When the city council of Cuzco met on April 17, 1551, its members, all battle-hardened Spanish veterans, were enjoying a respite from seemingly endless rounds of war. Soon they would pick up their weapons and charge back into battle, for the fighting in the strategic center of the Inca heartland of Tawantinsuyo was far from over. But on April 17, the Spanish city fathers of Cuzco had other business on their minds. That day they decided to buy a piece of city property and found a cloistered nunnery. Two weeks later, on April 30, the money to acquire the property was donated by councilman Diego Maldonado, “el Rico,” a shrewd survivor of many battles and the wealthiest Spaniard in Cuzco.1 Very few Spanish women were available to set the tone for the new foundation, yet rather than delay and send to Spain for nuns, the councilmen eventually found a local widow named Francisca Ortiz de Ayala to serve as abbess for life—which she did, as abbess Francisca de Jesús.2 So began one of the first religious houses for women in the Americas, Santa Clara, still operating today over four centuries later.

Why a cloistered monastery, of all things, in such a turbulent time and place? The minutes of April 30, 1551, record that Diego Maldonado made his gesture to ensure the actual founding of a monastery to “remedy” mestizas— the children of conquest, daughters of Spaniards like himself and Andean women.3 Writing to Francisca de Jesús in 1560, the corregidor of Cuzco, Juan Polo de Ondegardo, gives an expanded account of the motives behind these founding acts. He begins by linking the nunnery directly to the fight for Peru: since so many Spaniards had died far from home, Christian charity obliged the survivors to care for the orphans of their fallen comrades.4

But why not care for the orphaned mestizo sons as well? Did mestizas hold—at least momentarily—greater promise or value in their fathers’ eyes? Seeming to anticipate the question, Polo de Ondegardo writes that “although it appears the same should be done for the orphaned boys, they run less risk than the girls, and ... it is fitting to provide for the greater need.”5 A masterpiece of patriarchal succinctness, Polo’s statement expresses the gendered logic of his culture, according to which girls’ virginity, a prized token of male honor and the means of shaping lineages, was constantly at risk and had to be protected at all costs.

Yet that was only part of the story. As he continues, Polo de Ondegardo conveys the special urgency that attended the founding of Santa Clara only two decades after Spaniards first arrived in the central city of the Incas. In the cloisters of Santa Clara, Francisca de Jesús would win these young women from their Inca mothers and save them for their Christian fathers. The corregidor congratulates the abbess on the many (mestiza) souls he expects her to save:

and I have no doubt they will be many, because the people born of this land, I have observed well, are all possessed of a very humble nature, which is excellently suited to receive the imprint of the truth, removing them from all communication with their mothers, as you do, which was an impediment to instilling anything good in them.6

Polo goes on to depict the abbess in a tug-of-war for the souls of mestizas with the devil himself, whose temptations “cannot fail to be great.” He suggests Santa Clara help advance the cause of Christianity in the Andes, tearing girls away from their mothers in what he and his companions considered a necessary violence.

Not only do we glimpse the devil through Polo de Ondegardo’s eyes, but he points us in the direction of a major revision of the story of conquest: toward seeing women as both subjects and objects of Spanish evangelization.7 For this certainly was evangelization of a gender-specific, strategic kind. Moreover, Santa Clara was designed to play an explicitly reproductive role, redirecting the energies of childrearing to increase the numbers of female Christians in Cuzco. The point was not simply to populate the city with nuns. Abbess Francisca de Jesús was to take the place of the children’s Andean mothers and keep the girls in the cloisters until they were old enough either to profess or to leave the monastery and assume a role (estado) in the Christian society their fathers planned to erect in the city.8

We are not used to thinking of cloistered convents as sites of reproduction.9 Thanks to an unusually detailed source, however, we can gain insight into the importance and outcomes of this seemingly incongruous project. In 1560 Polo de Ondegardo gave Francisca de Jesús a book for her to inscribe basic information about her young charges.10 The records she kept are limited to the convent’s first entrants, and many entries are incomplete. Nevertheless, this libro de la fundación indicates that Santa Clara in its earliest years succeeded in inculcating Spanish culture in a number of mestiza girls, who grew up to become not only nuns but wives and servants in the Spanish households of Cuzco. In short, the project initially worked: it obeyed its founders’ designs, at least for a few critical years.

This information, which for all its lacunae is rich and unique, opens up new analytical angles on the Spanish conquest, enabling us to see connections rarely made in the historiography. To take this information into account means seeing conquistadores and encomenderos as fathers; viewing nuns as significant historical agents, involved in social reproduction; and (not least) seeing a gendered dimension to the remote historical antecedents of what we now call race. I will argue that Santa Clara and its earliest entrants were vital to the production and reproduction of Spanish hegemony in Cuzco, helping remake the former capital of the Incas into a center of Spanish colonialism. For it was not enough for Spanish men to seize the Inca heartland. To gain firm control over the Andes, these would-be lords had to find the means to reproduce themselves—their lineages, authority, culture. Cloistering their mestiza daughters at a particularly sensitive moment in the consolidation of Spanish rule gave the leading Spaniards of Cuzco the means to do this, and thus stake a permanent claim to power in the Andes.11

Appreciating fully the significance of these founding acts requires us to situate them in their notoriously turbulent historical context. Diego Maldonado and his companions were engaged in a ferocious struggle to control their encomiendas, the grants of Andean labor and tribute that they had won by acts of conquest and that had enriched them beyond their wildest imagination. Their best hope of establishing glorious legacies in the Andes lay in transmitting these prestigious and valuable grants to their heirs. Ironically, the very privileges afforded men by Iberian-style patriarchy made mestizos a threat to the consolidation of Spanish control at this volatile, politically charged moment in Andean history. By attending carefully to the gender politics of this critical juncture, we will see why the Spaniards increasingly came to see mestizos as “others,” dangerous rivals to be feared, whereas their mestiza daughters might, if properly raised, help them to consolidate their power—why, in other words, Spaniards at this point developed a kind of gendered double vision of their own progeny.12

The Historical Context: A Protracted Conquest

To understand why the leading Spaniards of Cuzco were obsessed with inheritance and concerned about mestizos in mid-sixteenth-century Cuzco, we first have to examine who these men were and how they got there. Spaniards first saw Cuzco in 1533, the year Francisco Pizarro and a group of several dozen followers reached the city. At that point they had been roving through the vast Inca state of Tawantinsuyo for over a year, and had long since realized they had had the good luck to intervene just as the Inca leadership was emerging from a bloody crisis of succession. They had made the most of their fortuitous timing by seizing, ransoming, and then killing the Inca ruler Atahualpa at Cajamarca in a sequence of events that would be argued over for centuries.13 Pizarro had rewarded his followers by distributing precious metals and Inca women: Diego Maldonado, one of the most abundantly rewarded, got thousands of pesos’ worth of gold and silver and a woman, a sister of Atahualpa, later baptized as Lucía.14 Eager to see and acquire more, most of the “men of Cajamarca” then followed Pizarro as he made his way higher into the Andes toward the central city of the Incas.

Cuzco made an enormous impression on the first Spaniards who saw it. Pero Sancho, secretary to Pizarro when the Spaniards entered the city in 1533, observed that Cuzco was so large and beautiful a city that it would stand out even in Spain. As for its principal fortress, Sacsayhuaman, he marveled that human beings could erect such impregnable walls.15 Pedro de Cieza de León, who arrived in the 1540s, emphasized that nowhere else was such a noble city to be found; all other towns in South America looked insignificant to him by comparison.16 The population of Cuzco at the time of the conquest can only be guessed at, but the city, located at the center of an impressive network of roads, was probably the largest in South America at the time of the Europeans’ arrival, with perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 residents.17 The carefully preserved bodies of former Inca rulers exercised remarkable power from their palaces, and stunningly majestic rituals filled the main plaza. To a people accustomed to finding power in cities, Cuzco was the indisputable center of Tawantinsuyo.

In this awesome place Pizarro staked his claim, formally refounding Cuzco as a Spanish city on March 23, 1534. Pizarro and his men enacted rituals of their own, performing a city into existence by transplanting to this terrain the fundamental institutions of a Spanish city: the picota or pillory, symbol of Spanish justice; a church, for which a site was designated; and a cabildo, or city council. Eighty-eight vecinos were enrolled with the understanding that each would receive a portion of Cuzco’s land and the labor power of its inhabitants.18 Word of the riches of the conquered Inca empire reached an eager audience in Spain and elsewhere in the Americas with little delay, and a sixteenth-century gold rush was on.19

However, Pizarro decided to found the seat of his government elsewhere, a decision that would have enormous historical ramifications. He ultimately settled on a coastal site and founded Lima, the “city of Kings,” in January of 1535. This move left the door open to conflict in Cuzco. No sooner had Pizarro departed than a vigorous Inca resistance took shape under the leadership of Manco Inca, Atahualpa’s brother. Manco launched a massive attack on Cuzco in mid-1536 that nearly overwhelmed the Spaniards, then laid a devastating, year-long siege. When his efforts to retake Cuzco failed, Manco Inca retreated north in 1537 and established the montaña stronghold of Vilcabamba. From this “neo-Inca state,” resistance to Spanish control of the region continued for decades, first under Manco, then under the leadership of his sons Sayri Túpac (1557-60), Titu Cusi (1560-71), and Túpac Amaru (1571-72). The Inca elites who stayed in Cuzco after 1537 sought to accommodate the Spaniards, but the city remained a welter of bitter enemies.

For almost two decades rival Spaniards raised forces against one another in a brutal series of civil wars in which Francisco Pizarro and countless other combatants died. Increasingly, these contests revolved around the fate of the encomienda as a means of organizing Spanish access to Andean wealth. An encomienda—often the grant of an Andean ethnic lord (kuraka) and those whose labor and tribute prestations he supervised—guaranteed its holder tremendous prestige and a lucrative material stake in settling the Andes for Spain.20 But there were only a few hundred encomiendas, hardly enough to satisfy all Spanish comers. Men who had managed to obtain grants tried desperately to keep them, arguing that they should be awarded perpetual, heritable rights. However, the Spanish crown, faced with numerous denunciations of arrogant, ruthless encomenderos who abused “their Indians,” feared these men would create a seigneurial Spanish-American aristocracy defiant of royal control. After a disastrous attempt in the 1540s to abolish encomiendas, the crown fell back on a less drastic strategy: that of meting out encomiendas in lifespans, giving Spaniards rights to an encomienda for one, two, or more vidas. Encomenderos were thus strung along over the issue of inheritance, kept in a state of perpetual uncertainty, with just enough at stake not to rebel (most of the time).21

Cuzco was central to the prolonged struggle over encomiendas. For although Lima was its capital, Cuzco at midcentury continued to be the heart of Peru, the prize for (and over) which successive waves of conflict broke. Cuzco was the richest region in Peru in terms of the Andean labor power and tribute goods that could be commanded there. Although European diseases caused great disruption and death in the region, they did less damage in the highlands than elsewhere.22 Thus both the number of encomenderos and the tribute totals they received were higher in Cuzco than anywhere else in Peru.23 And by the 1550s, Cuzco’s encomenderos had hit upon new ways of using Andean labor to enrich themselves. Silver had been discovered in a great silver-veined mountain at Potosí in 1545, and the trade in coca leaf and other supplies from Cuzco to the blasted mining city grew remarkably thereafter, as did Potosí itself. Despite all the warfare and uncertainty of the 1540s and 1550s, many encomenderos of Cuzco exploited their encomiendas to become rich.24

These years were marked by extreme violence, not least of it Spaniards’ violent treatment of Andean women. The conquerors’ imperious actions were only barely checked by the handful of Catholic clergy who had made it to Cuzco by midcentury. Vicente de Valverde, Cuzco’s first bishop, was present in the city only sporadically, but made some efforts to control individual Spaniards’ excesses. In 1539 he punished two Spaniards with fines and brief jail sentences for holding Indian women against their will. Francisco González admitted to the bishop in January 1539 that he had kept a woman named Pospocolla in his house for a month and a half, and that “the other day he yanked her by the hair because the Indian said she wasn’t his.” Pospocolla testified that she had been beaten and taunted. The following month, Juan Begines appealed the bishop’s sentence against him, even while admitting that he had kept a woman named Mencía, “an Indian who said she was a Christian,” chained up inside his house and had whipped her many times—he couldn’t recall how many—with a stick or whatever he found close at hand.25

Meanwhile, Spanish authorities (from the king down) were trying to prevail upon Spaniards to settle down and stop their licentious ways, preferably by marrying Spanish women. Earlier the monarchs had entertained the idea of intermarriage as a vehicle of conquest, suggesting that some Spanish women and men marry Americans “[so] that they may communicate with and teach one another . . . and the Indians become men and women of reason.”26 However, by the time Spaniards reached Peru this notion had long since been dropped in favor of a new approach, more in keeping with the monarchs’ propensity to treat Spaniards and Americans as different kinds of people who should be kept apart, in separate “republics” (repúblicas). The new strategy relied on the trope of mirroring, the idea being that malleable Americans, like children, would imitate their conquerors. The crown exhorted Spaniards to set “good examples”: to stop keeping Andean women in their households, form legitimate Spanish households, and demonstrate to Andeans the benefits of Iberian-style civilization. And deadlines were set for encomenderos to marry or risk losing their encomiendas.27

But encomenderos did not want to marry just anyone; the decision was too important to the propagation of their lineages. It might take months to return for a wife in Spain, or to arrange for a partner to bring over his marriageable kin. Instead, many encomenderos put off marriage and lived with elite Inca women. Diego Maldonado is one example. Another is Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega, who, while serving a term as corregidor in the 1550s, lived and had two children with an Inca noblewoman named Chimpu Ocllo; their eldest son was the eloquent mestizo author best known by his adopted name, Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca (1539-1616). Spaniards were quick to grasp the benefits of such arrangements: the Inca nobility regarded those living with elite native women as kin and assisted them accordingly.28 But like Garcilaso’s father, the encomenderos did not marry their Inca partners.29 Almost to a man, they eventually wed Spanish women—often the daughters and sisters of fellow encomenderos—and married off their Andean partners to less prominent Spaniards, as though tossing down scraps from a banquet table.30

Various Spanish accounts note one result of these turbulent years: the proliferation of mestizos. The etymology of the term mestizo is uncertain. The Inca Garcilaso asserts in his Royal Commentaries of the Incas that the term was initially used as an insult.31 It soon became in Spaniards’ mouths a synonym for “illegitimate,” since almost all mestizos were hijos naturales, born to unmarried Andean women and Spanish men.32 Some of the boys were taken into the religious orders to serve as lenguas, translators in the campaigns of evangelization that were launched across the countryside from cities like Cuzco. Others accompanied their Spanish fathers on expeditions to extend Spanish claims to new territory. But Garcilaso and his mestizo companions occupied an unsatisfying, interstitial position. They were arguably twice noble, the children of both Spanish and Andean elites, yet the Peruvian viceroyalty had made no special place for them.

By midcentury, the first generation of mestizos was nearing adulthood and beginning to worry Spanish officials. As early as the 1540s, Spaniards had occasionally registered apprehension about the mestizo population. By the 1550s the warnings in letters and reports to the crown were becoming sterner and more paranoid. These boys and girls needed to be somehow attached to colonial society: mestizo boys to learn oficios from artisans, girls to be domestics in Spanish homes.33 The boys in particular were starting to appear dangerous. Many had learned how to wield Spanish weapons, and some of the older ones, like Diego Maldonado’s son, Juan Arias Maldonado, had fought alongside their fathers in the midcentury wars.34

The encomenderos of Cuzco were also in a quandary at midcentury. While they had grown rich from their encomiendas, and had municipal offices firmly in their grasp, they were nevertheless increasingly insecure about their future. The crown had left it far from clear whether their prized encomiendas could be inherited, even if they did manage to leave behind legitimate, Spanish heirs. And their eldest, mestizo children were growing up and beginning to realize, like Garcilaso, the vulnerability of their own position.

Founding Acts

This was the charged context in which Cuzco’s cabildo pursued its goal of establishing a cloistered monastery. On April 17, 1551, the assembled members bought a piece of property from the estate manager of Hernando Pizarro, stating that the cabildo would assume the role of patron of the new convent. It is not clear whether the desire to protect mestizas was a part of the plan from the start. Probably so, since the Audiencia de Lima had ordered on October 8, 1550, that the corregidor of Cuzco report on the situation of mestizos living among the natives, and stipulated that they be placed in the care of Spaniards until something more definite should be decided.35 In any case, on April 30, 1551, Diego Maldonado galvanized his fellows to action by donating the 550 pesos the property had cost on the condition that the nuns pray for his soul and those of his successors.36 The cabildo responded by naming him mayordomo of the new foundation for a year, setting down its intention to promulgate statutes to regulate the nuns’ existence, and setting out to find additional property to donate to the new convent. With their notary public in tow, the cabildo members proceeded to the site bought by Maldonado and then, on the spot, agreed to donate an adjoining tract.

Santa Clara was not the first house of a monastic order to be established in Cuzco. The Dominicans, Mercedarians, and Franciscans had already established their institutional presence in the city, and the Augustinians and Jesuits would not be far behind.37 But while the men’s orders were founded by groups of friars sent over from Spain specifically for that purpose, Santa Clara was a homegrown institution, constructed by the city’s founding fathers at the same time they were constructing themselves as such. The foundation has about it a distinct air of improvisation. During the 1550s Santa Clara appears to have functioned as a recogimiento—a group of women living together under informal religious vows—under the leadership of Francisca Ortiz de Ayala, a pious widow who also attended to patients in the local hospital for Indians.38 As the new foundation got underway, local Spaniards supported it with donations, and toward the end of the decade the cabildo sought the crown’s permission to elevate Santa Clara formally to the rank of monastery.39

To found a monastery in sixteenth-century Spanish America was not unusual, nor was it unusual to shelter mestizas. Examples of these activities can be found throughout the region. In the viceregal center of Lima, for example, by the late 1550s the Spanish widow of an encomendero and her widowed mother had formed a monastic community under Augustinian auspices. This house, La Encarnación, was intended for widows like the founders, and mestizas were not allowed to profess in it.40 About the same time, a separate institution was taking shape in Lima specifically to shelter orphaned mestizas: the recogimiento of San Juan de la Penitencia.41 In Lima, as elsewhere in the region, convents and their founders clearly intended to keep professed nuns and mestizas in two quite separate categories.

To found a monastery in order to remedy mestizas, who might in time become nuns—this was distinctly out of the ordinary. An occasional mestiza might make her way into monastic life, but such cases were more the exception than the rule, and might provoke heated debate. For example, when Alonso de Alvarado, the corregidor of Cuzco, offered La Encarnación the rich sum of 20,000 pesos to accept his mestiza daughters, the nuns defied their male superiors and accepted one of the young women, creating a major conflict between the convent and the Augustinian hierarchy in Lima.42 Across Spanish America the preferred vehicle for the care of mestizas was the recogimiento, a flexibly defined institution readily adapted to welfare purposes. No royal approval was necessary for such a foundation, nor any monastic rule, and entrants were not required to bring a large dowry or profess solemn vows.

Monasteries were a different matter. As in Spain, they were considered a reflection on the communities around them; Spanish ideals of honor and feminine purity were powerfully represented and reinforced by these bulwarks against evil, dishonor, and stain.43 If the nuns’ honor was upheld, a city could hold itself in esteem. Thus founders consistently phrased their motives in terms of “giving greater authority” to their cities.44 Following Spanish practice, criteria for entrance into Spanish-American cloisters were more rigorous than for less formal enclosure: an initiation period was observed, and a substantial dowry required. By the sixteenth century issues of legitimacy were already starting to make their appearance in Peru, as the scandal in La Encarnación over Alvarado’s daughters shows. To admit mestizas was (almost by definition) to admit illegitimacy, people of mixed and still indeterminate status. The Augustinian overseers of La Encarnación were quite unexceptional in their objections to mestizas. The gesture of Cuzco’s cabildo on mestizas’ behalf was a noteworthy exception.

For a cabildo to sponsor a convent was also a striking departure from the norm. Most foundations in the Americas, as in Spain and throughout Catholic Europe, were initiated by individuals or families. Endowing a religious foundation was expensive, and thus typically the act of an aristocratic, wealthy lineage, seeking to enhance its members’ status while ensuring them spiritual benefits. For a cabildo to get involved suggests something vital was at stake in Cuzco, some collective interest of the encomenderos too important to be left up to individual piety and charity. If Santa Clara can be read as a sign of how greatly it mattered to these men that mestizas have a respectable place, be “remedied” and not lost, they must have had compelling reasons indeed.

We have seen the explanation of Juan Polo de Ondegardo for the new foundation: a combination of Christian charity exercised on behalf of fallen Spanish comrades, the protection of vulnerable girls, and the saving of souls. At this point, it is worth examining the historical context more closely. In 1551 the crown was reiterating its insistence that encomenderos marry in order to retain their encomiendas; the implicit message was that they should wed Spanish women.45 Almost all the encomenderos of Cuzco, including all of the members of the cabildo, had by this point taken Spanish wives. To judge from the writings of the Inca Garcilaso, by the 1550s the remaining holdouts were noteworthy exceptions. However, many (if not all) of the encomenderos had fathered mestizo children before marrying, and were obliged to reconcile the needs of two distinct families—one Andean and informal, from the paternal point of view; the other recent, legitimate, and Spanish.

Some encomenderos, like Diego Maldonado, “el Rico,” had only mestizo children to whom they might leave their privileges and fortunes. Maldonado, who did the most to ensure the founding of Santa Clara, did take a Spanish wife around midcentury, doña Francisca de Guzmán.46 However, the couple never had children. Thus Maldonado’s only potential heirs were his mestizo son and daughter, Juan Arias and Beatriz, born to the noble Inca he received at Cajamarca, doña Lucía Clara Coya. And he was not the only founder of Santa Clara to father mestizo children: Alonso de Alvarado, who presided over Cuzco’s cabildo in 1551, had at least two mestiza daughters. While there is no evidence that their own daughters entered Santa Clara, the cabildo members’ connection to this project of “remedying” mestizas was clearly very close, at once political and personal.47

More insight can be gained from Santa Clara’s libro de la fundación, a fairly detailed account of the convent’s earliest entrants and ground rules, kept from around 1560.48 The picture of convent entrants that emerges is one of astonishing diversity. The circumstances of the girls’ entry into Santa Clara vary widely, as do their backgrounds (see  appendix). In fact, it is quite possibly the most heterogeneous group ever to populate a colonial Spanish-American monastery on terms of theoretical equality. Most prominent among them was doña Beatriz Clara Coya, the only child of Cusi Huarcay and Sayri Túpac (d. 1560), one of the last Inca rulers of Vilcabamba. Only three of the sixty initial entrants are clearly identified as Spaniards. Two of these, apparently orphans, were allowed to become nuns in spite of the fact that they brought no dowry, “so that the convent might begin to be populated with Spanish nuns that there may be an abundance of them (para que aya copia dellas), and to give greater authority to the convent.”49 One girl by the name of Beatriz is listed as a morena, and thus may have been of African descent.

However, most of the sixty original entrants seem to have been mestizas, those Santa Clara was founded to favor.50 Some had been plucked from Andean villages by passing Spaniards:

juana. Poor, orphaned, father unknown, found in an Indian village, brought to this Monastery in early [fifteen] sixty-one, with no dowry or board; she is to be catechized and remedied for the love of God, and it shall be set down on this page what becomes of her.51

Like Juana, eighteen other young women were listed as “orphans,” meaning that they were fatherless. Their Andean mothers are never mentioned. At least seven were daughters of Spaniards killed in the midcentury wars and their aftermath: these included the daughters of “Arias, who died at Villacurí” (in 1554) and those of “Medina, who died in the battle of Guarina” (in 1547). Many had been brought to Santa Clara by people who were not their parents, usually a priest or a merchant. One example is Francisca Arias, “brought by the priest Father Baltasar de Armenta, of the Order of Saint Augustine, who was among the Indians.” Another is an orphan named simply Ana: “Juan Moreno, the merchant, brought her.”

Twice as numerous, however, was the contingent of girls whose fathers were alive when their daughters entered the convent. Of the thirty-six who appear to fit this category, the most prominent was doña María de Betanzos, the daughter of the chronicler Juan de Betanzos and his noble Inca wife, doña Angelina Añas Yupanqui, a niece of the Inca Huayna Cápac and former mistress of Francisco Pizarro. A few young women seem to have been abandoned, like Luisa Pizarro, whose father, Mateo Pizarro, left her destitute in Cuzco while going off to seek his fortune in Chile, and Ana Téllez, classified as “poor; she has a father; he has to be contacted, so that he may provide her board.” But the majority were interned in Santa Clara by their fathers, many of whom gave their daughters a modest annual stipend. The phrase “her father brought her” (metióla su padre; trájola su padre) occurs frequently in connection with fathers who could afford a respectable amount for their daughters’ maintenance. Some of these men, like Diego de Uceda of La Paz, were encomenderos of the region. Some fathers were engaged in commerce— for example, Gerónimo García, “merchant,” and Antonio Hernández, who “does business in Potosí” (trata en Potosí). Others were artisans—Hernán González, a smith, and “Góngora, tailor.” One was a manservant of Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega. And at least one mestiza’s father was a priest.

The majority of the first young women to enter Santa Clara were thus interned, either by a Spanish father or by an unrelated Spaniard. The libro de la fundación notes that they were to be raised Christians and to receive buenas costumbres (literally, good customs or manners), shorthand for an education in Spanishness that probably included everything from prayers to stitchery, and perhaps reading and writing. After receiving the imprint of Spanish culture— after being “remedied,” to use Polo de Ondegardo’s gloss—the young charges of Santa Clara might choose either to profess or to leave the convent. The point was not simply to create nuns, but to create culturally Spanish young women.

Thus in its earliest years, Santa Clara had as its principal mission an activity that was, for most other South American convents of roughly equal vintage as well as most Spanish convents, an adjunct: the Christian acculturation of girls. Though the monastic rule stipulated that nuns should live apart from those not under formal vows, the young women of Santa Clara mixed indiscriminately in the early years. Papal exemption for this was sought, and not until the 1570s was a separate part of the convent set aside for the doncellas, or “maidens,” who were being boarded and raised there. Given the midcentury context in which Santa Clara’s educational activities were carried out, this “remedying” represented more than mere education. It was a program of acculturation, probably in many instances a painfully abrupt cultural reorientation.

This is particularly evident in the case of doña Beatriz Clara Coya, the only fully Inca child among the convent’s initial residents.52 Beatriz was born around the time her father, Sayri Túpac, left the unconquered stronghold of Vilcabamba in 1558 and made peace with the Spanish authorities, receiving in return generous estates in the rich Yucay valley north of Cuzco. When her father died suddenly in 1561, Beatriz inherited the estate he had been granted and became one of the wealthiest people in Peru. In 1563, when only five or six years old, she was taken from the care of her mother, doña María Cusi Huarcay, to be raised inside Santa Clara. The libro de la fundación notes that “she was brought to this house by friar Melchor de los Reyes of the Dominican Order, to be raised and to learn proper manners (buenas costumbres) in said house; the amount to be given towards her upkeep was not set.”53 Meanwhile, Beatriz was at the center of delicate peace negotiations between the Spanish authorities and the new Inca ruler in Vilcabamba, her uncle Titu Cusi. The strategy hit upon to guarantee peace in Cuzco involved marrying Beatriz to Titu Cusi’s six-year-old son, her cousin Quispe Titu.

Beatriz would eventually be married, but not to her young cousin. At the age of about eight or nine, she was taken out of Santa Clara to join her mother, doña María Cusi Huarcay, in the household of one of Cuzco’s wealthiest encomenderos, Arias Maldonado, who promptly tried to engage the girl to his brother Cristóbal.54 Rumor soon spread that Cristóbal had raped Beatriz to enforce his claim on her. Alarmed by the implications of such a marriage alliance, Governor Castro wrote to the crown:

I am afraid that he [Arias Maldonado] might marry her to his brother Cristóbal Maldonado, and I think that this has been done. . . . They tell me that he has been intimate with her, but I do not know whether this is true. This man must not be allowed to have the repartimiento [i.e., encomienda] that the girl possesses. For his brother has Hernando Pizarro’s repartimiento, and they would become so powerful that no one could oppose them in Cuzco.55

The child was hastily returned to the convent. Still, Philip II sought papal dispensation to marry Beatriz to Titu Cusi’s son. By the time this was granted, it was too late: Titu Cusi was dead, and the Spaniards had again gone to war against the Inca, Túpac Amaru, who was captured and killed in 1572. Beatriz would eventually be given in marriage to Captain Martín García de Loyola, the man who captured her uncle Túpac Amaru, the last Inca ruler of Vilcabamba.

Santa Clara appears several times in the course of this violent and convoluted history. It served as the site of the hispanization of the young Beatriz in preparation for her projected marriage to Quispe Titu, a union the Spanish authorities wanted to domesticate as thoroughly as possible to make use of a pliant Inca to pacify the central highlands. After the unsettling interlude with the Maldonados jeopardized the outcome of the marriage negotiations, Beatriz was returned to cloistered life in Santa Clara. Her betrothal in 1572 to Loyola was contested by Cristóbal Maldonado, who had managed to return to Peru and continued to insist he was her rightful husband. Not until the late 1580s would the legal dispute be resolved in favor of Loyola. Doña Beatriz Clara Coya was finally wed in her early thirties, decades after the bargaining over her marriages began, having spent most of her life in a convent.56

It is hard to determine much about the adult lives of the rest of Santa Clara’s earliest residents. Eighteen young women—a third of those about whom the libro de la fundación provides information—eventually professed as nuns. But almost twice as many, thirty-three, left Santa Clara after receiving a Christian upbringing. Ten of these young women were married to Spaniards. Of the other twenty-three, we know only that they were removed from the cloisters—most by their fathers, some by people seemingly unrelated to them. The daughters of the first abbess, for example, acquired three undowered orphans from Santa Clara; perhaps they became household servants, a fate not uncommon for mestizas in this period.

Santa Clara thus fitted numerous mestizas for a livelihood in the Spanish society that was just taking root in Cuzco, not only as cloistered nuns but as wives and auxiliaries in Spanish households—virtually the only honorable roles available to culturally Spanish women at a time when female honor was closely associated with domestic seclusion. Whatever course their lives took after they entered the monastery, the girls to whom Santa Clara imparted Spanish religion, language, dress, manners, and mores became part of the reproduction of the Spanish culture in whose midst they had been raised. This was the point, as the corregidor Polo de Ondegardo observed in 1560 when he expressed to the new abbess his optimism that Santa Clara would save many souls by removing mestizas from their mothers, who represented “an impediment to instilling anything good in them.” Obviously Spaniards’ successful consolidation of their control over Cuzco depended on their ability to reproduce themselves and propagate Spanish ways in the heartland of a conquered empire. Polo de Ondegardo clearly appreciated the significance of the new convent in this long-term project. Although he would have put it differently—in terms of the triumph of truth over falsehood—Polo grasped that the young women of Santa Clara represented a kind of cultural capital, the potential for reproducing Spanish dominance in the hybrid Spanish-Andean society that was taking shape in Cuzco.

A creative composite of monastery, orphanage, and school of Spanish culture, Santa Clara was a place where marriage-minded Spaniards could look for wives at a time that unmarried Spanish women had not yet arrived in large numbers.57 The mestizas of Santa Clara were Christians—that is, culturally Spanish in the sense that mattered most—and of an age to reproduce. In terms of the demographics and cultural logic of conquest and settlement, they were in the right place at the right time. While it is hard to quantify Santa Clara’s importance in the marriage market of early Spanish Cuzco, given the paucity of early parish and notarial records and the impossibility of accurately reconstructing the demographic flows into Cuzco at midcentury, the hispanized young women of Santa Clara may have played a major role. At least ten of the earliest entrants were later married to Spaniards, and undoubtedly more of those who were removed by their fathers went on to marry and run Spanish households. By contrast, in Lima—a city with a relative abundance of Spanish women—the recogimiento of San Juan de la Penitencia did not prosper. Santa Clara’s Lima counterpart declined rapidly in the decades after its 1553 foundation and was closed in 1576 for lack of mestiza applicants.58

Yet as the case of doña Beatriz Clara Coya shows, the point was not simply to marry the hispanized young doncellas to Spaniards, but to marry them to the right Spaniards. While receiving a Christian upbringing in Santa Clara, doña Beatriz was used first as a bargaining chip to secure the loyalty of the Inca to the crown, then as a prize to repay the services of the man who had subdued the last Inca. Her abuse at the hands of the Maldonados dramatizes the dangers to which a valuable young woman was exposed, as well as the concern with which the authorities viewed this traffic in women. Not even Santa Clara could protect doña María de Betanzos, the daughter of Juan de Betanzos and his wife doña Angelina Añas Yupanqui: she was abducted from the convent by a Spaniard. Despite her father’s move to disinherit her, she was ultimately married to her captor.59

Santa Clara was, then, more than a school for mestizas. It was a ward, holding its young charges off the marriage market while it was decided exactly what role they would play in the new society taking shape in Cuzco. By 1560 this was very much up in the air. Like doña Beatriz Clara Coya and doña María de Betanzos, others in Santa Clara had encomenderos for fathers and might be expected to receive a sizable dowry—perhaps even inherit their fathers’ privileges. These young women also represented the possibility of connections for Spaniards into what remained of the Inca command system at its highest level.60 But their value and status depended on the outcome of spirited debates that were coming to a head in the 1560s over the future of encomiendas and the place of mestizos in Peru. The consequences, both for the young women of Santa Clara and for Peruvian society in general, would be enormous.

Politics Within, Politics Without: Controversies of the Late 1560s

With the new monastery officially underway, Diego Maldonado and his fellow encomenderos no doubt rested easier about the future of their mestiza daughters, thinking their “mestizo problem” at least partly resolved. Francisca de Jesús would see to it that these young women received the Christian faith and seamlessly merged with those imparting to them buenas costumbres. But if the encomenderos believed Francisca de Jesús would cooperate fully in turning their daughters into Spaniards, they soon found out otherwise. Only a few years after the new convent was founded, the nuns were defying the encomenderos’ powers of command and disrupting their designs. On the last day of December 1565, the cabildo met in the convent to convey the encomenderos’ frustration over a criterion of difference that had appeared among the nuns:

[W]e understand that among the nuns presently in the Convent, there is a division in that some of them wear a black veil and others a white veil, and as they are all nuns of the Order of Saint Clare . . . it is not good for such a division to exist, but all should wear a black habit, like nuns of Saint Clare . . . and all those who are now nuns and those who profess in the future, Spanish or native . . . should take the same habit and veil and profess the same enclosure and rule as nuns of Saint Clare.61

The cabildo did not seek testimony from the nuns themselves, but the meaning of this boundary can be read clearly enough. In Iberian cloisters the black veil distinguished professed nuns from novices and servants, who wore a white veil.62 By appropriating this signifier, abbess Francisca de Jesús and the small minority of Spanish nuns in Santa Clara were unmistakably asserting their superiority over mestiza nuns. The Spanish nuns seem to be saying the mestizas are permanent novices, a novice people—if not natural slaves, then natural servants.63

This case of a sartorial color line points to the way stereotyping often works, through the deliberate fudging of certain boundaries (in this case, those separating mestizas/novices/servants) to reinforce and reify others (Spaniards/mestizas). Unfortunately, none of the nuns is on record regarding the veil controversy, so the cultural logic at work inside Santa Clara in the 1560s must be puzzled out of other traces. No doubt in the eyes of Francisca de Jesús the stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily against the mestizas. Legitimacy was normally required for admission to Spanish cloisters. But were the Spanish entrants legitimate? If so, the libro de la fundación does not say:

leonor de la trinidad. Spanish, received without dowry to populate the Convent with Spanish nuns, so that it will have greater authority.

clara de san francisco. Niece of Pedro Valdés, [received] without dowry because she is a Spaniard, and so that the convent will start to be populated with Spanish nuns that there may be an abundance of them, so the convent will have greater authority.64

The only clear difference between the mestizas and these young women is that the mestizas had Andean mothers, whereas these two were native Spaniards and presumed capable of providing an “authoritative” example to non-Spaniards.65

Diego Maldonado and his fellow councilmen vehemently protested the new veil usage, saying that “by no means would they place their daughters in the convent unless complete equality and conformity regarding the aforementioned [i.e., the same veil and habit for all nuns] were observed in it.”66 In Spain, they argued, there was no such division. Moreover, the cabildo members pointed to the irony of the Spanish women’s pretensions in thus setting themselves above their mestiza counterparts: the few Spaniards had entered without dowry, whereas the mestizas for whose welfare the convent had been founded had brought the convent most of its assets. It was decided that no division of veils would be permitted among the nuns, and that in the assignment of tasks all should be admitted equally, “so that the most capable and religious shall be admitted . . . without regard to whether she is mestiza or Spanish.” Francisca de Jesús was charged to obey: que no sea aceptadora de personas, sino que solamente tenga ojo a la más virtuosa.67

The cabildo may have won the skirmish, but it lost the war.68 Francisca de Jesús and a handful of españolas inside the cloisters had commandeered the encomenderos’ project and imposed a hierarchical division among the nuns that, despite the cabildo’s protests, would later reemerge and remain in place for centuries. Even the cabildo did not champion the mestizas’ equality on all points. At its 1565 meeting, the cabildo further determined that for the sake of “decorum” (por la utilidad y decoro del conuento), no illegitimate daughter of a Spanish man and an Indian or other non-white (morena) woman could be elected abbess until 25 years had passed from the founding of Santa Clara— that is, until December 31, 1590. Perhaps the councilmen believed they were buying time for the mestizas to prove themselves. If so, they miscalculated badly; by 1590 the election of anyone but a Spaniard or criolla as abbess of Santa Clara would be out of the question.69

Meanwhile, Maldonado and his companions were busy outside the convent’s walls fighting another losing battle, one of high-stakes politics over the right to bequeath encomiendas to their children. In 1555 they had joined other Peruvian encomenderos in sending an emissary to the court of Philip II to offer an impossibly large sum, 7.6 million pesos, to buy permanent encomienda rights for themselves and their descendants.70 Finally they had won the king’s serious attention. Philip II was bankrupt and desperate for revenue, and allowed a bidding war to begin. The kurakas of Peru responded with an equally impressive counteroffer in an attempt to free themselves from the encomenderos’ control, sending their own emissaries to Spain: two renowned Dominican defenders of Indian rights, Bartolomé de Las Casas and Domingo de Santo Tomás. With the debate thus freighted with expectations on all sides, Philip II elected to send a new viceroy and three commissioners to Peru, instructing them to negotiate the sale of encomiendas in perpetuity. When these men arrived in 1561 the contest over Peru’s future reached new heights of intensity.71

The momentous visit by the royal comisarios set the stage for some remarkable politics, including an unprecedented show of kuraka unanimity. Partisans of both sides of the great debate crisscrossed the Peruvian viceroyalty in 1561 and 1562, organizing and polarizing the countryside for and against encomiendas.72 Not surprisingly, the encomenderos of Cuzco found themselves seriously outnumbered. They were alarmed by the scenes of violent opposition that formed in front of them, and fumed anxiously about restless and defiant “commoners” trying to become their equals.73

To make matters worse for men like Diego Maldonado, the viceroy and commissioners determined after months of inquiries that encomiendas must not fall into the hands of mestizos. In a letter of May 4, 1562, they proposed to the crown that a third of the encomiendas be granted in perpetuity to “deserving persons,” another third be granted for a limited period to other pretenders, and the remaining third revert to the crown. The authors recommended that to qualify for perpetual rights an encomendero be married to a Spaniard, and that encomenderos who married Andeans, Africans, or foreigners (persons not subject to the crown) lose their grants. They indicated that unions of encomenderos with Andean women were commonplace, and lumped mestizos and mulattos together in a general assessment that no good could be expected of them, but rather disorderliness, as they were “badly inclined.”74 The viceroy and commisioners noted that in reaching their recommendation they had consulted with the encomenderos, who had accepted it only reluctandy and after strenuous argument.

This particular batde must have left the aging conquistador Diego Maldonado rather desperate. To try and turn things his way, he had made sizable gifts to those in Lima in a position to help him.75 But in the wake of the commissioners’ visit the crown was still in no hurry to take a definitive stance on the future of encomiendas. Philip II could gain more by leaving matters vague and continuing to deal with encomenderos individually, extracting handsome amounts from them in exchange for prolonging their descendants’ tenure in their grants. Such a piecemeal, divide-and-conquer strategy might be especially lucrative in the case of encomenderos with illegitimate heirs, and Philip II seized this opportunity, instructing the Peruvian viceroy to negotiate deals with encomenderos interested in leaving their grants to their illegitimate mestizo sons for the duration of their sons’ lives. The viceroy responded that many encomenderos were willing to make such bargains.76 No doubt Diego Maldonado was in the forefront of those eager to cut a private deal. To him it was less important to preserve encomendero unity than to buy his mestizo son a chance to inherit his privileges and extend the family line.

Ironically, just as the encomenderos were yielding to the crown’s tactics and abandoning a united front, their mestizo sons were joining together to contest their predicament under Spanish rule. No longer willing to await the results of their fathers’ schemes, a group of young men began plotting in Cuzco to overturn Spanish authority and seize control of the Peruvian viceroyalty. Early in 1567, just as their frustrated murmuring was about to give way to action, the corregidor of Cuzco, Gerónimo Costilla, got word of their plans. Little is known about the plot, which seems to have involved Spaniards and Incas as well as mestizos.77 But the blame fell most heavily on a handful of mestizos, who were rounded up and punished. Among them was Diego Maldonado’s son, Juan Arias Maldonado, as well as Arias and Cristóbal Maldonado, who had just failed in their attempt to forge a marital alliance with doña Beatriz Clara Coya. Diego Maldonado, the proud old encomendero, was forced to humble himself before the authorities in Lima to gain his wayward son’s release.78

The “mutiny of the mestizos,” as it was called, seemed to confirm the Spanish authorities’ most dire prognostications. Thus, even though the failed conspiracy involved Spaniards and a member of the Inca elite, and was hardly the only plot of its kind uncovered during these years, it honed the authorities’ hostility toward mestizos in particular. The shaken Spanish governor Castro, whose life the conspirators had been planning to take, penned many complaints about a mestizo population he characterized as restive, highly dangerous, and growing by the hour.79 He urged royal action to prevent mestizos from bearing arms, arguing that

since they are sons of Indian women (yndias), as soon as they commit a crime they dress as Indians (yndios) and hide among their mothers’ kin and cannot be found, and there are many among them who are better shots (arcabuceros) than the Spaniards.80

Thereafter, legal provisions restricting mestizos’ rights multiplied as a stereotype coalesced in the minds of men like Castro: that mestizos as a lot were grasping malcontents, restless and prone to violence.

By the late 1560s, then, it was growing increasingly difficult for the children of Spaniards and Andeans to find an honorable place in Spanish Cuzco. And the gendered distinctions Spaniards had been willing to make only a few years earlier, favoring mestizas and according them special protection, were starting to collapse. The veil controversy inside Santa Clara in 1565 and the 1567 mestizo “mutiny” point in the same direction: toward growing discrimination against mestizos in general, and the waning power of Cuzco’s encomenderos. The first signs of discrimination against mestizas inside Santa Clara occurred just as encomenderos were losing their bid for permanent encomienda rights. This crisis of the encomenderos’ power meant a significant decline in the mestizas’ value on the marriage market; their chances of inheriting and becoming vessels for the transmission of their fathers’ fortunes and privileges seemed suddenly remote.

The continuing turmoil in Peru led the crown to dispatch a demanding lawgiver to impose a greater degree of Iberian-style order in the Andes. Viceroy Francisco de Toledo would be much more definite than his predecessors on the mestizo question, one of many difficult issues he confronted in his drive to “pacify” Peru. In late 1571 Toledo undertook to visit his jurisdiction personally, and during 1572 he made Cuzco his headquarters. The encomenderos of Cuzco rejoiced: finally, a viceroy was coming to them. But almost as soon as he arrived Toledo found himself in a dramatic confrontation with the cabildo. The new viceroy was utterly determined to break the encomenderos’ hold on municipal power, and insisted that the cabildo elect one non-encomendero to its ranks. The cabildo members were equally determined to defy him, but he faced them down and won: a non-encomendero was elected and installed for the first time.81

This was but the first of Toledo’s disciplining moves. After prevailing over the encomenderos, Toledo went on to win a military victory over the Inca resistance at Vilcabamba. The last Inca leader, Túpac Amaru, was captured and executed in a gory public spectacle in Cuzco’s central plaza by which Toledo intended to extinguish all further resistance to Spanish rule. And to remove any threat from the relatively cooperative Incas of Cuzco, the viceroy personally brokered the betrothal of doña Beatriz Clara Coya to Captain Martín Garcia de Loyola, the Spaniard who had captured her uncle, Túpac Amaru. As royal authority was rigidly imposed in Cuzco by this ruthless representative of the crown, the high hopes of the encomenderos were frustrated; those of the mestizos were crushed.82


By 1572, a distinct phase in Cuzco’s development under Spanish rule was coming to a close, an extremely violent, fluid time of great opportunities and violence. A seemingly paradoxical move on the part of Cuzco’s encomenderos—the founding of a cloistered monastery in the midst of war—is in fact fully intelligible in terms of these men’s chief concern: to secure Spanish hegemony. By focusing on reproduction, we can see why Spaniards’ treatment of mestizas differed from that accorded mestizos. Mestizas (as Polo de Ondegardo reminds us) could be annexed relatively easily to a patriarchal Spanish culture that organized the asymmetries of gender by enclosing females. As nuns, mestizas would lead cloistered lives and teach other girls Christian cultural ways; as wives, they would be enclosed within domestic space and subordinated to their husbands and could (if married to Spaniards) become part of the república de españoles.

Mestizos, by contrast, posed obvious dangers to the reproduction of Spanish patriarchy. While they too might be raised culturally Spanish, they stood to gain a potentially destabilizing role as male adults. As heads of households they might, if fully admitted into the república de españoles, have a wide range of (gendered) cultural tools and weapons at their disposal: arms, horses, powers of command. And to the extent that they had a “mestizo consciousness” at all, mestizos might use these weapons to threaten Spaniards, plucking their guilty consciences with altogether logical, hence threatening, arguments: as sons of both conquistadores and high-ranking Incas, did they not have a right to something, perhaps twice as much as anyone else? The irony of Garcilaso’s position is poignant. By choosing to value both his parents’ cultures, and to claim the dignity of his hybrid condition, he consigned himself to a no-man’s-land of Spanish colonialism, exposing the violence by which it was instated in the Andes.

By comparison, things turned out surprisingly well for Diego Maldonado’s son, Juan Arias Maldonado. Even though he was implicated in a conspiracy that the Spanish authorities took very seriously, sent to Lima for punishment, and banished from the viceroyalty, he ultimately managed to do what his father wanted: he produced heirs to perpetuate the Maldonado family name and fortune in his native Cuzco. This was not accomplished by means of encomienda, however, but through an entail (mayorazgo) that his father Diego set up near the end of his lengthy, eventful life.83 The crafty persistence of “el Rico” and his well-timed payments to a bankrupt monarch allowed at least one mestizo to slip through the maze of thickening prohibitions, and enabled his descendants to prosper.

Nonetheless, this complicated story of violent striving and destruction left relatively few people satisfied. So thoroughly do Spaniards and their discontents dominate the written record of these decades that it is easiest to regard conflicts from their perspectives, and to see their hopes rise and fall. What of the Andean mothers of the mestizas of Santa Clara who had seen their daughters stripped away from them? We cannot tell what happened to these women, whether the mothers were noble, or even whether they were Incas. They may have been Cañaris or Chachapoyas once subjected to Inca control, or from another part of Tawantinsuyo altogether. Not only did these mothers lose their daughters, they became textually invisible, brutally expunged by Spaniards who seized and claimed their daughters as Spanish property by branding them orphans.

The mestizas themselves are also silent in the records that speak to historians. However, in light of the pressing procreative and patrimonial designs of their fathers, it is noteworthy that many of the mestizas—including many not classed as orphans—professed, vowing to be chaste, poor, obedient, and cloistered.84 Can we read their professions as “resistance” to Spanish patriarchy? Not in any simple way. Interpreting these women’s acts is difficult, given the scant archival traces and the tense circumstances in which they pledged to be virgin brides of Christ. Whatever the case, many of these women did remove themselves from the reach of their fathers and Spanish pretenders by vowing to spend their lives in the midst of a community that, for a time, contained mostly mestizas.

Even so, Santa Clara made a vital contribution to the reproduction of Spanish hegemony in the old Inca city. Many of the hispanized young women raised within the convent were removed from it and assumed roles in Spanish households. Doubtless the social reproduction of Spanish Cuzco was also served by the example of the young mestiza virgins who devoted their lives and prayers to the worship of the Christian deity. Yet Santa Clara’s patrons were not able to ensure that the convent would obey their plans. Between 1551, when the cabildo decided to create a monastery for the proper upbringing of mestizas, and the conspiracy of 1567, room for mestizos and mestizas at the highest levels of Cuzco society was narrowing rapidly, and the nuns themselves reflected this in their habit. Mestizas could still become nuns, but Santa Clara would institute a new category for them: monjas de velo blanco, nuns of a lesser rank, wearers of the white veil.85

In 1576, after Francisca de Jesús had died, an election was held and the office of abbess went to Clara de San Francisco, one of the few Spaniards admitted without dowry at Santa Clara’s foundation. All the abbesses for generations thereafter would be Spaniards or criollas, the American-born daughters of Spaniards. And a process of historical erasure got underway, for it no longer made sense to Cuzqueños to regard Santa Clara in its founders’ terms, as a “monastery for mestizas.” Instead the convent gained a distinguished place in accounts of the city’s past as a place where “noble” young women, “the daughters of the first conquistadores,” had lived and professed. When Franciscan chroniclers Diego de Córdova y Salinas and Diego de Mendoza published the first hagiographical accounts of Santa Clara in the mid–seventeenth century, they would not so much as mention the word “mestiza.”86

How could a foundation have changed so dramatically in just a few years? This transition—in effect, the creolization of Santa Clara—is now largely unavailable to us as detailed social history. (The creolization of Cuzco itself still remains to be explored: we can see that men like Diego Maldonado had their seignorial dreams pricked by the work of the viceroy and quintessential letrado Toledo, but we know little about those who succeeded thereafter in building criollo dynasties in the region.87) However, a sketchy roll in the libro de la fundación of women professing in the late 1570s suggests that the cloistering of daughters in Santa Clara remained vital to the construction and reproduction of local power long after Toledo had completed his Cuzco sojourn. Doña Mencía de Zúñiga, the criolla daughter of regidor Rodrigo de Esquivel —progenitor of a long line of imperious local aristocrats, the marqueses de Valleumbroso—took the veil in 1579. If her profession is any indication, criolla ascendancy within the convent may have occurred within just two or three decades of its founding.88

The case of Santa Clara raises as many questions as it answers, opening up many promising topics for future research. Certainly the libro de la fundación obliges us to regard the category “mestizo” as unstable and provisional. It thus provides us with a powerful reminder about the unnaturalness of race and the limits of racial thinking.89 Mestizos were not born but made—and as this study shows, the making of mestizos was a saliently gendered, historical process. We cannot assume that Spaniards saw the same thing every time they looked at the child of a Spaniard and an Andean; around 1560 “mestiza” signified one set of possibilities to Spaniards in Cuzco, and “mestizo” another. Nor can we assume that after Toledo’s time the fate of mestizos and mestizas was sealed into a single, unchanging category of difference. Such categories were clearly fluid and merit more comparative historical study than they have thus far received. In places such as Cuzco—or for that matter, Quito, Huamanga, or La Paz—why, how, and when did Spaniards and criollos begin to relegate mestizos to positions of inferiority? How did those labeled “mestizos”—or chinos, cholos, or castas—respond? Answering such questions will mean taking stock of the diversity contained within these categories, and undoing their masculinized plurals to allow for the singularity of gender.

Research for this article was funded primarily by a Fulbright-Hays fellowship and a grant from the University of Florida, and writing was funded by fellowships from the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University. My thanks to John Womack Jr., Asunción Lavrin, and Roland Greene for initial encouragement and to Louise Newman for her generous criticism. I also thank Ingrid Patricia Vivanco Pérez for her expert research assistance, and Jennifer Baszile, Brooke Larson, Patricia Lyon, John H. Rowe, Steve J. Stern, Holly Hanson, Rebecca Karl, Mark Thurner, my Florida students, and my anonymous HAHR reviewers for their careful comments. This article will be republished in Kathryn Burns, Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru (Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 1999).



Libro de Actas del Cabildo 1 (1545-52), fols. 152V-153V, Archivo Departamental del Cusco (hereafter ADC).


Domingo Angulo, ed., “Libro original que contiene la fundación del monesterio de monxas de señora Sta. Clara desta cibdad del Cuzco; por el qual consta ser su patrono el insigne Cabildo, Justicia y Reximiento desta dicha cibdad: año de 1560,” Revista del Archivo Nacional del Perú 11 (1939): 55-56, 64.


Libro de Actas del Cabildo 1 (1545 – 52), fol. 153, ADC. His word choice indicates a move to right something gone wrong. Sebastián de Covarrubias, in his 1611 dictionary Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española, ed. Martín de Riquer (Barcelona: Ed. Alta Fulla, 1987), defines “remediar” as follows: “socorrer alguna cosa que yva mal; ... de allí se dixo remedio, el medio que se pone para reparar algún daño.”


Angulo, “Libro original,” 59-60.


Ibid., 60; emphasis mine.


Ibid., 61.


Evangelization has long been figured as (Spanish male) conquest and penetration of the Andes, a story in which women played little part; see Fernando de Armas Medina, Cristianización del Perú, 1532-1600 (Seville: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1953); and Rubén Vargas Ugarte, Historia de la Iglesia en el Perú, 5 vols. (Lima; Burgos: Impr. Santa María; Impr. de Aldecoa, 1953-62), vols. 1 and 2. Recent work emphasizes women’s part in Andean efforts both to resist Christianity and to harness its powers in ways missionaries never intended. See Steve J. Stern, Peru’s Indian Peoples and the Challenge of Spanish Conquest: Huamanga to 1640 (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 51-67; María Emma Mannarelli, “Inquisición y mujeres: las hechiceras en el Perú durante el siglo XVII,” Revista Andina 3 (1985): 141-55; and Irene Silverblatt, Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), 197-210. But the gendered metaphor of penetration is far from being revised out of existence, and thus Polo can still surprise us: he can envision evangelization otherwise, as a reproductive process with Spanish women among its agents.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 61-62, 80.


The pioneering work of James Lockhart in Spanish Peru, 1532-1560: A Colonial Society (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1968) noted the vital role of Spanish women in creating a “precocious civil society” (p. 9) in the urban centers of the new viceroyalty. In a valuable chapter on “Spanish Women and the Second Generation” (pp. 150-70), Lockhart discusses the acculturating role of the first religious institutions for women, as well as the awkward position of mestizos. But he does not explore the threat mestizo sons represented to the Spaniards, noting only that “ [a]t all levels, more care was lavished on mestizo girls than boys . . . and indeed, with men more numerous in [the Spanish] population than women, they were more needed” (p. 169).


Angulo, “Libro original,” 55-95, 157-84. Angulo did not work from the book itself but from a copy of a copy that was bound into the protocolos of Cuzco notary Juan de Pineda. This “original” copy, which contains some marginal notations that do not appear in Angulo’s transcription, can be found in ADC, Protocolos Notariales, Juan de Pineda, año 1656, fols. 621-74.


Given the scarcity of archival sources, it is impossible to determine the number of culturally “Spanish” women (mestizas, Spaniards, and criollas) living in Cuzco ca. 1560. Thus my argument turns on the significance of the mestizas as a form of cultural capital, and that of the convent as a gendered response to the 1560s crisis of encomenderos’ authority.


My approach has been inspired by the work of many feminist historians and theorists of race and gender, including Louise Newman’s forthcoming study of intersecting discourses of race and gender in the history of the United States women’s movement and the work of Joan Wallach Scott, whose Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1988) my title acknowledges.


For some of the issues in play and a new, text-sensitive reading of them, see Patricia Seed, “ ‘Failing to Marvel’: Atahualpa’s Encounter with the Word,” Latin American Research Review 26, no. 1 (1991): 7-32.


James Lockhart, The Men of Cajamarca: A Social and Biographical Study of the First Conquerors of Peru (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1972), 97, specifies the amount of treasure Maldonado received. John Hemming, The Conquest of the Incas (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1970), 558 n, 597 n, mentions Atahualpa’s sister in footnotes.


Pero Sancho, La relación de Pero Sancho. Traducción, estudio preliminar y notas de Luis A. Arocena (Buenos Aires: Ed. Plus Ultra, 1986), 135.


Pedro de Cieza de León, Crónica del Perú, primera parte, 2d ed., ed. Franklin Pease G.Y. (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 1986), 258, went on: “El Cuzco tuvo gran manera y calidad, deuió ser fundada por gente de gran ser.”


Noble David Cook, Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520-1620 (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1981), 38-40, 211-19, estimates that by 1530 the “population cluster” of Cuzco held 150,000 to 200,000 people.


Raúl Porras Barrenechea provides records of Cuzco’s Spanish foundation in “Dos documentos esenciales sobre Francisco Pizarro y la conquista del Perú,” Revista Histórica 17 (1948): 74-95. By then the rituals and institutions of Spanish city foundation had been firmly established; see Constantino Bayle, Los cabildos seculares en la América española (Madrid: Sapientia, 1952). Typically each vecino received a solar in town and land for crops. For an account of the repartimiento de solares that took place in Cuzco on 29 Oct. 1534, see Raúl Rivera Serna, ed., “Libro primero de cabildos de la ciudad del Cuzco,” Documenta (Lima) 4 (1965): 468-73.


The earliest published accounts of the Incas—one anonymous, another by Francisco de Xerez—appeared in Seville in 1534; see Xerez, Verdadera relación de la conquista del Perú, ed. Concepción Bravo (Madrid: Historia 16, 1985), 28-29.


The kurakazgo was a kinship-based unit of labor mobilization and tribute collection with deep Andean roots, predating the Inca empire. Suidies of kuraka-encomendero relations include Rafael Varón Gabai, Curacas y encomenderos: acomodamiento nativo en Huaraz, siglos XVI-XVII (Lima: P. L. Villanueva, 1980); Karen Spalding, Huarochirí: An Andean Society under Inca and Spanish Rule (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1984); and Stern, Peru’s Indian Peoples.


As disease ravaged the indigenous population and tribute income shrank, encomiendas finally were not worth fighting for in Peru. Still, encomiendas survived in one form or another until the eighteenth century; see Silvio Zavala, La encomienda indiana, 2d rev. ed. (Mexico City: Ed. Porrúa, 1973), 244-55; and josé de la Puente Brunke, Encomienda y encomenderos en el Perú: estudio social y político de una institución colonial (Seville: Excma. Diputación Provincial de Sevilla, 1992).


Cook, Demographic Collapse, 211-19, discusses the impact of war, disease, migration, and exploitative labor arrangements on the population of Cuzco. In comparison to the coast, “Cuzco was a healthier place for the Indian to live” (p. 217).


De la Puente, Encomienda y encomenderos, 337-82, gives details on Cuzco’s encomiendas and their value. See also the tables in Zavala, La encomienda indiana, 238-39. Cuzco easily surpassed other regions in annual tribute and number of tributaries. For example, in 1561, 77,000 tributaries from Cuzco gave goods worth 377,000 pesos (just over 30% of the total tribute value for that year of 1,226,676 pesos); in 1591 a total of 74,977 tributaries gave goods worth the equivalent of 380,835 pesos (25% of the total tribute value of 1,506,290 pesos). In both years La Plata (Charcas) was the second most important source of tribute income, contributing approximately 15% of total tribute in 1561 and 13% in 1591.


See Efraín Trelles Aréstegui’s excellent study of an encomendero’s path to wealth in Arequipa, Lucas Manínez Vegazo: funcionamiento de una encomienda peruana inicial (Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 1982). No such studies exist for Cuzco, but Stern, Peru’s Indian Peoples, 31-33, 41-42, gives fascinating glimpses of the means Diego Maldonado used to become “el Rico” in these years, cultivating kurakas with gifts and favors. José Antonio del Busto Duthurburu, in “Maldonado, el Rico, Señor de los Andahuaylas,” Revista Histórica 26 (1962-63): 130, shows an abusive side to Maldonado’s dealings with kurakas.


Fray Vicente de Valverde v. Francisco González, 22 Jan. 1539, and v. Juan Begines, 8 Feb. 1539, Archivo General de Indias (hereafter AGI), Seville, Audiencia de Lima, 305. In a 1539 letter to the crown, in Luis Torres de Mendoza, ed., Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y colonización de las posesiones españolas en América y Oceanía (hereafter CDIAO), 48 vols. (Madrid: Impr. de Manuel G. Hernández, 1864-84), 3: 119, Valverde reported the Spaniards’ animosity toward him. The crown responded with a decree in 1541 that Indian women held by Spaniards be placed in the care of married Spanish women “para que allí tomen buenas costumbres y puedan salir casadas y sirvan a Dios, y que al que se casare con alguna dellas, se les diese con que se sustentar.” Richard Konetzke, ed., Colección de documentos para la historia de la formación social de Hispanoamérica, 1493-1810, 3 vols. (hereafter CDFS) (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1953-62), 1:208-9. See also the order that the daughters of Huayna Cápac in Cuzco be given dowries to marry honorably; clearly the intention is that they marry Spaniards. Ibid., 1:208-9.


CDFS, 1:12-13. Note the contrast between this 1503 instrucción and one of 1516 (1:64) in which the instrumentality of marriage is perceived in much more specific, political terms. The clergy are instructed that if any Spanish man should want to marry a cacica, “o hija de cacique a quien pertenece la sucesión por falta de varones,” they should be married, and the Spaniard should then become cacique “porque desta manera muy presto podrán ser todos los caciques españoles y se excusarán muchos gastos”(!).


See ibid., 1:182, 187, 193, for measures imposing this requirement on encomenderos in various parts of the Americas.


Garcilaso states in the second part of his Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru, trans. Harold V Livermore (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1966), 734, that “in the early days, when an Indian woman bore a child to a Spaniard, all her relatives respected and served the Spaniard like an idol, since he had joined their family. This was of great help in pushing forward the conquest of the Indies.”


Encomenderos aspired to noble status in the emerging Spanish-Andean society of Cuzco, something many of them could not have attained back home. The growing Spanish obsession with “purity of blood”—i.e., an “old Christian” ancestry, with no recent converts from Judaism or Islam in one’s family tree—may have made encomenderos averse to marrying Inca women, who were themselves new converts. But the chance to marry into Inca wealth could prevail over cultural differences, as the case of the Inca doña Beatriz Clara Coya, discussed below, clearly shows.


The account of an Inca “princess” obliged to marry a plebeian Spaniard, in Royal Commentaries, 1229-30, suggests Inca women’s anger at such treatment—and Garcilaso’s own. His father had left his mother in this fashion, arranging her marriage to an undistinguished Spaniard before taking as his wife doña Luisa Martel de los Ríos.


Garcilaso, Royal Commentaries, 607.


Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 167, states that “ninety-five per cent of the first generation of mestizos were illegitimate.” Because “the few legitimate mestizos . . . were accepted fully as equals,” he continues, “the Spanish may have considered illegitimacy to be a more serious blemish than mixture with Indians.” This point raises fascinating questions that merit research: Spanish and Inca acceptance (how defined?) of the children of what Lockhart calls “racial mixture” may well have varied from one place and period to another, as this study of the early years of Santa Clara in Cuzco suggests.


Vargas Ugarte, Historia de la Iglesia, 1:310, cites Dominican friar Domingo de Santo Tomás, who made such recommendations in a 1550 letter he wrote from Lima to the Council of the Indies. For mestizas, he clearly had in mind the Spanish model of the recogimiento, a place of “recollection” where women might live secluded from the secular world, though not bound by solemn monastic vows. On the concept and practice of recogimiento, see Nancy van Deusen, Dentro del cerco de los muros: el recogimiento en la época colonial (Lima: Centro de Documentación sobre la Mujer, 1988).


According to del Busto, “Maldonado, el Rico,” 127-28, 142 n, Juan Arias Maldonado fought in several major battles and saved his father’s life in 1554 during the battle of Chuquingua.


Diego de Esquivel y Navia, Noticias cronológicas de la gran ciudad del Cuzco, 2 vols. (Lima: Fundación Augusto N. Wiese, 1980), 1:157. The minutes of the cabildo do not report that this provisión was the catalyst for the creation of Santa Clara, but the timing suggests that it was.


Libro de Actas del Cabildo 1 (1545-52), fols. 153-54, ADC. The purchased and donated properties are described as being near the outskirts of Cuzco, alongside the road leading out of the city, “junto a do dizen chaquylchaca.” Esquivel y Navia, Noticias cronológicas, 1:157, elaborates: “el paraje nombrado Chaquilchaca (frontero a la parroquia de Santiago).”


Armas Medina, Cristianización del Perú, 135-72.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 55. Little is known about Ortiz, who was the widow of Juan de Retes, an even more obscure figure. Cristóbal Bermúdez Plata, ed., Catálogo de pasajeros a Indias durante los siglos XVI, XVIIy XVIII. . ., 3 vols. (Seville: Impr. Ed. de la Gavidia, 1940-46), 2:251, indicates that in 1538 a certain Juan de Retes was about to embark for Florida. Other items (2:329, 3:216) suggest that both Ortiz and Retes came from Ayala, a town in the northern Iberian province of Alava. According to Diego de Mendoza, Chrónica de la provincia de S. Antonio de los Charcas (La Paz: Ed. Casa Municipal de la Cultura Franz Tamayo, 1976), 377, Ortiz attended the poor in the hospital of Espíritu Santo dressed as a Franciscan tertiary. This hospital, better known as the “hospital de los naturales,” was founded in 1556; see Esquivel y Navia, Noticias cronológicas, 1:180-82.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 56, gives 16 Mar. 1557 as the date on which the cabildo decided to request authorization from the crown. Meanwhile, the cabildo performed its own formal foundation ceremony in 1558. When authorization was obtained, a second set of founding acts took place in 1560.


La Encarnación was formed as a recogimiento under Augustinian auspices in 1557. In 1561 it was raised to the rank of monastery, becoming Lima’s first convent for women. See Antonio de la Calancha, Crónica moralizada, 6 vols., ed. Ignacio Prado Pastor (Lima: Univ. Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1976), 3:969-73; and Lourdes Leiva Viacava, “En tomo al primer monasterio limeño en el virreinato del Perú, 1550-1650,” in El monacato femenino en el imperio español: monasterios, beateríos, recogimientos y colegios, ed. Manuel Ramos Medina (Mexico City: Centro de Estudios de Historia de México CONDUMEX, 1995), 319-30.


San Juan de la Penitencia was founded in 1553 by three propertied residents of Lima specifically to care for orphaned mestizas. See Nancy van Deusen, “Los primeros recogimientos para doncellas mestizas en Lima y Cusco, 1550-1580,” Allpanchis 35/36 (1990): 249-91.


Calancha, Crónica moralizada, 3:970-72; Leiva, “En torno al primer monasterio limeño,” 322.


See, for example, the work of Elizabeth Lehfeldt, “Sacred and Secular Spaces: The Role of Religious Women in Golden-Age Valladolid” (Ph.D, diss., Indiana Univ., 1995).


The cabildo of Arequipa was quite explicit about this at the founding of Santa Catalina; see Dante E. Zegarra López, Monasterio de Santa Catalina de Sena de Arequipa y doña Ana de Monteagudo, priora (Arequipa: Corporación Departamental de Desarrollo de Arequipa, 1985), 24.


See the real cédula of 19 Nov. 1551, which gave encomenderos three years in which to marry and take their wives to Peru; CDIAO, 18:16-18.


Del Busto, “Maldonado, el Rico,” 128.


According to Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 167, Maldonado “married his daughter to a Spanish don, with a dowry of 20,000 pesos.” It is possible she was educated by Francisca de Ortiz prior to the formal foundation of Santa Clara, but Maldonado’s daughter does not appear in the list of mestiza residents in the “Libro original.”


Angulo, “Libro original.”


Ibid., 161.


This conclusion can be reached by reading between the lines of the libro de la fundación. Whoever kept it—probably Francisca de Ortiz—registered Spaniards’ identity saliently; see the three entries of Spaniards, ibid., 89, 160-61. In December 1565, the cabildo noted that all the Spaniards who had professed had brought no dowry (ibid., 72). Only four of the eighteen professed nuns are listed as having brought no dowry, and two of these four are clearly marked as “Spaniards.” This suggests that sixteen of the nuns, fourteen with a dowry and two without, were mestizas.


Ibid., 89.


The information about doña Beatriz that follows is drawn primarily from María Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, “El repartimiento de doña Beatriz Clara Coya en el valle de Yucay,” Historia y Cultura (Lima) 4 (1970): 153-58; Hemming, Conquest of the Incas, 297-300, 311-14, 459-61; and official correspondence in Roberto Levillier, ed., Gobernantes del Perú: cartas y papeles, siglo XVI: documentos del Archivo de Indias, 14 vols. (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1921-26), vol. 3.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 158.


Sons of an obscure “doctor buendia,” Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 3:156, 162, 229, the brothers are also called “relatives” of Diego Maldonado’s mestizo son, Juan Arias Maldonado, but the kinship connection is unclear. Since all three were implicated in the 1567 “mestizo mutiny” described below, it is often assumed that the brothers were mestizos, but they do not appear as such in official reports, while Juan Arias Maldonado does.


Hemming’s translation, Conquest of the Incas, 312, citing Castro’s letter to the crown in Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 3:156.


Maldonado was forcibly returned to Spain, and doña Beatriz Clara Coya went to Chile with her husband, who had been made governor. In Concepción they had a daughter, doña Ana María. Loyola was killed in 1598 and his wife lived thereafter in Lima, where she died in 1600. Her descendants became the marqueses de Oropesa; see Rostworowski, “El repartimiento de doña Beatriz Clara Coya,” 157-58; Hemming, Conquest of the Incas, 459-61.


No reliable figures exist on the number of Spanish women in Cuzco, but Lockhart estimates in Spanish Peru, 152, that in the entire viceroyalty there may have been only 150 to 200 Spanish women by 1541, 300 to 400 by 1543, and about 1,000 by 1555. This population was concentrated in the coastal cities, but by midcentury some Spanish women had made it to Cuzco despite the ongoing warfare, most no doubt wives and relatives of encomenderos. See Garcilaso’s dramatic account in Royal Commentaries, 1318-21, of an encomendero’s wedding banquet in 1553, interrupted by a major rebellion that sent the guests clambering for the rooftops.


Armas Medina, Cristianización del Perú, 396-98; Vargas Ugarte, Historia de la Iglesia, 1:311-13.


According to Hemming, Conquest of the Incas, 312 n, María was “seduced and abducted by one Juan Baptista de Vitoria while a novice in the convent,” married the obscure Vitoria, and was disinherited by her father. Hemming (p. 509) indicates a second marriage to Gaspar Hernández. I am grateful to John H. Rowe for telling me about ms. A155 in the Biblioteca Nacional, Lima, which documents that in July 1566, Betanzos forgave his daughter and gave her back her inheritance.


This may have been the case with “Ana,” who figures in Angulo, “Libro original,” 82, merely as the orphan daughter of “Diego Fernández.” Since sixteenth-century documents and transcriptions of them frequently interchange “Fernández” and “Hernández” (and Angulo made his share of such mistakes), Ana’s father may have been Diego Hernández. If so, she may have been the daughter of a very high-ranking Inca, Beatriz Huayllas Ñusta, also known as doña Beatriz Coya (see note 30 above). Or she may have been the child of another encomendero of the same name; see de la Puente, Encomienda y encomenderos, 423.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 69.


Constituciones generales para todas las monjas, y religiosas sujetas a la obediencia de la orden de N. P. S. Francisco, en toda esta familia cismontana (Mexico City: Impr. de la viuda de Francisco Rodríguez Lupercio, 1689), fol. 58, prohibits servants (freylas donadas) from wearing the black veil.


I allude here to the acerbic debates then coming to a head on the other side of the Atlantic between Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, over the proposition that “Indians” were, in Aristotelian terms, “natural slaves,” hence fit to be conquered and distributed in encomienda. Anthony Pagden, in The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982), summarizes various debaters’ positions.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 160-61.


I am not suggesting that Francisca de Jesús and her companions acted in accordance with racialized practices of today, but pointing to an especially fluid moment in the South American prehistory of “race” that still needs to be investigated. Here legitimacy appears to be relativized, and other things—such as a new conversion to the faith—may have made mestizas seem less than “authoritative” in Spaniards’ eyes. This rhetoric of autoridad is far from clear; likewise the role physical appearance played in late-sixteenth-century acts of discrimination.


Ibid., 71. They made their petition “en nombre de toda la cibdad con mucha ynstancia, agraviándose mucho de la dha. división y diferencia de velos y profesión.”


Ibid. The record does not indicate who was behind the division: the abbess Francisca Ortiz, the nuns, or an alliance between the abbess and the Spanish nuns. Nor is it clear whether the protest originated from within Santa Clara, with the demoted mestizas, or with their fathers, certainly in a state of heightened anxiety about their own status and that of their mestizo children.


The cabildo prevailed upon the Franciscan provincial to decree that nuns wearing the white veil be allowed to take the black veil, “sin que se les ponga en ello rresistencia alguna” (ibid., 72 -73). This passage suggests that the male Franciscans of Cuzco may have had a hand in imposing the white veil on mestizas; they certainly didn’t oppose this practice prior to 1565. Unfortunately, no evidence is available for the years following the 1565 decision, so it is impossible to tell whether the cabildo’s pressure succeeded in promoting any wearers of the white veil to the black veil.


The Third Council of Peruvian bishops in Lima (1582-83) also decided in favor of the equality of mestizas—but to little avail; Rubén Vargas Ugarte, ed., Concilios limenses (7557-17727, 3 vols. (Lima: Tipografía Peruana, 1951-54), 1:358.


Marvin Goldwert gives an excellent account of this crucial struggle in “La lucha por la perpetuidad de las encomiendas en el Perú virreinal, 1550-1600,” parts 1 and 2, Revista Histórica 22 (1955-56): 350-60; 23 (1957-58): 207-20. See also de la Puente, Encomienda y encomenderos, 78-95.


For an idea of the extreme complexity of the issues they were trying to resolve, and the centrality of marriage and reproduction, see “Consulta del Consejo de Indias . . . acerca de la perpetuidad de los repartimientos en el Perú,” Valladolid, 1556, in CDFS, 1:240–60.


John V Murra gives interesting details in ‘“Nos Hazen Mucha Ventaja’: The Early European Perception of Andean Achievement,” in Transatlantic Encounters: Europeans and Andeans in the Sixteenth Century, eds. Kenneth J. Andrien and Rolena Adorno (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991), 79-83.


A judge (oidor) from the Audiencia of Lima, Dr. Cuenca, was sent to Cuzco when a mutiny against the encomenderos threatened to break out in 1561. His report of 30 Apr. 1563 appears in Roberto Levillier, ed., Audiencia de Lima: correspondencia de presidentes y oidores (Madrid: Impr. de Juan Pueyo, 1922), 294-99. An October 1563 petition to the king by the cabildo of Cuzco (AGI, Audiencia de Lima, 110) shows that agitation over perpetual titles to encomiendas was far from over.


Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 1:422.


Letter of Lie. Monzón to the crown, Lima, 10 Feb. 1563, in Levillier, Audiencia de Lima, 285.


Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 1:521. Viceroy conde de Nieva then reminded his monarch that he had not yet received authorization to go through with the deals he had made. He noted that encomenderos had not been interested in individual deal making as long as the prospect of perpetual tide to encomiendas existed, but had recently begun to change their minds.


The documentation on the incident is found in AGI, Justicia, 1086, and serves as the basis for a brief but fascinating article by Hector López Martínez, “Un motín de mestizos en el Perú (1567),” Revista de Indias 24 (1964): 367-81.


According to del Busto, “Maldonado, el Rico,” 131-32, Maldonado did obtain his son’s release. But López Martínez, “Un motín de mestizos,” 380-81, indicates that Juan Arias Maldonado was exiled to Spain, where in 1578 he petitioned the crown to be allowed to return to Peru. ADC, Testimonios Compulsos, leg. 1, contains testimony that in 1583 Juan Arias Maldonado made a will in Panama while on his return from exile. Garcilaso records in his Royal Commentaries that his mestizo contemporary died within three days of arriving in Peru “of pure joy and pleasure at being back in his own country” (p. 1476).


Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 3:235. In this letter of February 1567, Castro complains about mestizos and mulattos; in other letters he complains about mestizos and criollos, or simply “those born in these lands.”


Levillier, Gobernantes del Perú, 3:267. Castro begins this passage of his September 1567 letter by referring to mestizos and mulattos, but the context makes it clear that he regards mestizos as an especially potent threat. Philip II responded with a 1568 decree, cited in CDFS, 436-37, that mestizos and mulattos not be allowed to bear arms.


See the records of cabildo sessions from April 1571 to 1 Jan. 1572, in AGI, Audiencia de Lima, 110.


Nevertheless, as de la Puente shows in Encomienda y encomenderos, 85–94, the encomenderos of Cuzco made efforts to reopen the case for perpetual titles well into the seventeenth century.


ADC, Protocolos Notariales, Antonio Sánchez, años 1571-72, fols. 538-49v, contains Diego Maldonado’s poder para testar in which he names Juan Arias as his natural son by doña Lucía (“en quien yo lo hube siendo ambos solteros”—emphasis mine), and makes him heir to an extensive entail. ADC, Testimonios Compulsos, leg. I contains incomplete records of a 1583 suit between Juan Arias’s children over succession in the entail. Seventeenth-century documentation shows that Maldonado’s heirs to this mayorazgo continued to play a salient role in Cuzco’s affairs for generations.


I am grateful to Jennifer Baszile for raising this important point.


By the early seventeenth century the categories of velo negro and velo blanco had been firmly inscribed in conventual practice not only in Cuzco but elsewhere. On convent hierarchies in Cuzco, see Kathryn Jane Burns, “Convents, Culture, and Society in Cuzco, Peru, 1550-1865” (Ph.D, diss., Harvard Univ., 1995), 139-47. For Lima, see Luis Martín, Daughters of the Conquistadores: Women of the Viceroyalty of Peru (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1983), 179-92. Comparative work is needed to show what kinds of historically-specific boundaries these categories reinforced; to conclude simply that they reflect “racial discrimination” against mestizas (or women of color in general) would be anachronistic and ahistorical.


Both describe Santa Clara’s early entrants as doncellas nobles and daughters of conquistadores. They appear to have drawn on the same source, as they list almost exactly the same fundadoras and abbesses; see Mendoza, Chronica de la Provincia, 68-72, 377-474; and Diego de Córdova Salinas, Crónica franciscana de las provincias del Perú, ed. Lino G. Canedo (Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1957), 890-94.


See Burns, “Convents, Culture, and Society,” 89-98, 127-33.


Angulo, “Libro original,” 168. After Francisca de Jesús the next two abbesses of Santa Clara were Spaniards: Clara de San Francisco served two terms (1576-79 and 1579-82) before being succeeded by Bernardina de Jesús (1582-85). While the libro de la fundación is unclear on the identity of the twenty-five women professing during the tenure of these two abbesses (and the list is truncated at 1583), ten are “doñas” and may well have been criolla daughters of important Spaniards. This was certainly the case with doña Mencía, and appears to be true of the two Villafuerte sisters and the two Sotelo sisters (pp. 166-67).


See Elizabeth Anne Kuznesof, “Ethnic and Gender Influences on ‘Spanish’ Creole Society in Colonial Spanish America,” Colonial Latin American Review 4 (1995): 153-76, for a fascinating discussion that seeks to historicize race by investigating the category of “creole.” Race is used by Kuznesof in confusing ways that reveal the difficulty she encountered in setting aside modern usage. For example, she indicates Spanish colonial usage associated “race” (for which no Spanish keyword is provided) with “civilization” and “genetic characteristics” (p. 164), a set of discursive connections that sounds altogether modern. Yet she is among the first historians of colonial Spanish America to treat race as “a social category” (p. 165) rather than as a self-evident, transhistorical category, and to use gender analysis in the process.