Luis F. Calero provides a readable book on the biological and physical impact of Spain’s control over the Pastos, Quillacinga, and Abades chiefdoms that existed to the north of Inca domination. In a very useful first chapter on the physical and human environment, Calero points out the essential ecological characteristics of the northern Andes, beginning at Cajamarca and extending to the Venezuelan Paría peninsula. In contrast to the central Andes, local units of production were largely self-sufficient, and state formation in the form of local-level chiefdoms was successful. The primary area examined by Calero was administered through the town of Pasto, established in 1539. It was a well- watered district with relatively good soils, vertical economic resources, and a native population at contact of around 150,000. Various mineral deposits, especially gold, led to rapid settlement. Travel to Popayan to the north or Quito to the south, over broken terrain and often washed-out trails, was difficult, giving some isolation to the region and hence “freedom” from outside control. In fact, Calero argues, the region provides one of the strongest examples of opposition to outside domination and cultural persistence in the northern Andes. Calero suggests that the chiefdoms of the northern Andes were not as vulnerable to the negative impact of conquest as the preceding highly stratified state structures. Native resistance, however, seemed to be more limited to flight than to outright rebellion. Noncompliance with the law and the use of colonial courts were also venues for resistance.
Calero’s examination of the relation of land tenure and native production to tribute is insightful, and highlights significant regional differences. An important chapter on the land carefully examines the process of appropriation of native lands by outsiders. Depopulation by disease, and resettlement policies, facilitated European expansion onto native soil. Notable is the early concentration of power into the hands of the Pasto elite. Of 39 land grants in the period between 1564 and 1569, 25 went to encomenderos on the town council and 8 to members of the council without encomiendas; only 5 were given to outsiders. The cabildo elite was a relatively closed group in the sixteenth century, Calero notes, and the number of vecinos was small in comparison to the total number of Pasto residents. Agricultural units tended to prosper, especially those dedicated to wheat cultivation and, at lower elevations, sugarcane. Yet there were virtually no surveys or maps of the land grants, and natives suffered as a result. In the sixteenth century, sale of land by the Audiencia, in the form of composición de tierras realengas, was substantial. Areas surrounding administrative centers were those hit first and hardest by Spanish encroachments. In the seventeenth century, indigenous rental of land to Spaniards, in part to supply the former with cash for tribute payments, was increasingly common. In regard to rental or cash sale of land to Europeans, imperial legislation was inconsistent. But during the entire process, native society was increasingly tied to the European estancias. In this same chapter, via a study of the land capellanía, Calero provides one of the more interesting and useful descriptions of the church’s involvement in land at the local level. In the following chapter, Calero returns to tribute payment and demography, but with a chronological shift to the seventeenth century and a spatial shift to the Pacific lowlands. The process of decline seems to continue, with a nadir in the late seventeenth century. In a final chapter, the author summarizes the decline of the encomienda. By the seventeenth century land, rather than tribute, had become more important for the Spanish colonial elite.
Throughout Chiefdom under Siege, however, there is disconcerting lack of attention to detail that might have been picked up in careful editing of the manuscript. Calero’s comment that “the civil war between Huayna Capac and his brother Manco Capac, and, later, Atahualpa’s assassination and the subsequent collapse of the empire, prevented the consolidation of the Pasto region into Inca territory” (p. 24) shows an erroneous understanding of the history of Tawantinsuyu that should have been corrected. Further, in footnote 7 of chapter 2 we first encounter the visitador García Vaiverde, without any indication of the relevant source; in note 8 he is cited as García Vaiverde; in 13 as simply Vaiverde. It is not until note 17 that the author provides the location of the original document. There are also frequent inconsistencies. Calero writes that “in time, a growing number of families did not bother to request the extension of encomienda grants, no longer seeing them as productive or carrying social prestige” (p. 180). Yet in the concluding paragraph of the book he states that “the region’s geographic and political isolation from Spanish centers of government translated into a unique local history that included the preservation of the encomienda until late in the colonial period, long after it had died out in most parts of America” (p. 181). Furthermore, in a list of the religious orders charged with Indian doctrinas, Calero mentions “the order of San Pedro” (p. 175), which more appropriately refers to the secular clergy. Also (p. 180), Calero states that the media anata in the seventeenth century was a permanent annual tax on half the encomendero’s tribute income. Actually the media anata was only for the initial year of the grant; but the “tercias de encomiendas” existed annually after the initiation of this revenue measure on August 10, 1610.
Unfortunately, Calero tends to look at the local history of administration in Pasto alone, without developing the context of viceregal and royal policy at the macrolevel, centered in Lima and the seat of the Council of the Indies in Spain. The periodicity of the visitas generales, for example, can best be understood in the context of the viceroyalty, not conditions in southern Colombia. The recognition of the “significant and lasting” reforms undertaken in 1570 and 1571, as opposed to those of 1559, for example, can only be understood in terms of the work of Polo de Ondegardo and Juan de Matienzo, and the implementation of a systematic Indian policy by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo. In this case, therefore, imperial needs at the center were paramount, not what was happening at the periphery in Pasto. Likewise, in regard to the congregaciones policy of the inspector García de Vaiverde, Calero makes no reference to the settlement policies of Viceroy Toledo, of which the Pasto case was only one small part. The establishment of the cabildos de indios (pp. 68–69) was also Part of Toledo’s policy toward native Andeans. Nor is Toledo mentioned in regard to the institution of mita service. Calero suggests that the 1570 mita allotment for El Peñol was about one-fifth the tributary population (it was closer to one-sixth, 37 of 215). For Sibundoy it was near the Toledo norm of one-seventh (154 mitayos for 1,053 tributaries).
In conclusion, there is much of interest in this book for students of the diverse pasts of the Andean world in the critical century and a half after the arrival of the Europeans. There are important regional variations in the evolution of the relationship of Spanish and native society in South America, variations based on different ecological systems and different levels of culture and social organization. Calero is especially good when describing these variations, based on his long study of southern Colombia’s distinctive history. Yet there are errors of fact, and one wishes for a more careful editing of the manuscript that might have eliminated some of the more glaring blunders.