Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru

[ Latin American Studies ]

Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru

Spanish-Quechua Penitential Texts, 1560-1650

By Regina Harrison

Drawing from Spanish ecclesiastic literature written in Quechua, the language of the Incas, Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru is the first detailed study of how the European sacrament of confession was implemented in the early modern context of the Andes.

June 2014


33% website discount price


6 x 9 | 324 pp. | 8 line drawings, 1 tables

ISBN: 978-0-292-72848-6

A central tenet of Catholic religious practice, confession relies upon the use of language between the penitent and his or her confessor. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as Spain colonized the Quechua-speaking Andean world, the communication of religious beliefs and practices—especially the practice of confession—to the native population became a primary concern, and as a result, expansive bodies of Spanish ecclesiastic literature were translated into Quechua. In this fascinating study of the semantic changes evident in translations of Catholic catechisms, sermons, and manuals, Regina Harrison demonstrates how the translated texts often retained traces of ancient Andean modes of thought, despite the didactic lessons they contained. In Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru, Harrison draws directly from confession manuals to demonstrate how sin was newly defined in Quechua lexemes, how the role of women was circumscribed to fit Old World patterns, and how new monetized perspectives on labor and trade were taught to the subjugated indigenous peoples of the Andes by means of the Ten Commandments. Although outwardly confession appears to be an instrument of oppression, the reformer Bartolomé de Las Casas influenced priests working in the Andes; through their agency, confessional practice ultimately became a political weapon to compel Spanish restitution of Incan lands and wealth. Bringing together an unprecedented study (and translation) of Quechua religious texts with an expansive history of Andean and Spanish transculturation, Harrison uses the lens of confession to understand the vast and telling ways in which language changed at the intersection of culture and religion.



1. Confession and Restitution in the Andes: Las Casas' Avisos y reglas

2. Converts to Confession: From Ychu- (With Straws) to Confessacu- (As a Christian)

3. Dictionary Definitions: Sin (Hucha) and Flesh (Aycha)

4. Codifying Sexuality: Huchallicu- (to Sin, Fornicate), Huaça- (to Have "Improper" Sex)

5. Confessing Commerce in the Plaza: Ranti-, Catu-, Manu-

6. Confessing Work and Laborers: Llamca-, Mit'a-, Mink'a-

Conclusion. Wills as Quasi-Confession: Testamentocta Quellca





“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Hundreds of years ago the recounting of sins was a scene of terror and shame as well as of consolation. Compelled to accomplish a scrupulous remembrance of each transgression, the sinner cowered because, with omissions, there was the threat of hellfire in the end. The shame of admitting these sins, either facing the community as a whole or face-to-face with the priest, was unbearable for many penitents. Fulfilling the imposed "tariff" of the prescribed penance often was humiliating or was accomplished at great cost. Queries as to the most intimate of thoughts, or the naming of parts of the body, demanded a response about pleasure with one's self or with another. The priest, as both "judge" and "doctor," was endowed with the power to punish and also to cure as he joined in the dialog.

We say confession is good for the soul; thus we acknowledge that the need to confess is human, is innate, and signifies an incipient budding of individual consciousness. In episodes of Law and Order, in the police station, or in courts of law, confession is extolled as the "queen of proof" as long as it is extracted with proper procedures outlined in "Miranda" rights. The criminal is unburdened of guilt.

However, for other commentators, the autobiographical assessment brought forth by confession is rendered up as a concession to power, where the confessant is coerced into an utterance about self. Confessing secrets of the self, when multiplied by all the whispered secrets of all the sinners in a community, creates an opportunity for disciplinary action. Sinners must "pay for their sins"—either before stepping out from the confession box or before entering the locked-down cells of a penal institution to "erase their debt to society."

For Michel Foucault, it is within confession that the penitent is brought closest to defining self—or the truth of the self—prompted by the confession manuals. In the queries, in the tariffs of penance, the penitent plunges into his or her very core of being to reveal in words the darkest secrets about him-or herself, from the innermost thoughts to the most pleasurable acts:

Since the Middle Ages, at least, Western societies have established the confession as one of the main rituals we rely on for the production of truth: the codification of the sacrament of penance by the Lateran Council in 1215, with the resulting development of confessional techniques, the declining importance of accusatory procedures in criminal justice, the abandonment of tests of guilt (sworn statements, duels, judgments of God) and the development of methods of interrogation and inquest, the increased participation of the royal administration in the prosecution of infractions, at the expense of the proceedings leading to private settlements, the setting up of tribunals of Inquisition: all this helped to give the confession a central role in the order of civil and religious powers.

Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru traces the implementation of the sacrament of Roman Catholic confession in the heart of the Andes, in the century after Spanish conquest. Indigenous populations were taught the codified rules for self-examination and the means to express their Christian conversion in their own language, Quechua. The practice of confession and its social functions in the Andes are examined with an interdisciplinary focus, combining the methodologies of history, linguistics, literature, and anthropology. The particularities of the Andean context are drawn from the ecclesiastic literature, mainly from the confession manuals, and compared to the practices and models developed within European circumstances.

Transcriptions and Translations

Quechua words cited from sixteenth-and seventeenth-century documents are written with the orthographic variations common to these texts. The endnotes and the index provide the variant spellings, as well as definitions of the Quechua conceptual categories. In the colonial texts of Spanish and Quechua, missing text is indicated by square brackets within a quotation.

All translations from non-English texts are by the author unless otherwise noted. I also use square brackets to indicate more idiomatic versions of the literal translations of the quoted texts. Quechua has a variant spelling—Quichua—in original texts of the colonial period. In the contemporary period, Quichua also refers to the Ecuadorian varieties of the native language. Quechua designates the dialects spoken in Peru.

Occasionally, I have adapted the excellent translations for Quechua texts transcribed by Alan Durston, César Itier, Frank Salomon, and George Urioste (see endnote citations). Rosaleen Howard came to my aid and perfected several Quechua passages; I am grateful for her expertise and I acknowledge all further errors as my own.

The index provides definitions for Spanish and Quechua concepts that are highlighted in this volume. In addition, variants in spelling are given to include the apparent inconsistencies of the colonial period.

Of Sin and Penitence: Beginnings

With its origins in monastic practice, private confession entails the presence of two entities: the confessant and the confessor. The Irish monks, for whom we have the most detailed record, turned to a spiritual advisor to best profess their love for God, and thus confession was made a practice. A confessional technique of exagoreusis was developed in the monasteries, and Foucault, in his studies of confession, highlights the state of "permanent verbalization" that confession enacted because one’s thoughts were constantly revealed to a spiritual director, who demanded obedience: “'everything that one [a monk] does not do on order of one's director, or everything that one does without his permission, constitutes a theft.'" As Foucault discerned, in these origins it was not actions that were controlled but thoughts during contemplation, as these thoughts were directed to God. Thus Heloise, with her mention of her erotic desire for Abelard, commits no sex act yet deviates from the prescribed pure thoughts of religious contemplation.

Irish missionary monks are credited with expanding the practice of contemplative confession outside of the monastery walls and included laity in the private act of revelation. Evidence of ecclesiastic efforts early on to practice private confession exists in the penitentials of the sixth century. One of the earliest is the Penitential of Vinnian, along with the Penitential of Columbanus; both were carried to the European continent. In these books are instructions to the confessor on how to confess "well," combined with a listing of various sins with their corresponding penances. These personal reference books for confessors are a guide to conducting a confession that reflects liturgical contexts, encourages a complete confession, overcomes penitents’ shame, and allows for absolution.

Sinfulness and reconciliation operated in an early system of canonical penance where the sinner publicly declared sins and was reconciled to the faithful by the performance of "arduous" penitential exercises. At first, this process was permitted only once in a lifetime. Even with the performance of penance, the sinner forever bore the marks of transgression and was forbidden to serve in the military, to contract marriage, to join the clergy, or if married, the penitent was denied conjugal rights. Thus, centuries ago, confession determined whether a person would be integrated into the social bonds of community or be cast out of fraternal interaction for a lifetime. Many sinners avoided the once-in-a-lifetime public confession with its exacting penance. Some Christians opted for a deathbed confession and avoided public proclamation of their sins and a lifetime of restrictions.

Overwhelmingly, the penitentials of the early period dedicate considerable space to sexual behavior. Many early manuals for confessors reveal that sex was proscribed and codified. Thomas N. Tentler, using the Confessio generalis brevis et utilis, cites the gradations of the sin of lust as illustrative, where the sixteen categories are ranked beginning with the "unchaste kiss," to simple adultery and voluntary sacrilege, to the gravest of sins, sodomy and bestiality. The books are filled with canons, "brief, succinct statements that specify an offender, an offense, and an appropriate penance, for example, 'He who sins with a beast shall do penance for a year; if by himself, for three forty-day periods; if he has [clerical] rank a year; a boy of fifteen years, forty days.” In the early manuals, "tariffs" were strictly imposed; however, in the late medieval period, penance became more arbitrary. Economic sins, especially usury, were cause for deliberation, particularly because reparation was necessary for the sin to be absolved.

Ecclesiastic reform definitely shaped the fashioning of confessional practices and confessional literature in twelfth-and thirteenth-century Europe, notably by means of the ecumenical Lateran councils. Lateran II emphasized the imposition of penance by bishops and priests; Lateran III was concerned with educating clerics, and four works for confessors were written that encompassed current learning and law.

However, it was Lateran IV in 1215 that marked a profound change in confessional practice as canon twenty-one required “Christians of both sexes once they had reached the age of reason to confess their sins at least once a year.” And this canon effectively decided in favor of the oral confession that required a parish priest to be present. Confession was now a Christian obligation, and failure to obey meant excommunication. It is this pivotal date that brought forth Foucault’s exclamation: “Imagine how exorbitant must have seemed the order given to all Christians at the beginning of the thirteenth century, to kneel at least once a year and confess to all their transgressions, without omitting a single one."

These new obligations for the laity legislated by Lateran IV were accompanied by pastoral texts for training the confessors, often categorized as summa penientiae. There were two types: the summae confessorum were created for the intellectual preparation of the priests, and the summa confessionis contained practical descriptions of confessional procedures. Often, the penitentials contained elements of both categories; furthermore, the legalistic and juridical character was apparent, as framed by canon lawyers. The didactic nature of these texts was seen in the alphabetical labeling of topics and the indexes provided for consultation. Diocesan synods also weighed in on conceptions of confession and penance through the publication of statutes wherein bishops informed and controlled the clergy.

The decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, held in the Lateran Palace in Rome, institutionalized the sacrament of private confession. Canon twenty-one includes this important provision: "priests [were] to make available to all adult Christians of both sexes the opportunity to confess personally all of their sins at least once a year, without fear of this confession being revealed by the priest, to perform the penance enjoined on them, and to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, at Easter." Thus, Pope Innocent III and the council fathers provided for the salvation of souls through careful instruction of the parish priests.

Although this sacrament was intended to be a private confession to a priest, in reality, people pressed around to complete the obligation during the designated days. W. David Myers, calculating the press of the crowds, estimates the conditions for a priest in Freising. Using visitation records, Myers calculates that in the Lenten season, if a priest worked twelve hours a day, he could give only two and a half minutes per penitent, a veritable assembly line in the sixteenth century. Penitents were expected to offer up a complete accounting of their sins, make satisfaction (often with spiritual exercises), and show contrition (a heartfelt sorrow concerning their sinful ways), however brief their time confessing. Only then could the confessor pronounce the words, “I absolve you.”

Yet how were the penitents to remember all their sins, especially if there had been a year between the last confession? Occasionally, a general confession (Confiteor) was recited by the entire congregation, with a priest presiding. The particular sin was prefaced by the formula, “I have sinned in . . .” In this way the entire congregation was taught to identify sins, and absolution was dispensed in a general pronouncement. In an effort to jog the memory, Saint Augustine listed the seven or eight capital vices and a memory device for remembering them. The word "SALIGIA" is an acronym fashioned from the first letter of each sin: superbia (arrogance), avaritia (avarice), luxuria (lust), ira (anger), gula (gluttony), invidia (envy), and acedia (slothfulness). To further nudge parishioners into recounting all of their sins and to avoid these transgressions being blurted out in disorder, lists of interrogatories were drawn up based on the capital sins listed by Augustine. According to John Bossy, this was the most common pattern for two centuries after the Fourth Lateran Council; however, Stephen Haliczer privileges the Ten Commandments as the organizing principle in most manuals.

In fact, numerous systems existed to help the sinners remember their sins. Thomas Tentler offers an amalgam of the "usual ways of sinning" according to various written sources:

Ten Commandments
Seven Deadly Sins
Twelve Articles of Faith
Five Senses
Eight Beatitudes
Six or Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
Six or Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy
Four or Five Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance
Six Sins Against the Holy Spirit
Nine Sins Against One’s Neighbor
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Four Cardinal Virtues
Three Theological Virtues
Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Confession was often tailored to the status and profession of the penitent, from the pope to the farmer, often with lengthy treatment in texts with a canonical bias. Great detail, similarly, was written regarding the determination of circumstances, as the penance was meted out according to degrees of gravity. An early conceptualization of the schema is seen in William de Montibus’ Peniteas cito:

Order, place, knowledge, time aggravate sins, And age, condition, number, duration, abundance, reason, Manner of the fault, high status, slight affliction.

This lengthy mnemonic gave way to a more condensed frame of who, what, where, when, why, how, and by what means in the twelfth century. Perplexing circumstances of sin contributed to the need for confession manuals, both for the clergy and for laymen.

Mortal and venial sins posed a problem for the sinner and the confessor. Although these two classes of sins were discussed frequently in scripture (Saint John, Saint Paul, and Saint Thomas), much ambiguity surrounded the concepts. As Thomas Tentler notes: "clerical authorities themselves admit that it is not always easy to tell which sins are serious [mortal]." However, in matters of conscience, the distinction is important; only mortal sins need to be confessed in order to avoid eternal damnation. Thus, this clarification is necessary in the sessions of the Council of Trent, where mortal and venial sins are codified. Canons eleven and thirteen of session six admit the predominance of venial sins: "the most just and holy occasionally during this life fall into some slight and daily sins, known as venial." Venial sins need no absolution, as they can be "remitted by prayer, contrition, fervent communion and other pious works." Mortal sins are those that contain in themselves "some grave disorder in regard to God, our neighbor, ourselves, or society." Confessors are warned to be cautious, as there existed a wide range of opinions, despite the prescriptive attempts written in the confession manuals.

Martin Luther towers over other religious dissenters who expressed opinions regarding confession. Certainly, his throwing the Angelica (a summa for confessors) into the fire magnifies his objection to Catholic confession, as does his text On Confession: Whether the Pope Has the Power to Command It (1521). Yet even Luther did not object to the concept of confession, a reckoning with the self. He frequently confessed with his spiritual advisor, Johan von Staupitz, vicar-general of the Augustinian order. "Luther made ample use of von Staupitz's services, seeking him out for confession at least weekly, often daily, and on one occasion for as long as six hours." However, he was tormented by the task of scrupulously remembering every sin of thought and deed. Luther spoke out angrily against the Catholic demand for annual confession and enunciation of detailed tallies of sins: "This I reckon as the greatest plague on earth, through which you have bewildered the consciences of all the world, brought so many souls to despair, and degraded and oppressed all mankind's faith in Christ, for you have said nothing to us of the consolation of absolution, but have made a work out of it, extorted from unwilling hearts with commandments and force."

At issue was the relationship of humans to God, well outlined by Erasmus, who championed the right of an individual to confess directly to Christ “in a state of contrition." Luther likewise denied the confessors’ authority to absolve the sinner in auricular confession. Forgiveness of sins occurred within the sacrament of baptism, he argued, and thus, because of his belief in God’s forgiveness, the sacrament of penance was unnecessary.

With the Council of Trent, opened in December of 1545, the church began to address the sorely needed reforms and to reformulate dogma. The sacrament of penance was seen as integral to the concepts of Catholic devotion, especially with Luther’s focus on the rite. The clergy, who administered the sacrament, were admonished to reform their behavior: absenteeism from the parish was curtailed to two months; secular garb must be replaced by clerical dress; no one was to be admitted to clerical orders without proof of a benefice to curb priestly vagrancy; and concubinage was prohibited. The council, attempting to raise the educational level of the parish clergy, created diocesan seminars where they could study.

The church became the focal point of the community as the parish priest assumed responsibility for catechizing the local populace. Vernacular catechisms were written early in Spain in an attempt to convert the Jews and the Moors; in the sixteenth century, Juan de Ávila, Jerónimo de Ripalda, and Gaspar Estete wrote popular versions for use in Spain. Generally, the church attempted to implement uniform rituals to replace those of local origin.

The reform of the Roman Catholic Church was well envisioned by the close of the Council of Trent in 1563. Luther’s objections were addressed with a concerted effort to emphasize the importance of the sacramental system, especially the individual private confession. Penitents were to give a scrupulous accounting of their sins, and then they were to be disciplined by the priest depending on their recounting of the circumstance. Consolation was the effective outcome of confession; people were encouraged to confess frequently, even daily, and then take Communion in an attempt to build up "grace" and shorten time in purgatory. Intent on increasing the privacy of the act, and to provide a comfortable space for the confessor, Charles Borromeo advocated the use of a confessional booth (1565). Made of fine wood and open on one side, the booth served to separate the penitent from curious church attendees who might overhear the sins, and, of course, a division in the middle served to separate the priest from women confessants. The specification regarding the middle grill made the purpose of the booth explicit: "a thin wooden grate full of tiny holes the size of a pea, . . . with nails driven in all places so that nothing can pass through."

However, even though sin increasingly was clarified and codified, not all sinners went to confession. There was some resistance to complying with the church's precepts regarding confession, as Haliczer notes for the early sixteenth century. More important, the Spanish Inquisition, in its attention to heresy, also found out tangentially that the general populace was "largely ignorant of the basic tenets of the Catholic Church." Furthermore, general distrust of the clergy was evident in the trials of the sixteenth century, as priests, friars, and nuns did not honor their vows of celibacy. Secular and regular clerical excess was duly criticized. The ignorance of the confessors as to the enactment of the sacrament, the scarcity of clerics to carry out confessional rites, and the lack of benefices to sustain the clergy were problems that later were addressed in the Reformation of the church. Myers' study of the Counter-Reformation similarly shows reluctance to enter confession booths on the part of the believers in France and notes that military force was employed to bring the penitents in to confess in German lands.

Of course, there was an incentive to confess. Parish priests were ordered to keep records and to send names to the episcopal vicar for noncompliance. The Roman Catechism of 1566 specifically emphasizes the role of confession in disciplining lay subjects and preserving the social order: "Another advantage of confession, which should not be overlooked, is that it contributes powerfully to the preservation of social order. Abolish sacramental confession, and that moment you deluge society with all sorts of secret and heinous crimes—crimes, too, and others of still greater enormity, which men, once they have been depraved by vicious habits, will not dread to commit in open day. The salutary shame that attends confession restrains licentiousness, bridles desire and checks wickedness."

According to John Bossy, penitents often told priests about the sins of their neighbors; confession manuals, in fact, give evidence of this practice. More recent studies, however, cast doubt on the efficacy of the church to exact much social control: "For the most part, the sacrament was well administered for the cure of the souls, but it was not well administered as a means of social control." However, in scrutinizing society, the church also embarked on the use of confession to control business transactions as part of the control of wealth. As Michael Haren observes: "The suspicion neatly expressed in the canonical warning that 'in buying and selling it is difficult not to incur sin,' coupled with a prohibition of usury, brought a whole range of commercial transactions within the purview of ecclesiastical authorities. . . . Such dealings could be subjected to minute examination by the confessor."

Formulated with respect to humane treatment of one another, Aristotelian ideals of buying and selling shaped ideology that appears repeatedly in the numerous versions of Spanish-inspired religious doctrine in the sixteenth century. Acceptable Christian business practices were codified, and two of the thorniest questions of commerce ("price" and "profit") were defined. According to Aristotle, and also determined in Roman law, commercial trade was governed by the following factors: exchange should be voluntary; price was determined by the common estimate of what a good was worth; price could be determined by administrative means in circumstances of famine, for instance. In practice, then, buyers were not to obtain a good at a lower price than competitive bidding would produce; on the other hand, buyers could offer more than the good was actually worth if the seller needed money to survive.

Non-Christian cultures also had standards of ethics that traditionally governed trade. Emphasis was on fair trade and honesty. Jews appreciated the everyday necessities of the market but were aware of the exploitation that could occur in these transactions. The question of just price was a prominent piece of Talmudic law, concerned with the rights of sellers and the underpayment by buyers and with the need to curtail inequality of information regarding transactions. For example, in the Talmud, procedures were instituted to revoke fraudulent dealings: “The buyer or seller could be allowed a period of hours to ascertain that a just price was paid for a good after which the deal was binding." Similarly, for Muslims, the Koran praised trading as a worthy occupation and emphasized the benefits of trade. Yet the Koran also cautioned against fraud in the marketplace: "Give full measure when ye measure, and weigh with a balance which is straight: that is the most fitting and the most advantageous in the final determination."

Mention of an increase in value, of course, brings up issues of usury. Like theft, usury is a mortal sin. As James Aho explains: "The standard Thomistic argument goes like this: People may rightfully profit on qualities ‘intrinsic’ to the goods being sold. Because the values of commodities such as animals, wheat, and slaves vary due to changes in the demand for them, or because of differences in their sizes, strengths, or yields, then prices for these may also rightfully vary. Money, however, is intrinsically a medium of exchange and nothing more. To charge varying prices for it therefore violates its essential nature."

However, there were some exceptional loopholes under which money could be lent for investment and fees could be charged. The church allowed fines to be levied on late payment, interest could compensate for potential financial losses, and charitable loans to the poor could charge a small amount of interest. Commercial partnerships of investor and agent where business risk was involved in transportation and time for delivery of merchandise were also allowed to collect some fees for interest, based on Roman law. The question of intention was important in determining sinfulness: "Catholic moral theology locates sin in the intention, it is the hope of gaining financially through lending."

As merchandise marts expanded and merchants multiplied in number, Christian theologians often were called on to evaluate circumstances of economic morality. Theological treatises established moral obligations within monetary systems and commerce; the newly encountered world of the Americas prompted the printing of many instructions for both merchants and creditors. In Seville (1542), Cristóbal de Villalón published his Provechoso tratado de cambios y contrataciones de mercaderes y reprobación de usura. In 1544 Luis Saravia de la Calle published Instrucción de mercaderes muy provechosa in Medina de Campo. The Tractado de los préstamos que pasan entre mercaderes y tractantes por consiguiente los logros, cambios, compras, adelantados, y ventas al fiado, etc. was published by Luis de Alcalá in Toledo (1546), and in 1569 Tomás de Mercado, a Dominican, printed his Suma de tratados y contratos in Salamanca. The Augustinian Martín de Azpilcueta's confession manual of 1552 (printed in Spain in 1556) combines his knowledge of civic as well as canon law. Widely read, Azpilcueta's manual went through many editions in Latin and Italian and provided answers to vexing questions of commerce. The publication of these manuals in the sixteenth century underlines the importance of the emergence of the marketplace and the greater acceptance of the role of merchants, yet these same manuals clearly outline answers to lingering questions that caused substantial unease about sinful conduct in the marketplace.

As seen in the places of publication, the authors of the economically oriented confessional manuals often lived in cities with extensive economic transactions and observed the intricacies of the dealings in the streets and fairs. Scholastic theory may have curtailed their abilities to advise well, as Joel Kaye asserts: "Given the strict requirements for truth, universality, and necessity, in the highly formal discourse of scholastic natural philosophy, medieval thinkers never explicitly acknowledge the influence of any model drawn from the tainted sphere of the marketplace on their philosophical speculation." However, scholastics, in the wake of the monetized economy around them, had to reckon with the patterns they saw in the marketplace. They observed that exchange values were relative, that money was made up of estimated value. In addition, they had to concede that exchange equality, formerly based on rational agreement, was now a matter of probability and approximation, often detrimental to the community.

Confession in the Andes

The practice of confession in the Andes was much influenced by European deliberations in the previous centuries regarding sin and penitence. Most notably, the reaffirmation and the reorganization of Catholic belief and ritual were carried over to the new lands. As Luis Resines emphasizes, the European influence was "conceptual, theological, and ideological"; the catechisms the priests carried in their baggage represented the enactment of a "common project" to carry the word of God to the heathen. This is not the same project in the Americas as it was in Europe, however; there, Jews and Muslims could be expelled from the territory if they did not convert. The mission in faraway lands differed; the churchmen were faced with troublesome and deeply ingrained pagan beliefs and barbarous practices that had to be understood before they could be ferreted out.

The reforms enacted by the work of the Council of Trent (1545–1563) were implemented in the three provincial councils held in Lima. All three Andean councils carefully studied the religiosity of the Spaniards, emphasizing reform as well as creating a program for the conversion of the native Andeans. The first two councils did significant work, and the third council incorporated this previous legislation in 119 acts or decrees. Many of these decrees highlighted the importance of indoctrinating and preaching to the Native Andeans in their native languages and stipulated an examination to verify priests' skills before sending them out to the provinces. As a result of this emphasis, these churchmen produced a significant corpus of doctrinal texts: catechisms; a confessional; and exemplary sermons in three languages (Spanish and two Andean languages, Quechua and Aymara). The confession manual differed greatly from those medieval models in Europe; a more lively style eliminated the ponderous biblical citations and better addressed the spiritual needs of the Andean populations.

The dedicated efforts of so many of the religious in the writing of these texts were spurred on by the alarming instances of idolatry, particularly the most celebrated uprising, that of 1565, called Taki Oncoy. According to colonial sources, this was a movement of "organized apostasy" in which indigenous leaders preached against the wholesale adoption of the Christian religion. Instead, the indigenous Andeans were admonished to return to their native religions and disregard the cultural trappings of Castile: to eat only native foods; to dress only in Andean attire; to avoid entering churches; to refuse baptism; and to revert to their Andean (not Christian) names. The true believers were distinguished by their singing, trembling, and dancing; they were possessed by the huacas, those sacred beings that were credited with the sustenance of Andean existence. Often equated with Western conceptions of "idols," these beings did have visible existence, as is seen in the lengthy definition by the Quechua speaker Inca Garcilaso:

Quiere decir cosa sagrada, como eran todas aquellas en que el demonio les hablaba: esto es, los ídolos, las peñas, piedras grandes o árboles en que el enemigo entraba para hacerles creer que era Dios. . . . También dan el mismo nombre a todas aquellas cosas que en hermosura o excelencia se aventajan de las otras de su especia, como una rosa, manzana, o camuesa o cualquier fruta que sea mayor y más hermosa que todas las de su árbol. . . . Por el contrario, llaman huaca a las cosas muy feas y monstruosas, que causan horror y asombro. . . . También llaman huaca a las cosas que salen de su curso natural, como a la mujer que pare dos de un vientre; . . . asimismo dan este nombre a las fuentes muy caudalosas que salen hechas ríos. . . . Llaman huaca a la gran cordillera de la Sierra Nevada que corre por todo el Perú. . . . Dan el mismo nombre a los cerros muy altos, que se aventajan de los otros cerros, . . . y a las cuestas grandes que se hallan por los caminos. . . . A todas estas cosas y otras semejantes llamaron huaca, no por tenerlas por dioses ni adorarlas, sino por la particular ventaja que hacían a los comunes; por esta causa las miraban y trataban con veneración y respeto.

It means a sacred thing, such as all those things in which the devil spoke to them: that is, all the idols, the cliffs, the large rocks or trees the devil entered in order to make them believe that he was God. . . . They also give the same name to all things that in beauty or in excellence stand out from others of the same species, such as a rose, an apple, a dessert apple, or any other fruit that is larger and more beautiful than all others from the tree. . . . On the other hand, they say a huaca is all things ugly and monstrous that cause horror and surprise. . . . They also say a huaca is a thing that differs from its natural properties, such as a woman that gives birth to two from one womb. . . . And so they give this name to forceful sources of water that emerge formed as rivers. . . . They name as huaca the great mountain chain of the Sierra Nevada that runs through all of Peru. . . . They give the same name to the very high hills, those that loom over the others, . . . and the steep, long inclines that are found on the roads. . . . All these things and some similar ones they call huaca, not because they believe them to be gods or adore them, but instead because of the good things they did out of the ordinary; for this reason they looked at them and treated them with veneration and respect.

This elaborate, informative, and lengthy description is reduced and confined by the Spanish translators, as revealed in a dictionary definition of the same time period: "Huacca. Ydolos, figurillas de hombres y animales que trayan consigo" (Huacca. Idols, little figurines of humans and animals that they bring with them). The succinct description, written by a priest, diminishes the stature of the huacas, renders them powerless, and contradicts the Inca Garcilaso's all-inclusive exposition on the concept in Quechua.

Yet, in other texts, chroniclers attest to the importance of the multiple sacred sites and revered objects for the Andean natives. Contradicting González Holguín's "little figurines," huacas instead were recognized as pervasive throughout Incan territory, and their presence in mountain sites, caves, ravines, and stone objects was essential to the classification of sociopolitical units. Huaca shrines were cared for by designated ancestral units that offered ritual sacrifices; in Cuzco alone, 328 sites were known and cited by churchmen anxious to stamp out this diabolical idol worship.

Although more recent studies cast doubt on the extent of Taki Oncoy as a widespread movement and now take into account its presence in the chronicles as a means to further an ecclesiastical career or to fuel rivalries among the orders, the persistence of idol worship among the Andean populations was cause for concern. Accordingly, the confession manuals often began with the first commandment, an interrogation about worship of hills, rivers, huacas, and the sun, indicative of the Spanish understanding of the plethora of sacred beings that populated the Andes. The Instrucion (instruction) of Juan Polo de Ondegardo was even more precise, more extensive, and must have overwhelmed the evangelists in their task. He cites huacas, idols, ravines, cliffs, large rocks, hills, mountaintops, waterfalls, springs, anything out of the ordinary, the sun, the moon, stars, lightning, the rainbow, rain, hail, heaps of stone markers, felines, snakes as sacred entities. Whereas in Europe the office of the Holy Inquisition could be counted on to root out idolatry, in the New World the Spanish king prohibited interference in native Andean cases. Did this mean that indigenous idolaters went unpunished? No. Baptized native Andeans who had been taught the nature of the infractions against Christianity were subject to disciplinary actions of the bishops.

To stamp out apostasy, the churchmen left the cities and ventured out to the countryside to see what could be observed among the communities. As early as 1545, priests were exhorted to seek out the idols and to plant crosses in their stead, yet the intensity of the forays out and about, combined with the confiscation of material goods, waxed and waned over the years. Most notable are the campaigns of Archbishop Bartolomé Lobo Guerrero (1609–1622), Gonzalo de Campo (1625–1626), and Archbishop Pedro de Villagómez (1636–1671). In these official church "visits" (visitas), priests were asked to maintain meticulous records of the goods confiscated, the regional idols destroyed, and the testimonial confessions of the accused. These texts, along with the doctrinal material, document the Spanish understanding of the complex world of the huacas. Precisely in the preservation of these printed pages and in these handwritten notes, we are able to trace the extent of the lexical refashioning of both Christian and Andean native concepts. How were Quechua words crafted as instruments of conversion? Was the pagan referentiality obliterated when the native Andean converts uttered these words and phrases? Or, alternately, were non.Christian concepts transmitted consciously or unconsciously in the speech act of confession?

The struggles of the churchmen to accomplish a thorough indoctrination of the Andean heathen is seen in the choice of lexical items crucial to the program of prosyletization. The Spanish at first enthusiastically incorporated Quechua nomenclature into Christian discourse. Ychu-(to confess by means of straws), supai (an Andean energy force for good or evil), ranti-(to exchange commodities, to substitute), and hucha (failure to perform a ceremonial obligation) were all recodified and restricted to conform to Christian theology. Later, Quechua was discarded completely to refer to the sacrament of confession; only a loan word from Spanish would do for those circumstances. Quechua was maintained and reshaped in regard to other concepts: supai eventually referred to one being, the devil; ranti-turned into the verb for the economic transactions of buying and selling; and hucha was transformed to represent a new category of Christian transgression, sins.

These changes in semantic categories were accompanied by significant parallel changes in the "universe of reference"-.Andean land plots, political structures, housing sites, and shrines. Similar to the "reduction" of forced resettlement imposed by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, language, too, took on new referential attributes that narrowed meaning to conform to Spanish codification. This linguistic assault on Andean semantics which began in the colonial period was successful, for supai has lost its significance as "essence"; now this entity has horns and a long, skinny tail and is painted in Andean church murals as Satan. Now in open-air markets the Quechua.speaking sellers call out to their clients: "Rantihuay, rantihuay" (Buy from me, buy from me); indigenous vendors now expect coin in exchange for their surplus produce, whereas originally barter was the expected norm for ranti-.

Yet the semantic victory is not complete or one-sided. Despite these outward manifestations of change, what residual semantic trace might linger in the rich repository of Andean texts? A conversation between a priest and an indigenous Andean in the mid-seventeenth century is useful to illustrate the persistence of an Andean conceptually framed universe. Although by this time countless sacred Andean objects had been burned, smashed, and unearthed in the official visits by the priests, in the ashes, in woven cloth scraps, and in the landscape the remnants of indigenous ontology survived. Having his "little idols" taken away from him, a male elder in Guamanga angrily stated: "Padre, que te cansas en quitarnos los Idolos? llebaste este cerro si puedes, que esse es el Dios que adoro (Father, do you not tire of taking our idols from us? Carry away this mountain if you can because that one is the God that I worship." In this commentary the existence of multiple huacas is acknowledged; they (phrased as "the idols") loom large over the landscape, privileged in an Andean cosmology where gods animate, protect, prophesize, and make themselves manifest. The defiant words "carry away this mountain if you can" are followed by an even bolder assertion, "that one is the God that I worship." This statement, relayed to us in Spanish in a letter written by the Jesuit Francisco Patiño, sharply delineates the "us" from the "you." The phrasing would be even more stridently divisive in Quechua. "Our idols" certainly would be uttered with the exclusive conjugation in Quechua, highlighting "ours" and not "yours," and thus marking a wholly separate religious domain (Andean native) from the deity belonging to the Spanish Christians.

Clearly, there was resistance to Spanish indoctrination as native Andeans considered themselves untouched and without succor from a Christian God. Juan Polo de Ondegardo transmits the voice of the native Andeans in observations of 1585:

1. Dizen algunas vezes de Dios que no es buen Dios, y que no tiene cuydado de los pobres, y que de valde le sirven los indios. 2. Que no es piadoso ni tan misericordioso Dios como dizen los Christianos. Que no ay perdon de peccados para los que han peccado grauissimamente: o para otros peccados enormes. 3. Que Dios los crio para viuir en peccado, y especialmente para cosas deshonestas de luxuria y de embriaguez, y que ellos no puede(n) ser buenos. 4. Que las cosas se hazen o por la voluntad del Sol, y de la Luna, y de las Huacas, o por algun hado. Y que Dios no tiene prouidencia de las cosas de aca abaxo

1. They say sometimes that God is not a good God, and that he does not care for the poor, and the Indians serve him in vain. 2. That God does not pity them nor is he merciful like the Christians say he is. There is no pardon of sins for those who have gravely sinned, or for other large sins. 3. God created them to live in sin, and especially [to commit] dishonest things like lust and drunkenness, and [they say] that they cannot be good. 4. That things come about by means of the wishes of the sun, the moon, and by the huacas, or by some kind of fate. And that God does not provide for the things here below.

While these passages seemingly set forth a rigid dichotomy with a preference for Andean deities and Andean word choice to worship them, in other circumstances the expression is more nuanced and mixed. As Kenneth Mills so aptly writes, many people of the Andes were "neither in a state of resistance or opposition, nor were they consciously accommodating. The Andean natives were more eclectic, even experimental, tending to mix religious elements gradually rather than to substitute or replace." The colonial writer Polo de Ondegardo observes the "hybrid" nature of the religious belief system; it well could serve native peoples plagued with harsh work conditions, resettlement, and the ravages of disease: "[Dizen que] bie(n) puede adorar a Jesu Christo nuestro Señor y al demonio juntamente porque se han concertado ya entrambos y estan hermanados" (They [the natives] say that they can adore Jesus Christ our Lord and the devil together because they have come to an agreement between themselves and they are brothers).

This eclecticism also surfaces in a more explicit passage disseminated in 1585. The recourse to Christian wording and terminology is a conscious effort to expand the power base of the native hechicero (shaman-priest). Thus, in this ritual both the huacas and the Christian God are beseeched to provide possibilities for better health and a longer life. The shamans pronounce the “saintly words” of Jesus and God in their traditional curing ceremonies, also using coca leaves and guinea pig sacrifices:

Otros [hechizeros] ay q[ue] allende q[ue] visitan los lugares de los pueblos de Españoles e indios, vsan su officio de hechizeria co[n] especie de christia[n]dad. Y qua[n]do illega[n] al enfermo ech[an] sus bendiciones sobre el enfermo, sanctigua[n]se, dize[n] ay Dios, Jesus, o otras palabras buenas, hazen q[ue] haze[n] oracio[n] a Dios, y pone[n] las manos, y parados, o de rodillas, o sentados, menea[n] los labios, alçan los ojos al cielo, dize[n] palabras sanctas, y aconseja[n]le q[ue] se confiesse, y q[ue] haga otras obras de christiano, lloran y dizen mil caricias, haze[n] la cruz y dizen q[ue] tienen poder para esso de Dios, o de los Padres, o de los Apoés y abueltas desto secretamente sacrifican, y hazen otras ceremonias con cuyes, coca, sebo, y otras cosas, soban el vie[n]tre, y las piernas, o otras partes del cuerpo, y chupa[n] aq[ue]lla parte q[ue] duele del enfermo, y dizen q[ue] sacan sangre, o gusanos, o pedrezuelas y muestran las . . . y dizen q[ue] ya ha salido el mal, y q[ue] sanara el enfermo: y haze[n] otros mil embustes para esto.

There are other [shaman-priests], furthermore, that visit the towns of the Spanish and the Indians, who use their position of shaman in combination with a kind of Christianity. And when they are with the sick person, they let fall blessings on the sick person; making the sign of the cross, they say, “Oh God, Jesus,” or other good words; they make them pray to God, and they move their lips, glance up at the heavens, say blessed words, and they urge him or her to confess and to do other Christian acts; they cry and they say a thousand sweet things; they make the sign of the cross and [say] that they are given the forceful power for this from God, from the priests, and from the Quechua apus, and besides this they sacrifice and conduct rituals, with guinea pigs, coca leaves, and animal fat; they rub the stomach, legs, and other parts of the body, and they suck on that aching part of the sick person, . . . and they say that the evil forces have gone out and that the sick one is cured.

Reading the previous passage might lead to a preference for "stable" syncretic models and all-encompassing explanations. However, the discourses of confession, of extirpation trials, and of ritual are varied, nuanced, and not easily categorized. Indigenous response to Christianity is not monolithic; communities responded differently to the barrage of information that was disseminated by the Catholic priests, picking and choosing what elements they would incorporate and which they would discard. This study of confessional practices plumbs the lived experience of the Quechua language in its colonial context and in its contemporary usage. While dictionary glosses can orient our understanding of word change—adoptions and substitutions—it is in the lived experience that the semantic dimensions of a word stabilize or instead exhibit multiple aspects of meaning.

Wording the World

The implementation of Catholic doctrine was aided by the consolidation of belief that resulted in tools of dissemination: there were catechisms (abbreviated and others more lengthy) for preparing the converts for baptism, confessional texts to aid in vocalizing all sins, and sermons to rephrase biblical admonitions of the commandments into comprehensible concepts. Explicit in the writing of the early Spanish-Quechua texts is a desire to communicate Christian concepts to the Andean "heathen"; also present in these texts is abundant documentation of cultural conversion as well as cultural survival. The catechisms, sermons, manuals for the confessor, and grammars written by secular and regular clergy serve as a rich repository of semantic change as Quechua was pressed into service by the Spanish translators. However, these semantic "refashionings" often retained traces of ancient Andean modes of thought despite the repetitious didactic lessons in Quechua preached from the pulpits and in the plazas.

In this book, I have chosen several of the Ten Commandments, the foundation of confession, for more lengthy analysis. Commandment one, on idolatry, commandment six, on sexuality, and commandment seven, on theft were selected because of the semantic importance of the Quechua lexemes chosen by the priests to talk about these newly imposed Christian life patterns.

Some priests were content with the use of only the first commandment for confession. Thus, the introductory material to the 1585 confessional states: "Basta[n] las preguntas que en general se ponen en el primer mandamie[n]to" (The questions written in the first commandment are sufficient). As we have seen, this first question asked in confession could be time consuming for the priest if he were to list all possible manifestations of huacas in the Andean belief system. Yet, here at the first instance of confession, in the crosscurrents of translation, the Quechua-speaking convert might be confused as to what exactly was expressed in the translations of the native language by the churchmen. The straightforward Spanish declaration of commandment one—"Amaras a Dios sobre todas las cosas" (Love God above all other things)—is not mirrored in the Quechua construction: "Diosman sonco canqui, tucuy yma haycacta yallispa" (literally, Your heart is toward God, [God] more worthy than whatever thing). Ostensibly here, the center is God, yet the "other things" exist in a prominent positioning; they continue to exist, not banished, albeit subordinate to the superior Christian God. The directive here, then, in its Quechua wording allows for the Christian God to be loved the most, gathered in the company of other deities. This commandment, as written in Quechua, reinforces an old pattern of religious tolerance practiced by the Incas, which encourages the inclusion of regional gods within a panoply of Incan deities. The rejection of this Christian first commandment often could be seen in the cloth offerings and ground-up mullu shells scattered about the shrine. Even if the Quechua speaker never appeared for confession, the churchmen could see physical evidence of idolatry. An account of 1619, among many others, reveals the widespread divergence from Christian teaching in "found" items: 1,769 principal shrines were detected; 7,288 family shrines were known, along with 1,365 mummies.

The penitential questions regarding sexuality (commandment six) were oriented more to private sexual practices, although priests often also acknowledged the public rituals of drunken orgies. Indeed, this commandment was an effort to reshape behavior, to focus "attention on the individual's desire as the substance that needed to be relentlessly disciplined to create the moral self." The natives were taught to "war against themselves," as J. Jorge Klor de Alva persuasively argues, to control their bodily desires in order to obtain a Christian "soul." Thus, the confessionals were oriented toward individual practice, to best penetrate the excesses of desire in all possible circumstances. Some inquiry betrays European origins, such as, Have you given your word, sworn to marry a certain woman? indicative of the primacy of questions of honor in European codes. Other queries pertain to customs in the Andes, such as the use of huacanqui (Andean love potion) to obtain sexual possession of a woman or man. With each and every question, the penitent is coerced into shaping a conception of self, a self that "incorporated Christian categories of the person that were assumed to be universal."

The answers to these confessionary questions necessarily implied a rejection of the preconquest self. Like the extirpation of idols, this indoctrination program stamped out participation in the ancient Andean acts of ritual reciprocity and acts of celebratory sexuality. The posing of these questions on sexuality, prying into the innermost reaches of motivation, was linked to the process of self-examination, inducing a developing sense of consciousness, provoking guilt, and ultimately exacting a deeply felt contrition that was expressed in words as well as gestures. To assist this discourse, hucha was pressed into service by the church to express "sin" (see chapter 3) and, once chosen, the new semantic field was reinforced by crafting a new verb for sexual sin, huchallicu-, appending a lli and a cu (a "self-transformational" addition to hucha indicating that the sinner was in a state of sin by his or her own volition). Thus, in word choice and verbal creativity the churchmen fashioned a world of sinfulness that, despite the importance of the other commandments, concentrated their efforts on erasing illicit sexual behavior.

Idolatries and sexualities were targeted for examination in the sacrament of confession, and their usefulness for ferreting out sin is evident in the many pages of transcripts preserved in the Andean archives. Yet, in introducing the seventh commandment to the Andean populations, the catechists and missionaries were pressed to convey more than the blanket prohibition, "Thou shall not steal." Native people of the Andes well understood the moral implications of theft, the topic of this commandment. Often quoted is the (supposed) creed of the Incas: "Ama llulla, Ama killa, Ama suwa" (Do not lie, do not be lazy, do not steal). The admonition "don't steal" as written in the confessionals includes canonical deliberations consisting of a number of European concepts. The Andean Quechua confessionals reflect concerns common to Europe: "just" price in the market; rules about loans and usury; payment of the daily wage.

In this series of questions, theology as well as economics required ample explanation for the converts. Prior to the conquest of the Andes, an Inca reciprocal system, well studied by numerous scholars, existed at the level of state, province, and intrafamilial circumstances that governed the exchange of goods. Under this all-encompassing ideology, goods would be distributed by the state in cases of want or for ritual celebrations. In return, the most humble of households as well as the most high ranking administrators would be expected to contribute labor and produce goods. The chronicles are filled with many "laws" regarding Inca behavior, but rarely mentioned is "theft" because of the "rarity of private property, which was reserved for the most elite." Yet, with the coming of the Spanish a new order was introduced—a commercial system—that was, indeed, not based on reciprocity.

The kurakas, as regional leaders, provided access to commodities that fed the newly imposed model of markets and fairs. The confessionals reflect the European economic system, yet the vocabulary chosen for this discussion was drawn from the previous Andean world of barter and reciprocity. Ranti-(to exchange) was pressed into service to delineate "buyer," "seller," and "net gains." Likewise, presented with this Andean precapitalist system of trade, the churchmen also had to look for words to translate "loan," "to restitute," and "debtor" (see chapters 5 and 6). The confessionals are witness to the inventories of economic terminology in Quechua; they also are vivid repositories of the numerous occupations held by the indigenous laboring classes. Most spectacular are the intricacies of commerce written up as fodder for confession by the priest Juan Pérez Bocanegra; however, all confession manuals reserved space for interrogation about economic activity under the rubric of the seventh commandment.

Many excellent books and articles have been written about the efficacy of the evangelization of the Americas in the colonial period. The question of efficacy was central to the priests and friars who first gloried in the throngs of souls saved and then, confronted with the daily reality, had to reevaluate their claims of success. The number of souls who knelt and professed their Christianity is not tallied up in Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru. Nor do counts of cults and covens appear in these pages to assess the multiple variations of accommodation or resistance to an imposed economic and religious system. Instead, through the sacrament of confession, semantic configurations are traced both forward and back in an attempt to perceive the known world before the Hispanic invasion as well as to contemplate linguistic accommodation in the aftermath of conquest. Are there equivalencies between languages? Is cross-cultural translation possible? How does the "Dios" of Spanish become the "Apodios" of Quechua and vice versa?

In the case of "Dios" (God), the translation was impeded; only the Spanish word would do for representing the concept of the deity within the Christian tradition. No heathen word could represent it well, as Vicente Rafael states, because "native vernaculars . . . constrained the universalizing assumptions and totalizing impulses of a colonial-Christian order." In other circumstances, the totalizing impulses of the dominant language system were incorporated into the Quechua language. Thus, Manichaean categorization circumscribed the more neutral Quechua supai (meaning only spirit essence), and then this word became limited to a singular usage, a reference to the European devil.

Sometimes polysemic references coexist, denoting ancient practices in Quechua-speaking cultures as well as a New Worldly order imposed by Christianity. For instance, maña-, a verb formerly denoting the "borrowing of a nonconsumable item to be returned in kind and based on a relationship of trust," is turned into the verb "to pray" or "to intercede" in Christian hymns and sermons. Or, just as determinedly, maña persists as a word denoting land worked by the community and carries a connotative referentiality to an annual redistribution of land plots mentioned in colonial sources.

The process was not unidirectional. In tracing translinguistic semantic fields, we move beyond the discourse of the ecclesiastics who tell us what to conclude. Instead, when reading the ancient Quechua words written down with a firm clerical hand or printed with Gothic inflected type, we linger, detecting the essence of the original denotation in Quechua as, simultaneously, we confront the new usage. Thus, we allow ourselves to abandon our categories and our assumptions of universals and not focus so earnestly on the problem of equivalence in translation. Instead, in paging through dictionaries, confessionals, and sermons, we confront another way of being, the expression of another social reality, as conveyed in the lexicon of the Quechua language.


By Regina Harrison

Regina Harrison is Professor of Spanish, School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures; Professor of Comparative Literature, Department of English; and Affiliate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of the award-winning Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes: Translating Quechua Language and Culture and Entre el tronar épico y el llanto elegíaco: simbología indígena en la poesía ecuatoriana siglos XIX y XX.