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


Symbolic Superimposition and Implosion



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Symbolic Superimposition and Implosion

The insurgents in the rebellions not only used symbols for expression, but would superimpose them. For example, in Santo Domingo the friars Juan de Talaban, Antonio de Lorenzana and Joseph Montes de Oca were attacked in the mission and subsequently killed in the church and piled upon one another at the altar.215 While placing the corpses there communicated the death of Hispanic spiritual and temporal dominance, the rebels also superimposed the offering of Hispanic, and religious, blood where that of Chirst was symbolically offered. A similar event played out in the village of Tapacari in Upper Peru. There people were also executed on the altar, again communicating the sacrifice of both the individual and Catholicism in the place where the host and blood of Christ were ritually offered.216


In Senecú, in New Mexico, when the Hispanics returned during the 1681 entrada, they found a bell separated from its clapper in a cemetery. The bell had for decades commanded their presence in the mission, and by removing the clapper the rebels in effect castrated a symbol of Hispanic authority. Placing the bell in the cemetery, along with a cross and cannon, underscored their belief that Catholicism, and the military might that supported it, was dead. During the same entrada, the Hispanics also found bells with the clappers removed in the pueblo of Socorro and as did Governor Vargas in November of 1692 in the Zuni region.217
In 1681, entering Alamillo, Governor Otermin found similar symbolic expressions. The town was “entirely deserted, and the church, convent and crosses burned, not one being in evidence,” and again they found a bell with its clapper removed.218 Arriving in early December in Cebolleta, which had been deserted by its inhabitants as a result of “fear of the Apaches,” the Hispanics found “the hermitage where the holy sacraments were administered …entirely demolished, and the wood from it made into an underground estufa.”219 Not only had the rebels destroyed the power of the Catholic god, but had placed its vestiges in the service of their own dieties.
During the same entrada, in Sandía in December of 1681, Governor Otermín found rather blunt symbolic expression in relation to Catholic liturgical items. In the village, they found that the “sculptured images were desecrated with human excrement, two chalices hidden in a trunk were covered with manure, the crucifix of the incarnation was desecrated; the place of the sacred communion table on the main altar [was] desecrated with human excrement, and a sculptured image of Saint Francis [was] broken by blows from an ax.”220 Governor Otermín also noted that the church had also been filled with straw for burning, and “Everything was broken to pieces and destroyed.”221
During the 1696 rebellion, in San Cristóbal, the rebels killed friars Arbizu and Carbonel, placing them “on the ground, placed in the form of a cross, face up” clad only in their “underclothing.”222 This also appears to be deliberate, and may suggest that not only were the friars dead and stripped of power and clothing, so to was the Catholic Church which was represented by the deceased friars and by their placement in the form of a cross. In San Diego de Jemez, the rebels executed friar Francisco de Jesús after they had tricked him to come out of the monastery to confess a dying person. Once outside, they “caught him and killed him next to a cross that the said religious had set up in the cemetery; and on many occasions the said religious was heard to say, and I heard him say, that he had it so that they could crucify him on it, and although these wishes were not attained, he succeeded in expiring at the foot of the cross.”223 Again, we find superimposition which in this case was the priest, the cross and the field of death. Also in San Juan de los Jemez, the Hispanics found “the rosaries thrown on the ground and covered with feathers, ashes, and some rabbit skins… a mockery which caused very much affliction in my heart.”224 Literally and figuratively superimposing the rosaries with items of native worship demonstrated the dominance of native gods over that of the Catholics.
Symbolic implosion, sometimes involving superimposition, was a recurring theme among the rebels in the Great Rebellion. For example, in January, 1781, when the rebels attacked and then killed Corregidor Bodega in Challapata, the rebels did not kill their quarry on sight, but rather apprehended and brought him to the rollo.225 Once there, the rebels had his slave, whom they had already captured, behead him.226 Similarly, in Juli, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the rebels also tied the curaca Fermín Llagua to the rollo and decapitated him, subsequently placing his head at his feet. The curaca Rafael Paca, whom the insurgents also captured there, met a similar fate and had his head placed on the top of the rollo.227
The corregidor, curaca and the rollo, all symbolized Spanish authority and oppression, and, symbolically, were all easily superimposed. Deliberately decapitating a Hispanic official at the rollo communicated the decapitation of Spanish power. Superimposing one upon the other drove home the point. In Bodega’s case, not only was Hispanic power destroyed, figuratively and literally, but the rebels choreographed the event so that Bodega was killed by his own property, a slave. On both the symbolic and literal levels it Spanish authority was being destroyed by Hispanic property. None of these were arbitrary acts, but rather crafted in the middle of what must have been some degree of turmoil. In Oruro, as the Indians overran the town, they not only forbade the interment of their victims, but actually gathered up the cadavers and deposited them at the foot of the rollo.228 Again, this required some effort and was clearly deliberate. In so doing, the rebels had brought together, and superimposed, all of the dead: Hispanics and their power. In addition, by doing so the rebels were highlighting the inversion of power relationships.
On occasion the rebels even more clearly communicated the idea of implosion. When the insurgents killed almost the entire Hispanic population of Tapacari in February, 1781, a group of rebels found and captured a Spaniard and his family whom had been concealed in the interstices behind an altar. They offered to spare him, but on the condition that he execute his six sons in front of his wife. His refusal resulted in his immediate death, as well as that of his children, in front of his spouse.229 A father executing his offspring reflects the idea of internally generated collapse, as did the death of Spanish authority at the hands of Spanish property in Challapata. Related to this is the idea of the pachaciti, a divinely ordained cyclical cataclysm that destroys the world. Just as the pachacuti of conquest had destroyed the native world, almost 250 years later the cycle had run its course, and now the same forces were leading to the collapse of the time of Spanish rule.




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