Popularization is an important intent of the present book since its author devotes much effort to direct reproduction of the ideas and research of other scholars—John V. Murra, R. T. Zuidema, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Miguel León-Portilla, to mention only some of the most prominent. Even the title is taken, without specific acknowledgment, from León-Portilla’s Visión de los vencidos. Nevertheless, the book is heavily documented, and in places it brings to bear highly specific discussions of individual cases, a few of them taken from the author’s own research, so that the work has something of the monograph about it.
Of the book’s three sections, the first and third are slight and almost entirely derivative. The first, the one to which the title applies most directly, reviews León-Portilla’s material on how the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica and the Andean region viewed the conquest after the fact, then goes on to analyze, Lévi-Strauss style, four late “Dances of the Conquest” from the two regions. The third section briefly recapitulates existing literature concerning early indigenous revolts in the central regions and longer continuing resistance in two peripheral areas, northern Mexico and southern Chile (the relevance of which to the rest of the book is small indeed).
The core of the work, and the most monographic part of it, is the sizeable middle section, which describes the central Andean region just before the European conquest and proceeds to analyze the fate of Andean civilization in the first forty or fifty post-conquest years. Since John Murra’s basic work on Andean social and economic organization has never been published, Wachtel’s picture of the late preconquest situation is probably the best now available in a readily accessible book in English.
When it comes to assessing post-conquest developments, Wachtel surveys some regional samples (the two most important of which were brought to scholarly attention by Murra) and arrives at an overall interpretation of “destructuration.” Such a conclusion seems, to this reviewer, inconsistent with the newer view of the Inca empire as a formidable superstructure which left many varied local kingdoms and provinces as relatively autonomous and self-contained entities. Andean society was initially no more destructured by the absence of the empire than it had been in its previous nonimperial phases. Wachtel takes the position that there was hardly any true “restructuration.” There may be little of which Wachtel is aware, but Karen Spalding’s splendid doctoral dissertation (1967) and her numerous subsequent articles are largely devoted to demonstration and subtle analysis of the internal restructuring of the indigenous Andean world in colonial times. Nor is the author equipped to deal with the topic of acculturation, since he knows little of the hispanic sector, of the role of the yanaconas or Spanish-employed Indians as intermediaries between the two worlds, or of labor migrations as a crucial mechanism bringing steady contact.
Although there are some additions to the bibliography, the work itself has not been updated since the original French edition of 1971 (reviewed in HAHR, 55 [May 1975], 345-347).