- We Alone Will Rule: Native Andean Politics in the Age of Insurgency
In October 2003 , the sociopolitical landscape of Bolivia was severely shaken. Poor people, primarily of Aymara ancestry, descended from the adobe-lined streets of the indigenous barrios in El Alto to besiege the old city center and the Plaza of San Francisco. In this way, they sought to redress age-old grievances and assert their voices in the midst of yet another crisis. Over the last couple of decades, Andeanists have directed much of their attention toward the sociopolitical "temblores" of an earlier era, especially indigenous revolts and rebellions. In We Alone Will Rule, Sinclair Thomson examines the major seismic event of colonial Andean insurrection, the Great Rebellion of the early 1780 s. Like other recent scholars, he has looked to the inner working and the voices of indigenous society in his effort to understand colonial Andean society. While he does discuss movements in rural Cuzco, Oruro, and Chayanta, his study centers on the Aymara region around La Paz and, especially, the leadership of Túpaj Katari, who put La Paz under siege some two centuries ago.
This work focuses on how and why the role and image of caciques in much of Alto Peru changed during the eighteenth century, in an effort to understand the [End Page 533] social upheavals that ensued. Questions surrounding the rejection of older cacique leadership in Alto Peru have long been an important concern of scholars examining the breakdown of communal order, the penetration of European marketing, and state influence over villages and indigenous life. Thomson takes up many of these questions but also places his study in a larger framework, indicating that it "is the study of an age rather than an episode" (p. 9 ). He does this while asking what this insurrection meant, in terms of political awareness and goals, to those indigenous people who participated in it and were affected by it.
One of the most engaging sections of the book deals with issues surrounding Túpaj Katari's leadership. An enigmatic figure, Túpaj Katari has often been portrayed as gratuitously violent and willful. Thomson seeks to understand and explain Túpaj Katari's actions in the context of Andean norms. Not of noble birth or even of the line of caciques, Julian Apasa was dogged by challenges to his legitimacy and honor. To counteract these doubts he adopted his nom de guerre, combining the names of the Chayanta rebel leader Tomás Katari and the Inca Túpac Amaru. Moreover, Thomson argues that Túpaj Katari deliberately used violence to maintain order, authority, and respect, and that in some Andean contexts such violence was viewed as normal. "Túpaj Katari's ruthless and implacable treatment of his enemies was entirely consistent with the ambivalent norms of Andean peasant culture. His violence, which was intended to horrify and awe, was appropriate for a brave masculine warrior, and he expected his followers to display similar fierceness and tenacity in battle" (p. 196 ). The same, Thomson argues, was the case for his "sexual predation . . . [which] followed established, yet once again ambivalent, codes. . . . Here again, Katari's conduct evoked the wild, terrible aspect of the carnivorous condor that seizes vulnerable sheep from Indian flocks" (p. 198 ).
Thomson also explores issues surrounding alternative visions of indigenous rule. If the political project was to change society and restore indigenous authority, what would this new world look like? Would the Inca replace the Spanish crown? Would the community govern in the name of the king, or would the community become sovereign? Would Spaniards and their institutions be liquidated, or would they become subject to indigenous authority? One of the most creative responses by indigenous people to the colonial situation offered a response to this last question: indigenous people in Oruro and Caquiaviri ordered other residents to wear indigenous clothes or chew coca, among other things, in an effort to make them...