The Lupaqa, an Aymara-speaking polity living on the northern shore of Lake Titicaca, occupy an important place in Andean colonial history. They were the “yndios rricos” surveyed by Garci Díez de San Miguel in his visita of 1567, and a part of the group became the inhabitants of the Jesuit mission complex at Juli. In this work, Norman Meiklejohn examines the influence of Spanish Catholicism on the Lupaqa, concluding that the colonial church had only a superficial impact on their spiritual lives.
Under Spanish rule, the Lupaqa were ministered to by three groups of priests. Dominicans monopolized their conversion from 1547 to 1572, and the Jesuits worked in Juli from 1576 to 1767. The secular church lived in uneasy alliance with both orders, and operated a number of Lupaqa parishes after 1572. Meiklejohn’s account is a harsh indictment of the spiritual conquest. Only the Jesuits succeeded in imbuing the Lupaqa with what he calls evangelación, an enthusiastic acceptance of the stuff and substance of Christianity. The behavior of the secular priests and the Dominicans—poor spiritual preparation, lax observance of sacred vows, peculation, and occasional brutality—actually strengthened the Indians’ traditional beliefs.
Despite his interest in the effects of the church on the Indian community, Meiklejohn writes almost totally from a European perspective. For instance, he attributes Jesuit success among the Lupaqa to the priests’ practice of redistributing their crown salaries, and the gifts and fees they received locally, among the Indians—without linking such “generosity” to its importance in the Andean tradition. However, this European emphasis produces very useful information about the structure and function of the colonial church. Meiklejohn’s examination of the Jesuit years in Juli provides the clearest statement to date on this important enterprise. And his chapters on the secular church offer important insights into its governance (or lack thereof), its rivalries with religious orders, and the career patterns of its staff, establishing a comparative context for the Mexican cases recently presented by John Frederick Schwaller.
This is the first extended publication from Meiklejohn’s long-term study of the Lupaqa, completed at the Maryknoll Center for Mission Studies in 1985, which has become something of a bootlegged classic among Andeanists. I look forward to seeing more of his important work in print.