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Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America

A Postal Inspector’s Exposé

Ruth Hill

Publication Year: 2005

Using El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (the "Guide for Blind Rovers" by Alonso Carrio de Lavandera, the best known work of the era) as a jumping off point for a sprawling discussion of 18th-century Spanish America, Ruth Hill argues for a richer, more nuanced understanding of the relationship between Spain and its western colonies. Armed with primary sources including literature, maps, census data, letters, and diaries, Hill reveals a rich world of intrigue and artifice, where identity is surprisingly fluid and always in question. More importantly, Hill crafts a complex argument for reassessing our understanding of race and class distinctions at the time, with enormous implications for how we view conceptions of race and class today.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Table of Contents

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-38

El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (Guide for Blind Rovers or Guide for Blind Traders) (1775), published under pseudonym, is the best-known work of the Spanish American eighteenth century. Its author, Alonso Carrió de Lavandera (1715–1783), was a Spaniard who spent nearly fifty years in the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru, trading, serving the Crown in a variety of capacities, ...

Part I

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p. 39

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1. Mexico City versus Lima: Pila, Puente, Pan, and Peines

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pp. 41-70

In the mock trial that closes Alonso Carrió de Lavandera’s exposé, a Spanish resident of Guatemala poses the riddle of the 4Ps that surfaces repeatedly along the itinerary to Spanish residents of Lima in 1746, the very same year in which Carrió left Mexico City for Lima. The litigants are participating in a trial of...

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2. Defacing a Bourbon Legend: Pedro, Pardo, Paulino, and Perulero

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pp. 71-104

In the witty anecdote that wraps up El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes, the inspector sets the scene for the mock trial by explaining that a Spaniard from Guatemala played a practical joke on several Spaniards from Peru at the archbishop of Guatemala’s palace, back when “two most illustrious lords, Araújo and Pardo, ...

Part II

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p. 105

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3. En Route and in the Loop: Trade, Metals, and Elites, circa 1700-1750

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pp. 107-140

In a manuscript titled Reflections on the Decline of the Spanish Monarquía Due to the Expenditure of Treasures and Depopulation That Wars in the Seventeenth Century and This One Caused, an anonymous writer noted that because foreigners could not rob Spain of its treasures by force, they resorted to “artful inventions.” He detailed the complicity of Spaniards...

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4. Of Gods and Men: Bourbon Blindness and the Post, circa 1750-1800 [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 141-194

We have already seen evidence of the intense economic rivalry between Lima and Buenos Aires during the first half of the eighteenth century and the harmonious relationship between Alonso Carrió de Lavandera and postal officials in Buenos Aires. Neither the rivalry nor Carrió’s respect for the Riverplate faded in the second half of the century. ...

Part III

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p. 195

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5. Before Race: Hierarchy in Bourbon Spanish America

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pp. 197-238

I want to clarify from the outset what this chapter is and what it is not. By hierarchy, I do not mean “racial thinking” or “racism”; these are modern, postcolonial forms of hierarchy, which do not enter into this study of Carrió’s Spanish America.1 My approach to hierarchy is both limited in scope and experimental. It is not intended to replace Albert Sicroff’s still important 1985 study of what are...

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6. The Inca Impostor Unmasked: Culture, Controversy, and Concolorcorvo

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pp. 239-273

Alonso Carrió de Lavandera’s views of the Inca descendants who belonged to the same casta and estado as he did and of the indios, mestizos, and cholos who did not are the subtext of many of the dialogues between the inspector and Secretary Concolorcorvo examined in the following pages. The oscillating subjectivity of Concolorcorvo—the metamorphosis that he undergoes...

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7. Trial of the Century: Humor, Rhetoric, and the Law

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pp. 274-304

There had been no firm boundary between popular and high cultures in the Spanish world before the eighteenth century, and Alonso Carrió de Lavandera’s mixture of the practical and the jocose was truly a reflection of the cultural paradigm that supposedly enlightened literati and officials had been trying to overturn since the triumph of the Bourbon Philip V in the War of the...

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pp. 305-310

In this study, and on many other occasions, I have grappled with cultural practices, as well as religious and political institutions, that do not fit scholarly models of modernity. I hope that the Hispanists among us can, collectively, engage in a sustained and historical dialogue about the unevenness of modernity in the Hispanic world that surfaces when non-Hispanic models are applied to Hispanic...


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pp. 311-354


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pp. 355-378


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pp. 379-396

E-ISBN-13: 9780826591975
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826514929
Print-ISBN-10: 0826514928

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 464697924
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Concolorcorvo, b. ca. 1706. Lazarillo de ciegos caminantes.
  • Corruption -- Latin America -- History -- 18th century.
  • Fraud -- Latin America -- History -- 18th century.
  • Latin America -- History -- To 1830.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- America -- Commerce.
  • Oligarchy -- Latin America -- History -- 18th century.
  • Social classes -- Latin America -- History -- 18th century.
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