The anonymous, undated, and untitled Quechua-language book known as the Huarochirí Manuscript has no peer as a source from an early colonial Andean culture and not just about one. In thirty-one chapters and two supplements, a narrator-redactor presents the rites, customs, and ancestral stories about several deities and large non-Inca descent groups who in Inca times invaded down to the Pacific as far as the mighty pilgrimage center of Pachacámac. Those mythohistories form the armature, but the text is almost infinitely rich in deeper detail about how highlanders saw their own societies one lifetime after the Pizarran invasion. These riches are hard for us to grasp because the narrator assumes local knowledge that Euro-Americans never possessed. Unlike other works called chronicles, it was not precooked for a Spanish imperial readership.

The bilingual Peruvian-Spanish priest Francisco de Avila left this work in his priceless stash of manuscripts about “the people called...

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