Spanish Imperialism, Inca Histories and the Place of "Natural Lords" in Sixteenth-Century Peru

Friday, January 6, 2012: 3:10 PM
Sheraton Ballroom III (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Susan L. Hogue, University of California, Davis
Beginning in the late 1550s a complex and important question came to the forefront of Spanish imperial rule in the Americas:  were encomenderos, the conquistadors and their heirs with lifetime grants of Indian labor, to be made perpetual masters over Indian communities and quasi- lords in America, or were their grants to end, by incorporating Indian communities under the direct control of the Spanish Crown?  Tied to this issue was a second crucial question:  were the indigenous rulers, kurakas or  “natural lords” fit to govern Indian communities under the dominion of the Spanish Empire?  King Philip II, the Council of the Indies, powerful clergymen and imperial commentators all looked to histories of the Incas, written by Spaniards, as powerful sources of information on indigenous administration, competence, and compatibility with Spanish norms of rule.  This paper will explore how Inca histories were “created” under a Western model by Spanish and Mestizo writers such as Garcilaso de la Vega, Juan de Betanzos, Juan Polo de Ondegardo, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa and others.  These Spanish accounts departed radically from the Incas’ own alternative conception of past events and created a narrative of the Inca past that would be manipulated by Crown officials as they negotiated the place of natural lords in the Spanish empire. Besides satisfying curiosity about an intriguing, unfamiliar, culture, these histories provided viewpoints and justifications in the discourse on the Spanish Crown’s proper relation to and treatment of indigenous peoples, opened by Bartolomé de Las Casas and others, formally debated at Valladolid in 1550, and resumed with vehemence in light of the perpetuity/incorporation question around 1560.
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