UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ideology of the Indian reform movement in eighteenth-century Peru Statton, Marian Joyce Elaine


Spanish colonial legislation created an Indian elite in Peru by-perpetuating the hierarchical nature of Indian society. Spain gave a number of privileges to the pre-Hispanic Indian leaders so that they would assist in controlling and exploiting the majority Indian population. The intermediary position of these Indian leaders created a tension between the responsibilities and loyalties they derived from Spanish society and those they derived from traditional Indian society. By the eighteenth century Spanish exploitation of Indian society had exacerbated this tension to the point where the Indian elite was often subject to openly conflicting interests. As a result they faced the prospect of losing the social and economic advantages which their intermediary role offered. Spanish colonial legislation had also, however, assigned colonial administrators a religious obligation to foster the welfare of Indians. Through the protectoral system this obligation was incorporated into the administrative bureaucracy. Throughout the eighteenth century the Indian elite attempted to use both this system and the theories on which it had been founded to regain their effectively privileged status. From 1708 to 1737 the Indian elite centred in Lima petitioned both the Viceregal authorities and the Spanish Crown to demand the implementation of their legal privileges. Based on the theory that the Crown's benevolent intentions towards the Indians as a whole were the source of the privileges granted the elite, they began to incorporate the defense of common Indians into these petitions. Although the administration responded to these petitions with approval in theory, they brought little in the way of effective reform. By 1748 these petitions had created a coherent ideology for reform which the Indian elite of Lima presented in a document called the Representacion verdadera. A Franciscan, Fr. Calixto Tupac Inga, played an important role in urging the Indians to continue their petitions to the Crown rather than undertake revolt against the Spanish administration. The Representacion set out a number of broad reforms in the colonial administration designed to give Indians a more important and responsible position in the government of Indian society under the Spanish regime. These reforms were expressed within the structure of an analogy between the Jews of Babylon and the Indians in Peru. This analogy was inspired by the writings of early Spanish missionaries and gave the plan for reform a Utopian connotation which undermined its appeal for Spanish authorities. On the basis of Hispanic missionary ideals, the Representacion went as far as to justify rebellion as a means of destroying the tyrannical Spanish administration. General apprehensions about the possibility of Indian revolt, together with an actual uprising in 1750 led by members of the Lima Indian elite, moved the Viceregal administration to take repressive measures against Indian protest in general and particularly against Fr. Calixto. This repression effectively put an end to the Lima Indian elite's role as advocates of the welfare of rural Indian society. The pattern of protest established by the Lima elite and the ideology of reform developed in the course of this protest provided, however, the basis for Jose Gabriel Tupac Amaru, himself a rural cacique, to advocate reform to improve the condition of oppressed rural Indians. When these appeals failed, he adopted the theory of rebellion developed in the Representacion to initiate the rebellion of 1780 which now bears his name. The formation of Indian reformist thought within the framework of Hispanic colonial theory precluded it from developing a realistic assessment of the complex social and economic relationships which existed in colonial Peru. As a result, the Indian reformist movement, ill prepared to meet the challenges presented by the changed circumstances of the 1780'3, was destined to die with its last and most radical exponent, Tupac Amaru II.

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