Colonial Modernity in the Andes: A Comprehensive Study of Viceroy Toledo's General Resettlement



Colonial Modernity in the Andes: A Comprehensive Study of Viceroy Toledo's General Resettlement


From April 2015 to March 2020 (five years)


Akira Saito, professor of anthropology at the Nacional Museum of Ethnology and the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Japan


This project is sponsored by the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan and Vanderbilt University, USA on the basis of an affiliation agreement between them, entered as of January 15, 2016, for a period of five years.


Scientific Research (A) Grant Number 15H01911, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)


The policy of forced resettlement (reducción) is regarded as one of the most drastic colonization measures implemented by Spain in its American colonies. It required widely scattered and small indigenous settlements to consolidate into larger, planned towns. The ideological motive underlying this policy was the idea, rooted in classical tradition, that men were “social animals” who could become fully human only by living in an urban setting and forming an orderly republic. In Spanish America, this policy was implemented over a vast territory by civil and ecclesiastical agents to further political control, economic exploitation and evangelization. Among all the resettlement projects, that of the fifth viceroy of Peru, Francisco de Toledo, is distinguished by its large scale, drastic measures, wide repercussions, and deep and lasting impacts. Between 1570 and 1575, Toledo made an inspection tour through the extensive jurisdictions of the High Courts of Lima and Charcas, where, using appointed inspectors, he made a detailed census of the native population, assessed taxes and built new towns (reducciones). The census, produced at the end of his inspection tour, lists a population of 1.4 million distributed in more than 850 towns.

This research project aims to produce a comprehensive picture of the Toledo's resettlement policy. It is based on the results of an earlier project entitled Resettlement Policy and its Effects on Native Society in Spanish South America: A Comparative Study, also funded by KAKENHI during the period 2010-2013 ( That project examined in detail changes resulting from resettlement schemes at the sites where they were implemented. Earlier studies on this topic emphasized idealized norms and abstract models, rather than concrete resultant changes. Consequently, more became known about what bureaucrats and clergymen in Madrid or Lima hoped to realize rather than what was actually achieved. That earlier project aimed to counterbalance such lopsided results. Examination of hitherto unstudied textual records and excavation of abandoned reducciones yielded a more accurate understanding of the process of implementation of resettlement schemes and their effects on native society. At present, a book is being prepared on the results of that earlier project (Reducciones: la concentración forzada de las poblaciones indígenas en el virreinato del Perú, edited by Akira Saito and Claudia Rosas Lauro). It will contain 16 contributions covering the different regions of Spanish South America. With this previous project now completed, the reality of reducciones can be better understood. However, the bottom-up approach adopted in that project did not capture a broad perspective. A wider vision will be attainable through this new project, because it employs methodological resources that permit expansion of the horizons of study.

The new project will make comparisons on three different levels. Concretely, it attempts to compare:

(1) different regional cases on the implementation of the viceroy's policy to clarify its general characteristics, while accounting for its full geographical extent;
(2) Toledo's reform with other such reforms conducted elsewhere in Spanish America to determine its significance in the history of Spanish colonization; and
(3) Toledo's policy with other measures of state intervention in the Iberian Peninsula to place it in the entire political landscape of the Spanish monarchy during the modern era.

For the comparisons of the first level, topics must be selected. These will include the following:

(a) Urban planning and architecture: the physical characteristics of the reducciones; the architectural and artistic features of their churches; the reuse of prehispanic sites and monuments; the reworking of urban space by indigenous people, etc.
(b) Space and territory: site selection for the location of reducciones; changes in settlement patterns; forms of landownership and land use, etc.
(c) Population: demographic change; ethnic and linguistic composition; flight of the native population and inflow of outsiders (forasteros); growth of non-indigenous population in the reducciones, etc.
(d) Socio-political organization: the nature of articulation between the reducciones and other socio-political organizations (corregimiento, repartimiento, guaranga, parcialidad and ayllu); transformation of local leaders (corregidores, encomenderos, curacas and mandones), etc.
(e) Economy: taxes; corvée labor (mita); community treasury (caja de comunidad) and other kinds of public property; participation of indigenous people in the market economy, etc.
(f) Religion: church organization; liturgical and ceremonial life in the reducciones; extirpation of idolatry; spread of confraternities; creation of the Andean Catholicism, etc.

Geographic Information System (GIS) is expected to be a particularly useful tool for the comparisons of this level, because it permits integration of a large amount of data from diverse regions into digital maps, and facilitates elucidation of general characteristics without loss of the detailed particularities of each region. For a creative use of GIS, this project will collaborate with another project entitled “Deep Mapping the Reducción: Building a Platform for Spatial Humanities Collaboration on the General Resettlement of Indians in the Viceroyalty of Peru”. Directed by Steven A. Wernke and having received a grant-in-aid from the National Endowment for the Humanities, that project attempts to create geospatial databases and locate all reducciones on digital maps. Despite methodological differences, the two projects share major substance and objectives, such that this cooperation will have a synergistic effect.

On the second level of comparison, the following regions will be focused on:

(a) The Viceroyalty of New Spain before and after Toledo's administration (resettlement schemes of the mendicant orders, those of the viceroys Luis de Velasco and Gaspar de Zeñiga y Acevedo, etc.).
(b) The Viceroyalty of Peru before and after Toledo's administration (resettlement schemes of the mendicant orders, the doctrinas of Juli, El Cercado of Lima, etc.).
(c) The Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata after Toledo's administration (especially the Guaraní missions of the Society of Jesus).

Finally, the following topics will be examined to make comparisons on the third level:

(a) Ideological background: theories of state and political power in modern Spain; genealogy of ideas about urban planning and urbanity; thoughts about civilization and barbarism, etc.
(b) Ethnographic experiment: Spanish view of non-Western societies and cultures; collusion between power and knowledge under Spanish imperialism, etc.
(c) Absolute power: construction of an absolutist monarchy in modern Spain; changes in the relationship between the crown and the municipalities; control of ethnic and religious minorities (Jews, Moors and Romanis), etc.
(d) Community structure: transplanting of the Spanish community model to the Americas; comparison between the Spanish municipalities and the American reducciones; relationships between Spanish cities and Indian towns in the Americas, etc.

It should be added that it is intended to clarify not only the significance of Toledo's policy in the history of Spanish colonization in the Americas, but also its implications for world history. On this point, knowledge is scant. Some researchers have argued that the Spanish resettlement policy is a precursor of the “modern” techniques of government that make it possible to monitor all aspects of subjects' lives, to impose a strict discipline on their movements and thoughts, and to regulate their public and private activities. Others have maintained that the resettlement policy is part of a long historical process dating back to the late Middle Ages, in which the community model first appeared and became widespread as a basic social unit for both individuals and states. In this sense, the resettlement policy could be regarded as a promoter of municipal autonomy. Are these two arguments compatible? How can the apparent contradiction between the ambition of an absolutist monarchy for the hegemonic control of its subjects and the promotion of self-government and freedom for the municipalities be resolved? To answer these questions it is necessary to compare Toledo's policy with other measures of state intervention in Europe and its overseas territories, and to clarify its global significance. This forms an integral part of the intended achievements of the research project.

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