I have told about many Incas and Spaniards, about what motivated them and how they clashed bloodyly. Small stories that I hope have drawn an outline of the great. Now I would like to end with a story of a single mestizo – son of an Inca woman and a Spanish man – for what we call Peruvian cultures are results of countless collisions between Indians, Spaniards and others.
Social developments don’t follow a simple schedule. At least this doesn’t, but is a story across which can help to draw a larger story and perhaps help to tie it together, so that contradictory it may sound.
Everything is not what it seems to be. Nor in Peru.
Blas Valera was born in 1545 in Chachapoya in the northern high rainforest of Peru. Informations about his parents are not unambiguous – so it was then.
The mother was named Allpa Urpi, was probably Incaprinsess of birth, and her name can be translated into Lovebird. She had been raped, infected with the veneral disease itch and got pregnant, then was baptized Francisca Pérez and married to her supposed rapist.
The presumed rapist, the husband and now the father of a child was the Spaniard Luis Valera, an officer who, for his belligerent efforts against first Indians and then against rebellious Spaniards, had been rewarded with an encomienda, lands with about a thousand Indians who lived there and who were to work for him in the future.
Blas grew up in the post-Inca society, where Spanish gentlemen moved the Indian population as it suited the gentlemen: remnants of ayllu-communities, the fields of the Indians and irrigation systems had to be abandoned because the Spaniards made great plans. Instead of the old communities, new so-called reducciónes were established. It was easier to control, fix the production and collect the planned surplus. But it also created bitterness and carelessness.
Indians continued to tell stories, perhaps even more than before and at least others to bring hope of change. Blas listened willingly to his mother and others who wanted to tell and it could especially be the old storytellers, amautas.
Like other Spaniards who wanted to be conquistador, Luis Valera – Blas alleged father – had left his wife at home in Spain. 25 years after Luis had left her, she sailed for him to Peru. Luis left his Inca wife Francisca, and thus Blas got a Spanish stepmother, but immediately after she reached Chachapoya, he was sent to a Latin school in Trujillo, so she as a person did not get that great importance for him.
The first seven Jesuits had arrived in Peru in April 1568, and in November Blas was admitted to their school in Lima. Unlike Dominicans, Franciscans, and most other monastic orders, the Jesuits opened their doors for mestizo – perhaps because it had proved difficult to attract enough brothers of the Orden from Europe, and perhaps because some mestizos both spoke Spanish and their local language. Language skills were crucial if the mission was to succeed.
A generation after the Spanish conquest there was still Indian resistance to the Spanish gentlemen. The resistance did not only come from the mini-incastate that had been established in the rainforest. Also a religious, Indian resistance was brewing in the highlands and on the coast.
The movement Taki Unquy – the name referred to a dance ceremony for the prevention of diseases – arose in 1564 around the mountain town of Ayacucho (which was then called La Muy Noble y Leal Ciudad Huamanga), where it gained its foothold. Its message was preached by Juan Chocne, and it spread to Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, and La Paz, the capital of present-day Bolivia.
Taki Unquy began as a religious movement among common people who claimed that the Huacas, sacred places, and objects that meant everything to people and which could have the form of a mountain, a stream or a distinct corn cob, were bothered by the missionaries. But the spirits, the movement claimed, not only took dwelling in mountains, rivers and things but also in people – takiunquys – and made them dance, dance and dance as well as to proclaim a divine restoration of the time before the Spanish conquest – even before the Inca Empire – and that the Christian God would be thrown out with the Spanish rulers!
The movement had to trigger a Spanish reaction.
When two of Taki Unquys leading women were called Maria and Maria Magdalene, respectively, the Spaniards became stark raving. The ecclesiastical inspector Cristóbal de Albornoz was instructed to bring down the movement and he was assisted by the Indian Felipe Guáman Poma de Ayala. A generation later, Pomas life situation changed radically, so he wrote and illustrated his critical chronicle, where also the inspector Albornoz was portrayed.
Juan Chocne and the other leaders of the resistance were taken to Cusco, where they had to renounce their faith. Female followers were forced into monasteries and males were sentenced large fines.
While the popular Indian resistance was fought, the mestizo Blas Valera impressed the Jesuit teachers with his linguistic abilities. He and the other novices were taught by Father Miguel Fuentes who defended the rights of the Indians and argued that they should have the right to their land back. Later, Fuentes by the Inquisition was accused of seducing a whole nunnery, and then he became insane.
The charge was not unique. Also the Jesuit Luis López was by the Inquisition accused of seducing young ladies and became subsequently mad. Their files were filed at the Inquisition – in contrast to the case against Blas Valera, who I later will describe and which apparently was managed without papers. Also in Jesuit circles resistance sprouted, as you can sense.
After two years of teaching, Valera and two other novices and four priests were sent to Huarochirí, east of Lima. The mission station covered an area of both high mountains and fertile valleys, and it was founded by Dominicans, but they had abandoned it and then it was taken over by the Jesuits.
Valeras language skills were crucial for the mission to succeed. He accompanied the priests on their walks of two-three weeks, and after a weeks stay at the mission station, they continued their mission which implied destruction of Andean religious objects.
In Huarochirí, the Jesuits cooperated with local leaders. One of them, Sebastián, admitted that he for many years had mistresses staying, but that he now would ask forgiveness and start a new life. Would the priests please throw all the women out of his house? His example made others in the area confess their sins, and Sebastián became the faithful helper of the Jesuits just as they helped him in struggles with other local leaders.
Something for something, as you say.
The cooperation with Sebastián made more people confess their sins and assume the Christian faith. This encouraged the Jesuits to further preach about the purgatory, and the threat of that made even more to confess and perform their instructed penances kneeling in front of the Jesuits crucifix in Lima. Confession and penance – self-whipping was part of daily life – became cardinal points, evidence of having passed paganism and becoming a true Christian.
Indians welcomed the missionaries surprisingly well. They flocked to mass baptism even if they understood almost nothing said in Spanish. They found no difficulties in exchanging Inca religion for Catholicism: there were many similarities.
In discussions with Sebastián, Valera compared the Christians and the Andean notions of the sacrifice, spoke about the Andean gods, and they met in an understanding that supernatural beings existed: The Inca huamincas were almost identical to the angels of the Christians. The notion that Andes faith could be transformed into Christianity made Valera conclude that local traditions could be used as a basis for further mission.
This was a completely different approach than the persecution and extermination of Andean superstition, even though the aim probably was the same.
The Jesuits in Huarochirí – including Blas Valera – were convinced that Andes religion was erroneous. But as it was so rooted in the population, Christianity had to be built on it, on the basis of the believers.
Similar considerations had been made elsewhere in relation to the Corpus Cristi feast, where 60 days after Easter, Christs flesh and blood were celebrated by carrying the saints of the churches in procession through the streets. The Incas had previously carried their mummies through the streets, so that tradition the Jesuits could refer to when explaining their processions. The Indians, however, could not understand why Christian priests dampened the festivities by discouraging drinking and dancing.
In May 1570, the Jesuits Corpus Cristi festivities in Huarochirí was celebrated with Inca poetry and dancing in local costumes. Nine Indian boys in green with gold and feather ornament sang in their own language about the Eucharist and about the Sun! And the feast developed into a celebration of a huaca, the fertility goddess Chaupiñamca.
After two years of efforts in Huarochirí, the Jesuits abandoned the mission there. The reason was both that the physically hard life had cost two missionaries life and that the mission had failed. The Jesuits found that although the natives had declared themselves Christians, it was not honestly meant.
Valera disagreed with the decision to abandon Huarochirí, but now he was moved to another mission area, El Cercado on the outskirts of Lima. After one year, in 1573, he as the first mestizo was ordained as Jesuit priest and became responsible for ecclesiastical actions.
El Cercado had emerged as part of the Viceroy Toledos plan to assemble scattered livings in well-ordered cities for being able better to control the work effort of the Indians and easier to reveal paganism. Spaniards claimed to know that the Andean population lived as savages and slept like pigs – and in that way they could never be Christianized.
The ecclesiastical effort consisted of saying the Mass, teaching, performing sacraments – not least extreme unction, for the mortality was great among the Indians, perhaps by grief because of the change of residence, as Valera later assumed.
(pp. 390-395 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
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