With Justice for All and Grievance for None: Conservative Power and Imperial Weakness after the Encomendero’s Revolt, 1544–81
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
In 1542, Gonzalo Pizarro, brother of Francisco Pizarro, raised an angry mob in Lima and marched to Trujillo to demand that the viceroy repeal the New Laws. These laws forced the liberation of indigenous people and ended their exploitation in the colonies, but many colonists saw these measures as the unjust seizure of their privileges earned through participation in the violent and expensive invasion. Dissenters paralyzed the official bureaucracy and took over, ruling in the name of the king but without his permission, engaged in the long and bloody upheaval known as the Encomenderos Revolt. They were defeated in 1548 by the forces of Fray Pedro de la Gasca, a priestly representative of the Spanish government. Over 150 men were beheaded in Peru but in the aftermath of the revolt and at the recommendation of Gasca most of the New Laws were reversed across the Spanish colonies. Gonzalo Pizarro's partisans had fatally failed but to keep the peace Gasca inaugurated profound shifts that halted the development of liberal policies towards the indigenous people and maintained a fundamentally conservative bureaucratic system.
The Spanish Peruvian Encomenderos Revolt usually falls into a historical narrative that represents the early colonization period as a time of extreme violence and change, yet the revolt was not just part of a general sense of unrest. Even in the wake of the rebels' deaths, the government re-assessed a fundamental series of legislation that would have long-lasting effects for European and native peoples alike. Gasca's recommendations for assuaging the Peruvian colonists were incorporated not just by Spanish officials in Peru, but across the Spanish colonies. Hence, the Encomenderos Revolt was not just part of early colonial strife, but represents a pivotal moment showing the negotiating power of the colonists and the failure of Spanish autocracy abroad.