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Pastoral Visitations: Spaces of Negotiation in Andean Indigenous Parishes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 March 2016

Gabriela Ramos*
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom


In the Andes, the pastoral visitation of Indian parishes usually evokes the idea of a strongly oppositional relationship between the Church and local society. This vision, lacking in nuance, has been widely disseminated both within the academy and outside it. Although it derives from a serious academic interest in discovering and analyzing the common thread of the Church's evangelization policy in Peru, this stance, centered on the problem of the “extirpation of idolatry,” has been progressively emptied of content and today tends to serve as the standard means of filling gaps in the understanding of the history of Andean peoples during the colonial period.

Copyright © Academy of American Franciscan History 2016 

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1. Duviols, Pierre, La lutte contre les réligions authoctones dans le Pérou colonial. L'extirpation de l'idolatrie, 1532–1660 (Lima: Institut Français d'Études Andines, 1971)Google Scholar; Duviols, Cultura andina y represión. Procesos y visitas de idolatrías y hechicerías. Cajatambo, siglo XVII (Cuzco: Centro de Estudios Rurales Andinos Bartolomé de las Casas, 1986). See also Huertas, Lorenzo, La religión en una sociedad rural andina (siglo XVII), (Huamanga: Universidad Nacional de San Cristóbal de Huamanga, 1981)Google Scholar.

2. Mills, Kenneth, Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640–1750 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997)Google Scholar.

3. Châtellier, Louis, La religion des pauvres. Les sources du christianisme moderne XVIe–XIXe siècles (Paris: Auber, 1993)Google Scholar, p. 30; Traslosheros, Jorge, Iglesia, justicia y sociedad en la Nueva España. La audiencia del arzobispado de México, 1528–1668 (Mexico: Porrúa, 2004), p. 27Google Scholar; Riego, Manuel Martín, “La visita pastoral de las parroquias,” in Memoria Ecclesiae XIV. Las visitas pastorales en el ministerio del Obispo y archivos de la Iglesia (Oviedo: Asociación de Archiveros de la Iglesia de España, 1999), p. 163Google Scholar.

4. de Ayala, Ignacio López, El sacrosanto y ecuménico Concilio de Trento (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1785)Google Scholar; Robert Bireley, “Redefining Catholicism: Trent and Beyond,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 6, Reform and Expansion 1500–1660, R. Po-Chia Hsia, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 145–161, esp. p. 150.

5. A useful synthesis of the precedents for pastoral visitations in canon law since the Middle Ages can be found in Léal, Bruno, La crosse et le bâton. Visites pastorales et recherche des pécheurs publics dans la diocèse d'Algarve 1630–1750 (Paris: Centre Calouste Gulbenkian, 2004), p. 70Google Scholar.

6. The research on pastoral visitations in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and French dioceses takes account of this situation. The majority of authors agree that the decrees of Trent were crucial to promoting reform, although some historians who specialize in the ecclesiastical history of France have proposed that this country initiated and carried out its own Catholic Reformation, conforming to an internal process that preceded any response to the council that took place in Italy. For an indication of the scope and frequency of pastoral visitations in France, see Le Bras, Gabriel et al., Répertoire des visites pastorales de la France, 2 vols. (Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 1977)Google Scholar. Some examples of studies of specific visitations in the region of Italy include Nubola, Cecilia, Conoscere per governare: la diocesi di Trento nella visita pastorale di Ludovico Madruzzo (1579–1581), (Bologna: Mulino, 1993)Google Scholar; and Beggiao, Diego, La visita pastorale di Clementi VIII (1592–1600): aspetti di reforma post-tridentina a Roma (Roma: Libreria Editrice della Pontificia Universitá Lateranense, 1978)Google Scholar. For the Spanish case, see Ortí, María Milagros Cárcel, Las visitas pastorales de España (siglos XVI–XX): propuesta de inventario y bibliografía (Oviedo: Asociación de Archiveros de la Iglesia en España, 2000)Google Scholar. See also Hourcade, José Jesús García and López, Antonio Irigoyen, “Las visitas pastorales, una fuente fundamental para la historia de la Iglesia en la Edad Moderna,” Anuario de Historia de la Iglesia 15 (2006), pp. 293301Google Scholar. An impressive and useful study of Portugal by Bruno Léal is La crosse et le bâton, which is based on the examination not only of visitations but also of the decrees of the synods.Hayden and Greenshields maintain that the Catholic Reformation in France responded to internal circumstances that preceded the Council of Trent: Hayden, J. Michael and Greenshields, Malcolm R., “Les réformations catholiques en France: le témoignage des statuts synodaux,” Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 48:1 (2001), pp. 529CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For Mexico, see Lundberg, Magnus, Church Life Between the Metropolitan and the Local: Parishes, Parishioners, and Parish Priests in Seventeenth-Century Mexico (Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2011), pp. 79116Google Scholar.

7. Bireley, Redefining Catholicism, p. 148. Given that the Catholic Reformation drove the creation of seminaries, Hayden and Greenshields assert that this effort accorded with modernization, since the “professionalization” of the clergy was an objective. Les réformations, p. 6.

8. Nubola, Conoscere per governare, p. 47.

9. In Trent, the inspector found many priests ”negligent and confused, accustomed to using old rituals and formulas indiscriminately . . . without having any precise idea of their meaning [my translation].” Nubola, Conoscere per governare, p. 316. See also pp. 324–329.

10. Bireley, Redefining Catholicism, p. 150.

11. With the creation of the Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith) in the seventeenth century, the Church could boast an institution dedicated to the evangelization of peoples outside of Europe. The experience in Spanish America, though, had long preceded this, and must surely have enriched it.

12. Bireley, too, has made this observation with regard to Europe in Redefining Catholicism, p. 151.

13. Durán, Juan Guillermo, El catecismo del III Concilio Provincial de Lima y sus complementos pastorales (1584–1585), (Buenos Aires: El Derecho, 1982), pp. 6768Google Scholar. In Portugal, the pious Sebastián I also granted the force of law to the decrees of Trent. He was then congratulated by Pope Pius V, who described him as “the first king in Christendom to give complete liberty to Church officials so that they can exercise the authority granted by the conciliar decrees.” Léal, La crosse, p. 73, my translation.

14. A pioneering study on the application of the decrees of the Council of Trent in America is that of Villegas, Juan, Aplicación del Concilio de Trento en Hispanoamérica 1564–1600. Provincia eclesiástica del Perú. (Montevideo: Instituto Teológico del Uruguay, 1975)Google Scholar. Villegas's study refers mainly to normative aspects. Other subsequent studies that focus exclusively on the texts of the decrees, without necessarily incorporating the analysis of other documents or information from the archives, are Lisi, Francesco Leonardo, El Tercer Concilio Limense y la aculturación de los indígenas sudamericanos (Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1990)Google Scholar; Durán, Juan Guillermo, Monumenta catechetica hispanoamericana (siglos XVI–XVIII), 2 vols. (Buenos Aires: Facultad de Teología de la Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina “Santa María de los Buenos Aires,” 1990)Google Scholar; Tineo, Primitivo, Los concilios limenses en la evangelización latinoamericana (Pamplona: Eunsa, 1990)Google Scholar; and Lamerain, Constanza López, “El III Concilio de Lima y la conformación de una normativa evangelizadora para la provincia eclesiástica del Perú,” Intus-Legere Historia 5:2 (2011), pp. 5168Google Scholar.

15. In his introductory study of the work of Pablo Josef de Arriaga, Henrique Urbano underscores the importance of the institution of the pastoral visitation in ecclesiastical and secular spheres. Despite this broad consideration, its focus refers almost exclusively to the idolatry visitation: de Arriaga, Pablo Joseph, La extirpación de la idolatría en el Pirú (1621), with preliminary study and notes by Henrique Urbano (Cuzco: Centro Bartolomé de Las Casas, 1999), pp. 5058Google Scholar. In his study of the audiencia of the archbishopric of Mexico, Jorge Traslosheros presents a perspective solidly based on knowledge of the legal tradition of which the pastoral visitation formed a part. Traslosheros, Iglesia, justicia y sociedad. An interesting examination of the legal activities of the Church is Ana de Zaballa's study, “Del Viejo al Nuevo Mundo: novedades jurisdiccionales en los tribunales eclesiásticos en Nueva España,” in Los indios ante los foros de justicia religiosa en la Hispanoamérica virreinal, Jorge Traslosheros and Ana de Zaballa, coords. (Mexico: UNAM, 2010), pp. 17–46.

16. The questionnaires have been drawn from the documents in the Visitas Pastorales section of the Archivo Arzobispal de Lima.

17. “Edicto general que el III Concilio de Lima manda que se ha de leer al hacer la visita sobre la denuncia de los pecados y vicios públicos,” Los Reyes, August 7, 1583, in La Iglesia de España en el Perú, Vol. 3, n. 12, Emilio Lissón Chaves, ed. (Seville: Ed. Católica Española, 1944), pp. 230–236; “Instrucción para visitadores,” Lissón, ibid., Vol. 3, n. 13, pp. 258–266.

18. See Guerrero, Bartolomé Lobo and de Ugarte, Fernando Arias, Sínodos de Lima de 1613 y 1636. Libro Primero, Título VII, De officio Vissitatoris (Madrid: CSIC, 1987)Google Scholar, pp. 76–102.

19. See in this regard the comments by Ana Sánchez in her study Amancebados, hechiceros y rebeldes (Cuzco: Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos Bartolomé de las Casas, 1991), Introducción, pp. I-XLV.

20. I have discussed some of these topics in my study Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670 (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010). See esp. p. 160.

21. In his study of the Portuguese diocese of Algarve, Bruno Léal underscores the role of confession as one of three facets of the surveillance activity that the Church sought to exert upon society. The other two are the Inquisition and pastoral visitations. Léal, La crosse et le bâton, p. 79. For a classic study of confession, see Delumeau, Jean, L'aveu et le pardon. Les difficultés de la confession, XIIIe–XVIIIe siècles (Paris: Fayard, 1990)Google Scholar. On the problem of the conceptualization and translation of the concept of sin into a non-Christian medium, see Burkhart, Louise, The Slippery Earth: Nahua-Christian Moral Dialogue in Sixteenth-Century Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989)Google Scholar. On confession in the context of evangelization in the Andes, see also Estenssoro, Juan Carlos, Del paganismo a la santidad. La incorporación de los indios del Perú al catolicismo (Lima: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. pp. 206–228.

22. For the case of the diocese of Trent, see Nubola, Conoscere per governare, p. 323. The presence of itinerant preachers and missionaries belonging to religious orders must have been common in the Andes during the sixteenth century. As much is suggested by the convent chronicles such as those written by de Meléndez, Fray Juan, Tesoros verdaderos de las Indias (Rome: Nicolas Angel Tinasio, 1681)Google Scholar, or de la Calancha, Fray Antonio, Corónica moralizada del orden de San Agustín (Lima: Ignacio Prado Pastor, 1974)Google Scholar, about the Dominicans and the Augustinians, respectively. For example, in 1573, the caciques of the Pachacamac valley informed the inspector Rodrigo Cantos de Andrade of the presence of a hermit they called 'Paco Padre' (Father Alpaca) for his brown clothing, and of this or that friar who had spent short spells evangelizing them. Rostworowski, María, El señorío de Pachacamac: el informe de Rodrigo Cantos de Andrade de 1573 (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1999), pp. 4958Google Scholar.

23. Ynformacion fecha por via de visita a pedimiento de los caciques de la doctrina de Caujul de Andajes contra el padre fray Miguel Marques del horden de Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, May 16, 1619, Archivo Arzobispal de Lima [hereafter AAL], Visitas Pastorales, leg. 11, exp. 1, and Visitas Pastorales, leg. 13, exp. II; Visita secreta de oficio contra el padre fray Juan Ramos Galban de la orden de predicadores cura de Allauca en los Yauyos, juez el licenciado Miguel Budi de Assorin, April 3, 1619, AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 13, exp. 2.

24. These directives correspond to those set out, for example, in the Thirteenth Session of the Council of Trent, Decree on Reformation. Ignacio López de Ayala, El sacrosanto y ecuménico concilio, pp. 175–176.

25. Lobo Guerrero and Arias de Ugarte, Sínodos [1613], p. 86. As for the Synod of 1636, it contains an additional article regarding the payments that the bishops' envoys were required to make for the expenses incurred by their presence in the communities they visited.

26. AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 7, exp. 20, Lima, February, 16, 1642.

27. One concern that Villagómez's questionnaire did not draw from the Edict of the Third Council is this one: “whether any persons have had carnal relations with pagan women or if they have had them baptized for this purpose.” Edict in Lissón, La Iglesia, p. 233. This is a sign of how distant the era of the conquest was. For an interpretation of Villagómez's stance with respect to the causes of and solution to idolatry among the Indians, see Juan Carlos García Cabrera, “¿Idólatras congénitos o indios sin doctrina? Dos comprensiones divergentes sobre la idolatría andina en el siglo XVII,” in Los indios ante los foros de justicia religiosa, Traslosheros and Zaballa, coords., pp. 95–110, see esp. pp. 104–107.

28. Hourcade, José Jesús García and López, Antonio Irigoyen, “Notas sobre las visitas pastorales en la diócesis de Cartagena (Edad Moderna),” Contrastes. Revista de Historia 12 (2001-2003), pp. 263284Google Scholar; Bruno Léal, La crosse et le bâton, especially the model edict written by the clergyman Lucas de Andrade in the seventeenth century, pp. 228–230; Ferté, Jeanne, La vie religieuse dans les campagnes parisiennes, 1622–1695 (Paris: Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin, 1962)Google Scholar, especially the appendix consisting of documents, pp. 375–396; Manuel Martín Riego, “La visita pastoral de las parroquias,” in Memoria Ecclesiae XIV, pp. 168–170; María Milagros Cárcel Ortí, “Hacia un inventario de visitas pastorales en España de los siglos XVI–XX,” in Memoria Ecclesiae XIV. The author also offers an extensive list of the documentation and historiography concerning this theme for other European countries.

29. Manuel Martín Riego, “La visita pastoral,” p. 169. Midwives aroused the concern of the Church, with good reason. Not only the lives but also in many cases the spiritual well-being of newborns depended on them. In Europe midwives were expected to baptize children in cases of necessity. In France, the midwife had to swear an oath before the bishop and was examined for her spiritual competence. Many parishes lacked midwives and some of them refused to take the oath or did not appear before the bishop when he visited the parish. Ferté, La vie religieuse, pp. 29, 295–298. The pastoral visitations to the Lima dioceses do not contain information about health specialists and offer little or no information about hospitals in the Indian parishes. Regarding these last, see Gabriela Ramos, Death and Conversion, pp. 99–109; and Ramos, “Indian Hospitals and Government in the Colonial Andes,” Medical History 57:2 (2013), pp. 186–205, doi:10.1017/mdh.2012.102.

30. Arbulú, Laura Gutiérrez, Catálogo de documentos de la serie de visitas de hechicerías e idolatrías del Archivo Arzobispal de Lima, in Catolicismo y extirpación de idolatrías, siglos XVI–XVIII, (Cuzco: Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos Bartolomé de las Casas, 1992, pp. 105136)Google Scholar, Gabriela Ramos and Henrique Urbano, eds. See also Ana Sánchez, Amancebados, pp. xxxiii–xxxviii.

31. In a study that compares the attitudes toward idolatry of two principal proponents of its uprooting in the seventeenth century, the Jesuit José de Arriaga and Archbishop of Lima Pedro de Villagómez, Juan Carlos García explains that Arriaga sought to bring about a reform of pastoral visitations within the Lima diocese. This would be achieved by means of combining ordinary visitations with the missions in the care of the Jesuit fathers. The latter would be entrusted with the instruction and confession of the Andean parishioners, while the diocesan representative would administer justice. The pastoral visitations, for their part, would be charged with overseeing the conduct of the priests of the Indian parishes so that the missions would bear fruit. García Cabrera, “¿Idólatras congénitos . . . ?,” pp. 95–110. On the Jesuit missions in Peru, see Maldavsky, Aliocha, Vocaciones inciertas. Misión y misioneros en la provincia jesuita del Perú en los siglos XVI y XVII (Seville, Lima: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, 2012)Google Scholar.

32. Lobo Guerrero and Arias de Ugarte, Sínodos de Lima, p. 76.

33. Ibid., p. 78. In his study of missions in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Châtellier presents an astute analysis of the ritual of these visitations. La religion, pp. 61–86.

34. Examples of situations that provoked parishioners' complaints are listed and described briefly in Tineo, Melecio, La fe y las costumbres. Catálogo de la sección documental de Capítulos (1600–1898). Archivo Arzobispal de Lima (Cuzco: Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos Bartolomé de las Casas, 1992)Google Scholar.

35. The subject has been studied by, for example, Yannakis, Yanna in The Art of Being in Between: Native Intermediaries, Indian Identity, and Local Rule in Colonial Oaxaca (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Diel, Lori Boornazian, The Tira de Tepechpan: Negotiating Place under Aztec and Spanish Rule (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008)Google Scholar.

36. Visit to the church of San Joseph del Chorrillo, May 1648, AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 9, exp. 16.

37. Lobo Guerrero and Arias de Ugarte, Sínodos de Lima, pp. 78–79.

38. “Camachic, camachicuc. Gouernador, o corregidor, o mandon, o el que manda, o el que rige.” [Camachic, camachicuc. Governor, or magistrate, or boss, or he who orders] Holguín, Diego González, Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Peru llamada Lengua Qquichua o del Inca (Lima: Universidad Nacional de San Marcos, 1989Google Scholar [1608]), p. 47.

39. AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 9, exp. 16, fols. 4v-5.

40. In his study of church legislation in sixteenth-century Peru, Valentín Trujillo Mena asserted that only parish churches were entitled to have the Eucharist on display. However, the example discussed in this article suggests that such exclusivity could be contested. Mena, Valentín Trujillo, La legislación eclesiástica en el virreinato del Perú durante el siglo XVI. Con especial dedicación a la jerarquía y a la organización diocesana. (Lima: Lumen, 1981), pp. 244245Google Scholar.

41. The deeds of their ancestral heroes are among the few put into writing that have come down to us. See Taylor, Gerald, Ritos y tradiciones de Huarochirí (Lima: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, Universidad Particular Ricardo Palma, 1999)Google Scholar. The most complete study on Huarochirí under colonial rule is that of Spalding, Karen, Huarochirí: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984)Google Scholar.

42. Diego Dávila Briceño, “Descripción y relación de la provincia de los Yauyos toda, Anan Yauyos y Lorin Yauyos, hecha por . . ., corregidor de Huarochirí,” in Relaciones geográficas de Indias, Vol. 3, Marcos Jiménez de la Espada, ed. (Madrid: Atlas, 1965), pp. 155–165.

43. Rostworowski, María, “Los yauyos coloniales y su nexo con el mito,” in Señoríos indígenas de Lima y Canta (Lima: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1978), pp. 109122Google Scholar. See also Salomon, Frank, Feltham, Jane, and Grosboll, Sue, eds., La revisita de Sisicaya, 1588. Veinte años antes de dioses y hombres (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2009)Google Scholar. A detailed analysis of these matters can be found in Mumford, Jeremy Ravi, Vertical Empire: The General Resettlement of Indians in the Colonial Andes (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On mixed populations, see p. 129.

44. Dávila Briceño, “Descripción y relación,” p. 160; Jane Feltham, “La arqueología de Sisicaya,” in La revisita, Salomon et al., pp. 57–101.

45. Dávila Briceño, “Descripción y relación,” p. 161.

46. I have not consulted the Retasa (reassessment of population and headtax) of 1577, one of the documents that Rostworowski used to study the ethnohistory of the province of Huarochirí. Rostworowski, however, maintains that one cannot reach definitive conclusions about the manner in which the reductions were made. Rostworowski, Señoríos indígenas, p. 112. Citing the same document, Rostworowski asserts that the name of the principal Indian parish that concerns us was San José de Chorrillos de Aquipa, but apart from hers I have not found any similar reference. Rostworowski, Señoríos indígenas, p. 114.

47. This locality figures in the map of the province that accompanies the description. Real Academia de la Historia, Colección del Departamento de Cartografía y Artes Gráficas, Signatura: C-028-004. Nº de registro: 01133. Signatura antigua: 09-04664, nº 6. Available at:, accessed November 2, 2015.

48. AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 9, exp. 16, fol. 5.

49. Statement of Juan Bautista, AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 9, exp. 16, fol. 11. Statement of Don Juan Chauca Guaman, ibid., fol. 30v.

50. Ibid., fol. 25.

51. Ibid., fol. 19v-20.

52. Ibid., fol. 10. “He says that he has not seen in all the time that the said licentiate Martín de Mena has been pastor in this parish that the Most Holy Sacrament which is the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ was [present] in any church in all the towns of [the parish]; and he is certain that the Indians of these towns would receive great consolation and edification if they were to have it [during] the time the said priest was attending [to his duties] in any of them and he knows that in this town and in that of Santo Domingo de los Olleros alms are solicited with the insignia of the Most Holy for its wax, which all the Indians would give with good will if their said pastor were to have [the Sacrament] in the said tabernacle.”

53. Ibid., fol. 7v-8.

54. Mena Godoy added: “Because their said town is not stable and they are poor they do not have the capacity to keep the Most Blessed Sacrament with the decency that it is due.” [porque no es estable la dicha población de ellos y ser pobres no tienen comodidad para poder tener el Santísimo Sacramento con la decencia que se debe.]. Ibid., fol. 46.

55. The same Dávila Briceño recognized after having left the post of corregidor that he had implemented the reductions with the understanding that although there was not enough land for all, the settlers would be permitted to return temporarily to their old towns. This was explained in the juicio de residencia (judicial review of office) given by his successor, Cristóbal Juárez de Angulo. The passage in which he explains this has been cited by Rostworowski, Señoríos, pp. 110–111. Regarding the problem of land access for the inhabitants of the reductions, see Mumford, Vertical Empire, pp. 144–145. The author maintains that the reductions were largely a failure.

56. Joffré, Gabriel Ramón, “Producción alfarera en Santo Domingo de los Olleros (Huarochirí-Lima),” Boletín del Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos 28:2 (1999), pp. 215248Google Scholar, esp. pp. 220–221. The author suggests that this could have been a Spanish town founded on an indigenous site. The data from the corresponding pastoral visitation does not support this hypothesis.

57. Testimony of Don Diego Canchu Ñaupa, from the town of San Pedro de Matara, cacique of the Lacacica ayllo, AAL, Visitas Pastorales, leg. 9, exp. 16, fol. 16v.

58. See for example the statement of Don Juan Asto Guaman, ibid., fol. 23.