- Vertical Empire: The General Resettlement of Indies in the Colonial Andes by Jeremy Ravi Mumford
Population resettlement processes occupy a place of considerable importance in the history of the pre-Hispanic central Andes. Before the Spanish conquest, the Incas uprooted several ethnic groups from their original settlements and relocated them in areas near roads, with the aim of reinforcing political control over their local authorities and exploiting their labor forces more efficiently. However, resettlements under the Incas were nowhere as important as they became in colonial times, particularly under Francisco de Toledo, viceroy of Peru between 1569 and 1581, who radically transformed indigenous social, political, and economic structures. How and why was the native population concentrated in villages (reducciones) built after a European urban model? These are the central questions discussed by Jeremy Raví Mumford in this fascinating and well-written book.
The book is divided in three parts. The first presents the historical and ideological background underlying the resettlement process carried out in the central Andes. The second part studies the implementation of the process in the audiencias of Lima and Charcas. Contrary to the common wisdom, Mumford shows that the decision to establish reducciones was not enacted by the 1568 Junta Magna, but by Toledo himself. The study of Toledo’s policies and thinking is probably one of Mumford’s most original contributions. In contrast with widespread discourses that tend to demonize Toledo, Mumford suggests that his intention was not to destroy Andean culture, but rather to preserve some of its elements, especially its political structures and native land rights—although certainly with the purpose of reinforcing the colonial exploitation regime. Toledo admired the achievements of the Inca empire. He believed that the Incas’ “tyrannical regime” had been their main tool for ruling the Andes in an effective manner. Mumford maintains that Toledo designed the resettlement strategy partly to emulate the Inca’s tyrannical legacy. Finally, the third part discusses the achievements and failures in the implementation of the resettlement policy. [End Page 657]
Several aspects of the book should be highlighted. First, as is widely known, the establishment of reducciones was carried out in the context of Toledo’s general inspection of the Peruvian viceroyalty, initiated in 1572. Previous attempts under Viceroys Cañete and Nieva had failed. Toledo and his entourage were aware that the best way to attain effective results was not by force, but rather by enticing the participation of the Andean elites. The latter cooperated with the colonial authorities in exchange for preserving their authority as regidores and mayors in native villages.
A second element worth highlighting is Mumford’s suggestion that reducciones were spaces for both conflict and compromise. In order to expedite tax collections and facilitate access to indigenous work force in rural areas, the Spanish crown introduced a new layer of authority, the corregidores de indios. The latter were strongly opposed by the indigenous elites and the clergy, as they eroded their power. However, over time the natives learned how to use the legal means provided by the Spanish authorities to obtain economic and political advantages.
Studying the developments underlying the establishment of reducciones is crucial for fully grasping the mechanisms of colonial power, as well as the social and political relations within indigenous society in the viceroyalty of Peru, but researchers face the challenge of scarce documentary sources. All the more reason to welcome this work for providing a coherent assessment of one the central processes in sixteenth-century Andean history.