Posted: September 18th, 2017
You are a young indigenous woman, Isabel Choquema, in 1750. With your husband, Juan Colque, you have two small children. You all come from the reducción pueblo (town) of San Pedro de Condocondo, but this year your husband is fulfilling his labor obligation to the king in the mita of Potosí. All of you have moved to a small house in the Potosí parish/neighborhood of San Bernardo, where you live near many other families from Condocondo, and not far away, many more from many other regions of Peru. Juan spends Monday through Saturday as a laborer in the silver mine belonging to a Spaniard, and on Sundays and holidays (and during night shifts), also works for himself, as a member of the Q’aqcha guild. For most of the past year, you have worked as an employee in a chichería, making and serving chicha beer to other Indians, but also to Spaniards and Africans and Castas. You make very little money for your work, but have seen that the owner of the chichería, the india criolla (born in the city) Francisca Acarapi, is quite well-to-do, has become a member of several confraternities and has even written a will to make sure her children inherit her business, goods, and money. Quite sick of trying to eke by on the meager wages you and your husband earn, and worried about your future, since you know that once you return to your small farm and herd of llamas in Condocondo, only a few years will pass before Juan is called once again to work in the mita, and there will not be time to increase your herd and store enough of your potato and quinoa crops to buy his way out of serving yet another year in the mines of Potosí by becoming an indio de faltriquera, a ‘pocket-book indian’.
Deciding that you cannot face repeating the mita, and in spite of the fact that you will dearly miss your kin in Condocondo and the collective life there in your ayllu (Ilave), with its impassioned devotions to San Pedro, you have decided not to return to Condocondo. You have been weighing the alternative lives that appear to be open to you. Juan gets to rest from mine work next week, and you rehearse what you will say to him when you get a chance to speak at length.
You see two possible options. On the one hand, you could change into the clothing of the indios criollos, travel on back roads to the mining city of Oruro where no-one knows you, and while Juan (now an experienced miner) works in mines there, for much better wages, you could open your own chichería, as humble as it might be. On the other hand, you could take another route out of town, travel to a different reducción de indios, perhaps Santiago de Pumpuri (where, you have heard, there is a miraculous image of Santiago), and, becoming forasteros (outsiders) there, go on with your farming and herding life, freed (because of your outsider status) from obligations to the mita. The cacique (Indian Governor) of Macha has invited you to do so, and promised you access to fields and pastures.
Of course, you worry that your family will be outcasts in either place, and that you will have no kin to fall back on. You are also concerned about the increasing pressure faced by chichería owners to move to the outskirts of town (because the Spaniards think them indecent places), and the negative slurs heaped on ‘indios criollos’ by the Spaniards. Likewise, you are worried that the cacique of Macha may not be as kind as he seems. Still, anything is better than facing the mita again. So you consider the ways that you and Juan and your children can become part of your new community (whether it is the city and mine and chichería work, or country and farm/herding work). While you will not be returning to a place where your umbilical cord is buried and your families’ wak’a shrines are rooted to the landscape, there are other ways of rooting yourself to the community: you think especially of the saints, of self-government and república, and of fictive kinship, which you have come to call the ‘three C’s’: Cofradía, Cabildo, and Compadrazgo (“confraternity, town-council, and co-Godparenthood).
Juan, who is preparing to take part in the Q’aqcha celebration of the crucifix Tata Q’aqcha during his week off, will only listen for a few minutes before he takes his first swig of chicha, so you must be concise as well as convincing. Although you will speak to him in your shared language, Aymara, your argument to him, when typed, will fill two pages (double spaced, with one inch margins, and in a readable 12 point type, and be between 550 and 700 words), and appear in beautifully crafted English, with carefully structured paragraphs that draw on pertinent details and arguments from a variety of readings up through those for Oct. 31st. Look carefully at the instructions for PPP’s on the syllabus. Submit stapled, with your name at the top of each page. References or citations on a third sheet.
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