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In the aftermath of the Spanish conquest, the hereditary lords, or mallkus, of the Aymara-speaking Qaraqara-Charka federations appealed to the Spanish Crown to recognize their claims to special benefits and privileges, arguing that they had enjoyed favor under the Inka and that the Spanish monarch should grant them similar standing. Drawing on Andean and Iberian references, they proclaimed a model for the proper ties of reciprocity between an imperial state and its loyal vassals, and smoothed over the differences between the former Andean overlord and the new Spanish one.

The lords made their case in 1582, after the crucial period (1569–81) in which Viceroy Francisco de Toledo was laying the institutional foundations for colonial society in the Andes. Though Toledo had to negotiate with native lords, for example to consolidate the mita (forced labor draft), he sought, with some success, to undercut their influence over the indigenous population. The lords nevertheless fought back and in this case maneuvered in the Spanish court to defend their presumed traditional rights.

The voluminous Charcas Memorial, excerpted here, is a highly political document, and in numerous details, it simplifies the more complex arrangements of government at the local level, in order to make them more easily understandable to the authorities back in Spain.1 Nonetheless, in its extensive historical accounting, the document provides an illuminating outline of the relations between the Aymara kingdoms and the Inka prior to the arrival of the Pizarros and Almagros, as well as of the political contest thereafter.

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