage in some regions than in others. The clay mosquitoes are small and exactly resemble those found in wine cellars in Spain, except that they are as yellow as weld. They are so bloodthirsty that I have been assured that not content with sating themselves, they have been seen to burst while sucking. In order to test this, I let some of them prick me and take their fill of blood: when sated, they were unable to rise and could only roll away. The sting of these smaller mosquitoes is somewhat poisonous, especially if the flesh is unhealthy, and produces small wounds, though they are not serious.


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  xv
Introduction  1
I. Pre-Hispanic, Conquest, and Early Colonial Lima  7
II. Bourbon Lima  37
III. From Independence to the War of the Pacific (1821–1883)  67
IV. Modernizing Lima (1895–1940)  101
V. Interlude: Nostalgia and Its Discontents  143
VI. The Many Limas (1940–)  161
Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing  257
Acknowledgment of Copyrights and Sources  263
Index  269

What People are Saying About This

The Peru Reader - Orin Starn

"Carlos Aguirre and Charles F. Walker, two leading scholars of Peru, bring their vast expertise to decoding one of this hemisphere’s great cities. Lima is an intriguing, intimidating, pulsing tangle of a metropolis at the desert’s gray ocean edge. The Lima Reader is the single best book for anyone seeking to understand the city in the almost dizzying impossibility of its remarkable history and culture."

Efraín Kristal

"The Lima Reader is the most helpful introduction to the Peruvian capital available in any language, and the most compelling since Sebastián Salazar Bondy's Lima the Horrible (1964). With a keen understanding of the city's history, demographic transformations, multiracial complexities, socioeconomic tensions, and insights of creative writers, Carlos Aguirre and Charles F. Walker present a rich gamut of historical, sociological, and literary documents whose satisfying whole is greater than its parts."

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