This article examines the reception of the early modern hospital among the indigenous people of the Andes under Spanish colonial rule. During the period covered by this study (sixteenth to mid-eighteenth centuries), the hospital was conceived primarily as a manifestation of the sovereign’s paternalistic concern for his subjects’ spiritual well being. Hospitals in the Spanish American colonies were organised along racial lines, and those catering to Indians were meant to complement the missionary endeavour. Besides establishing hospitals in the main urban centres, Spanish colonial legislation instituted hospitals for Indians in provincial towns and in small rural jurisdictions throughout the Peruvian viceroyalty. Indian hospitals often met with the suspicion and even hostility of their supposed beneficiaries, especially indigenous rulers. By conceptualising the Indian hospital as a tool of colonial government, this article investigates the reasons behind its negative reception, the work of adaptation that allowed a few of them to thrive, and the eventual failure of most of these institutions.
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