Charles F. Walker. Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2008.
Charles Walker's Shaky Colonialism. The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and Its Long Aftermath is a fascinating exploration of the seismic shifts that occurred in the natural, political and cultural order of mideighteenth century Peru in the wake of the catastrophic events of October 28, 1746. Walker explains that Shaky Colonialism "builds on a trend among historians of homing in on a particular event, a specific time and place, and following its broader repercussions, what Robert Darnton has baptized 'incident analysis'" (12). Providing a wealth of detailed documentary evidence, Walker links the earthquake and tsunami to larger debates about the causes of natural disasters, the shape of colonial urbanism, and the goals and limitations of enlightened Spanish absolutism. He argues that the complex negotiations between secular and religious authorities to formulate and execute a vision for rebuilding the devastated city of Lima, the nearby port of Callao, and the surrounding area for the most part ended in stalemate, reflecting the obstacles facing Bourbon reform efforts as well as the socio-economic and political tensions that marked the "City of Kings." Walker assembles a diverse cast of characters to bring his argument to life that includes Viceroy Jose Manso de Velasco; Manso's French aide Louis Godin; Don Francisco Jose de Ovando y Solis, commander of the Spanish Navy's Pacific fleet; Franciscan priest Joaquin Parra, whose 1756 sermon prophesizing another catastrophe as punishment for Lima's licentious ways sparked panic and led to his trial by the Inquisition; Jose Eusebio Llano Zapata, who chronicled the destruction of over two centuries of colonial history; Maria de las Nieves, whose 1729 election as abbess of her Augustinian convent sparked a scandalous controversy about monastic disorder; and Calixto Tupak Inka, author of the 1748 Representacion verdadera, a complaint made to the King of Spain regarding indigenous exclusion from religious orders.
Chapter 1, "Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Absolutism, and Lima," explores how debates regarding the possible causes of the earthquake-tsunami and proposals for rebuilding the city and its environs reflected long-simmering tensions about the role of the Church and issues of race, class and gender that the author explores in subsequent chapters. As Walker notes, "The earthquake developed into a virtual referendum on Lima" (12). Viceroy Manso de Velasco hoped to effect rationalized urban reform and streamline power relations by reducing the influence of the Catholic Church, local elites, and marginalized groups such as Indians, castas, and mestizos. But his ideas for enlightened urbanism ran afoul of the particular agendas of each of these groups, provoking as well Spanish concerns about resource allocations, revenue streams, and intra-European rivalries in the Americas. The battle between baroque sensibilities and customs and an emergent enlightened colonialism played out in debates about hierarchy and sovereignty, and about the nature of progress and scientific knowledge.
As they struggled to understand the catastrophe, most eighteenth-century writers resorted to a combination of spiritual and natural explanations that Walker discusses in Chapter 2, "Balls of Fire: Premonitions and the Destruction of Lima." Initially the eruption of subterranean gases or water and divine punishment of the city's licentious ways were both proposed as potential causes. Later, in the months and years following the earthquake, popular anxieties found an outlet in a plethora of visions and premonitions that received a great deal of attention. Walker focuses on the Inquisitorial trial of the Franciscan Joaquin Parra that took place ten years after the earthquake and during which multiple witnesses shared testimony describing how in the days leading up to the earthquake numerous nuns had experienced visions of the city engulfed in flames, smoke and waves as a punishment for errant behavior. Given that this kind of extreme female mystic religiosity had long been suspect in the eyes of the Church, the trial deepened concerns about gender and race (subjects of later chapters) and brought to the fore critiques of the theatrical and sensationalist character of Franciscan evangelization. It also revealed tensions between Inquisitorial functionaries, the Archbishop, the mendicant orders, and secular authorities. But despite its highly charged nature, this particular jurisdictional conflict ended without any clear resolution, as do many others that Walker discusses in his book.
The third chapter, "The City of Kings: Before and After," provides an outline of Lima's development from its origins as a carefully planned city to the ethnically and geographically diverse metropolis it had become by the eighteenth century. Lima was home to various Indian groups, a large Afro-Peruvian population that included slaves and free blacks, "chinos" who had arrived from Spanish territory in the Philippines, and mixed-race groups, or castas. As Walker explains, growing demographic complexity and ethnic fluidity produced two seemingly contradictory responses: the emergence of Enlightenment classification systems (whose best-known manifestation are the pinturas de casta) and a shift from casta to calidad (or class) as a means of determining identity. Against this backdrop, Lima elites--criollos and Spaniards--depended on a combination of overseas and inland trade to support a rich cultural and intellectual urban panorama but largely overlooked the agricultural areas further afield. The author includes a detailed explanation of the construction and financing of urban architecture, both grandiose and humble, before enumerating the material and human destruction that greeted the city's inhabitants the morning after the earthquake. Llano Zapata estimated the dead at 16,000, considerably higher than the toll taken by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake; the loss of property, dislocation, panic and suffering were almost unfathomable, as is evident in the first-hand accounts that Walker cites.
Viceroy Manso de Velasco was faced with the daunting task of imposing order and rebuilding the city, and that work is the focus of Chapter 4, "Stabilizing the Unstable and Ordering the Disorderly." The title of this chapter underscores the relationship between urban planning, social hierarchies, and existing ideas of order and disorder--many of them informed by enlightened ideas about race and gender. Walker provides a brief overview of the personal and political trajectory that brought Manso to Lima as Viceroy in 1754, concluding that he was "the classic Bourbon administrative type" (76). The immediate challenges facing the Viceroy included assessing and documenting the damages and their costs; reuniting and housing the many displaced limenos; controlling prices of staple commodities like wheat and bread; rationalizing the debt crisis caused by the disaster and stabilizing revenues through tax increases, title sales, and restoration of the tobacco monopoly. These challenges were further complicated by the fact that Manso de Velasco was attempting to reduce the power of the Church precisely when he most needed its collaboration as a spiritual and charitable institution, especially since there was little moral or financial support forthcoming from Madrid.
Protracted struggles with Lima's elite constituted another challenge, as Walker discusses in Chapter Five, "Contending Notions of Lima: Obstacles to Urban Reform in the Aftermath." After considering and finally rejecting the option of moving the capital to a new location, Manso appointed Louis Godin to oversee rebuilding efforts, mandating adherence to strict building codes that prohibited the construction of new two-story buildings. The ban on altos sparked resentment among local elites, who pushed back using economic, legal, and 'civitas' arguments that ultimately succeeded in frustrating many of Godin's proposals (according to the author, this can be seen as yet another foreshadowing of the only partially successful implementation of the Bourbon reform agenda). As an interesting aside, Walker includes a discussion of why Spanish American cities, built on a Renaissance model and seen primarily as commercial centers and revenue sources rather than grandiose spectacles, were less ostentatious than other Bourbon urban reform projects such as St. Petersburg and Versailles.
Following this discussion of State-elite conflicts, Walker turns to conflicts between Church and State in Chapter Six, "Licentious Friars, Wandering Nuns, and Tangled Censos: A Shakeup of the Church." In these conflicts, the Viceroy's 1748 secularization campaign converged with anxieties about Lima's diverse population and increasingly blurred social and racial categories, internal debates within the Church, and larger debates over material and moral issues. The plan called for the removal of regulars from rural parishes, the consolidation of the number of monastic orders, and a reversal of the Church's accumulation of land and property. Enlightened Spaniards hoped to dislodge baroque scholasticism by creating an enlightened clergy and a national Church that would report to Madrid rather than Rome. At the same time, given that the Church controlled up to 75% of all urban properties, it necessarily played a central role in financing the rebuilding effort. The issue of liens on property (censos) were one of the myriad ways in which convents and ecclesiastical institutions, including the Inquisition, collected payments for principal and interest and became the "financial foundation of colonial Lima" (123). After the earthquake, when Manso (supported by the Audiencia and the Cabildo, whose members had much to gain by a reduction in the economic power of the Church) mandated a renegotiation of censos, the resulting lawsuits involved many in Lima beyond policy-makers and lobbyists, slowing and sometimes completely thwarting reform efforts.
Nuns became a flashpoint for "divergent understandings of concepts of order and disorder" and in the debates about conventos grandes, relacion, and recoletos that intensified after the earthquake, they were seen as emblems of either immorality or vulnerability (14). But secular and Church officials targeted secular limenas with particular venom, noting their luxurious and ostentatious dress, lax morals and profane customs, as Walker explores in Chapter Seven, "Controlling Women's Bodies and Placating God's Wrath: Moral Reform." These accusations continued a long-standing tradition reflected in earlier sumptuary laws regulating clothing worn by racial or ethnic groups, and criticism of Lima's veiled women, or tapadas (a critique that anticipates contemporary debates about Muslim dress). They echoed accounts of enlightened European travelers, who described with a mixture of fascination and dismay the lavishly excessive and libertine behavior of Peruvian women. Efforts to control women's bodies and behavior played out against a broader context of denunciations of Lima's ethnic diversity and imprecise social and racial boundaries. Here, too, there was pushback, and many eventually concluded that "only commerce and enlightenment, not edicts, could change 'the peculiar habits and customs ofpueblos'" (155).
The eighth and final chapter, "'All These Indian and Black People Bear Us No Good Will': The Lima and Huarochiri Rebellions of 1750," examines how the events of 1746 exacerbated doubts about the trustworthiness of castas, Afro-Peruvians and Indians.
Viceroy Manso and many other members of Lima's elite blamed postearthquake turmoil on the breakdown of the city's spatial divisions, thus racializing the resulting crime wave by blaming it on blacks and Indians. Walker looks at several eighteenth-century instances of rebellion as a window for understanding the "ambiguities and contradictions of Bourbon policy toward Andean Indians" (161). Eighteenth-century Indian kurakas saw their power weakening and resented tax and labor demands as symbols of colonial authority; the earthquake only exacerbated existing tensions. Manso was concerned that urban life "de-Indianized' Indians, yet he saw full integration as impractical and emphasized the importance of rebuilding and Indian resettlement as a means to restore sociopolitical stability." In order to interrogate these assumptions, Walker analyzes several texts that offer evidence of indigenous advocacy. One is Calixto Tupak Inka's Representacion verdadera, written in 1748 to advocate for Indian inclusion in religious orders. The Representacion is also a wide-ranging reflection on Inca nationalism, apocalyptic baroque thought, and indigenous concerns about their incorporation into the Bourbon reform project. Unlike Guaman Poma's Nueva coronica y buen gobierno, this subversive complaint did eventually reach the King, but it received no official response. Nevertheless, its existence points both to the degree to which "the Incas were a crucial symbol in debates and political movements throughout this period" (167) and to the inherently seditious nature of Andean utopian discourse. Walker also discusses El Dia de Lima, a lengthy account of the celebration of Fernando VI's 1747 coronation. News of Felipe V's death and the ascent of his successor came almost simultaneously with the earthquake; the festivities were celebrated as an example as the city's post-earthquake resurgence but their financing and questions about the role that indigenous participants would play created challenges for the Viceroy. These texts reflect the growing frustrations of the indigenous population that would come to a head with the El Cercado insurgency of 1750. The Indian and mestizo leaders of this aborted insurgency were brutally punished, and when the Huarochiri rebellion broke out shortly thereafter, it further reaffirmed the Viceroy's determination to abandon any show of mercy toward the indigenous population. A shortage of produce and provisions in the Huarochiri region led to resentment that was mobilized by kuraka demands during a wedding celebration. After a number of Spanish authorities were killed, a counter-insurgency emerged, driven by fears of Spanish retaliation, and finally 500 armed Spaniards arrived from Lima to suppress the rebellion. Manso's letters responding to these events reflect the hardening of his position. He was convinced that alcohol and violent repression encouraged the Indians to seek alliances with blacks and become more secretive, and he blamed the breakdown of barriers between Indians and European for creating envy. In 1750, he prohibited the participation of Incas in any civic and religious festivities (183). Walker closes the chapter by arguing that Manso at this point had realized at some level that his dream of (re)building an enlightened absolutist capital would be unachievable.
In his "Epilogue: Aftershocks and Echoes," Walker recounts that Manso asked in 1758 to be relieved of his position to return to Spain in 1758, where a costly and humiliating trial for favoritism and corruption awaited him. Subsequent viceroys continued to push for reform, despite continuing tensions between the forces of Bourbon absolutism and baroque piety. Lima's upper classes applauded efforts to constrain the unruly lower classes but fought against limits to their own prerogatives, while Church leaders pressed on in the fight against secularization. Walker sums up his argument: "The conflicts over the rebuilding of Lima, curiously, tell a great deal about why the Bourbon reformers had such difficulty implementing their military, fiscal, and social reforms in the latter half of the eighteenth century" (75). He also notes that the social fissures uncovered by the 1746 earthquake widened in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and concludes by arguing that the story he has told has relevance for currentday Peru. In reading this important study, I was reminded once again of the unfinished or unresolved nature of so many eighteenth-century projects, and of the often-overlooked role that the eighteenth century plays as a foundation for what follows.
Shaky Colonialism will be of interest to scholars of colonial Spanish America and the transatlantic eighteenth century working in history and literary or cultural studies. It is also relevant for scholars working on sustainability and environmental studies or disaster studies. Written in a clear and lively style and using historical anecdotes to good effect, it could easily be adapted for classroom use at the graduate or undergraduate level. One final note: I loved the editorial creativity reflected in the title pages, where the letters tumble across and down the page, just as Lima's buildings would have fallen to pieces on that fateful October morning.
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|Publication:||Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment|
|Article Type:||Resena de libro|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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