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Inca Account Of Spanish Conquest Of Peru English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2444 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Titu Cusi’s “An Inca Account of the Spanish Conquest of Peru” is an intriguing document in the sense that it displays many characteristics of a hybrid text. Hybridization can take many forms including cultural, religious, political and linguistic hybridity. In relation to colonialism, hybridization can be seen as the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization, resulting in the dissolution of rigid cultural boundaries between groups hitherto perceived as separate. Rather than the blanket imposition of the colonizing culture onto those colonized, hybridity emphasizes their mutual intermingling. There are three principal ways in which the Titu Cusi text exhibits qualities of hybridity. First of all, the composition of the text in a literary sense lends itself to hybridity – the account was dictated orally in native Quechua to the Augustinian missionary, fray Marcos García, who translated it into Spanish, before being transcribed by Martin de Pando, the Meztiso secretary. Furthermore, the account is a hybrid legal document, as Titu Cusi utilizes both Andean ancestral claims and Spanish legal structure to petition Phillip II and enumerate Spanish atrocities. Finally, the text exhibits hybridity in a cultural and religious sense. Titu Cusi is a convert to Christianity, and embraces many aspects of Spanish culture, yet it appears from his account that this adoption does not over-ride his native beliefs and customs.

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Dictated orally in the Inca fashion, but translated and transcribed in the European fashion, the hybrid nature of Titu Cusi’s text is readily apparent in its literal form. Through the introduction by Ralph Bauer the reader gains a real understanding of the hybrid nature of the text, a result of the process of its composition. Considered by the Spanish authorities to be in a state of rebellion against the colonial government after inheriting the throne from his father, the rebellious native leader Manco Inca, Titu Cusi composes his work, a letter to the Spanish sovereign Philip II enumerating Spanish atrocities in Peru, from the jungle refuge of Vilcabamba in 1570. He tells his story in his native Quechua to the Augustinian missionary, fray Marcos García, who translated it into Spanish. Contributing to the hybrid nature of the work, it was then transcribed by Martín de Pando, Titu Cusi’s mestizo secretary. As Bauer points out, both Andean and Spanish influences are present in the text, “The composition of the text [being] profoundly informed by Spanish and native Andean structures of knowledge, fusing various and often incommensurate rhetorical practices…” (p. 21). It is noted that García exerted influence over the composition process because, “the Spanish missionary ‘ordered’ and translated it into Spanish” (p. 12). Titu Cusi’s decision to have his account transcribed and translated in the Spanish fashion over the oral traditions of his own people might seem to suggest a whole-hearted embrace of the superiority of Spanish culture. However, it should be remembered that Titu Cusi himself dictates the lessons that his father instilled in him during their time together at Vilcabamba, “pretend on the outside that you agree to their demands… But never forget our own ceremonies” (p. 116). Moreover, as Bauer points out, Titu Cusi had reasons for choosing the Spanish narrative medium. Titu Cusi’s account was a “pragmatic attempt at intercultural diplomacy” in which he made a,”calculated use of everything he had learned about Spanish culture without becoming unfaithful to his own culture” (18). This pragmatic attempt not only included the use of a written medium that would be more compatible with it’s targeted audience, but also the use of a mouth-piece from the most influential of missionary orders – the Augustinians (p.18). Titu Cusi’s own explanation for the written medium of the account is that, “…[the] memory of men is frail and weak… it would be impossible to remember everything accurately…unless we avail ourselves of writing to assist us in our purposes”(p.58). This explanation is somewhat ironic, perhaps intentionally so, as oral tradition and the memory of men is what the Incas had utilized for their record keeping and histories (p. 21). This is not to say that there are no elements of the Andean oral tradition within the written account. On the contrary, despite the translated and transcribed nature of the narrative, characteristics of formal Inca oral tradition are sprinkled throughout the account (p. 27). For instance, Bauer points to ritualistically repeated narrative elements, to give a sense of the “fourness” of the Inca Empire and epic character (p. 27). A further example is found in the narrative description of causal plot elements in repetitions of three. Manco Inca’s three captivities by the Spaniards in Cuzco, which Bauer takes to be an artistic license, are an example of this. Moreover, the verbatim, non-summarized nature of the speeches which Manco Inca delivers are in keeping with Inca oral tradition. In summary, the written medium, language, and ordering of the account are hallmarks of Spanish nature – however, elements within the narrative are shown to clearly take the form of Andean oral traditions. Therefore, Titu Cusi’s account has been shown to exhibit hybridity in a literary form.

Titu Cusi’s account displays hybridity not only in terms of literary style, but also in terms of the arguments comprising its legal framework. Having converted to Christianity, Titu Cusi portrays himself as the “natural” ruler of the land who is voluntarily placing himself under the authority of Philip II (p. 57). This is very much a European political gesture. The account is a political document as well as a literary work, a petition from Titu Cusi to Philip II intended to initiate a negotiation process designed to end the Inca rebellion against Spanish authority, and secure his status. Titu Cusi not only substitutes oral tradition for writing but also chooses a specific Spanish legal format for his appeal to the Spanish crown, the “relación” or personal account. This is a form of legal discourse with origins in notarial rhetoric. (p.22) The “relacion” presents a personal eye-witness account within the context of a legal dispute, and it relies upon firsthand experience for its authority (p.22). The rhetorical style of the “relación” also becomes a historiographic document, in addition to a legal deposition designed to direct policy and legislation (p.23). Titu Cusi’s direction with his account reveals that he has a grasp of European legal discourse, which he makes use of to pursue his objectives. The text is broken down into three sections, likely due to the “ordering” hand of Marcos Garcia (p.22). The first part is a letter addressed to the Spanish governor of Peru, Lope García de Castro. In this “instrucción,” Titu Cusi requests that the governor take his account to Spain and present it to Philip II (p.57-58). In addition, Titu Cusi attempts to justify his position, and his father’s, as rightful rulers of the Inca Empire by providing a “genealogical narrative” of his family in the Inca oral tradition (p.35). In this sense, the legal nature of the account displays hybridity. While the manner in which the account is presented takes a Spanish legal form, Titu Cusi’s justification for his father’s right to rule utilizes Inca tradition and historical precedent as the authority for the legality of the succession. However, due to the fact that Titu Cusi was likely to have been a bastard child, he instead invokes the Spanish logic of succession, which judges the validity of the heir based upon the purity of the father’s bloodline, rather than the purity of the mother in the Inca fashion (p.39). Titu Cusi makes this clear when he claims that, “…I am the one legitimate son, meaning the eldest and firstborn…whom my father Manco Inca Yupanqui left behind” (p.59). In the second part of his account, Titu Cusi talks about the conquest of the Incas by the Spainards. This section takes the form of a “life history”, one of the two major genres of the Inca oral traditions, as he recounts the events from the perspective of his father (p.35). The emphases of this section are the actions of his father, Manco Inca, particularly in regard to his dealings with the Spanish conquerors. Through the use of these two Andean rhetorical styles, Titu Cusi hopes to gain the recognition from the Spanish crown that he seeks. The third and final section of the account is a legal document granting García de Castro the power of authority to negotiate Titu Cusi’s return from exile on his behalf, again demonstrating the Spanish legal framework enclosing the account. Therefore, Titu Cusi’s account exhibits hybridity in a legal and political sense as the legal structure and “frame” of the account are of Spanish origin, but elements of the legal argument utilize Inca oral traditions.

Finally, Titu Cusi’s account exhibits hybridity in both a cultural and religious manner. Given how intertwined religion and culture were for both the Spanish and Incas, these matters are combined into one. Describing the state of culture in colonial Peru, Bauer claims, “It was a colonial culture, to be sure, whose intercultural exchanges occurred under conditions of extreme power imbalances. Nevertheless, it was a culture that was neither entirely Spanish nor entirely Andean but had become, as various historians and anthropologists have put it, ‘mutually entangled’ ” (p. 21). Bauer’s introduction demonstrates how figures such as Titu Cusi were, “…an apt expression of the hybrid culture that was taking shape in sixteenth-century colonial Peru and resulting from some forty years of intercultural contact, conflict and mixture.” (p. 21). Titu Cusi was known to be curious about the culture of the Spanish and to manifest certain elements of it. For instance, Titu Cusi was known to practice “European-style fencing” with his Mestizo secretary, Martin, whom he kept around out of the awareness that his knowledge of Spanish culture could prove useful. In addition, Titu Cusi utilized Martin’s writing skills for his correspondence with the Spanish (p. 43). However, “Even though Titu Cusi was generally tolerant of Spanish culture, he… continued the traditional Inca ways of life” (p. 17). Titu Cusi is described as wearing full ceremonial custom in the fashion of the Inca nobility, and carrying a lance and knife by a contemporary account (p. 17). While Titu Cusi’s accounts seems to suggest that he adopted some elements of Spanish culture, he also seems to have heeded the deathbed advice of his father to limit his dealings with the Spanish, so he would not meet the same untimely end and, “end up like [him]” (p.127). In addition to cultural hybridity, the account also contains elements of religious hybridity. Caught on the cusp of two cultures, one still retaining a semblance of dominance and authority, although being inexorably displaced by the invading European one, Titu Cusi converted to Christianity and adopted a Christian name. Titu Cusi allowed missionaries to erect a large cross at Vilcabamba, permitted them to preach, and shielded them from enemies among his people. This indicates that Titu Cusi at least partially endorsed the new faith. Indeed, he professed his own admiration for the apostolic message, and for the missionaries themselves, describing the monk who baptized him as, “being a very honorable man [who] did me the favour of coming into my country to baptize me” (p. 133). Titu Cusi allowed further allowed the “prior [to] remain there for eight more days in order to strengthen [his] knowledge in all things relating to the Holy Catholic faith” (p. 133). Despite his conversion, however, Bauer notes that some historians have interpreted Titu Cusi’s conversion as more of a diplomatic ploy then true religious conviction, thus allowing him to uphold diplomatic relations with the Spaniards, even while maintaining his semi-independence at his stronghold of Vilcabamba.

The fact that Titu Cusi permitted Christianity at Vilcabamba, but never allowed it to supplant the Incas’ sun worship or homage to huacas is telling (p. 15-16.). Moreover, in his account, Titu Cusi relates how his father had instructed his people to deal with the imposition of Christianity, “Now and then…they will get you to worship through force and deceit…by all means go through with it while they are present… But never forget our own ceremonies” (p. 116). Therefore, it has been demonstrated that Titu Cusi’s account exhibits not only his own cultural hybridity, but his religious hybridity as well – a façade though it may be.

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In conclusion, three significant ways in which the Titu Cusi account exhibits hybridity have been demonstrated. It was shown that the literal composition of the account was a hybrid of Inca oral tradition, and Spanish written word. The ordering and wording of the document is clearly of European fashion, but elements within the narrative display Inca rhetorical traditions such as the repetition of events to give epic scale, and Manco Inca’s verbatim speeches. Furthermore, the account was found to exhibit hybridity in a political sense as the legal ordering structure and “frame” of the account are of Spanish origin, but elements of the legal argument utilize Andean oral traditions, such as the “life history” narrative and “genealogical” narrative which Titu Cusi uses to prove his right to rule. Finally, the account exhibits cultural and religious hybridity through Titu Cusi’s character itself – Titu Cusi seems to display an interested in learning Spanish customs, yet retains his native dress and traditions. Moreover, Titu Cusi converts to Christianity, and professes his admiration for the work of the missionaries, and yet he steadfastly maintains the Inca worship traditions at Vilcabamba. Therefore, as a result of the above conclusions, Titu Cusi’s text has been shown to exhibit hybridity in three ways.


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