Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

By Nicholas A. Robins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1

Introduction

Scholars of genocide in Ibero-America have almost without exception focused on cases of genocide committed against the native peoples. 1 While certainly there are numerous examples in this regard, it is important to recognize that there are also cases of genocide in this region in which Indians were the perpetrators. The focus on the Indian as victim of varying forms of genocide, and its related debate, has evolved with the times. For the colonial era, the academic discourse is largely subsumed in the “black” versus “white” legends of Spanish New World rule, which respectively focus on the malignant and benign aspects of Spanish dominion. 2 The more modern variant often pitches internationally financed development initiatives against charges of genocide, ethnocide, linguicide, and ecocide. Despite its importance, this debate continues to obscure the fact that the native peoples experienced genocide not only as victims, but also as perpetrators.

This study examines one such event: the 1780–1782 Great Rebellion in Upper Peru (present-day Bolivia), focusing on the region south of La Paz between August 1780 and November 1781. The rebellion, and the larger regional uprising of which it formed a part, can be and has been approached from many analytical perspectives, be they class-based, economic, or as a precursor to the independence movements of the ensuing decades. All shed light on the movement, are not mutually exclusive, and together help us grasp the diversity of what the rebellion meant to those who participated in it. This work, examining the genocidal and millennial characteristics of the movement, contributes to our understanding of the rebellion, embracing its heterogeneity and paradoxes and rejecting

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