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


Humiliation and the Inversion of Power Relationships



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Humiliation and the Inversion of Power Relationships

Symbolic expression of Indian power in both regions under study was often, but not exclusively, related to Catholicism and its clerics and involved the inversion of traditional relationships and the humiliation or ridicule of clerics. The attacks on churches often were the result of people taking refuge in what was generally among, if not the, strongest building in a town and best suited to survive a rebel assault. The tactical considerations which led to its use as a shield, both literally and figuratively, also led to churches being a rich backdrop for a symbolic theater. The assaults on Catholic symbols in both New Mexico and in Peru and Upper Peru, also reflected the fact that many rebels saw the conflict as a contest between native and alien gods.


In the Andean case, there was considerable diversity among the rebels concerning their views of Christianity. While it does appear that many insurgents were apostates or never believers in the first place, others appear to have sought to reformulate Catholicism so that it served, as opposed to exploited, them. Whatever their stand, as in New Mexico, most appear to believe that the Christian god had power, the question was how much and for whose benefit was it expressed. The rebellion itself showed the faltering power of the Spanish god to defend the Hispanics, and as the insurgency radicalized in early 1781, the rebels increasingly ignored the tradition of church sanctuary. Time and again, in the Pueblo Revolts and the Great Rebellion, the rebels overran churches if those inside did not surrender and come out to face an almost certain death.171 In the Great Rebellion, many clerics died in Tapacari, San Pedro de Buenavista, Oruro, Poopó, Aymaia, Songo, Chucuito, El Alto and other towns in Peru and Upper Peru.172
In New Mexico, even before the 1680 rebellion, attacks on clerics often had a symbolic element. When the inhabitants of Zuni rebelled in 1632, they not only killed Friar Francisco Letrado, but highlighted their power by scalping him.173 In the early 1670s, when Apaches attacked the pueblo of Abó, they burned the monastery, and killed Friar Pedro de Ayala, after “stripping him of his clothing, putting a rope around his neck, flogging him most cruelly, and finally killing him with blows of the macana;174 after he was dead they surrounded the body with dead white lambs, and covered the privy parts, leaving him in this way.”175 The burning of the mission was a rather blunt symbolic act, by stripping the friars the Indians were stripping them of their power, and by placing dead lambs around his body the Apaches may have been issuing a warning that a similar fate awaited his flock. In 1680, the rebels also used physical abuse and humiliation to express both their hatred of and dominance over their enemies. For example, in Jemez, after capturing Friar Jesus Morador in his bed, the rebels stripped him of his clothes, bound him on the back of a pig and paraded him throught he pueblo as he was attacked by the natives. Later, at least one rebel rode and spurred him like a horse before finally killing him.176
The rebels in New Mexico not only attacked and killed priests, but symbols of Catholicism generally. During the entrada into the pueblo region in 1681, as the Hispanics entered Senecú in early November, they encountered “the holy temple and convent burned” and in the sacristy they found the “hair and crown from a crucifix, thrown on the ground” along with a broken altar. In the cemetery they found a bell with its clapper removed in the cemetery in addition to a bronze cannon and a cross which had earlier been in the plaza.177 Governor Otermín was of the belief that the town had been attacked by Apaches. Whether Apache or Pueblo, by scalping an image of Christ and breaking an altar, they were communicating the destruction of Hispanic, and Catholic, power and demonstrating the resurgence of native power.
During the same entada, on December 17th, 1681, as Governor Otermín led his forces into Sandía he found the symbols of Catholic authority were literally in pieces. “[T]he church and convent [were] entirely… demolished” and he found “two broken bells, in five pieces” in addition to a “small broken crown.” In one building they encountered “a trophy…painted on a panel, the image of the Immaculate conception of Our Lady with a dragon at her feet, which work had served as an altar piece for the main altar of the said church, …the divine eyes and mouth of the figure were ruined, and that there were signs on the other parts of the body of it having been stoned, while the accursed figure at her feet was whole and unspoiled.” These were clearly deliberate actions, and communicated the resurgent power of native gods and the collapse of Catholic power, which the Indians had symbolically blinded, muted and otherwise humiliated.
Also during the 1681 entrada, the Hispanics also found the pueblo of Socorro deserted and its mission and church burned. In the sacristy they “found a crown of twigs and two pieces of the arm of a holy image of Christ” and in the plaza they encountered an “entire thigh, leg and foot of a holy image of Christ, in one piece, all the rest of the divine image being burned to charcoal and ashes, also some bases of other images and many pieces of burned crosses. One large cross of pine which had been in the cemetery they had cut down at the base with axes and had burned the arms and most of the rest of it in the plaza of the said pueblo.”178 Governor Otermín believed that here the Pueblo rebels, as opposed to Apaches, had burned the “temple, images and crosses.”179 Burning religious symbols is itself symbolic, and communicated the figurative and physical destruction of Catholicism and the powerlessness of the Catholic god.
As in the 1680 rebellion, that of 1696 also involved the destruction of Hispanic religious symbols, or their subjection to those of the Indians, and the stripping of Hispanic victims. In the leadup to the 1696 rebellion a friar noted that the Indians “are interested only in obtaining the equipment of the ministers, the livestock, and everything with regard to the divine religious…they broke to pieces and profaned.”180 In March of 1696, a friar in Picurís reported that “he has seen them stone the patron saint,” while an Indian in in Cochiti told the resident priest that “he will drink from the chalice.”181 As in the previous examples, we find natives deliberately destroying religious artifacts, expressing their desire to invert social, religious and power relationships, and placing at their service that which had served the Hispanics and buttressed their power.
During the 1696 rebellion, in the pueblo of San Ildefonso the insurgents burned the mission and church and killed eight Hispanics, while in Nambé the monastery had been ransacked, the “sacred vessels and vestments” had been taken, perhaps as trophies, and the rebels had abandoned the beaten and “naked bodies [of four people]…at the door of the church”182 During this time, the rebels of San Diego de Jemez “pulled off even the crosses and rosaries that they had hanging from their necks and threw them to the ground.”183 Similarly, in San Juan de los Jemez, the Hispanics “found…the images of the saints destroyed and in pieces and the crosses broken.”184
The desire to invert previous relationships was also demonstrated in December of 1693 as Governor Vargas was preparing to assault Santa Fe. The Indians occupying the town defiantly asserted that they were going to kill all of the Hispanics, except for some friars. They shouted that “The friars will for a short time be our servants, we will make them carry firewood and bring it from the woods, and after they have served us we will kill all of them.”185 They sought to further invert the colonial social when when they asserted that they were “going to kill …[the Hispanics] and make slaves of their women and children.”186 This was probably no bluff, as it is exactly what they had done with numerous Hispanic women in 1680.187 After the Hispanics had reoccupied Santa Fe, they found a cross, previously situated in the plaza, which had since been broken to pieces. In addition, he also recovered “an image of Our Lady, the head of which was hit and broken with a macana.”188
Like father Morador, many victims in both New Mexico and in Peru and Upper Peru were ridiculed and stripped of their clothing. This not only underscored rebel dominance but also symbolized the stripping of their victim’s power and its appropriation by the rebels. In the Pueblo region, six miles south of the town of San Felipe on the ranch of Cristóbal de Anaya, and also nearby of that of Pedro de Cuellar, the rebels killed and stripped both men and their families.189 Priestly vestments were also used by the rebels “in their dances, and [placed] with their trophies of…other church paraphernalia,” thus underscoring their power, both terrestrial and divine, over their enemies.190
During the Great Rebellion, in Pintatora, the insurgents "made fun" of the assistant priest while he tried to pacify the rebels by displaying a crucifix, while in Sacaca the rebels abused the assistant priest and made him wear a crown of thorns.191 In Oruro one rebel called out that the Christ of Burgos was "only a piece of" wood, and in Palca another shouted that the host was nothing more than bread.192 Dancing over corpses, such as was done in Oruro and Tapacari, not only ridiculed their enemies but also underscored native power.193
Stripping victims of the Great Rebellion was a common way of highlighting the inversion of traditional power and social relationships. In Challapata, after killing the corregidor, the rebels acceded to the pleas of the village priest to spare the armed escort which had accompanied him, but only after they had been stripped of both their clothing and valuables. In February, 1781, in Yura and Anasayas, the rebels stripped clerics of their vestments.194 When the Indians took Oruro, they stripped a crown official of his clothing in the Convent of Santo Domingo.195 Humiliation and inversion were not the only reasons for stripping people, as the Andean Indians equated poverty and nakedness. Stripping their victims brought them to the level of poverty that the Indians knew all too well. In Aymaia, as a band of rebels beat Father Diolino Cortés to death, one Indian shouted "Priest! Thief! It is because of you that we are naked.”196 While stripping people inverted relationships, so too did the rebel use of their enemies clothing and property as trophies. In La Paz, Sicasica and San Pedro de Buenavista, some rebels demonstrated their power by wearing the clothing of their victims.197
In Upper Peru the rebels also demanded that people only wear indigenous dress, symbolizing both the resurgent dominance of native culture and ways as well as the inversion of previous power relationships. Presumably many Mestizos, fearing that they would be considered Hispanic, also put on native garb. At the beginning of the rebellion, when supporters of Tomás Catari marched Corregidor Alós to the hacienda where he was held captive, he was forced to dress in the native fashion.198 As the insurgency swept through the region, consuming Colcha, Arque, Tapacari, Sacaca, Sicasica, Chocaya and Oruro, the rebels consistently demanded that all people exclusively use native clothing, speak native languages and otherwise engage in indigenous customs such as chewing coca leaves.199 This was quite dramatic in Oruro as the Creole-Indian alliance quickly evaporated, and the insurgents commanded that everyone dress in the native manner, chew coca and speak Aymara.200 In Tapacari, the rebels spared some Hispanic women and made them dress in the Indian manner.201 The value of adopting native ways was demonstrated by many who failed to do so.202 In the village of Sicasica the rebels were executing “those of their nation who used shirts and were not immediately moving to their dress.”203 Just to the north in the La Paz region and in Tiquina, Túpac Catari and Tomás Callisaya respectively ordered the execution of anyone who did not speak Aymara or dress in the native fashion.204 Depending on the situation and context, in some cases Hispanic clothes were the mark of death, while in others they were the mark of victory.
The Andean rebels expressed their desire to invert social relationships through other means. For example, prior to overrunning the town in March of 1781, when Simón Castillo briefly occupied San Pedro de Buenavista on Christmas Day, 1780, he commanded that all Spaniards leave the town within eight days or "be sent to the mines of Potosi.”205 When the insurgents overran Carangas, they put the treasury official Juan Manuel de Guemes y Huesles a place many Indians were familiar with, the stocks, before executing him. In Chocaya the rebels imprisoned the Spaniard Gerónimo Alquisalete before his execution.206 As in New Mexico, sparing Hispanic women so that they could be slaves to the rebels was another way of inverting previous relationships. Not only were they enslaved, but as they were considered chattel in Hispanic society, the insurgents were also stripping men of what was considered their property. The documents offer few details concerning the experiences of these captives, but we do know that in Upper Peru servitude was brief for many Hispanic women as they were often subsequently executed, as happened or was planned in Tapacari, San Pedro de Buenavista, Palca, Lipes, Sicasica and La Paz.207 In Chocaya, under the threat of death, the widowed Hispanic women left their hiding places and knelt and kissed the feet and hands of the rebel leaders prior to their rescue by Hispanic forces.208 Many contemporaries may have been reluctant to mention sexual assault, instead noting that many women were victims of "outrages which the pen is horrified to repeat,” or other things that "scandalizes the ears" or "horrifies the tongue to" hear or say.209 The brutality of the rebellions leaves little to infer in this regard.
Inversion, as well as the limited assimilation of colonial elements, is further shown by the eagerness of many rebels in the Great Rebellion to take silver during the looting which invariably accompanied Indian attacks. Silver symbolized wealth in colonial society, and by possessing it and other useful Hispanic items the rebels further highlighted the inversion of what they believed would soon be the old order. In San Pedro de Buenavista, El Alto and other villages, by using silver chalices to drink chicha and filling monstrances with coca leaves, the Indians also inverted previous cosmological relationships, placing whatever power the Christian god had at the service of the native world.210
As in New Mexico, the rebels would often destroy items associated with the Catholic church. During the Indian occupation of Oruro, the insurgents destroyed numerous statues and other items as they saked churches and hunted down Hispanics. Subsequently, when they had laid siege to the town, they stated their desire to cut "off the head of the image of Our Lady of Rosario" upon their hoped-for victory, thus helping to ensure the permanent demise of Catholic power.211 In San Pedro de Buenavista, having looted the jewels and silver from the church, they stripped the clothes off of the images of Mary and Jesus prior to destroying them and the monstrance.212 After the slaughter in Tapacari, the insurgents took the crowns off of the statues of Mary and Jesus, symbolically stripping them of their authority, before they and other images were consumed by flames in the plaza.213 In Condocondo, the rebels destroyed a monstrance by stoning, while in Palca one was put into rebel service when it was adorned with coca leaves.214 All of these actions symbolically communicated that the long-awaited demise of both the Hispanics and the supernatural powers that had supported them was at hand.




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