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Cultural Interbreedings: Constituting the Majority as a Minority

  • Serge Gruzinski (a1) and Nathan Wachtel (a2)

From the time of the Spanish invasion, in the Andean world as in Mexico, a mere handful of conquistadores came to impose their domination upon the indigent masses. One cannot, therefore, begin by speaking of minorities nor of the marginalization of Amerindian populations, even when these decrease dramatically following the demographic catastrophe of the sixteenth century, for in spite of this they remain significantly more numerous than the Spanish. Yet it is true that the term Indian appears, from its origins even, as a derogatory term (see the flood of contemporary literature on savages, idolaters, and so forth) and that it is in fact applied even now in countries such as Peru and Bolivia, where the autochthonous substratum survives in many regions, to the populations least integrated into national life, who might be considered, in this sense, as “marginal.” What, then, has taken place during these last five centuries?

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1 “Defender estas ovejas de los lobos” in the “Carta colectiva de los franciscanos de México al emperador” (17-XI-1532) published de Benavente, Fray Toribio (‘Motolinia’), Memoriales (Mexico: UNAM. 1971).

2 It would be suitable in this instance to compare the case of Americans with the earlier ones of the Canary Islands and of Grenada.

3 “Esta nacion” concerning the Indians in “Carta colectiva de los franciscanos de Mexico al emperador,” 438.

4 de la Cruz, Sor Juana Ines. Obras completas, t. II (Mexico. FCE). 16.

5 Ibid., t.III, 180.

6 Trez piezas, 377–9. Conceived after the model of the plays of Lope de Vega, at once edifying, humorous and pleasant, the Comédie de saint François Borja tells of the conversion of a great Jesuit saint, the Duke of Gandia, grandee of Spain and viceroy of Catalonia. It is punctuated by interludes and dances such as the branle and a part of the alcancias, earthenware balls filled with flowers or ashes. Ten students of the highest nobility played a part in it that was remarked upon.

7 de la Cruz, Sor Juana Ines, Obras completas, II. 41, 17. The “interbreeding” of cultures was so evident and so familiar that the adjective itself—mestizo—was from the common domain, to the point of being used in a villancico as popular and as burlesque as that of San Pedro Nolasco (1677).

8 Marie Cécile Benassy, p. 31.

9 The recovery of Indian cultures took on occasion the route of mythological allegory: In 1713, a float presented by the corporation of pulque manufacturers vaunted the virtues of pulque, the fermented juice of the agave. A Creole poet took it upon himself to invent a creational myth to attach the Mexican plant to classical mythology. Created by Hercules, born of the milk of the Goddess Juno, the pulque became that “preciosisima bebida. tenida de sus aficionados por digno brindis de la mesa de Jupiter, y aptisima para procerizarse a deidades.”

10 Careri, Giovanni Gemelli, Viaje a la Nueva Espana (Mexico: UNAM), 123.

11 Elias Trabulse, p. 19.

12 Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, p. 252: “genie arrancada de sus pueblos, por ser los mas extranos de su provincia, gente despedazada por defender su patria y hecha pedazos por su pobreza; pueblo terrible en el sufrir y despues del cual no se hallaria otro tan paciente en el padecer, gente que siempre aguarda el remedio de sus miserias y siempre se halla pisada de todos, cuya tierra padece trabajos en repetidas inundaciones.’

13 AGN (Mexico). Bando 20, no. 25.

14 Alberro, Solange: Les Espagnols dans le Mexique colonial. Histoire d'une acculturation (Cahiers des Annales, Paris, 1992).

15 de Matienzo, Juan. Gobierno del Peru (Paris. 1967).

16 Cf. Wachtel, Nathan. Le retour des ancêtres. Les Indiens Urus de Bolivie (XXème-XVlème siècle). Essai d'histoire régressive. (Paris, 1990). 549–58.

17 Ibid, 476–7.

18 Ibid., 478–9.

19 Ibid. 480–2.

20 Cf. Barragan, Rossana. Espacio urbano y dinamica etnica. La Paz en el siglo XIX. (La Paz, Hisbol, 1990).

21 Ibid. 85–122.

22 Ibid. 72–74.

23 Ibid. 76–82 and 75.

24 Ibid. 96–122, and 185 passim.

25 table. 196–7.

26 Ibid. 192 and passim.

27 Cf. Barragan, Rossana, “Entre polleras, nanacas y lliqllas. Los mestizos y cholas en la conformacion de la “Tercera Republica,” in Tradition y modernidad en los Andes, Urbano, Henrique, ed. (Cuzco, 1993), 4373.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
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