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  • Pastoral Quechua: The History of Christian Translation in Colonial Peru, 1550–1650, and: Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670
  • Susan Elizabeth Ramirez
Pastoral Quechua: The History of Christian Translation in Colonial Peru, 1550–1650. By Alan Durston. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007. Pp. xiii, 395. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Index.
Death and Conversion in the Andes: Lima and Cuzco, 1532–1670. By Gabriela Ramos. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Pp. xi, 356. Maps. Appendices. Notes. Bibliography. Index.

Alan Durston and Gabriela Ramos present two innovative methods to explore the role of the Church in the process of conversion of the Andean native populations from contact to the middle of the seventeenth century. Both add perspectives on the ongoing, negotiated establishment and consolidation of power and on the New World colonial regime. Alan Durston’s work is a massive, detailed, masterful analysis of the process of establishing a single liturgy in a standardized Quechua language that, in theory, would be used throughout the region. His example of “linguistic imperialism” (p. 40) begins with the earliest Quechua dictionary of Domingo de Santo Tomás, representing a coastal dialect of the language, and moves on to the later favor shown to a southernhighland version of the same. He highlights problems of translating Christian terms and categories, mostly from hymns and prayers, into words that Andean audiences could understand. Some examples include: Diospa yanan (literally, god’s assistant) for saint; chuyanchana (literally, place of purification) for purgatory; and huaccarpaña uña (literally, the pure white wool of a llama that was sacrificed to the sun) for Christ (p. 232). The first efforts of the missionaries in the 1540s and 1550s to use Quechua words for key Christian concepts (for example, using the names Pachacamac or Viracocha for the Christian God) were superseded later by Spanish terms. Although he does not deal fully with the native response (p. 16), Durston’s fine-tuned reading of sources shows religious hybridity, syncretism, or accommodation in the writings of Luis Jerónimo de Oré, Juan Pérez Bocanegra, Cristóbal de Molina, Francisco de Avila, Fernando de Avendaño, and José de Acosta, among others. The result is the conceptualization of a “pastoral Quechua” that is founded on southern Cuzco Quechua with a few coastal influences, such as the “Chinchaysuyoisms” described on pages 192 and 198.

In addition to his textual analyses, Durston shows that the adoption of pastoral Quechua was irregular (in time and space), half-hearted, and slow. His mention of the word “ranti” might fuel old polemics about the nature of exchange on the coast and [End Page 115] in the highlands (p. 198). Understanding the history of translation and standardization of the language helps explain some of the contradictions in observations of the chronicles and why some of the same terms are sometimes spelled with an “r” rather than an “l,” for example, marca versus malca (p. 190). Along the way Durston debunks and clarifies some aspects of Blas Valera’s activity; in fact, he adds much to the study of the Jesuit mission in general. Finally, he discusses the oral nature of much of the catechism, underscoring the importance of music and performance to Andean religiosity.

Ramos’s book is very different. Instead of a textual and linguistic analysis of chronicles and related literature, she uses changing practices related to death as an indication of religious conversion. Her interdisciplinary analysis finds that elite burials in consecrated ground contributed to the spread and acceptance of Christianity among urban sectors of the Andean population. Wills helped determine success and inheritance—and the fate of children—and defined relationships with ancestors, superiors, friends, acquaintances, and subordinates. She portrays the church and its dictates as both a destructive force (of traditional beliefs and practices) and one that ordered an emerging colonial society.

While creative, this well-written and effectively organized monograph presents only a partial and limited picture of conversion. Ramos’s conclusions are problematic for several reasons. First, her main sources are 459 last wills and testaments: 234 wills written in Lima and 225 written in Cuzco, during the period 1559–1670. That...


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