Creole Patriotism in Festival Accounts of Lima and Potosi

By Voigt, Lisa | Romance Notes, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Creole Patriotism in Festival Accounts of Lima and Potosi


Voigt, Lisa, Romance Notes


IN his official account of the 1716 entry into Potosi of the newly designated Viceroy, the Archbishop Diego Morcillo Rubio y Aunon, Fray Juan de la Torre claims that his purpose in describing the festival is not only to display the city's veneration of Viceroy Morcillo, but also to provide "clara recomendacion de la nobleza opulenta de esta Villa" (1v). (1) The goal of attesting to the nobility, opulence, and grandeur of the town's residents tacitly competes with the festival's own explicit aim, to extol the power and magnificence of this representative of royal authority. Published and unpublished accounts of such festivals, organized for religious or secular occasions--Corpus Christi, the canonization of saints, royal entries, births and marriages in the royal family--abound in the Americas as they do in Europe. In both the festivals and their written accounts, the celebration of local grandeur often vies with the ostensive goal of the festivities to demonstrate the splendor and supremacy of the Crown and Church. In the New World, such a reorientation of the fiesta's original intent is sometimes tied to an explicit affirmation of creole patriotism and defense against European accusations of creole intellecttual inferiority. (2) For example, in the 1608 Corpus Christi celebrations in Potosi, the "creole nobility" sought to restore their honor by disproving the rumors that had been spread about them by various Spanish "nations." These groups had apparently ridiculed the creoles' lack of dexterity, gallantry, and inventiveness in a previous festival. According to the Potosi historian Bartolome Arzans de Orsua y Vela, the creoles' magnificent Corpus Christi celebrations were quite successful at improving their reputation, for their costly and elaborate costumes, triumphal floats, masquerades, and tournaments "dieron mucho que mirar y mucho mas que notar a los forasteros" (1: 267-68). (3)

This article addresses the use of public festivals and their written descriptions for the purpose of asserting patriotic pride in an American city and extolling its creole inhabitants, particularly in contradistinction to peninsular "forasteros," whose disdain and discrimination the creoles experienced in different ways, not only with respect to their festive competence. I focus on eighteenth-century festival accounts from Potosi and Lima in order to compare the expression of creole patriotism in these two very different cities: one the political, cultural, and intellectual center of the Viceroyalty, the other a mining boom town that represented an economic source of wealth for the whole empire, but that did not enjoy the cultural, intellectual, or political prestige of Lima. (4) As might be expected, the festival descriptions often celebrate distinct aspects of their cities, with the Potosi accounts drawing attention to the city's mineral riches and the Lima texts emphasizing the cultural and intellectual wealth of the viceregal capital. I elaborate on the comparison by looking specifically at the use of historical narrative within and in relation to the description of the festival itself. Ultimately, the creole patriotism articulated in each account reveals specific strategies linked to local circumstances rather than prefiguring a pan-Peruvian national identity. However, despite the local roots of the patriotic sentiment and the occasional appeal to indigenous history, creoles seek to distinguish themselves from both peninsular Spaniards and their Amerindian neighbors.

In an account of the establishment of the Audiencia in Cuzco in 1788 and the festivals celebrating the event, the cleric and rector Ignacio de Castro offers a brief history of festival accounts which begins with Homer and Virgil, but which specifically points to the limeno intellectual Pedro de Peralta Barnuevo (1664-1743) as a model to follow: "Nuestra America nos ha dado en Lima muchas relaciones de fiesta," he writes. "El insigne Don Pedro de Peralta, podia dar reglas de ellas a todo el mundo" (160). …

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