- Spanish King of the Incas: The Epic Life of Pedro Bohorques
In an era known for epic explorations, the story of Pedro Bohorques stands out for its fantastical and compelling nature. A Spaniard who came to Peru around 1620, Bohorques spent his first years in the viceroyalty learning Quechua and indigenous customs from his wife, a woman of Indian descent. He then devoted years in the jungles east of Tarma searching for Paytiti, the mythical land of gold that had lured so many would be conquerors. Although the longed for wealth never materialized, Bohorques demonstrated his personal magnetism in these entradas by forming lasting friendships; for example, one of his companions, Melchor Monterey, who wrote a now lost ethnographic account of the cultures of the interior which included a dictionary of native terms, would accompany Bohorques to the very end of his adventures. In the jungle, Bohorques won the allegiance of various native chieftans, but when these same chiefs attacked Spanish settlements, Bohorques was accused of treachery, and was seized and imprisoned by the Spanish authorities.
It was after Bohorques's release from prison that his life takes on a surreal quality. With the support of the Spanish governor, he presented himself to the Indians of the Calchaquí Valley, of modern day Argentina, as the legitimate Inca king. The ostensible purpose of this deception was to subdue the warlike natives of this valley. Initially, the plan appeared to have succeeded as the Spanish adventurer was hailed by the Calchaquí natives as their Inca. However, Bohorques used this opportunity to create his own independent kingdom in this remote region, and to arm the Indians against the Spanish. Ultimately his attempt failed and he paid with his life. In this recent work, the eminent Argentine historian, Ana María Lorandi, masterfully retells Bohorques's complex story. With meticulous research and skillful writing, Lorandi communicates a passion for her material that will be felt by her readers. Ana de León's exemplary translation of this volume from Spanish makes Lorandi's scholarship on Bohorques available to an English speaking audience.
The true brilliance of Lorandi's work, however, lies in its reconsideration of seventeenth century Spanish America. Lorandi employs Bohorques's life as a means to demonstrate that our assumptions about the stability of seventeenth century society in Peru are mistaken. Traditionally, scholars focused primarily on the traumatic disruptions of the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century, and viewed the seventeenth century as a period of calm before the rebellions of the late eighteenth century. Yet Lorandi emphasizes that this was a time in which Spanish control over the Andes was continually contested. She writes "the century was fraught with conflicts and adjustments between dominant and dominated groups in which different segments of colonial society used various adaptive strategies to recover relics of their pre-Hispanic past" (p. 8).
One of the most fascinating sections of Lorandi's book details how myths of the Inca kings were appropriated by different groups throughout this period. Thus we [End Page 693] find the myth of Inkarrí—the beheaded Inka emperor whose body is slowly growing back in the jungle and who will eventually reclaim his kingdom—contrasted with the creative genealogies submitted by Inca noblemen hoping to gain privileges within the colonial order. These manipulations of the ideal of the Inka, Lorandi argues, created fertile ground for the blond haired Bohorques to successfully pretend to be the heir of the Inkas and to find his short lived glory in the Calchaquí.
Lorandi concludes by reflecting on the medieval nature of Bohorques's vision, a quest derived from the legend of "the land of Cockaigne, characterized by order, riches, and hedonistic indulgence" (p. 211). This medieval tale is a fantasy with echoes into our own age, as adventurers still continue to seek lost treasures in the mountains and forests of South America.
De Pere, Wisconsin