Several years ago Rolando Mellafe wrote an introductory article on “The importance of migration in the Viceroyalty of Peru.” In that essay, the Chilean scholar cogently argued that migration was one of the most significant, and generally unrecognized forces in Latin American history. “We could even affirm that the basic characteristic of colonial Hispanic American people was geographic mobility for there was constant movement of people in all senses of the term.” Social scientists who have examined the evidence in the years following Mellafe's brief seminal article have been equally impressed by both the volume and importance of migration in the Andean region of South America.
The colonial era in Andean America is a fascinating period and place for the student of migration to concentrate investigation. There are all the key ingredients that interest the curious scholar: the complex migratory situation in the late Inca period; the arrival of an alien and outside force, that was itself divided into a series of independent elements; the introduction of Indian auxiliaries from others sectors of the New World; and finally, the movement of blacks who were either slave or free. Each migratory element was complex. For example, not only did blacks vary in status, free or slave, but their origin and socio-economic background were diverse as well. Likewise, the Spaniards were not just from Andalusia and Estremadura, but also Castile, Galicia, Navarre, and from other parts of a peninsula that was characterized by sharp regional, cultural, and linguistic differences. Further, other Europeans emigrated to the Indies: Portugal, Flanders, Germany, Naples, Genoa, and Greece contributed their share.