How to eradicate idolatry was a question of prime concern to virtually every synod held in Peru during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This account of idolatry by the Jesuit Arriaga, first published in 1621, is especially valuable, because the author participated in a visita of towns in the corregimiento of Chancay in the early seventeenth century. Also he gathered information from other clerics in Peru and was himself thoughtful about the shortcomings and psychological attractions of animism and about the tendency of Spanish priests to acquire only a perfunctory knowledge of either Indian languages or Catholic theology. As a result, Christianity was ineffectually explained, and, partly for this reason, idolatry persisted. Arriaga’s report is fascinating because of its detail on the variants of animism and the practices of sorcery. This description, which is not implied in the title, comprises the greater part of the work.
In this first English translation, Keating has rendered the edition of Horacio H. Urteaga (Lima, 1920) into clear prose and has appended a full glossary of Quechua words. The work is unusually free of errors and is typographically attractive. A few defects may be noted. “Doctrina” is not a synonym for mission as the wording on p. xiii implies, for a new area may become, but is not initially a doctrina. It seems unlikely that Totopon (p. 81) is a town in Spain. Arriaga repeatedly mentions the burning of stone huacas, a point which the editor might have clarified, as it would seem that a hammer might have been a more effective means of extirpating this form of idolatry.