Lecture 3. Spanish Peru: Evangelical Colonialism, the Laws of the Indies and the Extractive Economy

The labor system of Encomienda was extended to the Viceroyalty of Peru using the physical forms and institutions of the Spanish Catholic Church and the Laws of the Indies. Similarities with the Inca tribute labor obligations smoothed the transition to the Spanish Encomienda implemented with particular violence in the extraction of silver at the mines of Potosí (Bolivia). As elsewhere, the Encomienda was part and parcel of the Spanish rulers’ obligation to baptize, educate, and care for the souls of the new American Catholics, but it often subjected the encomendados laborers to hardship, abuse, or death. As demonstrated elsewhere the evangelical imperative to convert souls of indigenous Americans provided the underlying justification for a forced labor system of the Spanish Encomienda operating in part through the physical and institutional infrastructures established in hundreds of towns as prescribed by the Laws of the Indies. In the Viceroyalty of Peru (Peru and Bolivia), this system of wealth extraction was brought to bear on intensive mining operations for the extraction of gold and silver. As elsewhere the role of the Spanish Catholic Church is central to the larger social, political and economic system of colonial rule. The infrastructures of road networks, town form, the urban focal points of the Plaza surrounded by religious and political buildings are central to sustaining the far-flung system of colonial extraction. We find that the architectures and cultural systems of the Inca Empire are sometimes erased and sometimes redirected to become a part of the Spanish Catholic cultural system. Similar to the New Spain in the lands of the Mexica, The Spanish Crown granted a number of settlers, called encomenderos, with indigenous labor grants called encomiendas. These gave extensive powers to the encomenderos, and allowed them to freely demand whatever services they pleased within their assigned native districts. Through his assignment of power, the encomendero was mainly permitted to require the natives to provide him with forced labor. However, he could also mandate they pay him large amounts of money, and bring him assorted food products and manufactured goods to his house, regardless of the distance. These encomenderos, made vecinos (official citizens of the town) by royal authority, were also allowed to dominate the city council and thus be holders of political power. Throughout we find a complex interplay of erasure, displacement, and syncretic reformation in the architectures of the Spanish Andes. Solares, plots of land distributed by the Crown, were meant to establish Spanish residences and public space in the center of the new city. The colonial period thus permitted the increase of indigenous land ownership by Spanish families, to the point of the best farm land passing from Inca into Spanish hands by the time of independence.

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Lecture Notes