Carolyn Dean. Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1999. xiv + 288 pp. $54.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8223-2367-9.
Reviewed by Iain S. Maclean (Department of Philosophy and Religion, James Madison University )
Published on H-LatAm (August, 2001)
This is a significant contribution to the study of public ritual of both the Peruvian Roman Catholic Church, and of the contemporary Cuzco elite and citizenry. Dean has not only provided a rich analysis but by so doing has also provided an illustrative example of an approach which seeks to relate the case study method (or micro analysis) to wider theoretical issues (or macro analysis), and the contemporary ethnographical results to historical research. Specifically, this is an examination of the fascinating role that the festival of Corpus Christi played (and still plays in a transformed mode) in Cuzco, the former capital of the Inka Empire. For in Cuzco, this eminently Christian festival frequently featured indigenous Andean Christians (who embodied the recent pagan past) in the performance. Dean declares, this is the story of how Corpus Christi alienated the colonized and enacted colonization (p. 2). This ambiguity of the indigenous peoples position is seen in the decisions of the first provincial Council of Lima [1551-1552] (sharply divergent from those in Europe which encouraged popular participation), which first barred Andeans from Eucharist communion, though these restrictions were relaxed by the subsequent second and third councils (1567 and 1582-1584).
Dean argues then that the Corpus Christi festival in Peru became semiphagous: it was a feast that dined on signs of difference, gaining sustenance for its triumph from the Andean subaltern (p. 1). The public pageant thus inscribed difference and subordination, inclusion yet exclusion. However, granting agency to the subjugated, Dean seeks to show how the subalterns, despite necessary subjugation, found ways and means to subvert the system as it were. So, adopting a multi-perspectival approach, Dean seeks to explore the varying relationships between the dominators and the dominated, of how colonization worked through language, but also of how the colonized utilized the multiple, fluid meanings of language to define themselves as something other than colonial subjects. Of course by language Dean means also performative action, dress and signs of status, all of which are expressed in visual form (see below).
She sets out in the first three chapters to provide the historical scene, drawing from colonial records, accounts of the origins and development of the Corpus Christi festival first in Madrid, Spain and its transplantation to the New world, specifically Cuzco, Peru. The following three chapters carefully and sensitively explore the development of the festival in Cuzco and the relationship of colonial elite, clergy, religious orders and the Inka participants (primarily Inka aristocracy) in the production and enactment of the processional of Corpus Christi. Dean draws from colonial records, ecclesiastical accounts, the works of chroniclers, extant diaries, and accounts of vice-regal visits, works such as those by Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, Betanzos (circa 1551), Garcilaso de la Vega (1609), Jesuit Pablo Joseph de Arriaga (circa 1621) and Fernando de Avendao. However the center of her work is focused on the visual records-paintings, sketches etc. Deans analysis is drawn primarily from a series of eighteen paintings from the seventeenth century (circa 1680), which purport to depict actual processionals. This is the core of the books historical research, where all the numerous strands are skillfully brought together. The analysis (there are over fifty illustrations in this work, about a third in color) is well done, and shows how the Inkas were active subjects, fashioning new culturally mediated identities (chapter 7) and how these in led to the later fragmentation and division among the Inka elite about their new overlords and religion (chapter 8). The final chapter (chapter 9) brings the reader into the present and the contemporary recreation of the festival as drawing more on its Inka heritage, and expressing shifts in Cuzcean culture resulting form industrialization, modernization, and the demands of the tourist trade.
The history of Spanish Corpus Christi processions and their introduction to Cuzco after the conquest by Spaniards is concisely but skillfully described. First, the conception and practice of this procession prior to colonization in the Iberian Peninsula is discussed. Developed in the thirteenth Century in Roman Catholic Church (the Mass was written by St. Thomas Aquinas) and promoted by Pope Urban IV who first formally established the feast, (Pope Clement V made it an obligatory feast), it was to be celebrated on the ninth Thursday after Easter or the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. From its inception the festival provided a framework through which many conquests were viewed. Initially developed to celebrate the doctrine of transubstantiation, the procession clearly incorporated references to non-Roman Catholic beliefs, as well as to specific peoples or others. This is done in an oppositional as well as in a victory format, since it is a celebration announcing a victor. Here the victor is Jesus Christ, embodied in the host. Local customs were also absorbed, and so regional differences typically were expressed. In Spain this festival was celebrated as early as 1280 in Toledo, and Seville in 1282, even before the Popes formal establishment of the festival. It swiftly became one of the most important Iberian festivals, in fact, the festival by which the grandeur of others was measured. Like other non-penitential processions, borrowed heavily from Roman Imperial ceremonies, marked by triumphal processions, triumphal arches, the use of canopies above the saint or Monstrance, and adorned processional paths. Garlands, flags, banners, tapestries, as well as gun and flag salutes, fireworks, music, and dances marked the route followed by the processional. In addition, Spanish processionals included the highest religious and civic leaders, granted places of honor according to their rank, thereby symbolizing the union of religious and secular, divine and royal, the heavenly and earthly. Thus such processions included multiple triumphs not only of Christ over death, sin and time, but also of the Church over heresy, and over enemies of Church, and by extension over enemies of the community. So in Spain, the procession not only celebrated but publicly expressed references to evil and to Catholicisms victories over non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians, most especially the Arabs, Turks, or Muslims (expressed through devils garbed as Moors). Many processions thus drew on references to the re-conquest of Valencia, and Granada. During the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries then, the processionals became quite confrontational and militaristic in nature. In fact the Feast of CC specifically introduced into Granada in order to counteract any remaining Muslim influences. This crusading spirit of course coincided with the Spanish discovery of, and colonization of the Americas.
In Peru, such an annual procession not only re-presented the victory of Christ, but also that of the Spanish colonizers over the vanquished Inkas. Specifically the festival function as a triumph tended to determine inclusion/exclusion of specific Andean elements. Central elements were the use of arches. This is determined from the visual account based upon remarkable series of canvases, painted circa 1680. Seven of these large canvases depict Corpus Christi in Cuzco (analyzed in chapter 4), while seven of these include arches, and the arch served as a sign of cultural and technological superiority over native culture (which had used post-and-lintel construction). Thus the triumph in Cuzco was triumph over th e Andes. Interestingly, in one of the wonderful historical footnotes that Dean offers her readers, Queen Isabella had the monstrance used in Toledo made from the first gold brought back from the new world. Thus symbolically the conquest of the New World is incorporated into the conquests of the old world. The Spanish were thus quick to draw parallels between their re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the crusade against the Moor, and their conquests of the Americas (many early Spanish chroniclers called the Inka holy sites mezquitas or mosques). However such conquest was not simply conveyed on a cultural level, but as Dean convincingly demonstrates, the means used to re-conquer the old world were used in the new, and the same or similar patterns of conquest were imposed. So even as Jews and Moors, as examples of the vanquished enemies of Christ, were often compelled to participate in Corpus Christi processions, so too Peruvian Indians were included in the Peruvian Corpus Christi processions as representatives of the other. But it was precisely as the natives, as the vanquished, that they were required in Peru. They provided the opponent that Christ and his earthly representatives had vanquished. So as the festival fed upon these signs of alterity, the festival can be described as semiophagous (p. 15). The Spanish recognized the usefulness of including native Inkan rituals in their Christian festivals for they represented both religious and moral mis-direction that could be corrected and used to shift the focus from native locales and deities, to the Christian religious cosmology. Thus the ecclesiastical councils of Lima (1551-1772) recognized the utility of native customs and not their eradication, though this accommodating attitude would change as fear of increased Inkan revolts.
The celebration of this Christian festival of Corpus Christi was obviously celebrated through Spanish possessions, but it is of particular importance in Cuzco because it was capital of old Inka Empire. Thus, it is triumph not only of Spanish over Inkas, but also, on the same ritual space, re-enactment of the Christian Gods victory over the Inkas sun god. Because of the temporal coincidences of the timing of the Corpus Christi, Inkan harvest festivals and the Inti Raymi Sun (June solstice) festival, Inkan and Christian symbolism became intertwined. Even though Cuzco was not the vice-regal capital (Lima), it retained prestige as primary city, due to its Inkan past. In fact, physically Cuzco was built from looted Inkan building stone, especially from the great ceremonial complex of Saqsaywamn. The Inkan square Haukaypata became the Spanish central Plaza Mayor. Stone from the Inka fortress was used to build the Cathedral. Within forty years of conquest, Corpus Christi was Cuzcos most important festival.
The Corpus Christi celebrations reached their zenith under the tenure of Bishop Manuel de Mollinedo y Angulo (1673-1699), who hailed from Madrid and sought to imitate their processionals. His project is preserved and reflected in a series of eighteen paintings on the Corpus Christi procession, painted by at least two (anonymous) artists. Sixteen survive and twelve are preserved today in the Museo Arzobispal del Arte Religioso in Cuzco, Peru while the other four are in private collections in Santiago. The smallest approximately six feet square to the largest at seven by eleven and a half feet. Each depicts an aspect of the Corpus Christi procession in Cuzco. Eight depict the specific processions of individual saints and their adherents, including the five so-called Indian parishes, with standard-bearers dressed in Inka costume. Four pictures present religious orders (Franciscans, Mercedarians, Dominicans and Augustinians). The backgrounds are typically filled with pictures of the religious and ruling elites of Cuzco, the foregrounds by members of the middle and lower classes.
The paintings themselves reflect all of Cuzcean society in a carefully constructed social history. The clergy, religious, Spanish and Andean subjects are all represented, and these presentations reflect varied and indeed ambiguous messages. They reflect the location of Cuzco in relation to rivalry with Lima; in relation to Madrid; with respect to parish rivalries; and the location of officials, clergy and Inkas within the social and colonial hierarchy. In addition, audiences or onlookers with their backs turned to the viewer, invite the viewer to participate by identifying with onlookers. This visual feast is the material and conceptual center of the book. The following chapters focus on the varied messages these paintings reveal, explicating in turn how the Andeans used the Corpus Christi festival to create, maintain and enhance their own identity and social space; how the use of specific heraldic head-dresses such as the scarlet fringe (originally worn only by Inka ruler himself), reflect successor nobility; how Inkas present themselves as a Christian subordinate elite. Thus a Composite Inka emerges, neither an either-or identity, but rather a complex both-and. Here Dean employs the concept of the middle or the concept of Nepantlism coined by Miguel Len-Portilla and developed by Jorge Klor de Avila. These subaltern identities are understood as being between rather than as taking one side absolutely. This leads finally, to the recognition that these identities are in process and in fact in continual contestation. A whole chapter is devoted to this subject of the ongoing conflict between subaltern classes, especially between the Inka elite and other ethnic groups such as the Chachapoyas and Caaris Andean groups. This is a striking demonstration of the fractures within subordinate groups, often-and mistakenly assumed to be homogenous.
The final chapter returns the reader to the present and to the celebration of Corpus Christi in contemporary Cuzcean society. The chapter, entitled The Inka Triumphant, begins by tracing the historical origins of the Inkan Inti Raymi or festival of the sun. A reading of the work of the seventeenth century mestizo author, Garcilaso de la Vega, reveals the similarities between the Corpus Christi festival and the ancient Inkan Inti Raymi. The time of the year both festivals occur, the dress of indigenous participants, and numerous other details, all survived in post-conquest festivals of Corpus Christi. Now de la Vegas intent was to indicate how these similarities and continuities both disclosed the Inkan past and prepared the way for the triumph of Christianity. Yet, in a historical irony, he actually prepared the way for the revival of the Inkan festival of Inti Raymi in the twentieth century in the contemporary festival of Sapa Inka, which chronologically, follows the Corpus Christi festival.
This revival of the pre-Conquest past was largely due to the work by Peruvian intellectuals in the early twentieth century, who, using de la Vegas work, looked to Corpus Christi and saw Inti Raymi therein. The modern developments are first fully expressed by Cuzco journalist Humberto Vidal Unda who in 1944 described the festival as an attempt to ground national pride in a common past. The revived festival followed on the heels of the Corpus Christi festival, and though primarily conceptualized as a celebration of national spirit, it had developed a focus on the Indian inheritance, and by the end of the century had expanded to include the preparatory celebrations in May through the whole month of June. The festival has grown to such an extent that by the centurys end, Inti Raymi has become a major civic production, while Corpus Christ has remained the responsibility of individual local parishes. Of course as such a civic production, the Inti Raymi festival features as the centerpiece of the Cuzco tourist industry, and Dean does not miss the opportunity to offer a critical thick description of the Inti Raymi festival of 1996 (specifically its start, on June 24th).
The festival while it serves as a marketing strategy for local industries, especially tourism, also represents a deliberate evocation of the past. In fact, as already noted, promoters and their historians went back to colonial descriptions of Corpus Christi to find clues to producing the present spectacle. However they assumed a simplistic identification with Inti Raymi and Corpus Christi (p. 209) and have failed to recognize the differences, as well as the elements of crusading triumph in Corpus Christi. In addition it fails to represent the fractures within earlier Inkan societies and so presents a homogenized and antiseptic past. The present festival represents a transmutation of the pre-conquest and colonial belief in the Anka rei or the Incan king and the legend of a future golden age, into a nationalist message persevering in the present through industrialization for a better life. The present revival then serves as a striking modern (recent) example of Hobsbawms invention of tradition (p. 210).
While this study of contemporary festival is set in context of studies of similar phenomena (Thomas Abercrombie on Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia for example) in other Latin American nations, the reader has the sense that much more remains to be developed in the study of contemporary festivals. However it must be recalled that this is the final chapter of a work that has focused rather on the earlier history and changes in the Corpus Christi feast and specifically, its triumphant public processionals as portrayed in art. As such this is an outstanding example of historical and anthropological research and we hope for more from this authors keyboard.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-latam.
Iain S. Maclean. Review of Dean, Carolyn, Inka Bodies and the Body of Christ: Corpus Christi in Colonial Cuzco, Peru.
H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at email@example.com.