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  • Pastoral Visitations:Spaces of Negotiation in Andean Indigenous Parishes
  • Gabriela Ramos (bio)

In the Andes, the pastoral visitation of Indian parishes usually evokes the idea of a strongly oppositional relationship between the Church and local society. This vision, lacking in nuance, has been widely disseminated both within the academy and outside it. Although it derives from a serious academic interest in discovering and analyzing the common thread of the Church’s evangelization policy in Peru, this stance, centered on the problem of the “extirpation of idolatry,” has been progressively emptied of content and today tends to serve as the standard means of filling gaps in the understanding of the history of Andean peoples during the colonial period.1

The tendency to present the Church in a repressive role only and to limit Andeans to the role of passive objects or, at best, objects propelled by automatic mechanisms of resistance, has blinded us to understanding what the pastoral visitation (visita pastoral) in truth represented: a fundamental means by which the Church interacted with the clergy and their parishioners. Consequently, the important place of negotiation in the prolonged and complex bond that the Andean peoples maintained with different levels of the Catholic Church has been ignored. Moreover, this tendency has obscured the influence of this interaction on the formation of colonial political culture and its agents, the features of which we need to identify and understand.

This study is based on the examination of a significant portion of the records of ecclesiastical pastoral visitations in the Archivo Arzobispal de Lima, beginning with the first 70 years of the seventeenth century. These documents correspond to what was at the time an extensive diocese. Because new ecclesiastical [End Page 39] jurisdictions were created over time, the colonial archive no longer corresponds to the boundaries of the present-day diocese.

The pastoral visitations analyzed in this study were produced during the tenures of the archbishops Bartolomé Lobo Guerrero (1607–1622), Hernando Arias de Ugarte (1630–1638), and Pedro de Villagómez (1640–1671). In the series of documents that I study, the brief incumbency of Archbishop Gonzalo de Ocampo (1623–1626) has left practically no trace. As other scholars have shown, each of these archbishops had his particular way of conceiving of the relationship between the Church and the indigenous majority of parishioners.2 Throughout the seventeenth century, the actions and policies of the archbishops exhibited marked contrasts. For example, Lobo Guerrero and Villagómez exercised their office with investigatory and repressive fervor, whereas Hernando Arias de Ugarte showed little interest in creating or exacerbating conflicts.

To show the degree to which the behavior of the Church in the Andes corresponded to the objectives and strategies established for the entire Catholic world, I will first address the significance of the pastoral visitation after the Council of Trent, and I will show the form in which this mechanism of surveillance and government was adapted to the Andean context. A comparison of the questionnaires and examinations that were employed in various doctrinas (Indian parishes) during the seventeenth century will serve to explore the similarities and differences between the visitations made in the Andes and those made in other parts. It will be shown that the practices of surveillance, correction, and repression were an integral part of visitations as those were constituted, rather than actions expressly created to deal with the specific cultural conditions of the Andean peoples. The application of these measures had a double effect: as much as the Church sought to uproot or correct practices that it judged erroneous or blameworthy, and to dismantle the foundations that sustained them, it also created procedures, relationships, and forms of understanding the world whose range, although wrapped in the veil of the religious, usually extended beyond it. Thus, I will also examine the context of the visitations—the atmosphere in which they took place, the reactions they produced among parishioners, and the effects they had on the formation of local political culture. I suggest that by means of their structure, pastoral visitations could have favored the opening of spaces and forms of negotiation between the communities and their priests, extending even to the highest levels of the Church...


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pp. 39-57
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