Chile and Peru: 1560-1749

Pedro de la Gasca

Hernando de Santillan


Chile, 1560: Why They Rebel, Part I

Hernando de Santillan, advisor to the governor, has tried for three years to prohibit the indigenous people from being used as pack animals.  He has failed.  Upon leaving Chile he writes about his own countrymen:

[They] killed, maimed and set dogs upon the Indians, cut off feet, hands, noses and teats, stole their lands, raped their women and daughters, chained them up and used them as beasts of burden, burned their houses and settlements and laid waste their fields.

Fray Gil de San Nicolas, in the tradition of Bartolome de las Casas, also writes about the real conditions of the indigenous:

They take the Indian men and women prisoners in chains and use them for “dog bait,” watching the dogs tear them apart for sport.  They destroy the crops, burn the houses and villages full of Indians, shutting the doorways [of the houses] so none can escape.

-Brian Loveman, Chile, 60

Peru, 1613: Why They Rebel, Part II

Felipe Huaman Poma de Ayala, descendant of an Incan chief, is an artist with a conscience.  He sits down to write a letter to King Phillip III telling him of the abuses against his people by the clergy.  At this time there is one priest, friar, or nun for every ten Peruvians.

…The various religious orders established in Peru…show an unholy greed for wordly wealth and the sins of the flesh and a good example would be set to everyone if they were punished by the Holy Inquisition.

These priests are irascible and arrogant.  They wield considerable power and usually act with great severity towards their parishioners….They readily engage in business, either on their own or other people’s account, and employ a great deal of labor without adequate payment.

A favorite source of income for the priesthood consists in organizing the porterage of wine, chillies, cocoa, and maize.  These wares are carried on the backs of Indians and llamas and in some cases need to be brought down from high altitudes.  The descent often results in death for the Indians, who catch a fever when they arrive in a warm climate.

Three years later, Felipe finishes the letter that now includes four hundred line drawings and a catalogue of abuses, atrocities and resistance.  It is twelve hundred pages. 

-H. McKennie Goodpasture, ed., Cross and Sword, 44

Peru, 1749: Why They Rebel, Part III 

Two brothers, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, ship captains of the Royal Armada, visit Peru.  They too write back to the king:

The tyranny suffered by the Indians stems from the insatiable desire for riches on the part of those who come from Spain to rule over them.  The latter have no other means of satisfying this lust than by exploiting the Indians.  Using every oppressive measure at their disposal, officials exact more through cruelty than they obtain from their own slaves….

In those kingdoms Indians are veritable slaves….The Indians do not retain even the tiniest part of the sum which their toil, sweat, and hard work have earned….

They use fines or court costs to gain ownership of an Indian’s cow, mule or other cattle….These continuous extortions have reduced the Indians to such a miserable state that they cannot even be compared to the poorest, most abject people imaginable….

The repartimiento system, so cruelly wicked that it appears as if it were imposed on the people as a punishment…a more tyrannical abuse could not be imagined….

-Jorge Juan and Antionio de Ulloa, eds., Kingdoms of Peru, 70, 76, 77

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