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To write for people And not for institutions

-Alberto Flores Galindo

Something paradoxical occurs with the criollo being, as it arouses totally opposite valuations.2 That is to say, the word is charged with ambivalence, as, on one hand, it means something appreciated and loved, and, on the other hand, something strange and condemnable. Indeed, the criollo is associated with happiness, ingenuity and humor; and it is, for many Peruvians, that which is our own, that which is dear to us, that identifies us and that we fully accept. However, for those very Peruvians, the criollo is also a synonym for the condemnable, the abject, that which must be rejected if one wants to be considered a serious and respected person. If we say that the music is very criollo, we mean that it is very ours, that it expresses the authenticity of what we are. But, if we say that an action is a criollada, we will be valuing it as immoral; in any case, as improvised and unserious. So, ambiguity is an integral part of the term and the result is that we criollos love and hate each other at the same time. The criollo subjectivity is, therefore, fragile and insecure; it moves between a pitiless and pessimistic self-criticism and a short-lived celebration of achievements.

It is clear that these valuations are the result of a colonial past that is still very much present, of a conflict that is not yet solved and whose roots are in the cross between colonial impositions and the resistance of the criollos. The thing is that, even when the metropolis devaluated everything native, conceiving natives as a second class copies, and also made the very natives absorb this image as a fundamental part of their being, then again these natives also succeeded in defending themselves and in preserving a self-esteem based on the image of themselves as enjoying more, caring more and being freer that the colonizers. Actually, the criollo society was characterized by the transgression of order, by the “pendejada”, that is to say, by the underground rejection of a legal system considered to be abusive, illegitimate and corrupt.3 In this rejection, an enjoyment, excitement or emotion is inscribed, in which the fear of being trapped collides with the hope of getting out unharmed, which, finally, leads to a feeling of power, of being on-top, of being superior to others.

It is clear that, in a society such as the Peruvian one, where the public law has no prestige, the conditions are right for the “deviation” to stop being the exception and to convert itself into an institutionalized behavior, into a rule. Therefore, corruption and abuse of the weak become “normal” activities, accepted as natural and inevitable. Thus, a tolerance is developed in the face of transgression that undermines the moral order and hinders any common enterprise, since it breaks society up into groups that turn their backs to the values and norms that, supposedly, we are all obliged to respect.4

It is symptomatic that the practice of transgression has always started from the very authorities whose job it is to enforce the law. The colonial administration, composed of Spaniards, tended to see in Peru a kind of booty that could be sacked through abuse and extortion, obtaining illicit profits by exploiting the Indians and the Royal Treasury. As time went by, the bad example spread towards every social sector, and therefore abuse and bribery were “democratized”. The pendejada became popular, even reaching the Andean migrant who, in the city, becomes criollo and sly and, then, is able to take advantage of those that are what he once was.

Before proceeding, I want to clarify that I am far from demonizing criollo society and its strategies of humor and transgression as forms of resistance to an exploiting and illegitimate order. Not every power is just and good, nor is all transgression negative and destructive, as conservatives tend to think. Although, then again, neither is it true that power is intrinsically negative and that all transgression is liberating, as a dogmatic revolutionary would think. However, the choice between the tolerance of transgression, typical of Latin American societies, and the taste for prohibition characteristic of many developed societies, is certainly not easy. Transgression hinders development, but the taste for prohibition drains subjects of their possibility to enjoy.5 In any case, as a Peruvian and a criollo, although of German descent, I must manifest my ambivalence with respect to the criollo culture: I feel marked by it, I enjoy through it, but I also feel frustrated by many of its results.

Now, it is clear that, in the criollo world, a moral order, in the sense of a coherence informed by an ideal of society, does not manage to settle – neither in conscience, nor in custom. In colonial times, that ideal of society was orientated towards the search for the glory of the State and of the Church, and gave, by contrast, the individual a very minor importance. The panorama of traditional societies described by Durkheim proves to be relevant:

What was valuable to everyone’s eyes were the collective beliefs and aspirations, the common traditions and the symbols that expressed them. In these conditions, individuals spontaneously and with no resistance agreed to submit themselves to the instrument through which objectives which did not concern them were achieved. The individual, absorbed by society, docilely followed society’s impulses and subordinated its destiny to the destiny of the collective being, without finding the sacrifice difficult; since the individual’s particular destiny did not have the sense and great importance that we attribute it nowadays.

(Durkheim 1966: 56–7).

The idea is that the “moral ideals that make up the nucleus of social unity” (Durkheim 1993: 12) are punctured by a fault, a resistance that hides itself, but that undermines the social order. In Gramsci’s terms, we could speak of a hegemony damaged not by a counter-hegemonic proposal, nor by an alternative common sense, but by an ironic, distant and unbelieving attitude towards those moral ideals that are called in to give sense and order to society. Thus, there is an original gap between law and custom, a gap that becomes wider or narrower depending on the legitimacy of those who exercise power.

In what follows, I would like to expound four subjects. a) Transgression has its background in the colonizing society, in the weakening of the moral power of royal authority, and also in the Catholic religion and its indulgent attitude towards guilt, aspects that become patent in the figures of the pícaro [the rogue] and of Don Juan. b) However, in the criollo world, transgression is generalized and becomes more radical. Far away from authority, colonizers carry out their fantasies with few obstacles in their paths, and their example spreads throughout criollo society. c) Yet, in no moment must we forget the intensity of religious sentiment in colonial society. For this reason, we are obliged to ask ourselves about the effect of transgression on a subjectivity such as the criollo subjectivity, so taken by the notions of sin, salvation and eternal punishment. d) Finally, I would like to explore the continuity between the criollo and the republican world; that is to say, to what extent the enjoyment of transgression remains as something that defines the criollo way of being. I shall now go on to present these subjects, although not in this same order.

I will start with the second point, that is, with the radicalization of transgression in the criollo world, which I will base on the analysis of a tradición by Ricardo Palma, “Una hostia sin consagrar” [“An Unconsecrated Host”].6 Through this analysis, I hope to reach the following conclusions. i. Transgression implies the creation of a complicity, of a community that approves it and that enjoys it. ii. However, transgression does not imply a challenge to public law nor to the moral ideals that uphold it, it is not subversive, because it is not open nor is it argued ideologically. On the contrary, it is usually justified as a fault that should be regretted, but that, because of the very reality of things, is inevitable. iii. The reaction of criollo subjectivity is complex, since sentiments of condemnation, indulgence and even admiration for the breaking of the law become intertwined. iv. Lastly, transgression is naturalized as an irredeemable fact, about which very little can be done.

The tradición portrays the way in which the viceroys accepted, but at the same time failed to comply with, the royal decrees that came from Spain.7 This typical situation is illustrated with the presentation of a concrete case, where transgression produces, to the disadvantage of the “poor Indians”, fat profits for the Viceroy and his close friends and family. Palma describes the situation in the following terms: “After recognizing the decree in the Real Acuerdo [the Viceroy] bent over, took hold of the paper or the parchment that contained it, kissed it, if such a whim came to him, and then, holding it at the height of his head, he said in a robust voice: I respect and do not obey” (Palma 1952: 624).8 The royal decree became considered to be “dead writing, or paper to make paper-birds”. In fact, Palma recounts an elaborate ritual of invalidation of the law. The authority of the King is respected and even venerated, but all the same his will is unacknowledged. The expression “I respect and do not obey” is undoubtedly paradoxical, since it ends up denying what it affirms at the start. The ritual imagined by Palma is very significant, since the Viceroy bows over and kisses the royal order, reaffirming his loyalty to the King, but withdrawing authority from his will. Thus, the treason to the royal will is dramatized and is concealed as an act of veneration. The hypocrisy could not be greater. Bending over and raising the royal decree, as if he wanted to say that the will of the King is a great authority, and even kissing the paper, undoubtedly has sacrilegious nuances, since, truly, the ceremony de-consecrates the law, profanes the royal will, using gestures and symbols associated with its full acknowledgment. In fact, the Viceroy is placing himself above the King; he criticizes him, since he demonstrates that, in colonial society, it is himself who consecrates or validates the law, although he does not have the authority to do so. In this sense, it is very significant that “it was these royal decrees, respected but not obeyed, that people from Lima called ‘unconsecrated hosts’, an expression that, frankly, I consider to be very opportune” (Palma 1952: 624).

In colonial society, nobody should be political. Everybody, from the Viceroy to the commoners, must limit themselves to fulfill their role, each doing what, according to the respective legislation, was their duty. To be politically active is to be out of place, to adopt functions that exceed one’s own competence, in order to harvest some kind of profit. To transgress the formal institutionality. And the problem is that, in colonial society, everyone is politically active, and this, therefore, leads to conflict and disorder.

This political activity is an ancient thing in our Peru . . . In colonial times the very serious judges in the Royal Audience were politically active, as one would say of the ministers of State, and they would tie the Viceroy up and pack him up like a bundle, which happened to Don Blasco Núñez de Vela, or they gossiped with the Crown . . . The bishops and their chapter were politically active in order to dominate the Viceroy in matters of ceremony and patronage; and the friars in order to obtain the preponderance of their convent over others . . . and the doctors of the royal and papal University in order to increment the prestige of the green or the purple cardinal hat; and the tradesmen in order to smuggle at ease; and even the peaceful people in order to give themselves airs of importance, getting mixed up in what has no convenience.


Misgovernment is associated with politics, understood as resistance to the formal institutionality. Palma presumes that, if laws were obeyed, and everyone carried out their assigned role, there would be no conflict and we would live in the best of worlds. However, the fact that this presumption does not lead to a moralizing urgency shows clearly that it is a “crocodile tear”, a cry that means to reaffirm a clear conscience, even though it has to reconcile itself with an irremediable reality: the generalized transgression that is a reality in the criollo world and the fact that this is the source of a series of enjoyments that, even though they are illicit, reinforce the law in that they serve as escape valves for a social discontent that cannot be repressed due to the weakness of the central power. That is to say, after all, everyone’s struggle to get out of one’s place does nothing but reinforce colonial power. Effectively, transgression does not imply a will to break away, nor a subversion that results in an alternative to the law that is in force.9 However, transgression impedes a tranquil functioning of the social order.10

In principle, Palma justifies transgression and politics because of the inadequacy of colonial legislation. Indeed, with the sovereign and his Council of the Indies being so far away, ignoring the reality of the country, “it was not possible that they could be right in every one of their dispositions for the government of these peoples. Thus, sometimes some royal decrees came that were completely absurd or whose fulfillment could imply serious disturbances and cause the most awful turmoil” (Palma 1952: 624).

However, the example with which the tradición illustrates the disrespect for the law refers to “a royal decree that put obstacles in the way of the abusive corregidores that traded with the Indians, selling them articles for five times their price”.11 If that law had been put in force immediately, “the authorities would have suffered economic losses, a danger that they could avoid if the Viceroy conceded to delay by a few months the implementation of the royal command. But the idea of making life easy for the corregidores for free, et amore, his Excellency did not find funny. Amat did not want to be like the tailor . . . who sew for free and even bought the thread, since the lucky Viceroy did not place his hand on anything that did not give him the optimum harvest of shiny gold coins” (624). In the end, the royal decree remained, during five months, in the category of ‘unconsecrated host’, which was enough time to carry out abuse of the “poor Indians”, with the respective profits of the corregidores and the Viceroy’s commission. The tradición ends with the following verses:

In the happy regions Where this event took place There is abundant cheese… And even more mice.

The cheese, of course, represents the Indians and the results of their work, while the mice are all those who take advantage of the indigenous servitude. In short, in Palma’s subjectivity, which is an expression that (re)creates the criollo world, we can identify a symptomatic set of attitudes. In principle, the authority respects the law, but justifies the failure to comply with its norms. Corruption is hardly criticized and the shamelessness of the Viceroy is presented without indignation, with affection, as if it were something natural, that does not require explanation, that should not cause surprise. The Indians are pitied, but there is no true solidarity with them.

Thus, from the indulgent prism of Palma’s humor, corruption appears to be something comprehensible and natural. It is as if, between lines, the reader is told “you would also do the same if you were in his shoes”. That is to say, humor and moral leniency give each other mutual support in order to convoke the complicity of the reader. The criollos are all those who would have acted like Amat and his cronies. Therefore, it is not only that one’s own transgression produces enjoyment, but also knowing of another’s leads to another enjoyment: the one that comes of confirming that we are all in the mud together, or, in any case, we would be there if we had the opportunity. The demythologizing of the Viceroy gives license to one’s own misbehaviors. There is no authority, the bad example spreads: “There is abundant cheese… / And even more mice”. The illegitimacy of authority and the weakness of power undermine the moral order. Transgression is to be unfaithful to a public legistlation that is never taken completely seriously, and whose sanctions are not greatly feared either. However, the concrete case that the tradición presents could be put in the following terms: colonial bureaucracy forms an alliance with the criollos so that they can continue exploiting the Indians, despite the crown’s measures. It is known that, in the Republic, these attitudes continued, and were even accentuated: “. . . any little republican president to whom the Congress would send loads of laws would be politically active, and he would put a huge ‘so be it’ on them and then throw them under a piece of furniture, without paying them any more attention than he would to Mahoma’s bad teachings”. Transgression remains in the form of enjoyment: “Here is a selfless patriot, one of those who would give up the wing so he could eat the breast” (Palma 1952: 847). When Viceroy Amat was about to leave his post, some graffiti appeared on the Palace wall: “Hu, hu, hu, you finished off Peru”; Palma recollects the tale in which the same Viceroy answered with the expression “Hee, hee, hee, I take five million for me” (920).

But transgression was not limited to colonial bureaucracy and to traders. In Las tradiciones peruanas, there are multiple examples of failures to comply with the law at every social level. In “La conspiración de la saya y el manto” [“The Conspiracy of the Petticoat and the Cloak”], Palma relates the effective resistance of the women to the intention of the civil and ecclesiastic authorities to prohibit the use of Lima’s traditional clothing. In fact, the petticoat and the cloak allowed for the exhibition of “such irresistible and appetizing protuberances that, if everything they promised were true, I would think that the houris of Mahoma would not be fit to take off their shoe” (160-1). In addition, “the daring petticoat and cloak had the hidden virtue of livening up the females’ wit . . . since one woman from Lima was much like another, like two drops of due or like two violets . . .” (160). Therefore, under the protection of provocative anonymity, “mischief and witticisms” were abundant. One council had the intention of excommunicating women who used such clothing.

Freud said that wherever there is prohibition, there is desire. And here, the desire is to preserve freedom for flirting.12 The resistance to the initiative was lead by women who, in order to have their opposition felt, left their homes unattended, which resulted in domestic anarchy: “the women neglected the housework . . . the stew was tasteless . . . the children did not find a mother to wrap them up . . . husbands went around with holes in their socks.” The protest was lead by the very wife of the Viceroy. Therefore, the council decided to postpone such a conflictive decision: “‘problem postponed, problem solved,’ thought the women of Lima, and they claimed victory, and order returned to their homes” (Palma 1952: 161). In fact, the successful resistance of women amounts to the institutionalization of transgression, to the breaking of the moralizing will of priests and authorities. Lastly, custom prevails over the intention of legislators, and women manage to preserve the independence that let them play around with masculine desire.

Another of the various tradiciones that refers to the ineffectiveness of the law in the regulation of customs is “Los aguadores de Lima” [“The Water Vendors of Lima”]. The water vending trade was made up exclusively of black freedmen, who, as an imposition for the privilege of carrying and selling water, were obliged to kill collarless dogs and, also, sluice down Lima’s squares. The shamelessness of their vocabulary was their distinctive mark. “When democratic rule disappeared and the Republic came along with its boasting of democratic equality, the water vending trade became a political power for the electoral acts. The Mayor (of the water vendors) became a character pampered by the caudillos.13 He who had the support of the trade had a sure victory in the parochial elections of the capital of the Republic . . . And, club in hand, dagger in belt, amidst the horrific shouting and at full speed, two hundred black water vendors threw themselves at the occupants of the square (where the voting tables were), who after a very light resistance and a couple of broken heads, put their feet in the dust. Victory for the water vendors . . . and for the government!” (384). The incipient Republic seems even more precarious in its ability to enforce public order and morality. If the moral ideal of the republican State is “liberate individual personalities”,14 the Republic in Peru was even further than the colonial State from fulfilling its role, since legality and authority were even weaker. Democracy and people’s rights tended to be “dead writing”, or “wet paper”, as Palma said, of the viceregal and republican legislation. In fact, contravening all legislation, the caudillos or magnates that hired the water vendors managed to get the disputed votes and parliamentary representation.

We have, therefore, three examples of transgression. In each case, the customs imply ignorance of the moral order that ideally should regulate sociality. And there is no scandal or indignation. It is as if in the criollo world nobody feels capable of throwing the first stone, since everyone, in their own way, carries out transgression, finding in it the way to affirm their power as individuals. Tolerance towards transgression permits the enjoyment of knowing one is alive, that one is willing to take advantage of the opportunities life offers with, apparently, no concerns. From the sociological point of view, this situation has to do with the illegitimacy of colonial authority and with the weakness of the State when sanctioning crimes.15 We could go even further and ask ourselves how the Spanish Crown could keep the viceroyalty so far from the metropolis, administrated by corrupt elites that lacked, moreover, their own military force. A persuasive and interesting answer has been elaborated by Boaventura de Sousa Santos. For this author, the Baroque period is an “eccentric [form] of modernity”, from the south of the north, from Mediterranean Europe: “Its eccentricity derives to a great extent from the fact that it occurred in countries and in historical moments in which the center of power was weak and tried to hide it’s weakness by dramatizing a conformist society”. The idea was to legitimize power by way of art and ritual, elaborate and grand civil and religious holidays that dazzled the aesthetic sensibility of the people, hiding the lack of real power and the decadence of the State in the regulation of society. Therefore, in everyday life, the Baroque implied the intention of consolidating real power through tolerance to transgression and eccentricity, in order to incorporate these things and neutralize their subversive capacities. “The baroque subjectivity uses the suspension of order to its own benefit. The suspension of order, however, does not only mean the suspension of the cannons, it also implies the suspension of forms. The baroque subjectivity has a very special relationship with forms. The geometry of baroque subjectivity is not Euclidean but fractal.” It is in this atmosphere of creative disorder that mestizaje is developed: “mestizaje operates through the creation of new forms of constellations of meaning that are really unrecognizable or blasphemous, from the point of view of their constitutive fragments. Mestizaje resides in the destruction of the logic that regulates the formation of each of its fragments, and in the construction of a new logic. Latin America has provided a particularly fertile ground for mestizaje…” (De Sousa Santos 1995: 499-506).16

The historian María Emma Mannarelli thinks that one can speak of the colonial era as one of a “patriarchal pact”:

[A pact] through which public power offers domestic power, particularly to the masculine domestic power, room for maneuver, letting it act without intervening in its forms of domination inside the home. In this way, the State does not develop nor are any mechanisms of civilian inspection demanded of it. With this logic, personal powers are strengthened and the democratic functions of institutions are weakened. The civil servants can continue acting in a patrimonial way with respect to public goods and using their position for their own personal benefit. And personal domination in the domestic structure is not a result of public plans but of patriarchal interests.

(Mannarelli 2001: 204)

Considering this situation, the high rates of illegitimacy should not be a surprise, and neither should the practical institutionalization of the sexual relationship between masters and servants.17 Again, transgression as a custom. The domestic space is totally privatized: there is no valid public law.18

Severity and sadism do not appear very frequently in Palma’s tradiciones. In any case, they are linked to contact with indigenous people or with children. This situation could be illustrated with the analysis of another tradición. This one is “Tras la tragedia, el sainete” [“Behind the Tragedy, the Comic Play”], a tradition that recounts the treatment that the school teacher, don Bonifacio, gave to his pupils. “He had a special whip for every weekday, which was a real luxury. The Monday one was called ‘Earthquake’, the Tuesday one ‘Fortuneteller’, the Wednesday one ‘Saint Pascual Bailón’, the Thursday one ‘Hardhoof”, the Saturday one ‘Saint Martin’ . . . Since the day before the Magistrate’s birthday, the boys asked for the six whips . . . they gave him back the everyday instruments of torture, decorated with ribbons and little bells”. On very few occasions, he let the Latin teacher lavish out punishments and blows. “When the school children were showing most restraint, when the silence was so deep that the sound of a fly would have been taken for the sound of a storm, don Bonifacio would jump up and ask: ‘Who laughed?’ ‘It wasn’t me’, the trembling students hurried to answer. ‘But someone did it. You don’t want to confess? So be it! We will have judgement…’ and don Bonifacio closed the doors and windows of the room and, in the dark, would start giving out merciless whippings until he was worn out by fatigue. The boys would hide under the tables, put inkpots in his path, turn over chairs and stools, and shout like lunatics”. The story ends when, overtaken by enthusiasm, don Bonifacio punishes the bronze lions of a fountain. Therefore, he is shut away in an insane asylum. The tradición reveals that, behind severity and rectitude, hides an enjoyment of punishing, a sadistic impulse, which represents a form of insanity rather than a pedagogical virtue. Palma insinuates that the sadistic attitude of the teacher achieves a masochistic response from the students, who decorate the whips and that, it is easy to imagine, although Palma does not say so, must have thought that Bonifacio hit deliciously (Palma 1952: 875).

In this tradición, it is clear how Palma makes fun of don Bonifacio and the system he represents, showing its sadistic undertone. However, the enjoyment of damaging, cruelty, is also a transgression. Indeed, the classroom could be considered to be a metaphor of the colonial order, in which Bonifacio represents the colonial o criollo authority and the children, the black and indigenous population. Therefore, transgression is not only a characteristic of the subordinate that is ignorant of the law, but also of the authority that enjoys the suffering and humiliation of those that are under his command.

But, if we take Las tradiciones peruanas to be a mosaic of social life during the Viceroyalty and the 19th century Republic, it is obvious that transgression appears to be much more related to the failure of those who should comply with the law than to the sadism and cruelty of those who exercise power. In fact, Las tradiciones peruanas do not intend to be a historical or sociological treatise, that is, a text inspired by the ideals of objectivity and precision. Rather, Palma is trying to create community, to bring people together, demythologizing some, defending others, feeling equal to all of them; imagining an agreeable and almost happy world; quiet and without big catastrophes, which is unraveled into little stories that Palma considers to be cornerstones of national history, as he says in the “Obligatory Prelude” to his 1879 tradiciones:

Viceroy and Archbishop are friends of mine; I am accomplice of culprits and executioners; if my body demands a party, I get tipsy with the severe nuns, with worthy ladies.

I am a tireless worker. I pile up the stones for another to build the triumphal arch. Searcher of archives, wrapped in parchment, will national history turn down my stones?

However, it is clear that Palma can be criticized for the excessive cheerfulness of his collection of illustrations, for having underlined the complicity of everyone in the criollo world in ignoring the royal authority and, afterwards, the republican authority, without having given any importance to the cruelty done to black people and Indians.19 Whatever the case may be, Palma produced an amiable image of the Colony and of the early years of the Republic, an image in whose entrails lies the desire of integration and proximity, a desire that risks forgetting violence and racism. In any case, taking the equality of all as a given, Palma imagines and creates a space for dialogue and interaction, in which understanding is natural, since “if you have no Inca ancestors, you’ve got black ones”, a phrase that, paradoxically, has been used to hide racism.

The critical fortune of Palma’s work has been very diverse; yet, it has entered the national literary canon and his tradiciones appear in all the school textbooks as proof of the national and democratic vocation of Peru. In this sense, conservatism has certainly taken hold of the figure of Palma, insisting on an interpretation that underlines the happy integration between the Spanish, the Indian and black people. As Haya de la Torre said in a trial mentioned both by Luis Alberto Sánchez (1981, III: 97ss.) and by José Carlos Mariátegui: “Between Palma who mocked and Palma who whipped, the sons of that past and of those doubly ridiculed casts preferred the pin to the whip” (Mariátegui 1965: 179–80). Mariátegui himself tries out the following judgment:

Politically and socially, Palma’s tradiciones have a democratic affiliation. Palma gives secondrate interpretations. His mocking gnaws, smiling, at the prestige of the Viceroyalty and of the aristocracy. He translates the rebellious teasing of the criollos. The satire of the tradiciones doesn’t strike a chord nor does it have much impact; but, precisely because of this, it identifies with the humor of a soft, sensual and sugary community. Lima could not produce any other kind of literature. The tradiciones use up all its possibilities. Sometimes they exceed themselves . . . The criollo community, or Lima’s community, lacked consistency and originality. From time to time the clarinet rhetoric of some incipient caudillo would shake it up. However, after that spasm, it sunk into its comfortable indolence once more. All its anxiety, all its rebelliousness, was resolved in joke, gossip and epigram.

(Mariátegui 1965: 179–80)

Alberto Flores Galindo – in an investigation on the Viceroyalty of the end of the 18th century, in which he addresses both the violence against the “masses” and the indigenous world and the individualism and social atomization – criticizes Palma for having repressed the reality of violence and racism, that is to say, the social antagonisms implicit in the slavery of black people and the servitude of indigenous people (Flores Galindo 1986). Perhaps it is because of this that we can consider Palma to be the ideologist of the criollo world, since his vision of a community defined on the basis of the rejection or the demythologization of authority unites criollos, mixed raced and black people, although it almost completely excludes indigenous people.20 Francesca Denegri has underlined how the tradiciones are constructed on the basis of Palma’s retirement from politics, which was motivated by disappointment. This explains why his literature revolves around subjects that were considered feminine, such as the anecdote and everyday-life. All of this is based on Palma’s desire to connect the Republic with the colonial tradition (Denegri 1996).

Viceregal Lima is a city profoundly marked by Catholicism. The Gil de Taboada Census, from around 1790, identifies a total population of 61,411 souls that is decomposed in the following way:

Thus, 5% of Lima’s population was composed of monks and nuns. If this figure was still the case, there would now have to be 350,000 monks and nuns out of Lima’s 7 million inhabitants. The indicators of the permanent presence of religion could be multiplied if we quoted the number of churches, processions and cults that were characteristic of viceregal society. However, what I want to reason out is the coexistence of transgression and religiosity. How can such a devout society, with a massive church presence, be at the same time so sensual and indulgent?22 It is a fact that religion does not work as an effective check on transgression. Much of everyday behavior is morally condemnable; therefore, how should we understand a collective subjectivity in which crime and sanctity coexist so closely?

An evocative answer can be found in the analysis of another of Palma’s tradiciones, “El nazareno” [“The Nazarene”], conveniently subtitled “De cómo el cordero vistió piel de lobo” [“On how the Sheep Wore a Wolf-skin”]. It is about the story of the captain of the harquebusiers, don Diego de Arellano, “young man of dashing appearance, happy as could be, resolute as a romance by Quevedo and rich as usurers are nowadays. He took up arms in Italy, achieving, as well as a reputation of bravery, which he had a lot of, the rank of captain, which he highly esteemed” (Palma 1952: 642). Despite the “splendorous welcome” he received to begin with in Lima, high society gradually turned its back on him. “Don Diego’s very behavior gave rise to gossiping because every night the splendid halls of his house were theatre to the most scandalous orgies . . . he gave himself up to relationships with loose women and shady characters . . .” (642). However, nobody criticizes him in public, since everyone is scared of him. Then:

When he was in the main door with various comrades of vice one Sunday, a lady, who was outstanding for her beauty and modesty, happened to pass by. When don Diego heard the other swains talking about her with respect, he felt put out, and he bet that within a month he would be the owner of that treasure of virtues. Since that day he dedicated himself to lavish the lady and . . . a night after having invited his friends to an orgy, he took them to his room in which there was a woman, “¡Idiots, for believing in virtue!” he said to them, “That woman was going to belong to me today. However, I do not like prigs, and I pass her on to whoever wants her.” As corrupt as those swains were, none of them could repress a gesture of horror and they left the room. A few hours later there was another uproar in Lima. The dishonor of a beautiful woman is a victory for those who envy her beauty. The poor wretch, after looking for an avenger in her brother who was killed by don Diego, had to hide her tears and shame behind the bars of a cloister


The interesting thing is that don Diego hid under the figure of “the Nazarene”, the person most loved by the poor and needy. Indeed, without anyone knowing, don Diego was a member of the Brotherhood of the Nazarenes, who, dressed in a long purple tunic and a hood of the same color, went out every Friday to do charity, helping the needy: “Every person who suffered waited for Friday night. It seemed that the Nazarene multiplied himself, and he was never waited for in vain. He always had relief for misery, consolation for pain”. When don Diego dies, prematurely, poor people go to his service, interested in some money that was to be shared out as his last wish. But, before, the officiant priest had been asked to read a letter, in which don Diego said: “¡Pray for me! I have been the Nazarene”. The assistants, who had been indifferent until that moment, shed tears of sorrow and gratitude… And there, the story ends.

The most generous actions and limitless transgression are mixed together in the same person. Don Diego works hard to demonstrate that the moral order only stops those who do not dare to live life to the full. We are facing a Don Juan, libertine enjoyer. But don Diego hides another facet, a nocturnal side that, according to Palma, is the fundamental one: the saint, someone who keeps nothing for himself. The very subtitle of the tradición, “On how the Sheep Wore a Wolf-skin”, suggests that, for Palma, don Diego reached salvation, since his immorality was a robe that did not implicate his more profound self. What is beyond doubt is that the Nazarene compensates Friday nights with the liberties he allows himself the rest of the week. The mixture of licentiousness and religiosity is characteristic of criollo Lima, but in don Diego the friction is extreme. Those who knew him hated or feared him, but, paradoxically, he was also intensely venerated, although no one knew it was the same person. This is an odd inversion of a typical story. In the classic, by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll is the moral and daytime character, whereas Mr. Hyde transgresses and enjoys by night. In the criollo story by Palma, transgression is exhibited and morality is hidden. In Stevenson’s Victorian narration, transgression is nocturnal; liberating enjoyment is shameful and hides behind a tasteless daytime morality.

Lacan proposed an interesting hypothesis that can help us understand don Diego’s libidinous economy. The idea is that guilt is in the acceptance of a model of the self or ego-ideal that betrays the fundamental desire of the person. Therefore, the libertine, the man who enjoys and who, nonetheless, has received an order of saintliness, feels guilt not because of his licentiousness, but for excepting the imposition of being a saint and rejecting or interfering in his desire.23 From this point of view, don Diego likes the high life, and is only interested in his own enjoyment, but he has internalized a religious ideal anyway, an ideal which makes him feel guilty and fragmented. The guilt caused by betraying his desire, by not being a coherent enjoyer, is paid for in the form of good deeds. Logically, in a short time, with this imposition, the Nazarene gets rid of the immense fortune of don Diego. The greater the transgression of don Diego, the greater the generosity of the Nazarene would have to be. Through his charity, he emulates the figure of the saint, the ideal that questions his enjoyment. Thus, sanctity is a social imposition that in to some extent controls him, but that he manages to avoid, renouncing his fortune and buying himself a clear conscience.

The figure of don Diego throws some light on the criollo subjectivity, on the conflicts and fissures that constitute and de-centralize it. The transgressive and sensual drive is limited by an ideal of sanctity. This limitation means the betrayal of desire and has as its consequence a feeling of guilt that demands reparation and punishment. Therefore the criollo subjectivity is captive of a dilemma. It can find the path of resignation, of auto-flagellation, and the tortuous and twisted enjoyment that remunerates it; this is the path of the martyr and of the mystic, of the multiplication of the disciplines and eventual ecstasy. But, on the other hand, the realization of desire and the encounter with enjoyment reduce the strength of the ideal of sanctity. Whatever happens, the guilt that can arise is repaired through good deeds. The criollo subject does not limit his desire, or, in any case, he finds in charity the necessary legitimacy in order to keep living life with no major obstacles.24 In the subjectivity of don Diego, for example, the desire of enjoyment is dramatized, but the friction between this expectation and the moral law is as well. In a less extreme form, the same situation is present in criollo subjectivity: perhaps more so in the subjectivity of white, rich men. This explains the distress. Indeed, to be white, a man, and rich was almost like being invited to be God. No civil authority puts a limit to one’s own desire and moral indulgency can always be bought. Therefore, the path of wrong is widens delightfully. And it is not easy to resist it.25

In fact, the figure of don Diego is inspired in the famous myth of Don Juan. The play El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra was written by Tirso de Molina around 1616. Don Juan Tenorio is, of course, a compulsive seducer. He hasn’t finished seducing one woman when he is already thinking of doing the same with the next. His oaths of marriage and eternal love overwhelm any resistance, and therefore Don Juan gets what he wants. He does not only want sexual pleasure, but also the envy of others for doing what everyone wants, but does not dare to do. Challenged by the father of one of his victims, he manages to win the duel and killed the supposed avenger. The daring of Don Juan is so extreme that he insults and humiliates the statue of the offended father, pulling his beard and adding: “This evening, for dinner / I will await you in my home”. Nothing much happens on the first date. The stone guest provoked fear among the parishioners, but Don Juan is not intimidated. Before leaving, the statue invites Don Juan to have dinner in the cemetery, over his tomb. Don Juan goes, because “to fear the dead / is the most rustic fear” and “because Sevilla will admire / and be appalled by my bravery”. A phantasmal chorus is heard in the distance:

Be wary those who, of God, Judge the punishments too late Because there is no deadline that doesn’t arrive Nor debt that is not paid.

In this second date, the statue asks Don Juan to give him his hand, and when he does, he feels the fire of divine justice, and implores confession. And the statue responds: “There is no room for that / you remember too late… This is the justice of God / who does such / pays such”. Don Juan is lost; his faith in a last minute repentance that would save him from eternal damnation did not pull through.

Ian Watt’s analysis is very interesting. Don Juan takes pleasure in his tricks and jokes, “he takes for granted that everyone else shares his internal split between private and public attitudes . . . Don Juan appears to be implicated in a much more reckless way that everyone else in a silent but virtually universal war against social norms . . . He takes pleasure in the unmentionable through the triumphs of his selfishness . . . He is completely committed to the immediate, to the present . . . he trusts that the problems of divine punishment and the sufferings of hell can be put off, at least in the foreseeable future . . .” Tirso’s intention, according to Watt, is to oblige his public to face a series of corrective conclusions as a result of the merciless punishment that God imposes on Don Juan’s soul. Perhaps Tirso had little faith in the legislators of the State and Church, and therefore placed his hope upon a series of supernatural mediums. The secular world had an important role in sustaining moral law; its agents were too corrupt; however, the Church and its God could occasionally remind men what their obligations were (Watt 1999: 101–30).26 Don Juan is, therefore, a reckless individual of the moral order who acts out the fantasies of the men of his time: he does not feel fear because he is young, noble and rich, and he thinks that there will always be time for repentance, since judgment day is so far off that “you will give me leave for a long time”. In fact, Watt considers the figure of Don Juan to be symptomatic of a time of moral and political decadence, in which there is no authority capable of putting a stop to its excesses, because they are all involved in similar immoralities.

The myth of Don Juan was re-elaborated by the Romantics. In the 19th century, in 1844, in Zorrilla’s version, Don Juan obtaineds salvation. When all seems to be lost, one of his victims, Doña Inés, rises from her grave to implore clemency for the soul of he who deceived her, but whom she still loves. “God almighty, I believe in you” exclaims Don Juan, and before expiring, he says “Don Juan’s God is the God of compassion”.

Thus, it is very interesting to compare criollo don Diego with Tirso’s and Zorrilla’s Don Juans. Good deeds permit the continuation of transgression, don Diego gives himself treats, but he eventually obtains salvation. The indulgence of Palma could make one think that there are no souls in hell.27 For Tirso de Molina’s Don Juan, there is no sanction in this life; he does not limit his desire and his search for pleasure. However, in the end, he receives eternal damnation. Tirso de Molina’s moral severity is much more drastic than Palma’s. Lastly, for Zorrilla’s Don Juan, salvation comes from the unconditional love of one of his victims, which allows for a sincere repentance. Woman’s love redeems and transforms him, removing him from perdition and ennobling him. Zorrilla exalts the heroism and power of that woman’s love that persists despite all the times she was let down and which, in the end, after the long wait, finds satisfaction. In any case, it is clear that good deeds are for Palma what “pure love” is for Zorrilla. Ways of avoiding punishment in the other world, since, in this one, there is not much to fear, seeing as justice doesn’t work, even less so in the case of the powerful.

Since the establishment of the Colony, the criollo world appears to the Spanish Crown as an undesirable reality. The criollos are subjects of uncertain loyalty that compete for the surplus produced by the Indians. Disobedient and spoilt people, due to the excess of presents and abundant indigenous servitude. People with no culture, nor will. These stereotypes imply the exertion of a symbolic violence: the criollo identity is born defensive, as degenerate and suspicious, and bastard. According to Lavallé (1993), the criollos managed to resist, in part, these opinions. They were proud of the modernity of their cities and the richness of their land and mines. Nonetheless, their desire of recognition and legitimacy led them to deny any link to the indigenous people. The ideal was to be pure, to run from mixture. But the fantasy of being God, of the limitless enjoyment, what María Emma Mannarelli calls, interestingly, “the open house”, links the criollos to the Indians and to the black people. And the result is a mestizaje that, in principle, nobody wanted.

In any case, official law never managed to strike a chord with custom. Resistance and transgression were generalized, which meant that the legal order becomes separated by a split of the order of the real. The informality of the unwritten rules is what predominates. The written text cannot name custom. Reality emerges from the negotiation between the law and transgressive customs, a negotiation that is carried out in the context of the precarious legitimacy of authority, a fact that weakened the law even further, since those who are supposed to enforce it were the first to interfere with it to their own benefit.

Along with secularization, the panorama worsens, since the moral ideals of sanctity weaken; the same occurs with the presence of the Church in everyday life. Modernity does not manage to produce a firm secular morality to replace the weakened authority of religion. With the eclipse of the moral ideal of the common good, in which the individual should be subordinate to the aims of society, an assertion of an individualist ethics (such as Kant’s) does not follow.28 Therefore, in the criollo subjectivity, conflict is no longer so intense, nor are good deeds so necessary. Transgression is institutionalized at every social level. In a recent work, Elizabeth Acha asserts that “generally speaking, people expect that every police officer will be dishonest. Like two sides to the same coin, bribery and corruption are everyday occurrences” (Acha 2001: 47).

The reality of the criollo world appears to be, therefore, anomaly, disorder and misgovernment, a bad copy of the metropolitan original. It is condemned but it is not really known, or in any case, it is considered to be known as it is described, that is, as chaotic, indolent, uneducated, without ideals, purely sensual. The criollo procedures never come to be conceptualized; that is to say, the (dis)articulation between the formal procedures and those implicit, unwritten but generally well known ones.29 When facing the colonizer, the criollo is ashamed of his world and tries to compensate, through a sometimes excessive hospitality, for his distinctive mark: not to be the same as the colonizer, to be contaminated by natives. But, below this shame, a faint pride throbs, the feeling of being freer, since he is accustomed to having the rules serve men, and not the other way around. Moreover, the foreigner becomes criollo with relative ease.

In Peru, during the last decades, the encounter of Andeans and criollos has been taking place in the cities, especially in Lima. Cultural globalization is the vector around which a new mestizaje is produced. Identities are not confused, but neither are they separated. It is like a gradient of colors, where there are no precise boundaries, but where differences are very visible in the extremes, between, say, the “llamas” and the “snobs of Miraflores”, to refer to the language of today. The original proposal of the criollo world for the indigenous people was “to forget in return for a promise”. They would have to break away from their tradition to access recognition and citizenship. The proposal was accepted enthusiastically, as Carlos Iván Degregori has pointed out. Generations of Peruvians re-made their identities. However, tradition resists more than it appears to; it hides and then reappears in many fragments that transform the criollo city, as Alberto Flores Galindo indicates. Despite everything, there is an aspect in which in which the predominance of the criollo tradition is indubitable. The migrant must become more criollo, more shrewd and sly, and mustn’t be stupid. The learning process passes through playing the part of the “cholito”, that is to say, of being maltreated, swindled, beaten.30 Then, the criollo cunningness is learnt. Since, as Zavalita, the main character of Conversación en la Catedral by Mario Vargas Llosa, said: in this country, he who doesn’t fuck people over, gets fucked over.

The criollo world was undermined in its self-esteem by the metropolis. The criollo was the equivalent of a bastard, someone unwanted and who had less rights. Now, the cult of transgression, getting congratulated for “pendejadas”, is the response to bastardy. That is to say, faced with the phantom of knowing oneself unwanted, and of being someone who is second-rate, the criollo world accentuated the distortion of the symbolic-moral order of the Iberian world. Tolerance of transgression implies a general weakening of authority and the credibility of values that are at the base of the social order. For many, then, the perspective of radicalizing transgression opens up; that is to say, the loutishness that is implicit in being exiled in gangs, bands and mafias, groups that perceive transgression as the only way of moving forward and that are not stopped by the possibility of hurting others. Therefore, we should ask ourselves how it would be possible to reform a criollo character that, without denaturalizing it, could make it more critical of transgression, more disciplined, without losing its flexibility and capacity for enjoyment. I think part of the answer can be found in trying to strengthen self-esteem; that is to say, leave the phantom behind, that phantom that makes us feel that we have been so badly treated and that we are of so little importance that transgression is a legitimate defense.

Meanwhile, however, we are still a post-colonial country, since, as Gayatri Spivak says, the post-colonial condition is the result of the failure of decolonization.31 Not having been able to take conscience of the singularity of our being, to be trapped still in the rejection of the Spanish Crown’s desire, the desire for the criollo not to exist, for the criollo to be nothing. Trapped in the sense that we do not accept that desire, but neither can we liberate ourselves from it. That desire functions as a voice that repeats, as if it were comforting us, that we are of so little importance and that the failure is so completely ours. A voice that hinders the assimilation of our achievements and the claim of the value we have for simply being human beings. As a result, the Peruvian criollo world is still defined by the Other, the colonizer. The original and his successors. Therefore, the challenge is to figure out how to achieve decolonization in a globalized context, bearing in mind that the only way to subvert colonialism, to exorcise the specter that haunts us, is to put ourselves in contact with the creativity of our desire, transforming the enjoyment of transgression into the pleasure of the intelligent choice. When we are advanced in this change, we will no have an ambiguous relationship with the idea of the criollo, in which pride and rejection are merged.

Gonzalo Portocarrero

Gonzalo Portocarrero Maisch is Professor at the Social Sciences Department of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. He holds a Ph. D. degree from the University of Essex, England. He has published extensively on the field of culture and power. He has been visiting professor in USA, Europe, Japan and Latin America.


The author wishes to thank Santiago López Maguiña, Rocío Silva Santisteban, Víctor Vich and Marita Hamman, because this paper draws from many of the ideas that emerged in our ever intense, respectful and pleasant conversations. I also want to bear witness to the fact that, without the affection and understanding of Patricia Ruiz Bravo and Elena Piazzon, this paper would not exist. Finally, I want to thank the support I received from my colleges in the Red para el Desarrollo de las Ciencias Sociales: Felipe Portocarrero, Aldo Panfichi, Cynthia Sanborn, Carolina Trivelli and Cecilia Blondet.


1. This essay appears as chapter 5 of Rostros criollos del mal: Cultura y transgresión en la sociedad peruana Lima: Red para el Desarrollo de las Ciencias Sociales en el Perú, 2004 [Translator’s note].

2. The term criollo has many meanings and uses. The Royal Academy of the Spanish Language defines it, firstly, as an adjective which describes the son or descendent of a European that was born in the old Spanish territories in America and in some other European colonies of that continent. It is then said to describe, when applied to a person born in Spanish America, the qualities he possesses that are characteristic of that country. Its third meaning refers to what is native, particular to or distinctive of a Hispanic country. Lastly, the dictionary of the Royal Academy points out that the phrase “a la criolla” means to do something simply and without etiquette. What this definition fails to express, firstly, is that the term can be used as a noun (a criollo person), and also as a verb in the form acriollarse. It also fails to point out the complex nature of the term, as it can be considered to be derogatory (especially in the form criollada, which describes an action), but sometimes it is all the opposite. Furthermore, it fails to fully outline the second meaning of the term, the qualities specific to a country – in Peru, at least, this would include qualities such as cunningness, daringness, light-heartedness and wit. [Translator’s note].

3. The pendejada is a kind of action that goes against the legal and moral order, that is light-hearted, flippant, not to be taken seriously, but that is something to be proud of, something to show off. In colloquial terms, to do pendejadas is to be a jack-ass. [Translator’s note].

4. The idea that a group is united, primarily, by a certain “complicity” between its members, that is to say, by a particular form of transgression of the moral order formally in force, has been developed in “Superego by Default” (Žižek 1994). The explanation of this idea is that a group is characterized, primarily, by a way of obtaining enjoyment, and that between different groups there is always a conflictive dimension about who enjoys more, o whether the enjoyment of the others is the enjoyment we lack. This point can be found in “Love thy Neighbour? No, Thanks!” (Žižek 1997).

5. “The very social law that, as a kind of neutral set of rules, must limit our aesthetic self-creation and remove a part of our enjoyment for the sake of solidarity, has always been pervaded with an obscene, pathological surplus enjoyment… public law takes its energy from the very enjoyment that it takes from that subject, when acting as the agent of prohibition…” (Žižek 2000a: 262)

6. The tradición, literally “tradition”, is a literary genre that was coined and developed by Ricardo Palma, 19th century Peruvian writer. The tradición can be described as a short text which looks to the past, mixing colloquial, literary and historical language, focusing on a particular theme, event or character of Peruvian culture, mixing the historical perspective with an anecdotal plot. The narrative voice serves to create connections between the colonial past that is described and the country’s present. [Translator’s note].

7. From now on, I will quote Palma (1952).

8. The Real Acuerdo, at the time in which the tradición is set, was made up “of a regent, eight judges, four mayors of court and two fiscals”, that is to say, the elite of the colonial State.

9. The difference between transgression and subversion is elaborated by Žižek (2000b: Chapter 5). For Lacan, the implicit enjoyment in transgression lies in that through it the subject certifies its power. “We know, therefore, the enjoyment of transgression. But what does it consist of? Does it mean that to trample on sacred laws, which can also be profoundly questioned by the conscience of the subject, implies in itself I don’t know what enjoyment? Without doubt, we constantly see this strange attitude operating in subjects, [an attitude] that can be articulated as a testing of a faceless luck, as a risk in which the subject . . . then finds a guarantee of his power. Doesn’t the challenged law carry out here the role of medium, the path traced to gain access to that risk?” (Lacan 1991: 236)

10. The conditions for the equilibrium of a hierarchical society are formalized by Jean Piaget in the following way: “it will conserve it’s equilibrium if those who have rights, those who impose obligations, are at the same time the source of moral values (respect exists for superiors); if, furthermore, the social hierarchy is the occasion for the constant increase in value of the inferiors . . . and lastly if the distribution of wealth remains parallel to the hierarchical order and permits the great to ‘maintain their rank’, without the people knowing misery” (Piaget 1983: 161). Compared to this model of equilibrium, criollo colonial society presents a series of peculiarities, such as the discredit of superiors and the ill-treatment of inferiors.

11. A corregidor is a magistrate appointed by the King in former Spanish colonies [Translator’s note].

12. On the importance of the petticoat and the cloak and the possibilities that these offered to women, see Denegri (1996).

13. A caudillo is a chief or captain of a military or political movement. The political system in Peru has rarely been dominated by political parties; political forces usually converge around an individual caudillo, and fall apart with his death or retirement [Translator’s note].

14. To make this individualization a reality, which is the essential role of the democratic State, it is necessary, according to Durkheim, to avoid two extremes, which are both damaging to that essential role. The first would be the formation of secondary groups that enjoy sufficient autonomy for each of them to become a kind of small society, since, then, each one of these would act in accordance to the others almost as if it were alone: “A society formed by juxtaposing clans, cities, or more or less independent places . . . will be almost as oppressive to every individuality as if it were formed by just one clan, just one city, just one corporation”. Yet, on the other hand, “the collective force that is the State, in order to be liberator of the individual, needs to have a counterbalance, needs to be contained by other collective forces . . . and it is from this conflict of social forces that individual liberties are born” (Durkheim 1966: 62-3).

15. The illegitimacy of colonial authority has to do with the corruption of the viceroys and other civil servants, and also with the doubts that, since the beginning, criollos and Indians had with regard to the right the Crown had to give itself the possession of the Indies. Margarita Suárez sustains that: “The Spanish administration in America was slow, precarious and corrupt. The arrival of a new viceroy implied the constant renovation of the pacts and arrangements with the criollo colonists, whose interests usually did not coincide neither with metropolitan intentions nor with the viceroy’s financial ambitions . . . Without a regular army that could control internal opposition by force, the viceregal government could not have kept itself going for very long without the granting of privileges, and without the support and consensus of the elite of local power . . .” (Suárez 2001: 279) For this point, the concept of “patrimonialist State”, coined by Max Weber, is very pertinent. It refers to a weakly centralized State in which privileges and codes of laws proliferate, and because of this any collective action becomes problematic. Privilege implies an exception, a prerogative that favours a lineage or an individual or a corporation (see Weber 1974: 810)

16. Mestizaje refers both to racial interbreeding and to the mixing of cultures. It has often been considered an ideal for the future of Spanish America, the fantasy of the happy integration of peoples and cultures [Translator’s note].

17. Norma Fuller, in an as yet unpublished text about paternities in Peru, recollects the validity of the practice of the “gateo”, especially in Iquitos: the masters or their sons slide into the bedroom of the maids at night, in the understanding that sexual favours are an implicit part of the work contract.

18. See my essay “La dominación total” that addresses the situation of maids in contemporary Cuzco (Portocarrero, G. 1993).

19. Palma’s program with regard to the indigenous world is in “Justicias y escuelas” [“Justices and Schools”], a rather eccentric text about all the tradiciones, because it is a diagnosis of the situation of the indigenous people that prolongs itself into a manifesto about what to do with them. What is needed is to extend education and to moralize judicial power.

20. Far from being a unique characteristic of Palma, this is an attitude that is the responsibility of his whole generation: “on the horizon of republican understanding, the Indians had no place. For the colonial civil servant, the Indian was a fact . . . for the republican civil servant, the Indian could not be anything but an infuriating paradox . . . The Indians were cast out of the rational order, almost banished from history, at least in the field of perceptions (Nugent)” (Del Castillo 2001: 166–7).

21. Data taken from Günther and Lohmann (1992: 143)

22. With respect to this, see the paragraph “La vida ancha” from the already cited book by Günther and Lohmann (1992). There, the author brings up the importance of prostitution, gambling and alcoholism in Lima’s population. Furthermore, he refers to the consternation of the people of Lima, at the end of the 18th century, due to “the numerous robberies that were carried out, thieves entering houses and going unpunished and, on the streets, stripping unprepared pedestrians of their belongings. In the central stores, burglaries were carried out; at night one could not go through the outskirts of the convent La Concepción without running the risk of being mugged, and the streets of San Jacinto, Bravo, Mestas, San Bartolomé and Pampilla had completely succumbed to the power of the criminals; in the slum of San Lázaro masked people mugged the humble Indian workers . . . and the curfew was never respected . . .” (Günther and Lohmann 1992: 150). But, on the other hand, in no city of the New World was there such a company of saints than in Lima: Saint Toribio of Mogrovejo (d. 1606), Saint Francisco Solano (d. 1610), Saint Rosa of Lima (d. 1617), Saint Martín of Porras (d. 1639) Saint Juan Masías (d. 1645) (Ibid: 97).

23. Lacan, as explained by Slavoj Žižek: “guilt, materialized in the pressure exerted on the subject by the superego, is not as direct as it may seem; guilt is not caused by the failure to emulate the ego-ideal, but the more fundamental guilt of accepting the ego-ideal (the socially determined symbolic role) as the ideal to be followed in the first place and thereby betraying one’s most fundamental desire…” (Zizek 2000b: 268).

24. Everything that is known as “social policy” today, attention to the poor, the sick, to orphans and to the dying, was headed by the Church on the basis of substantial legacies and laymen’s donations. These donations served to finance the very functioning of the Church. On the importance of the chaplaincies as a form of financing of good deeds and religious cults, see Burga (1989). On the legacies to the poor in the wills of the rich, see Portocarrero, F. (1992).

25. When the Spaniards came to America, they committed unmentionable cruelties: mass rapes, torture, murder, robbery. The fantasy of being God is lived out, and the indigenous people are not considered to be human beings. Therefore, nothing is prohibited. Oddly, the fantasy of the Spaniards coincides with the fantasy of the indigenous people, who suspected that the invaders were gods. I have addressed this subject in “Castigo sin culpa y culpa sin castigo” (Portocarrero, G. 1993). On the limits of transgression, Lacan has a reasoning that is very pertinent to this case: “What are we backing away from? From attacking the image of the other, because it is the image upon which we have formed ourselves as an ego. Here lies the convincing power of altruism. Also, the homogenizing power of a certain law of equality, the one that is formulated in the notion of general will” (Lacan 1991: 236).

26. The quotations from Tirso’s play are also taken from this book.

27. This indulgence is characteristic of the criollo world. Palma, in his tradición “Los caballeros de la capa” [“The Knights of the Cloak”], that is about Francisco Pizarro’s murder, imagines that the old conquistador, despite his mortal wound, still has the time to draw a cross in the ground with his own blood, and kiss it as a sign of his repentance. The idea that Pizarro reached salvation is implicit.

28. In colonial society, the aims of society are glory of the King and of the Church in that they are the way to the soul’s salvation. In the Republic, the aim of society should be the promotion of the individual. The Republic implies an ethics marked by self control and democracy. The internalization of the Kantian categorical imperative: act always in a way that the principle that informs one’s own conduct could be considered a universal principle.

29. An anecdote that reveals this situation came about when Mr. Portillo Campbell, Head of the ONPE [National Office of Electoral Procedures] during Fujimori’s government, answered objections about sudden changes in the number of preferential votes for representatives of Congress. When answering the journalists, he said, as if he were brandishing a truism: “Hey, don’t you know we’re in Peru?”

30. The term cholo (diminutive cholito) is used to designate the urbanized descendents of Indians , and has a derogative, racist undertone [Translator’s note].

31. Quoted by Stein (2001).

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