Readings for this audio essay

  • “The Story of the Huaca Llocllay Huancupa and Its Battle with the Convert Don Cristóbal” (in “Blending New and Old Beliefs”) – 1590-1608
  • “The Trial of Don Carlos Chichimecatecotl of Texcoco,” 1539
  • “Nican Mopohua” (“Here is Recounted”) from Huei tlamahuiçoltica (The Great Event), the story of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Tepeyac in 1531, first published in 1649
  • “The Taqui Onqoy” (or “Taki Unquy,” also referred to as the “dancing sickness” or “the revolt of the huacas” or “wak’as”), 1570s
  • “Letter to King Philip of Spain,” Lope de Aguirre, 1561

(PDFs listed above are available within the Learning Management System, or Blackboard.)

Audio essay transcript


I’m Steve Anderson, and this audio essay describes the primary source readings for Religion and Resistance in Colonial Latin America.

As Catholicism met headlong with the indigenous religions of Mesoamerica, there was much conflict and friction between Europeans and Indians.

The new religion of Christianity was difficult for the Indians to fully absorb. On the one hand, the Gospels, Scripture, and teachings of the Church spoke toward asceticism, and the rewards of a simple and pious life. On the other hand, the behaviors of some encomenderos and other Europeans, including friars and priests, worked against this perception.

Some Indians were baptized into Christianity, but still practiced their indigenous religions in secret. Other Indians spoke openly against the new Christian order, only to be punished as an example to other heretics, and also to reinforce the political power of Church leaders. Also, Spanish hidalgos or adventurers continued to arrived in the Americas. Hoping to walk in the footsteps of Cortés, these would-be conquistadors searched for another civilization to conquer. Many of these European explorers hoped to find El Dorado, but instead met their doom in the dense Amazonian jungle.

As you go through these readings, keep in mind that Europeans traveling to the New World had many questions. Was it a lost paradise with treasures still to be found? How could idolatry and witchcraft be eliminated, and heretics brought to the light of Christianity? Were there other civilizations like the Aztecs and Incas to conquer? Could the myth of El Dorado be true?

Notice that there was much less concern for how indigenous life was changing in the aftermath of war, disease, and a new religious and political order. And, while the Church had great interest in extirpating idolatry and heresy, there was little interest in preserving indigenous history.

As you listen, please have your readings out, either on the computer or in printed form, and as we go through them you can take notes. As with any historical document, take a moment before reading to examine the time, location, and author of the document. I’ll pause between the documents so you can organize your readings.

The Story of the Huaca Llocllay Huancupa and Its Battle with the Convert Don Cristóbal, 1590-1608

The first reading is from the Huarochirí Manuscript. It’s the story of a Peruvian man who is Christian, and struggling with the old ways of the Inca or Andean past.

This reading has a very informative introduction, and the primary source reading begins on page 78 or the 4th page of the PDF. The Virgen de Guadalupe is pictured in this reading, but the primary source itself concerns Andean culture. The footnotes throughout the primary source are helpful, and especially take note of the term “huaca.”

Huacas were considered to be physical manifestations of supernatural beings, what we might think of now as gods for the Incas, or demons for Christianity. Huacas could take many shapes, such as a small rock, a large stone, a river, a crossroads, or even an entire mountaintop. The variety of shapes and sizes, and also their connections to nature and natural geologic formations, made huacas a very difficult thing for Catholic friars and priests to understand and combat.

A few things to consider for this reading:

  1. Notice that huacas can take any shape, and appear at any time. They must also be taken care of and fed, especially with chicha, a fermented drink, sort of like beer, which is often made from corn.
  2. Notice the transition at the beginning of page 80, and how the story shifts from the joy of receiving the huacas, to them being referred to as “evil spirits.”
  3. Consider that Don Cristóbal was an elite, he was an important Andean political figure, and also notice that his father was a curaca or chief (this is called a “cacique” in other parts of Mesoamerica). What does Don Cristobal’s political status mean for the story?

The next reading is the Trial of Don Carlos. While Don Cristóbal was celebrated for his adherence to Christianity, Don Carlos was punished for heresy.

Pause the recording here to organize your notes and readings.

The Trial of Don Carlos Chichimecatecotl of Texcoco, 1539

The second reading concerns the Inquisition Proceedings Against a Cacique of Texcoco, or the Trial in 1539 of Don Carlos Chichimecatecotl. Notice the blending of the name, the Don Carlos pointing to Christian baptism and the Chichimecatecotl showing the connections to former Aztec political power.

In this reading, both Don Carlos and Bishop Zumárraga are punished. Don Carlos was burned at the stake in an auto-da-fe, executed for speaking against Catholicism. As a baptized Christian and indigenous political leader, the supposed heresy of Don Carlos was deemed especially dangerous. Zummárraga was demoted within the Catholic hierarchy because of the harsh treatment of Don Carlos, and Indians were later separated from the Regular Inquisition with their own Indian version, which sadly proved just as capricious and violent.

A few points to consider in this reading:

  1. Notice that Tlaloc is the indigenous god in question in this reading. There were two temples at the top of the Templo Mayor, one was Huitzilopotchli (the relatively new god of war, the sun, and human sacrifice, and mostly specific to Tenochtitlan), and the other temple was to the god, Tlaloc (an ancient god of water and fertility, and widely known throughout Mesoamerica). How would worshipping Tlaloc be viewed by the Christians? Could worshipping an ancient god be worse than that of a newer or more recent one?
  2. What does Don Carlos say about the Christian school and the friars?
  3. Consider the legal rhetoric at the end of the reading, and how this relates to Spanish, and not indigenous, law.

The next reading is about the Madonna of Tepeyac, or the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Pause the recording here to organize your notes and readings.

The story of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531

This reading is the Relation of the Apparitions, in Nahuatl it begins as the Nican Mopohua, or “Here is recounted.” Notice that the pages numbers skip the even ones, in the full version, English and Nahuatl are on opposite pages. For the sake of space, only the English pages are presented here.

Even if you’re already familiar with the story of the Virgen de Guadalupe, you’ll probably find some new detail in this reading. For example, at the top of page 65 it reads, “The ground sparkled like a rainbow, and the mesquite, the prickly pear cactus, and other various kinds of weeds that grow there seemed like green obsidian, and their foliage like fine turquoise.”

A few points to consider in this reading:

  1. Consider the distance in time between the events and their recording. As you may have noticed through the readings so far, it’s been mentioned that there is no historical documentation for the Apparitions that occurred in 1531, only their story as written decades later, and published in the mid 1600s, over a hundred years later.
  2. Notice how perseverance plays a role in this story, both on the part of the Virgin Guadalupe, and also Juan Diego.
  3. Consider the connections to the indigenous culture of Mexico, including iconography, language, and also space and place.
  4. Notice that Zumárraga, also mentioned in the previous reading, is the bishop. How is the perception of Zumárraga here, different from the Trial of Don Carlos reading?

The next reading takes us back to Peru and the Andes, with the Taqui Onqoy or the “revolt of the huacas.” Pause the recording here to organize your notes and readings.

The Taqui Onqoy, 1570s

This reading is simply titled, “Taqui Onqoy.” There is no introduction to this reading, it is written from the Spanish perspective, and it begins with the primary source itself.

The Taqui Onqoy was a religious and cultural movement in the wake of the Conquest of the Incas and the Andean countryside. As a reaction to the violent nature of the Conquest and the rapid movement toward Christianty, the huacas themselves were in rebellion. Rather than appearing as rocks, waterfalls, or other natural features, it was believed that the huacas were possessing indigenous Andean people directly. The “dancing sickness” so described by Spanish writers, was the manifestation of this supernatural possession.

A few points to consider in this reading:

  1. Notice that the Taqui Onqoy was directly related to Vilcabamba. The remote jungle area of Vilcabamba was were Inca rulers were attempting to remain in control in the aftermath of the Conquest. Consider that political and cultural movements in the Andes were intertwined.
  2. Notice that the huacas were flying through the air, and waging a battle directly against the Christian God. Also, notice that the huacas were “drying out,” there was no chicha poured on or in them, and they were “dying of hunger.” What did this mean for Andean culture?
  3. Consider the end of the reading, that it itself is “indecisive.”

Our last reading is a letter written to King Philip of Spain by the failed conquistador, Lope de Aguirre, also known as “the Wanderer.”
Pause the recording here to organize your notes and readings.

“Letter to King Philip of Spain,” Lope de Aguirre, 1561, and the film, Aguirre: Wrath of God, 1972

Lope de Aguirre was a hidalgo, or a lesser nobleman from Spain, and he was searching for riches in the New World. This reading is a letter written directly to the King of Spain, and it has a very different tone than other letters we’ve read so far.

The Conquest of the Aztecs and the Incas spurred many European adventurers to search for a third civilization to conquer, yet none were to be found. Instead of finding “El Dorado” — the mythical, lost city of gold in the heart of the Amazon jungle — Aguirre found only hardship and death.

The film, Aguirre: Wrath of God, provides a fascinating window into the difficulties of conquest. The film clip is about 13 minutes long, it’s the beginning of the movie, and it’s based on primary source materials. The film was made by the German director Warner Herzog, the film itself is in German, and English subtitles are included by default.

In the film, Aguirre is part of a company of explorers searching for El Dorado. In the beginning of the clip, the explorers are coming down from the Andean highlands and into the river basin. Notice the pace of the film, how slow and difficult the travel was, and how many Indian porters were necessary to make any sort of progress. Also consider how important written documentation was for the Spanish bureaucracy. Gonzalo Pizarro, a younger brother of Francisco Pizarro who captured and killed Atahualpa, is shown signing his name to documents with the help of a stencil.

On this fateful journey, Aguirre brought along his daughter, but only because he feared for her safety back in the city more than in the dangerous jungle. Many of the Spaniards died on the journey, some at the hands of warring Indians, and some at the hands of other Spaniards. With a full mutiny underway, Aguirre took charge of what was left of the expedition, killing anyone that questioned his authority.

Aguirre and the remaining explorers floated down the Amazon, all the way from the interior to the coast, barely surviving on river grass. Once at the coast, Aguirre’s group traveled northward, killing other Spaniards and raiding villages along the way. Aguirre’s letter was written on a small island near Venezuela, and it expresses his madness and frustration. Aguirre also killed his own daughter, for fear that her reputation would be tarnished and her life in jeopardy, because of his rebellious actions.

In his letter, Aguirre complained of the failures of Spanish administrative rule in the Americas, and he also criticized the religious orders and the actions of priests. The irony of Spanish Colonial America angered Aguirre, for priests and friars became rich, while Aguirre and other hidalgos were forgotten and neglected.

Some points to consider for this reading:

  1. Notice Aguirre’s personal history — where is he from, and what has he done? How does his introduction set the tone for the rest of the letter?
  2. Why does Aguirre mention Martin Luther? How does Aguirre feel about religion, or Christianity, in general?
  3. How does Aguirre end his letter, and consider how this rhetoric differs from other letters we’ve read?

Thanks for listening, and if you have any additional questions before you write your Blog Posts, please post them on the discussion board, “Questions for Steve.”

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