From Viracocha to the Virgin of Copacabana

[ Latin American Studies ]

From Viracocha to the Virgin of Copacabana

Representation of the Sacred at Lake Titicaca

By Verónica Salles-Reese

How Andean myths of cosmic and ethnic origins centered on Lake Titicaca evolved from pre-Inca times to the enthronement of the Virgin of Copacabana in 1583.



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6 x 9 | 220 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-77713-2

Surrounded by the peaks of the Andean cordillera, the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca have long provided refreshment and nourishment to the people who live along its shores. From prehistoric times, the Andean peoples have held Titicaca to be a sacred place, the source from which all life originated and the site where the divine manifests its presence.

In this interdisciplinary study, Verónica Salles-Reese explores how Andean myths of cosmic and ethnic origins centered on Lake Titicaca evolved from pre-Inca times to the enthronement of the Virgin of Copaca-bana in 1583. She begins by describing the myths of the Kolla (pre-Inca) people and shows how their Inca conquerors attempted to establish legitimacy by reconciling their myths of cosmic and ethnic origin with the Kolla myths. She also shows how a similar pattern occurred when the Inca were conquered in turn by the Spanish.

This research explains why Lake Titicaca continues to occupy a central place in Andean thought despite the major cultural disruptions that have characterized the region's history. This book will be a touchstone in the field of Colonial literature and an important reference for Andean religious and intellectual history.

1. The Sacred Dimension of Lake Titicaca
2. The Kolia Narrative Cycle
3. The Inca Narrative Cycle
4. The Christian Narrative Cycle: Christ’s Apostle and the Virgin of Copacabana
Appendix: Tito Yupanqui’s Letter
Works Cited

Verónica Salles-Reese is Associate Professor of Colonial Literature at Georgetown University.

"Drawing primarily on numerous Spanish chronicles of the 16th and 17th centuries, Salles-Reese traces the evolution of the sacred in the Lake Titicaca region of the Andes, from pre-Inca times, through the Inca period, and into the era of Spanish Christianization. . . . The author's analysis shows that despite the cultural and chronological distinctiveness of these periods, the chroniclers' narratives provide a portrait of links and continuities between the three."

"This book addresses the key to Latin American culture: mestizaje or the blending of different cultural discourses.... It is very well written; a pleasure to read."

—Mercedes López-Baralt, Professor of Hispanic Studies, University of Puerto Rico