The Age of Andean Resistance
History of Defiance
Juan Santos Atahualpa
Well over one hundred times between the years 1720 and 1790 the native Andean people rose up in defiance of colonial authorities. The causes of the rebellion were rooted both in the repressions that the indigenous population had to endure under colonialism and the vision of the return of the great Incan creator. The Inkarri myth envisioned the return of an Andean god who would bring in an age of justice. This belief both unified and legitimized the great rebellion of Juan Santos Atahualpa.
Also during this time, resurrection stories circulated telling of the reappearance of the messiah who would come and recover the Incan greatness. When the invaders decapitated Tupac Amaru I in 1572 the great Incan dynasty came to an end. But they believed that his body had been regenerating underground for possible return.
A New Leader
In 1742 in the Andean jungle, a man calling himself Juan Santos Atahualpa Apo Inca arose as a leader. He was a direct descendant of the Inca king Atahualpa who had been betrayed and strangled by Pizarro. He called upon the indigenous population to join in an insurrection that would bring in a new order by outlawing slavery and expelling the whites.
The colonial authorities, deeply threatened by a possible insurrection, organized military campaigns against Juan Santos in 1742, 1743, 1746, and 1750. Never defeated, Juan Santos controlled the jungle regions, keeping this area from further colonization for over a century. The Spaniards finally had to rely on a defensive strategy that kept the rebellion from spreading to the sierra.
From 1751 to 1765 evidence reveals fourteen upheavals against corregidores (local governors) and priests. Economic repression was behind most of the revolts of this whole period. The indigenous were under a multiple system of taxes, forced labor, indebtedness, and payments that left them destitute.
The three main types of economic activity were mines, obrajes (weaving mills), and haciendas, or plantations. The mita system required the indigenous to work unpaid in mines, obrajes, or haciendas from six to twelve months during the year. This requirement would be repeated every second or third year.
In addition, the reparto system forced the indigenous population to purchase European and native goods at inflated prices from the local corregidor. They quickly became indebted to the corregidor and therefore had to work for him in the mines, obrajes, or haciendas. The reparto proved more effective at guaranteeing forced labor than the mita.
Added to this burden were local priests who began demanding free personal services from the indigenous while charging for religious services. For example, a high mass with a procession cost twelve pesos. The longer the reparto remained in effect, the more pressure it created, because the debt of the indigenous only increased.
Most of the uprisings of this period can be traced to these economic injustices.
See Steve Stern, ed., Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, and Scarlett O’Phelan Godoy, Rebellions and Revolts in Eighteenth Century Peru and Upper Peru