The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Written by an anonymous author, the following imaginary dialogue between the Spanish monarch Ferdinand VII and the Inka king Atawallpa, who was executed by the Spaniards in 1533, is not only an inventive literary expression, but one of the most striking political documents of the early independence period.1 It was circulated during the crisis of the Spanish monarchy brought on by the Napoleonic occupation of Spain and the abdication of King Fernando VII (1808). In the king’s absence, but in his name, various juntas or representative assemblies assumed local governance in both Spain and the Americas. The crisis gave rise to diverse positions, often expressed in rumors or anonymous pamphlets, responding to the power vacuum and hinging on the autonomy of local governments vis-à-vis the colonial authorities.
The dialogue presents an ensemble of arguments to delegitimize the Spanish presence in the New World. It attacks the legitimacy of Pope Alexander VI’s granting of the Americas to the Kings of Spain in 1493, the Spanish conquest’s violation of the “primitive freedom” enjoyed by New World peoples, and the exploitation of Indians in the mita of Potosí. The dialogue ends with an appeal by Atawallpa to the people of Peru and the Americas to fight for their lost liberty.