Symbolic Discourse and Exterminatory Movements: The 1680 and 1696 Pueblo Revolts of New Mexico and the 1780-1782 Great Rebellion of Peru and Upper Peru


The Exterminatory Dimension of the Great Rebellion



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The Exterminatory Dimension of the Great Rebellion
Much like the Pueblo Revolt, the objectives of the Great Rebellion, Indian independence and freedom from Hispanic oppression, were in the eyes of many rebels incompatible with the continued presence of most Hispanics in the region.

At the time of the outbreak of the rebellion in Chayanta and the surrounding provinces in August, 1780, much of the violence was initially directed at curacas. Quite often these individuals were Mestizos whom had been appointed by the Spanish authorities on the basis of pliability. Often they had no organic connection to the communities they held sway over, and, in concert with the corregidor, they systematically exploited their subjects.121 Why some curacas were killed and others were not appears to be related to the degree to which they were assimilated into the Hispanic system of exploitation and society. Generally, many Mestizos supported the rebellion, and even Túpac Amaru was a Mestizo.


Ethnicity and its attributes were often as important as race in determining who became a target of the rebels. Occupations and social status were often associated with being Hispanic, and people were targeted if they dressed in the Hispanic style or could not speak Aymara or Quechua. This was evident as the Creole-Indian alliance collapsed in Oruro, and the surviving Hispanics donned Indian dress and began to chew coca. In Chocaya, Arque, Colcha and Sacaca the victorious rebels demanded that all people dress in the traditional native garb.122 In the village of Sicasica the rebels killed “those of their nation who used shirts and were not immediately moving to their dress.”123 Likewise, Túpac Catari in La Paz and Tomás Callasaya in Tiquina, decreed death to anyone who ate bread, used fountains for water, did not speak Aymara or wear native clothes.124 During the rebel siege of Oruro, largely led by Santos Mamani, the insurgents expressed their intention to kill all non-Indians there, including women, the young and priests.125 Throughout Peru and Upper Peru, thousands of Hispanic non-combatants were killed in towns such as Sorata, Juli, Tiquina, Colcha, Palca, San Pedro de Buenavista, Carangas, Ayopaia, Arque, Tarata and Tapacari and Tupiza.126 When Nicolás Catari attacked the town of Aullagas he counted many Mestizos in his forces, and those in Oruro increasingly supported the Indians as the rebellion there radicalized.127 Rampant conscription led to many Mestizos, and Indians, involuntarily becoming involved in the rebellion, and in the case of the former, many probably joined out of fear of being labeled “Hispanic” by other rebels.128
In Upper Peru, by September and October, 1781, rebel aggression increasingly targeted Spaniards, Creoles and others of light skin color, in addition to Mestizos. In early September, followers of Tomás Catari began to kill "the Spaniards [and] Mestizos.”129 Another contemporary was of the belief that Túpac Amaru had ordered the rebels in Upper Peru and elsewhere to kill "as many Spaniards and Mestizos as they could get their hands on."130 In September and October, 1780, when insurgents under the leadership of Simón Castillo briefly occupied and looted the town of San Pedro de Buenavista, they demanded that the village priest hand over all of the curacas and Mestizos. A few months later they would return and slaughter almost all of the non-Indians there.131 In October, 1780, in the town of Paria, the corregidor Manuel de Bodega, who would a couple of months later become a victim of rebel wrath, wrote that the insurgents were killing "any Spaniard and cholo132 that they find in the towns...so that there will be no person to subject them.”133 Following the death of Tomás Catari and the ensuing radicalization of the rebellion, some insurgents stated that Dámaso and Nicolás Catari ordered the rebels to “finish off with all those who were not Indians and with those who opposed” them.134 In Arque, unaware of the breakdown of Creole-Indian relations in Oruro, a Creole desperately wrote the Creole rebel Jacinto Rodríguez inquiring if “it was true that he had given orders that the Indians kill all whites without distinction” between Creoles and Spaniards.135 In the village of Tolapampa, in the province of Porco, an order attributed to Nicolás Catari ordered rebels to “kill all the corregidors, priests, miners, Spaniards and Mestizos.”136
One Hispanic official believed, wrongly, that Túpac Amaru had commanded that all non-Indians be killed, though he was correct in his belief that many of his adepts sought the “extermination” of non-Indians.137 In a letter to king Charles III, the Cabildo of Cochabamba stated that they believed that the insurgents wnated that “there not remain in this vast kingdom any other kind of people than that of their own caste.”138 One contemporary claimed that the rebels “killed with more cruelty all those that had white faces,” while another in Chayanta asserted that the rebels wanted to kill “as many Spaniards as they could find.”139 In the village of Chocaya, the Spaniard Florentín Alfaro managed to save his life by fleeing as a result of his belief that the insurgents were attempting to “finish off all of the Spaniards and Mestizos.”140
The views of Sebastían de Segurola, who headed the defense of besieged La Paz , evolved over time. He stated his belief that Túpac Catari wanted “not just to kill the corregidors and Europeans, as I thought at the beginning, but rather all those who were not legitimately Indians.”141 The cleric Matías de la Borda, who was held prisoner by Túpac Catari, believed that the Aymara rebel sought the “total extermination of the Spanish people, both patrician and European, and of the[ir] life, customs and Religion.”142 Similarly, Father Josef de Uriate, who was held prisoner by the insurgents in the region of Sicasica, wrote that they intended to “pass under the knife the Spaniards and Mestizos without sparing the priests, women nor children, and [to] extinguish the cattle and seeds of Spain.” Such was their hatred for the Hispanics that he noted that they had created their own currency in order to “not to see the royal face.”143
Apart from their actions, the confessions and statements of captive rebels indicate that the preceeding was not Hispanic hyperbole. During the siege of La Paz, Túpac Catari called upon the defenders to destroy their defenses and surrender “all of the corregidors...Europeans ...priests and their assistants, the royal officials, the customs tax collectors, hacendados and firearms.”144 In another letter he commanded “that all the Creoles die,” and stated that he intended to “finish off everyone with the objective that there will not be Mestizos.”145 His sister Gregoria Apasa, who was also a rebel, stated in her confession that the insurgents would “take the lives of the whites whenever they had the opportunity.”146 The rebel Augustina Zerna, testified that the rebels were trying to “finish with all the Spaniards or white faces.”147 The rebel Josefa Anaya also confessed that the insurgents initially planned to “kill the corregidores, the Europeans and bad Creoles, although in reality they always killed everyone they found” that was Hispanic.148 Similarly, the insurgent Diego Quispe stated that rebels sought to “kill absolutely all the whites without distinction” between Spaniard and Creole.149 Also in the region of La Paz, Diego Estaca confessed that “the principal objective of the uprising was to get rid of all of the white people,” while not far away in Tiquina, Tomás Callisaya ordered “that all corregidores, their ministers, caciques, collectors, and other dependents be passed by the knife, as well as all the chapetones,150 Creoles, women and children, without exception of sex or age, and all persons who is or looks Spanish, or at the least is dressed in the imitation of such Spanish.”151 Like Túpac Catari, in whose name he acted, he also ordered that the natives not “eat bread nor drink water from fountains but rather totally separate themselves from all of the customs of the Spanish.”152 Many of the insurgents who prosecuted the siege of La Paz had earlier rebelled in the southern provinces, and consequently the events there are indicative of the goals of rebels from diverse regions.153
One rebel who was involved in the massacre in the village of San Pedro de Buenavista testified that among the things that motivated him was “the express desire of taking the lives of the Spaniards,” while another in Cochabamba stated that many rebels in ther area wanted to kill “white people” and take their property.154 In the village of Carasi, the insurgent Andrés Gonzales stated in his confession that he wanted to kill all of the Hispanics “from the priest on.”155 In the village of Poroma, the insurgent Sebastían Morochi testified that the rebels wanted to kill “everyone [there] including the priest,” and Sencio Chamsi similarly confessed that the rebels wanted to “destroy” all of the Hispanics there.156 In Tapacari, the rebels sought to kill the curaca and his relatives “up to the fifth generation.”157 In the vicinity of Sillota and Oruro, other insurgents such as Diego Calsina, Juan Solis, Cruz Tomás and Manuel Mamani also stated in their confessions that they sought to kill all Hispanics.158 Also in Sillota, the rebel Casimiro Ramos stated in his confession that the rebels wanted to “exterminate” the Hispanics in the town, while Eusebio Padilla acknowledged that he wanted to kill “Spaniards, Mestizos, blacks and all except the tributary Indians” there.159 Likewise, the rebel Ascensio Taquichiro, testified that in Challacollo he hoped to to “burn the town and kill the inhabitants without leaving one alive who was not an Indian.”160



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