The construction of indigenous land regimes in the Viceroyalty of Peru in the first century of Spanish rule (1530-1630)
This research project aims to analyze the construction of Indian land regimes in the Viceroyalty of Peru as the result of interactions between institutions, practices and normative knowledge. In this sense, the process of (re-)structuring the landownership during the first century of Iberian imperialism in the Andes reflects the indigenous populations’ resistance to the territorial reordering and redefinitions caused by the foundation of towns and cities and consequent land distributions (1530-1560), the general resettlement of Indians (1560-1580) and two further processes of composición (the sale of land by the Crown) in 1591 and 1615. Each of these policies generated conflicts in which the indigenous population struggled to legitimise its rights over lands against the dispossessions and interests of Hispanic interlocutors.
Litigation arising out of these disputes was the locus of the encounter between the indigenous population’s traditional normativity and the imperial body of normative knowledge. The Andean rationality can be identified within the narrative elaborations of the claims and in the testimonies about ancestral land tenure. In these narratives, we find the voices of the general indigenous population as well as of the indigenous elites, the kurakas or caciques, who acted both in their own name and as representatives of their pueblo de indios. On the other hand, mediating these voices are the Spanish actors who participated in the trials and disputes, such as lawyers (abogados and procuradores), the ‘Protectors of the Indians’ (protectores de indios), judges and Crown officials. They provided and performed the procedural and argumentative normative knowledge of the dominant power. The dynamics of the land regimes were thus shaped in the encounter of the Andean and Spanish rationalities, leading to the generation of new, local normativities during the first century of the Viceroyalty of Peru.