Economic Prosperity Of Peru Essay, Research Paper
In 1532 the Spanish soldier and adventurer Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire, creating a catalyst for the creation of a new colonial society. Steve Stern discusses the manner in which the indigenous peoples of Huamanga met the challenge of European conquest in his piece entitled, “Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest”. When the conquistadors first arrived, there appears to have been a mutual attraction and dependency between the Spaniards and indigenous peoples. Stern cites for example that the military skills of the Spaniards intrigued the native aristocracy, the kurakas, and helped local Andean society recognize their new “masters”. Besides this element of respect, the local societies of Huamanga saw an alliance with the Spaniards as an efficient way to break from Inca rule and to “protect and advance their own ethnic interests”. Hence, it could be said that there was a mutual cooperation between the Spaniards and indigenous people at first. Indians were extremely open to the Spaniard’s influence and way of life at first. Joining with them, they believed in the creation of a new society for the financial and commercial profit. However, as Stern mentions, this alliance did not imply that life was without conflict. As in most cases, when there is an ongoing struggle for power, violence is practically inevitable. Peru was no exception. Early relations displayed an uneasy mixture of force, negotiation, and alliance (34). Like the alliance between the two groups, the violence was also shared; Indians abused African slaves and Indians were often subjected to “whipping, looting, and rape by Spaniards, blacks, mestizos, and mulattos” (34). As the Spanish rule continued, the relationship between the Spaniards and the indigenous peoples worsened. Stern mentions labor as one of the elements of civilization that caused negative effects. Spaniards employed Indians for the majority of their labor force, squeezing out the most work from them that they could in a short period of time (34). Also, the colonial economy caused tensions to rise as cultural groups, once allied with each other, began to counter one another.
As colonialism continued, epidemic disease, individual abuses, and war took its toll on society. Increasingly, indigenous peoples looked to the Spanish authority to defend their interests while at the same time, harbored negative feelings towards this seemingly negative dependency. This dominion “provoked a reassessment of native policies towards the colonials” (47). In response to the inadequate treatment of the Indians, especially those in the labor force, a Spanish imperial council created statutes called New Laws in 1542, which were designed to put a stop to cruelties inflicted on the Native Americans. However, the New Laws were never put into effect.
Native discontent with the Spaniards continued and expanded. It was expressed in a decade of growing withdrawals from alliance and cooperation (69).
In the midst of this ongoing crisis, Don Francisco de Toledo came to power. Despite considerable opposition, Toledo established a highly effective, although harshly repressive, system of government. His method of administration consisted of a major government of Spanish officials ruling through a minor government made up of Native Americans who dealt directly with the native population. Although Toledo eventually retreated to the highlands, his programs continued to effect the peoples of Peru as prosperity grew.
Overall, despite the economic prosperity of Peru, colonial relationships were plagued with hostility and aggression as fear and disillusionment were imposed in the indigenous peoples by the Spaniards.