Saturday, August 25, 2012

Family Values in Seventeenth-Century Peru

By Irene Silverblatt

This paper looks at “family values” in the seventeenth-century Peruvian Andes and their role in the colonial culture wars. Colonial family values, like their modern counterparts, expressed moral concerns over “proper” sex relations and legitimacy, the workings of kin and lineage, women’s place and their faults, and the significance of purity, honor, and blood.

Furthermore, like their modern counterparts, family values could be found in the thick of politics. Peru’s colonial enterprise, honed by the ethics and zeal of Spain’s Counter Reformation, spawned its brand of reproductive politics in a world fractured by demographic collapse and new social categories of race.

Andean culture wars, fought in colonialism’s often precarious psychic and social terrains, thrived on the politics of fear and blame. This essay hopes to make sense of family values by placing them in the broader arena of colonialism’s cultural charge: the task of refashioning the humanity of colonized women and men.

Contests over definitions of humanness were at the heart of the colonial endeavor; and in the Andes that process began with Pizarro’s conquest of the Inka empire and Iberia’s intent to convert Andean peoples into Spanish subjects called “Indians.”

“Family values” examines one portion of that extraordinary conceit and offers a small entrée into Spanish colonialism’s drive to manufacture novel social relations and social selves. The colonial endeavor to construe indios and españoles also produced mestizos and mulatos, bastards and legitimates, free subjects and slaves, Andean witches, virgins, and whores.

Cultural identities and sexual activities sparked moral battle- fields intrinsic to the making of Spain’s Inka colony. So did the politics of fear, nourished by the staggering death rate of native peoples (Cook 1981), and the Spanish empire’s sense of religious embattlement and crusade (Elliott 1963; Kamen 1985).


Spanish empire-building pivoted on the contradiction of conqueror to vanquished, as it set about constructing that great social fiction at its heart: the division of colonial humanity into Spaniards and Indians. “Humanizing” pre- rogatives of power and privilege, Spanish law, religious preachings, and popular sentiment fashioned social relations in racialized forms.

Spanish imperial practice construed their colonial subjects in broad, universal categories: all Spaniards, notwithstanding the social distinctions that might have separated them in Europe, were privileged colonists in the Americas; all indigenous peoples, regardless of ethnic claims or prior political standing, whether peasant, provincial lord, or Inka king, became “Indian” (Spalding 1974; Gibson 1987; Morner 1967).

Colonial social categories turned on the legal construction of two separate republicas—Indian and Spanish—whose members were, in principle, defined by ancestry and racial “purity.” Spanish political theory proclaimed their equality, or nearly: Indians, like Spaniards, were fully human, free vassals of the Crown, capable of honor (Solórzano 1972 [vol. 252]: 371–383).

Yet, colonial rule was predicated on Indians’ subjugation, and Andeans found themselves demeaned by colonial institutions, official policy, and popular prejudice (also see Solórzano 1972 [vol. 252]: 417–432). The colonial enterprise was a sputtering, contrary process; and although Spain’s attempts to engage native living practices to the machinery of colonial rule were ultimately successful (until independence), it was an achievement that varied dramatically by agenda and region. It was also a protracted compromise.

The half-century after conquest witnessed a series of political, demographic, and religious challenges to Iberian control. During Peru’s first decades, civil wars racked the Andes as Spaniard fought Spaniard over the sweep of royal power and settlers’ rights to native labor and resources; the rebellious descen- dants of the Inkas, with redoubts in the Vilcabamba valley, spurred guerrilla attacks on colonists and trade routes until the execution of the “last” Inka king in 1572; and after three decades of colonial presence, evangelists were astounded by the millenarian designs they had uncovered among their central highland disciples: nativist religious movements with goals to expel Spaniards and their gods from Peruvian soil (Millones 1973, 1990; Stern 1982: 51–62; Kubler 1963).

Yet, perhaps most threatening to the colonial enterprise were the unin- tended consequences of conquest: epidemic diseases (small pox, measles, and influenza) brought from Europe, against which Spaniards enjoyed some immunity and Indians none, swept through indigenous settlements, devastating their numbers (Cook 1981).

By the last quarter of the sixteenth century, royal officials expressed concerns that the entire colonial endeavor was in jeopardy, and they lay at least some blame on colonials’ economic and sexual exorbitance. Although authorities attributed various causes to Andeans’ high mortality rate, many judged Spaniards’ excessive behavior as abetting the precipitous decline in native population (Solórzano 1972 [vol. 252]: 117–129).

Pressed by these challenges, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo set in motion a series of measures to strengthen Spain’s presence and stop the deterioration of Andean peoples. His solution was built around a rigorous separation of the Spanish and Indian republics (Solórzano 1972 [vol. 252]: 371–383; Spalding 1984: 168–238), and after protracted debate, a political apparatus based upon principles of indirect rule cum state paternalism was put in place.

The Spanish monarchy envisioned the colonial state as protector of its Indian subjects—the legal defender of inherently incapacitated, weak souls. Colonial noblesse oblige made the Crown ultimate guarantor of indigenous communities’ corporate right to land and resources. Its plans for local government continued this model based on adjusting Iberian paradigms to colonial circumstance.

Mimicking the authority granted Spanish municipalities, colonial policy allowed Indian communities significant autonomy with respect to local concerns. Provincial elite (kurakas) were eventually installed as middle- men to the Crown; a hierarchy of municipal officials, drawn from the native populace, were given responsibilities for keeping the (colonial) order of day-to-day life (Rowe 1957; Spalding 1984: 136–167).

The considerable political play Andeans enjoyed was, nevertheless, bridled by powerful limits: native customs could not contradict Iberian habits, or, rather, could not contradict what was becoming, in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an in- creasingly rigid behavioral canon, attached to an increasingly restricted vision of the civilizing process.


Toledo’s reforms marched in tandem with renovated campaigns to wrest idolatry and savagery from Peruvian hearts. Bilingual, even trilingual, catechisms were produced to better facilitate Church preaching and proselytizing.At the turn of the sixteenth century, and through much of the century to follow, soldier-priest “extirpators of idolatry” were sent to comb the Lima archdiocese for evidence of Satan’s presence (Duviols 1971).

Churchmen and civilian authorities were shocked to find native heresies thriving after one hundred years of evangelization; and Peru’s Jesuit congrega- tion, which took proselytizing as a prime objective, worked hard to convince colonial skeptics that idolatry was indeed pervasive throughout the Andes (Acosta 1954a: 261–300; Arriaga 1919: xxxi, 82–103, 188–196).

Jesuits spearheaded the campaigns to extirpate demonic influence from Andean soil, and the ensu- ing ecclesiastical trials, with their Inquisition-like proceedings, give us a win- dow on Catholicism’s forays into the colonial civilizing process. While Jesuit efforts might have been self-serving, they were also conducted in earnest: they believed that the practice of idolatry not only threatened Christendom, but also the fundament of colonial order.

By promoting malas costumbres—including heretical sexual liaisons so anathematical to Christian family values—native religion undermined the making of “good” Indians who would be colonial subjects loyal to Crown and Church. The clergy, Spain’s religious arm, bore the primary responsibility for instructing Indians in the beliefs and practices of civilization. From their perspective, buenas costumbres and Christian doctrine were inseparable (Doctrina 1985: 214–15, 498, 515).

Clerics preached civilized “lifestyles” to their Indian subjects—lessons that went hand in glove with pronouncements on idolatry and tenets of faith. Seventeenth-century written guides for Peru’s missionary priests—elaborate sermons and confession manuals written in Spanish and native languages—had much to say about family values (e.g., Doctrina 1985: 126– 132, 143–144, 198; Pérez Bocanegra 1631: 211–250); this should not be surprising.

Peruvian forays came fresh on the heels of the culture wars of the peninsula: the Counter Reformation crusade to stamp out lingering religious heresies, peasant superstitions, and the rather ubiquitous “bad customs” prac- ticed throughout Spanish society (Cruz and Perry 1992; Silverblatt 1987: 159– 180; Sánchez 1991: viii–xi).

Peru’s idol smashers were well aware that the Counter Reformation campaign was a rehearsal for efforts in the Americas; and clerics, comparing the Old World with the New World, were especially attuned to Spain’s more “barbarous” and “vile” inhabitants (Arriaga 1919: xxxi, 3–4).

Counter Reformation Spain was preoccupied with sexual matters (Perry 1990), which is not surprising given the Church’s relatively recent focus on family values as an arena in which it hoped to assert its authority and dominance. Correspondingly, a growing desire to define and control sexual activities was carried to the Andes, where it was given vivid expression in the catechisms, confession manuals, and sermons inspired by the Third Lima Council.

Late-sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Peruvian texts placed explicit constraints on sexual relations. Uniformly celebrating the state of chastity as humankind’s highest attainment, they railed against various categories of sexual sin, often in astonishing detail. Sexual transgressions embraced a panoply of “unnatural” acts—that is, any sexual practice that was not procreative. Some of the more grievous acts included the abominable sin (sodomy), masturbation, homoerotic encounters, and bestiality.

Moreover, licit sex was explicitly confined to the conjugal bed, duly blessed in the holy sacrament of marriage (Doctrina 1985: 126–132, 143–144, 198, 204–213, 514–524, 618–619, 642–656; Pérez Bocanegra 1631: 211–250).

Limiting approved sex to marriage—a social status that required religious sanction and consequently served to reinforce the Church’s preeminence in family affairs—was a relatively recent concern in the history of Western morality (Foucault 1978).

In seventeenth-century Spain and Europe, crimes of fornication increasingly made their appearance in Church dockets (Perry 1990: 18–136; Kamen 1985: 202–206); they hold a similarly prominent place among crimes punished by Peru’s Inquisition (Medina 1959; Lea 1908: 451).

Idolatry extirpators combing Indian settlements in the Department of Lima were not only on the lookout for idols, but for all kinds of sexual crimes—the “bad customs” that were believed to be wedded to deviltry. Leading the list of sexual transgressions were amancebamiento (unmarried men and women living together, or the long-standing Quechua custom of “trial” marriage), adultery, and various sins involving love magic.

If the devil was behind Andeans’ heathen worship of the sun and moon, of huacas (Andean holy places and shrines) and ancestors, he was also there goading on illicit love, the spread of guacanquis (Andean love charms), and, in general, making Indians deaf to explanations of how sex—unless practiced according to Church rules—was a mortal sin (Arriaga 1919: 50–51, 59, 62–65; Doctrina 1985: 126–132; 514–524; Pérez Bocanegra 1631: 211–250, 391, 415, 416).

Churchmen perceived intrinsic connections between weak family values, heresy, and political revolt: sex, idols, and public discord made up the three prongs of the devil’s trident. Accordingly, the Church’s civilizing crusade levied attacks simultaneously on all three fronts (see Silverblatt 1987: 181–196).

One telling example of how the devil’s doings interconnected with threats to colonial order was announced in an elaborate case brought before Lima’s ecclesiastical court: “Criminal case against don Francisco Gamarra, second person to the governor (local Indian office) for having escaped from jail where he was imprisoned, having been accused of being a witch-idolater, a promoter of witches, committing incest, and of being a public incendiary, leader of rebellions and conspiracies” (Sánchez 1991: 169–188).

Earlier Don Francisco had been charged with adultery and “celebrating a marriage according to pagan rites” (Sánchez 1991: 153–157). Sexual politics had broad implications in the seventeenth-century Andes, particularly when churchmen believed that the very basis of colonial order (civilization) would be destroyed if Indians did not practice family values their way.


Spanish ideologies of sex and gender harbored conflicting, though inte- grated, sentiments about women, their “nature,” and their possibilities. Euro- pean norms created female icons of the sexually lascivious witch (and whore)—the mortal enemy of man and God’s kingdom—along with the virgin, idealized in the sacred figure of the Madonna, intercessor to Jesus and God (Sprenger and Kramer 1970: 47; Warner 1983; Silverblatt 1994). On the one hand, women, as a sex, were condemned for their alleged vulnerability to satanic advances; on the other, women, as the embodiment of family honor, found their virginity celebrated and also subjected to the increasing vigilance of kinsmen and state (Silverblatt 1987: 160–181; Perry 1990).

Spanish common sense held women to be the moral and intellectual inferiors of men. These beliefs, enshrined in a legal system that institutionalized men’s advantage, were also sanctioned in a state religion that declared women to be particularly vulnerable to the devil’s advances (Silverblatt 1987: 119–124, 159–180).

Clerics, armed with the bilingual catechisms and sermons written for native evangelization, taught a range of gender morality. Some teachings laid out women’s subservience to men, phrased in a familiar language of mutual (patriarchal) obligation: men were obliged to support their wives, and women were obliged to obey their husbands. Sermons told of Eve’s perfidy, and Indians were forewarned that Eve’s generic weakness extended to her entire sex (Doctrina 1985: 213, 427, 619–620).

Gender lessons, strengthened by biblical mandate, were inscribed in colonial law and policy. Women as a corporate group—ethically weak, prone to diabolic persuasions, without the rational wherewithal to independently represent themselves—needed tutelage.

Spanish law considered women to be legal minors. This evaluation of women’s maturity permeated colonial Peru’s caste-divided, two-tiered legal structure: full privileges to enter contracts inde- pendently and enjoy title to property—privileges reserved for descendants of the Inka or provincial nobility—were limited to men. Or, we find this telling legal equation: the testimony of one Spanish male was equal to that of two Indian men or three Indian women (Silverblatt 1987: 119–124).

Permeated by assumptions that women were unsuitable to hold public of- fice, colonial policies impeded their direct, formal, participation in ayllu (here, community) political life. Although in principle amenable to local traditions, colonial administrators, in practice, did not recognize Pre-Columbian structures of parallel authority in which women—as women—governed their own political and religious groups (Silverblatt 1987: 31–66).

Certain elements of Spanish gender ideologies could not be broached: these included one deeply entrenched conviction that, by nature, only men were capable of taking on civic responsibilities. Andean women and men were often quick to modify Spanish policies in line with their own notions of how local government should be organized.

They surely must have been amused by Christianity’s moral prescriptions obliging men to economically support their spouses (Andean norms not only recognized that women worked, but dictated that women, independently from men, inherit use rights to land and control its product), and obliging women to obey their husbands (women were used to speaking out, challenging spouses and male civic authorities) (Silverblatt 1987: 3–14, 134, 181–196). Nevertheless, Spanish gendered practices—inscribed in colonial law, religion, customs, and expectations—took their toll.

Spaniards also brought a refined sense of honor and shame to the Peruvian Andes—an ethic of living which, as many commentators of Mediterranean and Spanish-colonized worlds have pointed out, sharply colored relations between men and women (Gilmore 1987; Peristiany 1965; Seed 1988; Gutiérrez 1991).

In Spain’s fissured worlds, honor imbued ethics of personal relations and social hierarchy. Central to moral sensibilities in Spanish and Creole life, honor marked social standing as it defined social virtue —always in gendered ways.

As a marker of social status, honor was born in Spain’s centuries-long history of reconquista, Christian Spain’s 700-year battle to wrest the Iberian peninsula from Moorish control. It was the reward bestowed by king upon victorious vassal, conveying personal prestige that was inseparable from material awards.

Honor’s prizes included privileges of rank: titles of nobility, ownership of land, and exemption from personal tribute. They also entailed privileges of conquest—perhaps best symbolized by the prized booty of (sexual) rights over conquered women (Gutiérrez 1991: 176–240).

Honor became a yardstick of social standing, an ideal along which men (dominating women) and God were ranked: God, of course, stood at the pinnacle, and men with claims to more honor took precedence over those with less.

Fashioning the Spanish body politic, honor’s rule placed God in preeminence, followed by king, churchmen, aristocrats, vassals, peasants, and lastly, slaves, whose status, by definition, was bereft of honor (Gutiérrez 1991: 176–206).

The honor hierarchy, grounded in social relations of power and dominance, rested on the unmaking or the social disgrace of others. Appraisals were made in the public arena, and Peru’s forums, where judgments of honor framed relations between Indian and Spaniard, were legion.

Sermons preached that God’s honor was tarnished whenever Andeans worshiped their deities, ancestors, or shrines (Doctrina 1985: 242). Human beings lost honor when they were publicly humiliated. Public shaming included punishments meted out to convicted Indian heretics, who were first whipped and then dragged through village streets while the town crier denounced their sins of idolatry or concubinage (e.g., Duviols 1971: 385; AAL: leg. 1, exp. XII; BN: C4142).

Public “scandals” also brought humiliations such as those suffered by a Spanish priest, tarnished because he could not contain the revelries of his Indian parishioners (AAL: leg. 6, exp. VIII); or by male descendants of the Andean nobility, who were disgraced when Spaniards called them perros (dogs) and “sons of whores” in village streets (Guaman Poma 1980: 1018); or by a Cusqueñan Ñusta (princess), claiming kinship to the great Inka queens, who was publicly shamed by “commoner” Indians daring to squat on lands she claimed title to (ADC: ACC,Top. 9, leg. 5).

Public affronts to dignity and the scandalous behavior associated with disgrace and infamy were gendered in the world of honor and virtue. Men lost face if they did not keep their word or if they were unable to physically defend themselves and protect their family.

Women brought shame to themselves and most weightily, to their male kin—by engaging in illicit sex. Spanish and colonial honor codes directly tied feminine virtue to masculine reputation: the most common offense to men’s honor and, by extension, to the entire kin group’s (for honor had a way of overflowing), was for a kinswoman’s virtue to be besmirched (Gutiérrez 1991: 207–226; Seed 1988: 61–74).

Catechism lessons might have taught Indians that sex outside of marriage was equally damning to men and women, and that chastity brought honor to both (Doctrina 1985: 126–132, 514–524; Pérez Bocanegra 1631: 211–250, 417).

Colonial social practices, however, permeated by codes of honor, taught double standards. How else to explain the following descriptions of native women’s premarital sexual activities written by Spanish men? The first comes from the chronicle of Pedro Pizarro, a relative of the conquistador:

Peasant women are faithful to their husbands after they marry; but before then, their fathers did not pay any attention if they were good or bad; nor was it considered shameful among them. (Pizarro 1968: 579)

The second is the opinion of one of Peru’s most famous churchmen, the Jesuit José de Acosta. He was responsible for the native-language catechisms that preached chastity for both sexes; he was also instrumental in the drives to ex- punge idolatries and bad customs from Peruvian shores:

There is another grave error . . . which is deeply rooted at the heart of the barbarians. Virginity, which is viewed with esteem and honor by all men, is deprecated by those barbarians as something vile. Except for the virgins consecrated to the Sun or the Inca (the aclla), all other women are considered of less value when they are virgin, and thus whenever possible they give themselves to the first man they find. (Acosta 1954b: 603)

I have found no corresponding appraisal of male virginity. If Spaniards here reveal a double standard regarding sex, they also make clear that this kind of sexual hypocrisy—rooted in honor’s gendered rules—was not part of Andean family values. For the most part (the exception being the aclla, or “virgins of the Sun” [Silverblatt 1987: 81–108]), Andean women could engage in sex before marriage, like men, with no stigma attached to them and no consequences for the reputation of kinsmen or kin group.


It appears that Andeans did not consider children that might result from their non-marital sexual liaisons to be tainted in any way. “Legitimacy” was a European creation, elaborated in Spanish law and prejudice. With twinned concerns for the integrity of lineage and property, Spanish tenets of ancestral purity—“blood” unsullied by Jew, Moor, or bastardy—determined social possibilities in Castile and its dominions.

As Spain’s inquisitional history makes clear, Iberian identities were obsessed by legitimacy, ancestry, and social bound- aries (Kamen 1985: 61, 115–133, 220, 224, 235; Elliott 1963: 212–248).

Under colonial circumstances, Spaniards furthered this preoccupation as they manufactured and institutionalized the category of human beings they called mestizos, or mixed bloods (Morner 1967: 21–34).

This mala casta (bad caste), part of colonialism’s racial taxonomy, was to become synonymous with dis- grace, defective character, and bastardy. The native chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, who, as we will see, shared Spaniards’ horror of “mixed blood,” so closely associated mestizo with illegitimacy that he called Inka secondary lineages mestizos (Guaman Poma 1980: 96).

The renowned legal scholar of Peru, Juan de Solórzano, holding comparable sentiments later in the seven- teenth century, inveighed against mestizos’ dishonor—their flawed nature, the product of an impure and soiled birth (1972 [vol. 252]: 441–450).

Mestizos’ burden, their disgrace and infamy, harkened to honor’s very soul, born in the long history of the Spanish reconquista. For honor’s rules, laid bare in conquest, declared vanquished women to be honor’s ultimate trophy. Illegitimate, impure, tainted, and “mixed breeds” were colonization’s inevitable result: the fuel of a social morality, born in the subjugation of other peoples, that exalted women’s chastity, ancestral purity, and impenetrable social bound- aries.

Spanish domination of the Inka empire, carried out in gendered ways, was anchored in sexual assault: to paraphrase Magnus Morner writing more than twenty years ago, the colonization of the New World was grounded in the conquest of women (1967: 21–25), with mestisaje—the genesis of tainted “half-breeds”—not only an inescapable, but a necessary consequence.

“Family values” thus entered the colonial fray. Conflicts over their meaning and moral significance charged the politics of identity-making—the broad contests over definitions of humanness—at the heart of the colonial enterprise.

Spanish lessons on gender and sex, on legitimacy and race—with all their con-tradictions—

were imposed on Andean worlds. Part of colonialism’s ideological landscape, they could be grafted onto native intellectual and ethical sensibilities as Andeans struggled to make sense of themselves and of colonialism’s changes.

Colonized Peruvians took up family values in a variety of ways: they could become standards to judge and criticize the colonial experience, as well as inspirations for a gamut of political strategies. Now we turn to some of the uneasy and perhaps surprising ways they became part of Andeans’ lives.


An ideology of chastity, honor, and purity of blood deeply colored Guaman Poma’s vision of social order and social justice. In Guaman Poma’s critical hands, Iberian family values became devastating probes into the stark decline of Peru’s native population, the hypocrisy of colonial officials, and, ultimately, the legitimacy of colonial government.

Guaman Poma’s chronicle of buen gobierno (good government) argued that the successful, biological reproduction of “Indians” was inseparable from social order and just colonial rule. Good colonial government would rest on legitimate political hierarchy, while its success ultimately depended on preserving strict boundaries between society’s constituent groups.

Echoing Spanish penchants, Guaman Poma’s vision of colonial order was rooted in notions of purity—both of nación (español, indio, and negro) and of status (nobility, commoner/peasant). Building on (and transforming) Iberian gender ideologies, Guaman Poma saw control over women’s sexual activities—their virtue and honor—to be crucial: pre-marital chastity coupled with marriage to appropriate men would ensure the purity of lineage, nación, and rank needed for societal order and the procreation of native peoples.

Close vigilance over women’s sexuality, then, was crucial to the successful reproduction of colonial society—evaluated by standards of good government, political order, and growth in the Indian population. In general, women were blamed for societal failures (e.g., 1980: 162, 205, 207, 413–414, 421, 474, 566, 800, 801, 816, 896, 1019–1020).

Guaman Poma hammered at these themes throughout his Nueva corónica, and he made his point by comparing the moral decadence of colonial society to the virtue of Andean costumbres prior to the Spanish invasion.

Guaman Poma, with great irony, took Christian ethics as his moral standard. So, although Andeans might not have been practicing Catholics before the Iberian onslaught, Andeans did know how to govern well—that is, in a “Christian way,” with charity, justice, and sexual restraint. Women’s honor and virtue were intrinsic to Guaman Poma’s vision of buen gobierno. He described women’s sexual practices before the Spanish conquest—when good government reigned in the Andes—in this way:

among their women, they found no adulteresses, nor were there any whores . . . [W]omen were virgins when they married, and they held this to be a [matter of] honor and they [kept] virginity until thirty years of age. Then they married. . . . . . . And thus they multiplied greatly. (1980: 48–49; also see 54, 56, 89, 275, 720, 871)

Although ambivalent about the legitimacy of Inka rule, Guaman Poma admitted that the lords of Cuzco presided over a well-ordered society. Again, linking Inka’s just domain with the overwhelming virtue of Inka women, he wrote:

The greatness that this New World of the Indies had, keeping women virgins until thirty three years of age . . . O what a beautiful law, not only of the land but of God . . . neither [Spanish] emperor nor any of the world’s kings have known such a beautiful law. . . .

Keeping women chaste was half the key to Pre-Columbian social order; the other half lay in “marrying well,” which for Guaman Poma meant ensuring women married their social equivalents.

Before the Spanish conquest, rank would have been society’s principal concern; colonial rule, however, introduced the added complexities of “race,” and Guaman Poma exhorted Andeans to marry in kind. He directed kurakas, members of the colonial indigenous elite, to be sure that:

they do not give their daughters in marriage to either Indian peasants [mitayos] or to Spaniards, but rather to their equals, so that a good caste

If marriage between unequals in rank was a threat to good government, marriage outside of caste, Guaman Poma charged, would ring its death knell. Moreover, Guaman Poma linked this corruption of the social order to the corruption of women: their essential disloyalty and wanton sexual impulses produced social decay, impure races, and muddied social boundaries.

Decrying the villainy of Indian women, he explained that they were prone to men outside their caste, preferring Spaniards to hardworking and honest Andeans. This was their insidious disgrace; worse, such indias had no honor, less even than negras who, as slaves, were at the bottom of honor’s barrel. Calling Indian women “whores,” women without virtue, Guaman Poma bemoaned their treachery and betrayal:

Some [of these Indian women], since they have been cooks for the priest or encomendero or corregidor, or any Spaniard, [and] has been [sic] a servant, mistress, or had a child by him, or has fornicated with a Spaniard, mestizo or negro, mulato, these aforementioned Indian women end up being liars, thieves, great whores, lazy. . . . and do not serve either God or His Majesty nor do they obey their authorities. . . . . . . in fornicating with Spaniard and priest, corregidor, encomendero, or with mestizo or with mulato, negro, yanacona [serf ], an [Indian woman] now does not want to marry an . . . Indian commoner. And these Indian women are worse than negras, and now they have no honor. (1980: 800)

Guaman Poma offered two solutions. The first was in line with Viceroy Toledo’s policy of residential segregation. It maintained that all non-Indians— españoles, negros, mulatos, mestizos—be outlawed from Indian settlements.

If, in spite of this ban, native women had children by non-Indians, both the woman and her offspring should be exiled from her pueblo and prohibited from taking residence in Indian villages (Guaman Poma 1980: 1019–1020).

Guaman Poma’s second solution argued for the right of parents (or the state) to intervene in women’s marriage choices. Armed with this prerogative, Andean elders could pressure daughters to betroth Indian men of comparable standing. Guaman Poma looked to Inka statecraft as a model in this regard and credited Cuzco’s supposed ability to distribute women in marriage for the empire’s notable social order and stability (1980: 190–192).

This remedy for colonial disorder, however, ran counter to ecclesiastical law, something that Guaman Poma, who accompanied various clerics on their extirpating missions, must have been aware of.

The seventeenth-century Church celebrated the right of spouses to marry of their own free will and gave clear precedence to spousal choice over parental objections whenever they were in conflict (Seed 1988: 17–94). Guaman Poma’s resolve suggests the depths of his concern about in- digenous survival along with a conviction, profoundly held, that “dishonorable” marriages had produced Andean decline.

Guaman Poma wrote with great horror of the proliferation of Peru’s malas castas, of the stained, illegitimate “mixed breeds”—mostly mestizos, but also mulatos and sambaigos (indio and negro unions)—whose scandalous lives (his judg ment) seemed to feed colonial disorder (1980: 189, 498, 504, 509).

Guaman Poma’s vision transformed Peru’s mestizos into icons of death—glaring evidence of native mortality and social degeneracy. His impassioned pleas for purity of rank and “race”—and for the need of the surveillance of women’s honor in the name of the public good—drew on the dominant/hybridized rhetoric of those colonial times.

Through it, he attempted to make moral and cognitive sense out of a threatening, deteriorating world. Guaman Poma’s chronicle of good government defended Andeans by de- fending their honor, that is, by remaking Pre-Columbian history into a utopia of social virtue, where women were chaste and social boundaries fiercely guarded.

Bound by this vision, he could eloquently denounce the plight of indigenous women under colonial rule (1980: 534, 542–547, 610, 618–619), even as he placed much blame for the collapse of social order at their feet. Native women were not the sole object of his piercing attacks; Spaniards—the entire colonial entourage, and priests in particular—were chastised for bringing iniquity to the Andean world.

Nevertheless, with Christian insight, Guaman Poma re- minded his readers that “the first sin ever committed was by a woman” (1980: 122). And continuing an exhortation directed to the daughters of Eve, he scolded, “thus you began the first idolatry” and “served the devils” (1980: 122). The rhetoric of (colonial) family values was a narrative of censure; and when Guaman Poma apportioned blame for the collapse of Indian pueblos and of colonial order he singled out women, their sexual lasciviousness, their tar- nished honor, and their shame:

And thus Indian men know that their wives go about, having become shrews and whores, and she [sic] has born a child by another indio or mestizo. . . . And it is because of women that men abandon [their pueblos]. . . . And thus women deserve to be punished more. (1980: 816)


Guaman Poma elaborated one vision of past and present Andean worlds, built on an idealization of Pre-Columbian history while drawing on a language of honor, purity, and disgrace.

Other native Peruvians—men and women, kurakas and comuneros—imagined themselves and their society through a similar discursive lattice, but came to different understandings. Records of the trials brought against the practitioners of idolatry and malas costumbres in the seven- teenth-century Lima highlands offer us a glimpse into these transformations.

For many of those accused of a gamut of deviltries, from worshiping moun- tains to fornication, questions of honor took on other shapes, promoting new slants on power and legitimacy, new insights into the social relations of colony, and new practices in honor’s defense.

We must keep in mind, however, that these testimonies were products of the Andes’ most direct and pronounced culture wars—the campaigns to extirpate idolatry—and that living through them had its own effect on the particular moral and practical imperatives that “honor” would inspire. The extirpation of idolatry campaigns trucked in fear as extirpators, like inquisitors, fomented terror. Preparing the way for village inspection, all adults were called and assembled, then forewarned of the upcoming inquest:

[It is] directed, commanded, and required that within twelve days . . . the [members of a particular pueblo] should reveal to us if they have known, seen, or heard that any person is . . . a heretic or witch or idol worshipper. . . . (AAL: leg. 2, exp. XXVII)

With this announcement, extirpators tore into the fabric of village life, setting native Peruvians—kin, ayllu-members, kurakas, peasants, members of dif- ferent ethnicities—against one another. Anyone who failed to report a “heretic” faced public chastisement, or worse, the grim possibility of being charged with practicing idolatry or witchcraft.

Punishments were severe: public flogging; forced labor in obrajes, proto-factory or sweat shops, mines, hospital sor banishment, the most dreaded sentence.

Throughout the course of the seventeenth century, extirpation campaigns unleashed waves of alarm on top of waves of dissension as Andean was pitted against Andean.

Native Peruvians had experienced the arbitrariness of power before the Span- ish invasion, but not vis-à-vis this particular dynamic, encrusted with legalistic form and a social logic of greed.

Nor had they lived under a state religion that declared their very ways of living to be criminal. Although they acknowledged some Spanish responsibility for the devastations endured by native peoples, seventeenth-century churchmen and legal scholars also preached that Andeans’ extraordinary sufferings amounted to God’s punishment for a nación that had stubbornly resisted His ways (Doctrina 1985: 652–653).

Andeans were torn by betrayals: indigenous gods and colonial gods, the colonial state and native officials. Racked by terrible ambiguities and the generalized fears of colonial cir- cumstance, Andeans were further visited by the terrors of the extirpation campaigns.

“Honor” shored up these brambles of colonial experience, a frame both making colonial hierarchy and making sense of it, enforcing colonial exchanges and also—within the bounds of colonial hegemony—turning them around.

Hispanic notions of honor penetrated the etiquette of social relations in seventeenth-century indigenous communities; and public considerations of honor, along with public affronts, wed its ethos to the practices of day-to-day living. Honor contests were the mettle of status in a status-obsessed colonial world.

Public affronts to personal honor charged interactions between Spaniards and Indians and between Indians, particularly between those with elite pretensions and peasant commoners.

Public exchanges became testing grounds, arenas to verify social position in a society where boundaries were often fuzzy: indios could become mestizos; mestizos might pass for españoles; elite Indians were in a status limbo as privileged members of the colonized caste (Spalding 1974: 31–126, 147–196).

Hispanic codes singled out name-calling as a means to probe honor’s relative measure. Andeans bristled when they were called perro indio (Indian dog) by Spaniards.

This was terrible abuse, an affront to natives’ humanity, and we find indigenous peoples from all over the Andes denouncing Spaniards for trying to dehumanize them by means of public indignities. Strong feelings about name-calling entered the text written by Guaman Poma (1980: 1018), who was outraged at Spanish snubs to his status and race.

They also appear in the idolatry proceedings, revealing tensions within Indian communities. Elite Indians used Spanish terms of disgrace to distance themselves from caste-mates. These insults could be wedded to other scourges, such as Christian Indians, allying themselves with the Spanish establishment, humiliating fellow ayllu-members by accusing them of anti-Christian activities.

A common affront was to publicly call indios devil worshipers in addition to dogs. Several residents from San Lorenzo de Quinti were duly disgraced by the wife of the alcalde (mayor) who “went around dishonoring Indian men and women alike, calling them perras hechiceras [sic] (female witch dogs)” (AAL: leg. 2, exp. XIV).

Indian women were also shamed by other dishonorable words. These were the insults phrased in the language of virtue, insults that disgraced women through accusations of sexual license. Women could be shamed by public epithets of puta, or whore, and by the seventeenth century, Andean women found that sexual conduct, now fashioned into a measure of honor, was a dimension along which they could be publicly judged and rebuked (AAL: leg. 7, exp. I).

Prior to the Spanish invasion, these practices of honor were unknown to the Andes; colonization brought novel ways of joining women’s sexuality to an accepted, public discourse on civic morality.

If words could bring dishonor, so then could public punishments. Such visible lessons in social order rebounded as shame on those who were disci- plined—at least according to colonial rules.

Punishments were more than humiliating, they stained the name and, by extension, the lineage of those accused. Once tarnished, kurakas jeopardized their standing, along with their kin’s, in the colony’s political establishment. In Spain and in non-Indian Peru, the Inquisition, with its autos-de-fe (public spectacle of judgment of faith) and charges of dirty blood lines, swept men and their descendants from civic grace and public office, as might witchcraft accusations.

Testimony from the trial of a renowned kuraka and witch-consulter, living in the village of Iguari, expressed these concerns: Francisco Gamarra’s sister fretted that her brother’s upcoming trial would manchar, or stain, not only him but the entire kin group (AAL: leg. 5, exp. XIII; Sanchez 1991: xl), and thus put a halt to their political futures.

Andeans quickly learned of “honor’s” importance to the ideals, if not the practice, of Spanish norms regarding feminine virtue. They also got a fast lesson in Spanish hypocrisy—honor could front for dishonorable deeds.

Indians were adroit with Spanish ironies, turning them around so that honor’s barbs mocked their Iberian creators. One example comes from an extirpation trial against an accused Indian witch whose clients included a coterie of local Spaniards. Francisca Carguachuqui, an elderly woman, stood accused of witchcraft, murder (through diabolic pacts), idolatry, and love magic.

Spaniards sincerely believed in her love-magic powers and were willing to use them, pay for them, if Francisca Carguachuqui could attain their hearts’ desire. One Spanish woman, desperately in love with the village priest, consulted Señora Carguachuqui for potions and spells to make sure he would be staying by her side.

Inquisitor/extirpators were aghast when they learned of this astonishing deviltry and pressed Francisca Carguachuqui to account for why she had not confessed her grave sin earlier. After all, extirpators had been highly suspect of this elderly “witch”—mountain god/devil worshiper, purveyor of cures and love charms.

They had been interrogating her for days and had even subjected her to torture. Francisca Carguachuqui finally explained her reluctance to testify with the following devilish response: she claimed great reticence to confess this particular request to Church authorities, made, as it was, by a Spanish woman for love magic—“[Francisca Carguachuqui] could not testify because she was looking out for, protecting, the señora’s honor” (AAL: leg. 1, exp. XII).

Andeans thus took some honor lessons to heart and learned how to use them to mock the social hierarchy that colonial honor practices tried to enforce. They also broadened its venue from relations between persons to a whole social order: honor and purity suddenly joined the Andean culture wars, but on the nativist side.


In the early 1600s, idolatry extirpators uncovered that an emerging nativism— an “Indianist” movement challenging Spanish authority and orthodoxy—was gripping Andean imaginations.

Throughout the century to follow, Indianist sentiments—while competing with a range of ideologies and allegiances— galvanized Andeans across boundaries of ayllu, ethnicity, gender, and privilege (Silverblatt 1995). Indianist ideologies portrayed Andeans’ experience as colo- nized subjects in devastating terms: Peru’s staggering population loss haunted all assessments of life’s fabric, to which was added apprehension over loss of lands, insufficient food and clothing, and anxiety over tribute and corvée labor service (AAL: leg. 2, exp. XVIII; leg. 4, exp. XVIII; leg. 3, exp. X).

Nativism articulated Andeans’ gnawing insecurities and growing fears. It did so in a religious philosophy that protested Spanish dominion, even as it was framed in Iberian categories. Spanish gods were opposed to Andean ones, and Peruvians, abandoning native gods for Christianity’s allure, had broken faith.

Huacas, in response, had turned their backs on Andeans, while Spaniards’ gods— in spite of their universalist rhetoric—proved to be just Spaniards’ gods, and, like their mortal compatriots, betrayed Andeans with false promises to defend their well-being. A respected community elder, condemned by the extirpators for witchcraft and heresy, explained:

The reason why Indians [are] dying [is] because they no longer adore their malquis [ancestors] and huacas like their elders formerly did, which is why there used to be so many Indians who had more fields and clothing and who lived in greater tranquility. It is because they adore the huacas of the Spanish people—no more than a few painted and gilded sticks—that Indians keep on dying and losing their lands. Spaniards’ gods don’t give Indians anything. Indians because [we] are Indians should adore [our] huacas and ancestors. (AAL: leg. 6, exp. XI, fol. 9–9v)

Nativist religious practices were exuberantly anticolonial: while Andean huacas were celebrated, Andean foods prized, and Andean rituals exalted, Spanish gods were condemned, Spanish products banned, and Spanish rites vilified. Follow- ing Indianist dictates, whenever nativists worshiped their huacas or ancestors, they refused to have any dealings with Spanish goods or foods. And even more dangerously, nativists would try to avoid Christianity’s most execrable pollutions—church, mass, and catechism classes (AAL: leg. 6, exp. XI, fols. 33v, 37, 39).

In spite of its courageous efforts to combat Spanish influence, nativism was torn by compromise: Indianists, embattled by idol smashers, could not ignore either the weight of Spanish institutions or their antagonism to native beliefs. “Indianism” had to be practiced with great cunning and prudence, as nativist ideologies conceded that huacas had to share Andean skies with Spaniards’ gods (AAL: leg. 6, exp. XI, fols. 33v, 37; leg. 2, exp. XVIII; leg. 4, exp. XVIII; leg. 3, exp. X).

Indianism, acknowledging (intentionally? not?) Spain’s seemingly un- yielding presence (Silverblatt 1995), struggled to recreate Andean purity and a new sense of Andean honor in the midst of colonial contaminations.

Thus an elaborate “purity”—the spiritual impulse behind Spain’s Counter Reformation baroque—transformed and colored the strategies of Andean nativism. Purity of food, of clothing, of habits, and tradition oriented Indianism’s design for living. Building walls against Spanish pollutions, Indianist practice then turned to sexual matters.

Much of what we know about seventeenth-century Andean nativism and its accompanying ethic of family values is gleaned from the idolatry trials; for, as I have discussed, extirpators understood their mission to encompass heresies of thought and lifestyle.

Peru’s orthodoxy patrols encountered a litany of sexual sins—the scandalous and dishonorable ways of living, the malas costumbres, so dangerous to the civilizing process and the colonial endeavor. Many headmen were infamous “bigamists,” or, following the buenas costumbres of their ances- tors, took polygamy to be a privilege and symbol of rank (Doctrina 1985: 520).

Under most circumstances—the Inka institution of the aclla being the notable Pre-Columbian exception and, as we will see, women ministers of Indianism, the other—Andeans scoffed at premarital chastity. Conceits of female virtue and male swagger, so prized in Spanish self-presentations (Seed 1988: 61–74; Gutiérrez 1991: 207–226), did not find a place in Andean sexual etiquette.

While costumbres varied throughout the region’s many ayllus, colonial accounts suggest that sexual experimentation thrived (at least before marriage), that women as well as men were encouraged in sexual play, that some form of “trial” marriage guided eventual marriage choices, and, that, in a world where “being fruitful” was genuinely revered, “illegitimacy” had little meaning (Doctrina 1985: 217–220, 316, 514–524; Pérez Bocanegra 1631: 211–250; AAL: leg. 6, exp. X; leg. 6, exp. VIII

While Andean ethics authorized premarital sex (Guaman Poma to the contrary), they seemed to frown on what we would call adultery.

Once a couple expressed a commitment to each other through marriage Andean style, they were probably admonished not to engage in sexual relations with others. Interestingly, confession manuals praised Inka teachings in this regard, while severely criticizing other Andean sexual habits (Doctrina 1985: 514–524, 646; Arriaga 1919: 50–51, 59).

When priest/inquisitors undertook comparative analyses of sexual sins, they discovered, to their chagrin, that fornication never made Andean lists, whereas having relations with someone already married inevitably did (AAL: leg. 6, exp. X, fol. 6; leg. 4, exp. XXVII, fol. 2v).

In the colonial Andes, checks on sexual behavior seemed to be increasingly levied on nativism’s ministers. Hernando Hacas Poma, the renowned Indianist from Cajatambo, chastised one of his pastors for flagrantly carrying out affairs with several women at the same time (AAL: leg. 6, exp. XI, fol. 46).

When Juan Raura would not change his lifestyle to meet the demands of a stricter behav- ioral canon, Hacas Poma removed him from office. The origins of this bit of sexual ethics are difficult, if not impossible, to trace, but Hacas Poma’s concerns might be part of nativism’s broader, ideological push extolling purity.

His actions, then, would seem to mesh with an emerging Andean practice confound- ing sexual virtue and community honor. Over a generation of hunting out idolatries in the Lima highlands had exposed a trend: virgin women—young girls and adults sworn to celibacy—were increasingly carrying out significant roles in Indianist ritual practice (AAL: leg. 2, exp. IV; leg. 3, exp. X; leg. 4, exp. XVIIIa; leg. 3, exp. XV; leg. 4, exp. s.n.; leg. 6, exp. XI; Silverblatt 1987: 203–205; 1994).

In a hybridizing process, merging and countering gender ideologies, Indianism fused women’s sexual virtue (and perhaps the political prestige associated with the aclla of Inka times) with ef- forts to preserve the “purity” of traditional Andean life.

Trying to live as “Andeanly” as possible, virgin women and chaste women were charged with sustaining “Indianist” ritual. Concealed from Spanish churchmen and census takers, barricaded from the contaminations of Spanish society, these women were systematically withdrawn from Spanish religious institutions and civic offices.

As a consequence, they were also barred from contact with Spanish men and kept pure from their corruptions and immorality (See AAL: leg. 4, exp. XVIIIa and exp. s.n.).

The extirpation campaigns, like Peruvian law and church canon, divided the Andean social universe into Indians and Spaniards. Some seventeenth-century Andeans increasingly saw themselves and their world in these categories.

But if, at this time, Andeans could no longer imagine removing Spaniards from their soil and skies, at least they could struggle to carve a space of dignity within the confines of colonial vigilance.

Nativist religion, mirroring the absolutist categories of the colonial enterprise, saw itself as a collective endeavor with a collective purpose. The chastity of women ministers held special significance in a religious movement that queried the legitimacy of Iberian culture and, then, searched to define its own virtues.

The honor of highland virgins was far from a nostalgic memory of Inka times, or a measure of kin group standing, or simply a vow of religious com- mitment. It was tied to the honor of a people under siege.

This became clear when nativists from the town of Guatan collectively chastised the mayor’s sister for offending their principal huaca. In 1680 they sequestered her with the in- tention of conducting a public trial for the charge of blasphemy.

Condemned for defiling the community’s beloved shrine, she suffered the public humiliations of Spanish-style punishments. Guataneños publicly whipped her, paraded her through the streets, and then put her in Spanish stocks. As they shamed her throughout the village, Guataneños shouted her sin: “by condemning the worship of our Andean gods, she had lost the honor of [our] people” (AAL: leg. 4, exp. XLII, fol. 14).


Spain touched off waves of societal contradictions while fabricating “Indians” as part of its design for colonial rule, as contrary gender practices merged, uneasily, with the colony’s racialized, social core. This dance of contradictory experiences and tenets of living constructed contradictory colonial selves, and helped explain the gamut of (hybridized) understandings and sentiments that gripped Andeans’ imaginings.

This paper has looked at a parcel of those contraries—at the play of Christian family values and the ethics of honor—in the making of Spain’s seventeenth-century Andean colony and its colonized subjects. Spanish dominion over the Inka empire, carried out in gendered ways, was tethered to honor’s insuperable contradictions: a social morality—thriving on the subjuga- tion of other peoples and promising women as conquest’s right—that exalted women’s virtue, legitimacy of birth, and “racial” purity.

The gap between prin- ciple and practice of Spanish religious/political ethics was nowhere more obvi- ous than in the terrain of buenas costumbres. Family values—the moral bedrock of the colonizing process—pointed to colonization’s most blatant hypocrisies: Christian sermons praising chastity, teaching sex only in marriage, rebuking greed, decrying women’s perfidy, and warning of the dangers to the soul (and civilization) when God’s commandments are broken.

Yet these very principles seemed to have little impact on Spaniards’ sexual or material appetites. These contradictions, running roughshod over Andeans’ colonial experiences, penetrated Andean worlds. Contributing to the makings of colonial hierarchy and to explanations of it, colonial family values—worked and re- worked in a sweep of ways—apportioned blame and suggested strategies. Along with colonial categories of humanity, Andean nativists spun the Counter Reformation’s exaltation of purity and obsession with women’s vir- tue into their own program of cultural restoration.

As new ministers in a growing “Indianism,” Andean women were protected from Christian pollutions, including Spanish men and their shame. Unlike Guaman Poma and his elabo- ration of Counter Reformation family values, Andean nativists did not blame women for their sharp decline in numbers or for the deterioration of Andean ways of life.

Rather, “virtuous” Indianist ministers—kept from the ranks of conquest’s sexual booty and thus appropriate envoys of community “honor”— engaged strategies for “Indian” sustenance and reproduction. Colonial ironies, nevertheless, deeply inscribed nativist family values: women’s virtue could only be celebrated at gendered costs—costs anchored in the very ideologies and practices of Spanish conquest that Indianists so vehemently repudiated.

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