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THE CHRONICLERS OF THE
SPANISH CONQUEST OF PERU
This is a work in progress. Check back for additions.
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Those who observed and studied the people of the Tawantinsuyu did us, modern students of this marvellous shamanic cosmovision, a great service because they were excellent record-keepers and wrote everything down. Granted, their perception was greatly stained with religious bigotry; nonetheless, without their scholarly efforts, the love of Pachamama and the expansive abilities in consciousness that we have gained with our studies would not have been possible, at least not in this depth.
I am busy stitching together a more complete picture from myriad sources within this glossary, as are many other scholars within their own venues. The dogged mining of information by modern archaeologists has brought, and will continue to bring, to light valuable nuggets to expand and deepen our own understanding.
FATHER BLAS VALERA
Born: 1545, Chachapoyas, Peru
Died: 1597, Cadiz, Spain
Father Blas Valera
So, let's find out about Padre Valera who, 400 years after his death, is creating quite the firestorm in archaeological circles. I strongly recommend that you read this bio in conjunction with the quipu article entitled Talking Knots of the Inca in Appendix C, as well as the bios of Garcilaso de la Vega and Guaman Poma de Ayala, below. The recommended quipu article and the two bios tell us about an historical soap opera of plagiarism, lies exposed and the possible tipping of a couple of sacred cows. -- Patt
We begin this biographical sketch with the discovery of an old manuscript in an Italian private library that contains startling revelations about Valera, Guaman Poma and the quipu:
In the spirit of justice Blas Valera broke all the rules-and paid with his life. Hundreds of years later, his ghost has returned to haunt the official story. But is it the truth, and will it set the record straight?
This is the tale of Father Blas Valera, the child of a native Incan woman and Spanish father, caught between the ancient world of the Incas and the conquistadors of Spain. Valera, a Jesuit in sixteenth-century Peru, believed in what to his superiors was pure heresy: that the Incan culture, religion, and language were equal to their Christian counterparts.
As punishment for his beliefs he was imprisoned, beaten, and, finally, exiled to Spain, where he [supposedly] died at the hands of English pirates in 1597.
Four centuries later, this Incan chronicler had been all but forgotten, until an Italian anthropologist discovered some startling documents in a private Neapolitan collection. The documents claimed, among other things, that Valera's death had been faked by the Jesuits; that he had returned to Peru; and, intriguingly, while there had taught his followers that the Incas used a secret phonetic quipu -- a record-keeping device of the Inca empire-to record history.
Far from settling anything, the documents created an international sensation among scholars and led to bitter disputes over how they should be assessed. Are they forgeries, authentic documents, or something in between? If genuine, they will radically reform our view of Inca culture and Valera. From www.bibliovault.org/BV.book.epl?ISBN=9780472113538
Father Joan Antonio Cumis begins drafting the document [an old manuscript recently discovered in a private library], writing a few pages in Latin. He tells of the censorship to which Valera was subjected by the Jesuits and of the destruction of nearly all of his writings, many of which were critical of Jesuit policies in Peru. According to Cumis some of these were saved and later given to a noble of Inka descent by Valera. From the Archaeology magazine article mentioned above (given in full in Appendix C).
I am convinced that the news that I am about to put down on record will remain a memorable moment for the Peruvian people, news that was reported to me by the former curaca Mayachac Azuay upon his arrival at Cuzco, when the conquistadores were executing [the Inka leader] Tupac Amaru in 1572. This curaca [a member of the Inka nobility who oversaw the affairs of his lineage group] provided me with a lot of interesting information particularly about the half-breed Father Blas Valera, whom he had known personally. This old and noble curaca knew Blas Valera, who had been a defender and spiritual guide of his people, but the friars contested him because he took sides against the Spaniards who tortured the native Quechua in order to obtain their gold…. Father Valera did not accept those among the priests who had the name of Christ in their mouths but not in their hearts….” Archaeology, Volume 49 Number 6, November/December 1996
The life and work of the priest Blas Valera confirms that truth is stranger than fiction. Recent research published by the Italian peruvianist Laura Laurencich Minelli gives new light on this enigmatic Jesuit mestizo chronicler considered 'politically incorrect' by the official history of Peru. Roberto Ochoa B., La Republica, Peru
[The following text is from an article in La Republica, published in Peru. It is taken from a computer translation of the article from Spanish into English. The original text in Spanish can be read here.]
The Catholic, Apostolic and Roman monopolized western knowledge from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, managing information prior to censorship, punishing with death any deviation in dogma. This propensity to repress anything that contradicts the official truth moved to the Americas after the conquest and also affected the chronicles that originated in the New World. The Viceroyalty of Peru passed under the iron subjugation and ideological control managed by the dreaded Inquisition.
In 1996, Italian peruanista Laura Laurencich Minelli presented research on the Miccinelli Manuscripts [the manuscript mentioned above] in the IV International Congress of Ethnohistory, held in Lima in June of that year. Laurencich's presentation was based on the enigmatic Exsul Inmeritus Populo Suo Blas Valera, a bilingual manuscript (Latin text and Quechua translation) with color illustrations, quipu, pieces of metal, fabrics prehispanic iconography and even a piece of spondyllus shell . The work was written in the early years of the conquest by the Jesuit priest Blas Valera, tested with paleographical and chemical analyzes by Italian universities, the manuscript is original and corresponds to the dates given in the text. It was sent to Europe in the utmost secrecy in a box that is still preserved in the collection of antiquarian Clara Miccinelli, an Italian lady descended from an old family whose family tree include popes, cardinals, Italian-Spanish nobles and viceroys in America. The document breaks all the schemes of the official story: eyewitnesses saying that Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa Inca after poisoning his warlords. Valera also reveals the clandestine activity of a lodge known as The Brotherhood of the Name of Jesus of Cusco, dedicated to exposing the abuses of the clergy and of the conquerors, to claim indigenous-rights after creating a syncretic and "Peruvian" church -- and the restoration of the Inca economy following the precepts of the early Christians.
In Cusco, Blas and other Jesuits formed the Brotherhood of the Name of Jesus, whose activities were uncomfortable for the colonial government. Valera was then accused of breaking his vows of chastity (no details given of the case) and sent to Spain to "regenerate." Valera decides to return to Peru under another name. Here he resumed his contacts with members of the Brotherhood of the Name of Jesus and a group of Spaniards who denied the official version of capturing Atahualpa. According to Blas Valera, and based on testimony from soldiers and others who participated in the capture of Atahualpa, the last Inca was never defeated in battle, but after the poisoning of his principal military chiefs. Blas Valera wrote that the people of Tawantinsuyu were the true owners of Peru. It is then that he decided to write the New Corónica and Good Governance, paying signature Indian Guaman Poma de Ayala for the use of his name "in exchange for a horse and cart."
Garcilaso de la Vega
Born: 1539, Cusco, Peru
Died: 1616, Nice, France
Garcilaso de la Vega
Born Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, and known as El Inca, Garcilaso was a chronicler and writer from the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru.The son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca noblewoman, he is recognized primarily for his contributions to Inca history, culture, and society. Although not all scholars agree, many consider Garcilaso's accounts the most complete and accurate available. Garcilaso's mother, Inca princess Palla Chimput Ocllo, was descended from Inca nobility, a daughter of Tupac Huallpa and a granddaughter of the powerful Inca Tupac Yupanqui. Garcilaso lived with his mother the first ten years of his life and learned to speak both Quechua and Spanish. Garcilaso wrote accounts of Inca life, history, and the conquest by the Spanish. His writings were published as the Comentarios Reales de los Incas (translated complete into English in 1961 as The Incas).
Garcilaso accused Blas Valera of plagiarizing and distorting the Comentarios Reales de los Incas in his book Exsul Inmeritus Blas Valera Populo Suo to conform to official censorship. The truth is that Garcilaso himself cites Blas Valera several times in his work, but the Jesuit chachapoyano [Valera was from Chachapoyas] reveals that not only had Garcilaso misquoted and distorted all information related to the quipu as literature by minimizing the quipu to a simple accounting function. According to Valera, Garcilaso did not understand literary quipu and ignored the existence and interpretation of capac quipus. CBV
Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás
Born: Seville, Spain, 1499
Died: La Plata, Bolivia, 1570
A Spanish Dominican missionary and grammarian, he arrived in Peru in 1540 and founded the convent and city of Yungay. For the purpose of evangelization, he learned the Quechua language spoken along the coast near Lima. In 1560 he published his Grammatica o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los Reynos del Perú, the first book printed in Quechua. In the same year appeared his Lexicon, o Vocabulario de la lengua general del PERV. The coastal dialect of Quechua was significantly different than that of Cusco.
Father Diego González Holguín
Born: Extremadura, Spain, 1560
Died: Lima, Peru ca. 1620
Diego was a Spanish Jesuit priest and researcher of the Quechua language during the times of the Viceroyalty of Peru. He arrived to Peru as missionary in 1581 and studied the Quechua language during 25 years in the city of Cusco. By 1607, he published in Lima his Grammar and arts of the general language of Peru, a year later the Vocabulary of the general language of the entire Peru, the first dictionary of the Quechua of Cusco. It was the second most important work about the Quechua language. Click here to download a digital image file of Diego's Quechua-Spanish/Spanish-Quechua dictionary (large file 111.4 MB).
Father José de Acosta
Born: Medina del Campo, Spain, 1539
Died: Salamanca, Spain, 1600
José de Acosta
José de Acosta was a Spanish Jesuit missionary and naturalist in Latin America in the 16th-century. In April 1569, he was sent to Lima, Peru, where the Jesuits had been established in the proceeding year.
He left Spain with several of the Jesuit brethren at age thirty-two in 1570, landing at Carthagena, Panama, then journeyed through 18 leagues of tropical forest. Here he enjoyed the beauties of the glorious scenery, the novel sights at every turn, and was interested in the clever antics of troops of monkeys. From Panama he embarked for Peru in pursuance of his missionary work. He expected, as professed by the philosophers that he had studied, an unbearable intense heat in crossing the equator, but found it to be so cool in March that he laughed at Aristotle and his philosophy.
On his arrival at Lima, he was ordered to cross the Andes, apparently to join the Viceroy in the interior. He took the route, with fourteen or fifteen companions, across the mountainous province of Huarochiri, and by the lofty pass of Pariacaca [over 14,000 ft.], where the whole party suffered severely from the effects of the rarefied atmosphere. Acosta was one of the earliest people to give a detailed description of altitude sickness, a variety of which is referred to as Acosta's disease. He also mentions an attack of snow blindness and the way in which an Indian woman cured him.
The principal seat of the Jesuits was at that time in the little town of Juli, near the western shores of Lake Titicaca. Here a college was formed, the languages of the natives were studied, and eventually a printing press was established. Acosta probably resided at Juli during much of his stay in Peru. It was here, in all likelihood, that he observed the famous comet of 1577, from November 1 to December 8, which extended like a fiery plume from the horizon nearly to the zenith. Here, too, he devoted much of his time to the preparation of several learned works, which he later took back to Spain in manuscript, including the first two books of the Natural History of the Indies.
In 1579, Sir Francis Drake was on the coast, and the Viceroy dispatched a fleet, partly to chase the English pirate and partly to explore and survey the Strait of Magellan. Acosta had conversations with the pilot of Sarmiento's fleet, and was allowed to inspect his chart [pilots of this era were notoriously secretive about their charts], thus obtaining much hydrographic information, and particulars respecting the tides in the straits.
Acosta founded a number of colleges, among them those of Arequipa, Potosí, Chuquisaca, Panama and La Paz. His official duties obliged him to investigate personally a very extensive range of territory so that he acquired a practical knowledge of the vast province and of its aboriginal inhabitants. At the 1582 session of the Third Council of Lima, Father Acosta played a very important part and was its historian. He delivered an eloquent and learned oration at its last sitting on October 18, 1583.
Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas
Born: 1559, Cuellar, Segovia, Spain
Died: 1625, Madrid, Spain
Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas
Herrera's historiography of the Americas began with his Descripción de las Indias, published in 1601, in which he included various maps and foldout pages. In spite of its being considered an independent work, as that is how it was published, it serves as the introduction to his Décadas, establishing a pattern often imitated by twentieth century writers: he treats the geographical matters in the strictest sense of the word, such that it serves as a helpful tool for understanding the history he would publish subsequently, describing the locations of significant places and the lay of the land as the setting in which the history played out.
The tradition which began with Columbus' first voyage culminated with Herrera's Descripción. It is composed of several chronicles, nautical treatises, and other manuals, as well as extensive cartography. Herrera drew upon all these sources to compose the text of his Descripción and its fourteen maps of the Americas and the Far East. It was common in later editions of his Décadas to include his Descripción as a supplement, although on occasion it was published separately. It was translated into English, by Captain John Stevens in 1725, as well as German, French, and Latin.
Herrera is most widely recognized for his Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del mar Océano que llaman Indias Occidentales, known as Décadas, which was published by Juan Flamenco and Juan de la Cuesta between 1601 and 1615, in four volumes. It is the most complete written history of the Americas, and as its title indicates, the work focuses on telling the events experienced by the conquistadors, passing over the natural environment, which he had already covered in his Descripción, and the indigenous world, hence it is a history of events rather than of things. Nor is it a history whose underlying objective was to understand and evaluate events, rather it is fundamentally descriptive, leaving personal judgments to the side, retelling the events in which the Castilians were the main actors.
The Décadas are considered a work not subject to influence, since the author did not live through the experiences he describes, attempting to acquaint the reader with them through the chronicles of his predecessors in his post and other learned men of letters, and through all the official documents which, due to his position, he had within reach, so that it was the first history of the Americas which used all the available historical sources and so was the first general history of the Americas.
Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala
Born: Lucanas, Ayacucho Peru, ca. 1535-1550
[The following is from Wikipedia and gives current belief about Guaman Poma. Refer to Appendix C and to the bio of Blas Valera, above, to read about a startling new finding that is creating a bit of an uproar in the academic community, especially regarding Poma.]
The son of a noble family from the central Southern Peruvian province of Lucanas, he was a direct descendent of the eminent indigenous conqueror and ruler Huaman-Chava-Ayauca Yarovilca-Huanuco, Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala was a fluent speaker of several Quechua dialects who probably learned Spanish as a child or adolescent. The information known about Guaman Poma's life comes from a variety of written sources. It is believed that the first time he left his hometown was when he served as an interpreter on a church inspection tour of a Spanish priest named Cristóbal de Albornoz, who was attempting to eliminate idolatries in the small Quechua towns. In the late 1580s to early 1590s, he was an assistant to Fray Martin de Murua, another Spanish cleric. In 1594 he was employed by the Spanish judge of Huamanga who was in charge of land titles. In late 1600, however, all of his property was confiscated and he was banished from Huamanga, an event that led to his travels throughout the country and most likely to the construction of his masterpiece.
A handful of sixteenth-century documents attest that Guaman Poma served in the 1560s-70s as a Quechua translator for Fray Cristóbal de Albornoz in his campaign to eradicate the messianic apostasy, known as Taqui Onqoy, from the Christian doctrine of local believers.
Guaman Poma appeared as a plaintiff in a series of lawsuits from the late 1590s, in which he attempted to recover land and political title in the Chupas valley that he believed to be his by family right. These suits ultimately proved disastrous for him; not only did he lose the suits, but in 1600 he was stripped of all his property and forced into exile from the towns which he had once ruled as a noble.
Guaman Poma's great work was El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno (The First New Chronicle and Good Government), a 1,189-page document. His book remains the longest sustained critique of Spanish colonial rule produced by an indigenous subject in the entire colonial period. Written between 1600 and 1615 and addressed to King Philip III of Spain, the Corónica outlines the injustices of colonial rule and argues that the Spanish were foreign settlers in Peru. "It is our country," he said, "because God has given it to us." The king never received the document. [Fifty years after Philip received it, the book wound up in the collections of the King of Denmark and forgotten. It was rediscovered in 1908.]
The Corónica is remarkable in many ways. First, it has brilliant melding of writing and fine line drawings (398 pages of the book consist of Guaman Poma's famous full-page drawings). Second, the manuscript expresses the view of a provincial noble on the conquest, whereas most other existing expressions of indigenous views from the colonial era come from the nobility of Cusco. Third, the author frequently uses Quechua words and phrases in this primarily Spanish work, which provided material for scholars to learn more about Quechua.
Guaman Poma proposed a new direction for the governance of Peru: a "good government" that would draw from Inca social and economic structures, European technology, and Christian theology, adapted to the practical needs of Andean peoples. He writes that indigenous governments treated their subjects far better than the Spaniards and pleads with King Phillip to instate Indians to positions of authority. It is important to note that, although he rejects Spanish rule, he does not reject the Spanish king. During that time, monarchs were typically seen as descendants of God and being strongly Catholic, Guaman Poma holds the Spanish monarch in the highest regard. In his writing, he not only wants to propose changes in society, but also to bring perceived injustices to the attention of the king, who, as representative of God, surely would not have allowed them to occur had he known.
Twentieth-century scholars had often speculated that there was some relationship between Guaman Poma's Corónica and Fray Martín de Murúa's Historia general del Piru (1616), assuming that Guaman Poma served as an informant or coauthor to Murúa. In 1967, Condarco Morales compared the texts and concluded that Guaman Poma followed Murúa's work. A direct relationship between Guaman Poma and Murúa was confirmed in 2007-2008 by a project at the Getty Research Institute. These scholars proved that Murúa's chronicle includes illustrations by Guaman Poma. They concluded that Guaman Poma was one of a team of scribes and artists who worked for Murúa. While Murúa's project began sometime in the 1580s, Guaman Poma became involved only as an illustrator and only shortly before 1600. Still, his contribution to Historia general del Piru is very significant.
Guaman Poma notably attacks Murúa in his Corónica, including depicting the friar's striking and kicking an indigenous woman seated at a loom. This image is entitled "The Mercedarian friar Martín de Murúa abuses his parishioners and takes justice into his own hands." According to Rolena Adorno, "...when he became an author, after 1600, [Guaman Poma] was highly critical of a work by Murúa that he had recently illustrated. Guaman Poma was prompted to write his own account against what he understood to be Murúa's limited perspective, which he had encountered in [the original manuscript of Historia general del Piru].
Guaman Poma wrote about Andean history back to the era predating the Inca. He also elaborated a long and highly critical survey of colonial society, unique among other manuscripts of the era. Guaman Poma's artistic range, displayed in his nearly 400 drawings, was based on his experience gained while working with Murúa, but it also developed in new directions. He revealed a strong polemical and satirical bent that he directed against colonial abuses. Although the evidence suggests that they worked independently after 1600, the efforts of Murúa and Guaman Poma can never be separated, and their talents, individually and together, produced three distinctive testimonies to the interaction between missionary author and indigenous artist-cum-author in early colonial Peru.