- The Chankas and the Priest: A Tale of Murder and Exile in Highland Peru by Sabine Hyland
An enduring dilemma in teaching anthropology to undergraduates is how to address the stubborn aporia regarding how "tradition" can exist alongside the vagaries of personality, particularly the deviant type. Students are open to discussing the idea of enduring culture, which they tend to romanticize and see as a cure for current ills. Yet, in the end, culture and tradition often seem like abstractions that pale next to the power of the psyche and the changes experienced—often viscerally—during their lifetime. A larger percentage of students at my college—Native American and otherwise—choose psychology over anthropology or even Indigenous Studies as a major. What they most want to understand, it seems, is why an abusive uncle changed forever the nature of family relations and personal self-esteem. Or why the Indian boarding school experiences endured by their parents and grandparents have shadowed and shaped how they react to intimate encounters, text messages, and teachers' evaluations of their work. [End Page 402] Or why the Long Walk and the Trail of Tears and the Sand Creek Massacre are carried generations later like backpacks full of railroad spikes.
What, we all wonder, is the relationship between the distant, sacred past and the present deviances and terrors that make culture and heritage both elusive and desirable, if far less salient, than the bruises of time?
Sabine Hyland has written a riveting work that successfully illustrates in great and accurate detail the legacies of abuse that change cultural patterns, personal memories, and social structures, but at the same time resist them. By crafting what she calls a "microhistory" (2) of egregious abuses committed between 1601 and 1611 by a Seville-born priest who attempted to recreate, in a remote part of Andahuaylas, the Spanish life from which he had been exiled, Hyland unravels key elements of life in the colonial southern Andes that otherwise might seem dry and irrelevant to the modern reader. As we are introduced to the ancestry, deeds, and ultimately the demise of Father Juan Bautista de Albadán, we also learn about the changes wrought upon indigenous Andean existence, from the fifteenth century when the Chanka people over whom Albadán ministered were defeated by the Inkas to the present, in a part of Peru that continues to be fraught with violence and poverty.
Hyland's book—which I believe would serve very well as a text in an anthropology, history, psychology, or Indigenous Studies course—is divided into two sections. Part I focuses on Albadán's actions, the resistance posed to him, and the consequences that his critics faced. Hyland brings to light Albadán's intellect, psyche, and sadistic acts by analyzing letters, court cases, his impressive library, the lives and works of contemporaries, his family dynamics, and the ways he acquired and manipulated great wealth. Although Albadán was never brought to justice for crimes of sexual assault, sadistic torture, murder, and extortion—allegations made by the great author and contemporary Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, for which Hyland finds strong confirmation in the archives—the priest from Seville eventually came to a mysterious death by poison.
Part II examines the longstanding effects not only of Albadán's acts—which altered indigenous power relations and psychic, bodily, and economic health while sowing deep suspicion and infighting—but also the nature of colonial rule in general as it exacted taxes, land, and obeisance via indirect rule imposed on ethnic lords, or kurakas. Throughout Hyland's analysis, she demonstrates how ethnohistorical studies can serve a "decolonization" function (153). We are introduced to the personalities, genealogies, spouses, children, and political aspirations of important indigenous actors such as don León Apu Guasco and don Diego Quino Guaraca. In the course of learning how marrying women of Spanish lineage strengthened the power of kurakas and how ayllu (extended family) and...