• That Which Belongs to All: Khipus, Community, and Indigenous Legal Activism in the Early Colonial Andes

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    In recent years, scholars from a variety of fields have advanced the idea that native legal activism worked as one of the most widespread and effective strategies for the defense of communal assets, political autonomy, and customary law in early colonial Peru. Indigenous claimants, petitioners, and legal intermediaries begin to appear in the historical record just ten years after the initial encounter at Cajamarca in 1532. After embracing Iberian legal culture in the early 1540s, individuals of noble Inca descent began to engage with local and metropolitan courts, preparing letters, reports, petitions, and proofs of services and merit aimed at securing their status within the new order. Native lords (caciques) and communities of non-Inca origin joined as active litigants and petitioners in the late 1540s, hiring advocates and solicitors and sending their own delegations to tend to their legal affairs in Lima, seat of a royal court of appeal. During the two decades that followed the promulgation of the New Laws (1542), which granted these courts of appeal or audiencias in the Americas the right to assess and revise Indian tributary quotas, Lima experienced an explosion of litigation by native polities requesting a reduction of their fiscal burdens and caciques seeking confirmation of their chiefly rank. Lawsuits pertaining to lands and pastures, town boundaries, and lordship (cacicazgo) rights soon ensued. In the early 1560s, the first Andean caciques crossed the Atlantic on behalf of their communities and reached the still-itinerant Habsburg court. Indigenous groups quickly became expert litigators in secular and ecclesiastical courts. Their legal activism continued unabated throughout the Habsburg era. Subject Terms: Huanca Indians -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- History Huanca Indians -- Politics and government Justice, Administration of -- Peru -- History Quipu -- Peru -- History Spain -- Colonies -- America -- Administration -- History
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    7 years ago
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