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

By Nicholas A. Robins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

The Historiography of the Great Rebellion

The Great Rebellion of 1780–1782 was characterized not only by millennialism, genocide, and internal contradictions, but also by massive participation and ephemeral ethnic alliances. Almost successful, it can rightly be seen as an Indian-led precursor of the continental independence movements that would follow, coincidentally beginning in Upper Peru on May 25, 1809. During the struggle for independence, the Great Rebellion continued to have repercussions in the region, having embedded a deep-rooted fear among the Creole population that uncontrolled Indian participation could result in another genocidal campaign against them. However one approaches the rebellion, it has had and continues to have an influence on the national identities of Peru and present-day Bolivia. This is evident in the foci, evolution, and limits of the historiography of the insurrection, much of it written since the 1940s.

Early research on the insurrection largely focused on the rebel leader Túpac Amaru and the events in and around Cuzco, Peru. To the limited degree that Upper Peru is mentioned, where in fact two-thirds of the rebellion took place, the focus is on the siege of La Paz and to a much lesser degree the rebellion of the Catari brothers in Chayanta province. 1 Most importantly, these works focus more on the formal, stated goals of rebel leaders than the actions of the rebel forces in the field. As a result, the bias toward the major centers of rebellion and the often erroneous assumption that the most prominent leaders reflected the aspirations of the masses has long distorted our understanding of the uprising.

Such characteristics are found in the groundbreaking work of Boleslao Lewin entitled La rebelión de Túpac Amaru y los origines de la indepen-

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