The World Upside Down: Cross-Cultural Contact and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Peru

By Susan Elizabeth Ramírez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Spanish Influence on the Indigenous Polities of Northern Peru

No good can come from the lack of understanding, at first, of the functioning [orden] of these native communities.

-- Polo de Ondegardo, "Del linage de los ingas"

The hundred years or so following the Inca conquest of the north in about 1470 were extraordinary times for the inhabitants of the region. Twice they were unwillingly implicated in a struggle to maintain their independence and their way of life. First they became subjects of the Incas, whom the coastal Chimu considered their technological, if not social, inferiors. About sixty years later, the Chimu, Cajamarcas, Guambos, and Incas alike faced a new menace from the sea, Spanish imperialism. The chapters of this book are meant to explore the impact and meaning of the latter event on the inhabitants of a region stretching from the coastal center of Trujillo, on the south, to Motupe, on the north, and inland from the Pacific Ocean into the Andes Mountains of Guambos and Cajamarca.

Relatively little can be said about the Inca conquest of the north, given the lack of written sources describing those times. More can be said about the Spanish conquest of the area, but the task of writing about it has not been proportionately easier. To determine what really happened and to ascertain the true impact of events has meant months of excavating, removing layer after layer of the European ethnocentric veneer, bias, misdepiction and misunderstanding of indigenous ideas and concepts about themselves and their environment. It has meant reading and rereading indigenous statements to try to understand what the natives were trying to say in a language that was not their own. It has meant reading what the Spanish said the natives said and comparing this with what the Indians said and did to better interpret the significance of the contact and clash of

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