Ward Stavig, Ella Schmidt, eds. and trans. The Tupac Amaru and Catarista Rebellions: An Anthology of Sources. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. xxxv + 247 pp. $14.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-87220-845-2; $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-87220-846-9.
Reviewed by Jose C. de la Puente (Texas Christian University)
Published on H-LatAm (May, 2010)
Commissioned by Kenneth Kincaid (Purdue University North Central)
Ambivalent Rebels in the Andes
This anthology of primary sources, translated and put together by Elizabeth Schmidt and the late Ward Stavig, offers a window into the most vivid aspects of the Indian-based rebellions that spread through Peru and Bolivia between 1780 and 1783. The ambiguities and contradictions behind rebel ideologies and platforms constantly emerge in the many letters, eyewitness accounts, edicts, and proclamations that make up the volume. Some leaders appealed to a broad, multiethnic, and Christian coalition to include Indians, creoles, blacks, and mestizos. In other instances, they called for a caste war destined to exterminate everything Spanish. They sometimes claimed to be merely replacing abusive authorities in the name of the king, though they also condemned Spanish rule as illegitimate and envisioned themselves crowned as the Inca monarchs of Peru. What did the rebels really want? Readers will discover in this book a fascinating world waiting to be fully interpreted.
The collection includes 140 documents, ranging from a few short lines to several pages long. They have been organized into three parts that correspond to the three major uprisings of José Gabriel Tupac Amaru, the Catari brothers, and Julián Apaza (also known as Tupac Catari). Each testimony is preceded by a headnote focusing on content, context, and significance.
Key documents attest to the richness of the collection. In that list, one might include the letters written or dictated by female leaders, like Micaela Bastidas and Tomasa Tito Condemayta, or the petitions and protests of Tupac Amaru and Tomás Catari before viceroys and supreme courts. Also of interest are the Spanish depictions of the Indian leaders, as well as the harsh excommunications, sentences, and executions that fell on them. Numerous ballads and lampoons are intriguing examples of how the rebels and their opponents turned public opinion into an ardent battleground. Additional underlying themes are the role of the Inca nobility, the emergence of the fiesta-cargo system, and the interplay of church and state (Indians involved in the uprisings were treated as "apostates and rebels" [p. 115]). Readers might also want to explore the use of social and political metaphors; the construction of racial categories and ethnic fears; and the hegemonic and counterhegemonic discourses concerning justice, legitimacy, and common good during the Great Rebellion.
Unfortunately, some documents have been so abridged that the preceding headnotes are two or three times as long as the documents. This might dissuade some readers from attempting any interpretations of their own. Spanish names and surnames included in the headnotes ("Agustín," "López," "Gutiérrez," "Ramón," and "Jáuregui") appear unaccented in most instances. Unnecessary sics could have been avoided by simply stating that colonial sources include alternative spellings of the same names and places--or by standardizing them according to common usage. The correct date of the execution of the first Tupac Amaru is 1572 (and not 1571, as it appears in the introduction and the back cover).
A general introduction by Charles F. Walker, the author of a significant work on Cuzco during and after the Great Rebellion (Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780-1840 ), provides the main interpretative scheme. It fits the classic cause-effect or rise-and-fall pattern of discontent, rebellion, defeat, punishment, and retribution. Specialists will find little novelty in Walker's interpretation, though that is not clearly the main objective of this piece or the headnotes, intended as they are for a non-specialized audience.
After reviewing the basic events behind the insurrection, Walker outlines its immediate causes. In the context of an increasingly absolutist Bourbon state, tribute and labor drafts affecting the Indians, along with new and higher taxes and the establishment of customhouses, set the context for social discontent. The reparto or forced distribution of European goods among the Indians as well as the excessive fees charged by priests for religious services also played their part.
On a deeper level, the disruption and even breakdown in the reciprocal relationship between curacas (or caciques, Indian authorities) and communities become especially relevant for Walker. By the mid-eighteenth century, the argument goes, Indians were complaining bitterly against bad ethnic authorities, while some of these ruling families were pursuing their private interests in detriment of the community. Curacas, along with their native subjects, had come to see mestizo upstarts and forasteros or outsiders, usually imposed by or allied with the hated corregidores, as a menace to their traditional way of life. At the crossroads of these tensions lay important leaders, such as Tupac Amaru and Tomás Catari.
The authors strive to bring the readers into direct contact with the people "whose lives (and deaths), sufferings, hopes, and dreams" are contained in the book (p. xv). In lieu of this objective, it is somehow surprising that they did not address one of Tupac Amaru's dearest pursuits toward the end of his life. Indeed, Tupac Amaru's "frustration" of the late 1770s--as Walker calls it--largely stemmed from his legal battle to reclaim the recently extinct Marquisate of Oropesa (the only one of its kind--for no other of the same rank was granted to indigenous individuals in Peru). The title had been bestowed on Ana María de Loyola Coya in 1614. It carried along the señorío or lordship over the four Indian towns of the Yucay Valley, which allowed the marquises to administer justice and collect tribute from their Indian vassals. Even by the time of its extinction in the mid-eighteenth century, the Marquisate still held considerable economic power and social prestige. Granted, the historiography of the Great Rebellion has gradually moved from biographical issues to more conjunctural and structural causes, for no sole individual, not even the great rebel, can fully explain the Age of Andean Insurrection. Even so, Tupac Amaru's claims to this noble title give sense to his journey to Lima, his appointment of attorneys at the viceregal court, and his growing discontent with the colonial system of justice. Walker does state that Tupac Amaru "battled for years to keep his cacique position" (p. xxiii). In fact, something definitely more important was at stake when he disputed the rights of the Betancourt Tupac Amaru clan, the main claimant to the Marquisate of Oropesa. Both parties sought to be recognized by the Crown as the legitimate successors of the marquises, and thus of the "official" line of Inca emperors (as Ana María de Loyola had been the granddaughter of Diego Sayri Tupac and the grandniece of the first Tupac Amaru). Whoever won the court case would be recognized by his noble peers as the symbolic head of the Inca nobility of the kingdom. Nonetheless, the assertion that Tupac Amaru "went to Lima to be recognized as heir to the Inca throne" is not accurate either, as it was a legal impossibility in imperial Spain (p. 19). In the mid-sixteenth century, Sayri Tupac had once and for all renounced the Inca throne in exchange for the señorío that his lineage, that of the first marquises of Oropesa, and later José Gabriel Tupac Amaru and others, would claim for themselves. In this light, one may add that not all of the descendants of Inca lords were considered "royal," as Walker suggests in the introduction (p. xxiv).
Such issues would have merited more clarification in the introduction, or else readers might be left wondering why, for instance, the rebel took his name from the first Tupac Amaru, the one executed in 1572, or why his followers identified him as "Inca King." José Gabriel's legal battle for the Marquisate of Oropesa also sheds extra light on some of the edited sources. Andrés Mendigure, José Gabriel's nephew, changed his last name to Tupac Amaru, also calling himself Marquis of Alcalises [Alcañices], a title annex to that of the marquises of Oropesa. Such leaders as Mendigure claimed to be an "Inca descendant of the royal blood and principal throne of the monarchs who governed these kingdoms of Peru" (pp. 160-161). That line was no other than that of Sayri Tupac and his brother Felipe Tupac Amaru. During the colonial period, the judges of the Audiencia of Lima had granted patents of nobility with some laxity. This explains the harsh criticisms of the metropolitan authorities against the corporate body, as well their decision to have the final say on such thorny matters.
Against celebratory views of the rebel, David Cahill and David T. Garrett have shown elsewhere that members of the ten Inca royal houses of Cuzco refused to acknowledge the cacique of Surimana as a social equal, favoring in turn the aspirations of his more prominent legal rivals. José Gabriel's perceived social inferiority among Inca nobles might help clarify why, as rightfully noted but not fully explained by the editors, loyalist caciques of undisputed nobility, such as Mateo Pumacahua, saw the rebel as an "upstart," thus refusing to support an attack on the very source of their privilege and exclusive status--the Crown (p. xxviii). A brief discussion of the dynamics of the Inca nobility and the uncertain place of Tupac Amaru within its ranks would have also been valuable in order to understand the constant attacks on Inca titles, genealogies, and regalia that appear so prominently in the 1781 sentence against José Gabriel, his wife and children, and other main prisoners.
This sourcebook is, above all, a rich, well-constructed, and careful selection of relevant testimonies about a defining moment in the crisis of Spanish colonialism. Multiple voices speak of such crucial issues as life, death, and the dream of transforming the world. The book would be at its best in a survey course on colonial Latin America. The introduction and the headnotes carry more than enough information to give students a good overview of the topic. It might be assigned in a more specialized course, though it might require additional readings to round out the overview, such as Scarlett O'Phelan's Un siglo de rebeliones anticoloniales (1988) and Kurakas sin sucesiones (1997), Stavig's The World of Túpac Amaru (1999), and, more recently, Garrett's Shadows of Empire, among many others. There is currently little to assess, in the way of primary sources, if one is confronting an English-speaking audience, aside from customary textbook chapters about the "Age of Andean Insurrection" and its principal leaders, a biography of a loyalist Andean chief, and a small set of letters of lesser-known rebels from the Charcas region. The anthology clearly bridges this gap. Specialists writing original works on the topic might want to refer to the unabridged Spanish sources as well, most of them already in print.
. Guillermo Lohmman Villena, "El señorío de los marqueses de Santiago de Oropesa en el Perú," Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español 19 (1948-49): 347-458.
. David Cahill, "First among Incas: The Marquesado de Oropesa Litigation (1741-1780) en Route to the Great Rebellion," Jahrbuch für Geschichte Lateinamerikas 41 (2004): 137-166; and David T. Garrett, Shadows of Empire: The Indian Nobility of Cusco, 1750-1825 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
. Ward Stavig, "Eugenio Sinanyuca: Militant, Nonrevolutionary Kuraka, and Community Defender," in The Human Tradition in Colonial Latin America, ed. Kenneth J. Andrien (Lanham: SR Books, 2004), 241-258; and S. Elizabeth Penry, "Letters of Insurrection: The Rebellion of the Communities (Charcas, 1781)," in Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550-1850, ed. Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 201-215.
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Jose C. de la Puente. Review of Stavig, Ward; Schmidt, Ella, eds. and trans., The Tupac Amaru and Catarista Rebellions: An Anthology of Sources.
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