This essay explores the ways in which indigenous are described in the Chronicles written by Spanish and Hispanic American born chroniclers during the Spanish colonial period. The aim of this research is to show that even when the methods of research could seem similar (use of informants, interpretation of pictographic codes, etc.); the difference between the accounts written by Europeans, and those written by locals, was in the intention of their studies. While the first were looking for proofs to show that indigenous were individuals who had to be colonized, the second were looking for evidences to show that they were part of a civilization with an important tradition.
The arrival of the Spaniards to America was one of the most important events of the “Age of Discovery or Exploration”. During this period, European vessels sailed the seas around the world looking for new trade routes to develop and increase their power. The exploration and colonization of this “New World” was essential for the progress of important disciplines, such as cartography and geography, but also involved the subjugation of the indigenous in the name of civilization, religion, ethnocentrism and hegemonic ambitions.
In the specific case of the Spanish Monarchy, the supposed inferiority of the pagan indios was the best pretext to justify their conquest. Par consequence, ethnographic studies about the “savage” Amerindians were written by Spanish chroniclers, especially priest and royal emissaries, who tried to proof that indigenous were substandard human beings who needed to be controlled by superior people, like the Spaniards, who would help them to improve as Christians and as individuals. These views about the inferiority of indigenous were applied subsequently to the mestizos, criollos and to all those who were born in the Indias Occidentales, during the Spanish colonial period.
This article consists of two parts. In the first one, we have tried to analyse some of the main political motives and literary motifs that served to justify the American indigenous colonization: Providentialism; legendary archetypes; moral, religious and physiognomic inferiority. The second part, instead, pretends to offer an overview about the indigenous descriptions written by those who were born in the “New World”. Therefore, we have selected significant passages belonging to important chronicles recorded by intellectuals representing three different ethnic and social groups of in the colonial territories: criollos, mestizos and indios.
The aim of this article is to compare the indigenous descriptions done by Europeans and by locals in order to define the intention behind their imageries and to demonstrate that the struggle between colonizing and decolonizing intentions were born in America since the early colonial period.
1. Indigenous studied by Europeans
During the Spanish colonization of the Indias, hundreds of explorers, emissaries and missionaries wrote about the indios physical features and social interactions. These accounts tended to present unidimensional stereotypes of the indios. The encounter with “the other” led to attempts to explain, justify and interpret the origin of colonialism.
1.1. Providentialism as a factor of colonization
In order to advocate for colonization, Spaniards chosen to describe indigenous as uncivilized beings, as instruments of the evil, whose malevolence needed to be eradicated by the pious Catholics priest and the brave Spanish conquerors. Several Chroniclers as Fray Juan de Torquemada or Antonio Solís y Ribadeneira emphasized the fact that Indias’ conquest took place due to the providencialismo, namely, because God wanted to allow the conversion of its inhabitants.
According to Solis, indigenous sovereigns were instruments of iniquity; the chronicler focused his writings in the figure of Moctezuma, the ninth ruler of Tenochtitlán, who represents, in his account, the archetype of pretence and dissimulation (Rose, 2002, 255-257). Furthermore, the Spanish chronicler considers the encounter between Cortés and Moctezuma as a real proof of the contrast between civilization (Spain) and primitiveness (Indias), specifically as a battle between the Christian kindness and the evil paganism.
Miniature of Moctezuma II. George S. Stuart
The support of Deity was an excellent excuse for colonizing the others; in fact, Christopher Columbus also tried to give a messianic touch to his expeditions. His discovery was legalized by the sense that God had intervened unmistakably and decisively in human history, once again in favour of sinful but chosen people like the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. The great role of his heroic deed was similar to a crusade, since he was conquering a New Holy Land, even better, the new Terrestrial Paradise. With this intelligent comparison, Columbus attributed military and religious value to his expedition. In addition, he also pointed the economic benefits that his enterprise could bring to Spain:
I urged your Highness to spend all the profit of this, my enterprise, on the conquest of Jerusalem. And your Highness laughed. And said it would please you and even without that profit you would desire it.
The success of “Columbus’s crusade” provided impetus for pious Spanish Christians to take their evangelization efforts oversees and save the souls of the indios. For that reason, Catholic missionaries went to the pagan “New World” as representatives of the Gospel, but also as emblems of the Spanish race and supremacy. In the growing success of the conquest and colonization, a sense of religion, racial and cultural superiority became a mark of Spanish hegemony. Columbus’s perspective shows an attitude of low esteem for the indios, their religion and cultural world (Columbus, 1892, 50-51).
The superiority of Catholicism in comparison to the indigenous idolatry, as we have demonstrated, was an important factor to justify colonization. Catholics (Spanish) defined themselves as saviours who were helping those inferior indigenous to stop practicing idolatry and become good Christians. According to Spanish, they were religiously superior that the indios, and their mission was to conquest them in order to rescue their souls.
1.2. Indios conceives as legendary creatures
If the first aspect that permitted to justify colonization was religion, the second was the nature of indigenous as different from the “European standard of civilization”. By analyzing some of Columbus writings, Peter Hulme argues that, rather than strictly reporting what he saw, Columbus produced a “compendium of European fantasies about the orient”. According to Hulme, the descriptions in Columbus texts’ are grounded in the European discourses of “Orientalism” and the savagery of “the other”, which Columbus drew from his reading of Marco Polo and the classical writers Pliny, Homer, and Herodotus (Peter Hulme, 1986, 18-21). In fact, the association of indios with the antipodeans was a common motif of most of the European chroniclers who did a transfer of the characteristics attributed to mythological beings, described in the classical accounts, to the inhabitants of the “New world”. Indigenous from America were introduced, to European readers, as monsters, cannibals, etc., in order to establish an enormous difference between the human characteristic of European civilized human being and savages.
A good example of this mythological representation of the indios is the text written by Pietro Martire d’ Anghiera entitled De Orbe Novo, in which he describes the initial contact between Native Americans and Europeans. In his text, the Italian relates historical events, as the conquest of Mexico and the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, but also devotes an important part of his account to portray the American landscape and the Native American, which are presented are fantastic beings, belonging to an extraordinary world, surrounded by fabulous creatures, etc.
The neighbouring district to Chiribichi is called Atata, and is remarkable for its salt ponds, as we have already said. While the Spaniards were exploring their banks, those who were looking towards the sea while their companions were playing games or resting, beheld an unrecognizable object floating on the waves. It seemed to be a human head covered with hair and a thick beard, and with arms moving. As long as they watched it without speaking, the monster moved quietly as though admiring the ship, but when the sailors shouted to draw their comrades’ attention, the noise frightened the creature, which dived, but not without exposing that part of its body concealed under water. It ended in a fish’s tail, and its lashings stirred up the hitherto tranquil waters. I believe it was a Triton, on of those named by the fables of old, the trumpeters of Neptune.
Those imageries of indigenous, described as fabulous beings, were probably part of the conquerors self-publicity to demonstrate their braveness in subjugating legendary creatures, but it was also a cultural substrate of what Europeans thought. Monsters have always been present in literature of exploration as long as it has existed. The travel tales of Pliny, Aethicus, Marco Polo and Herodotus contain account of monsters, which represent a perception of alterity like a synonymous of atrocity. The implausible images that some of the chronicles did about the indios served to establish a Canon of American natives as individuals of different nature from European, and for that reason inferior. The “monstrous aborigine” represents a recodification of the imperial ambitions and fears. It could be considered an allegory of the conflict between the colonizer and the colonized, a war between human beings and behemoths, a dichotomy to reinforce the reader’s mental conception of indios like unnatural and evil creatures.
1.3. Indios described as good servants
In the paragraphs 1.1., we analyzed Columbus’s endeavour to convince the Spanish Monarchs and all his protectors that his explorations were a kind of crusade to convert people who did not know anything about the real religion, and sometimes tried to persuade his lectors that “the indios” were the real proof of the antipodeans’ existence. There are also other aspects of his contact with “those creatures”, which deserve to be taken into consideration. The first one is the intention of annihilating the indigenous culture, and the second is his desire of proving that indios were inclined to be good servants. These two aspects can be observed in the following passage, taken from a letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez, treasurer of Ferdinand and Isabella, in which Columbus mentioned the discovery of the different Caribbean islands and the imposition of the Western conditions by the submission of the natives to the Spanish Monarchs by dint of language and religion.
I discovered many islands, thickly people, of which I took possession without resistance, in the name of our most illustrious Monarch […]. To the first of these islands, which is called by the Indians Guanahani, I gave the name of the blessed Saviour (San Salvador), relying upon whose protection I have reached this as well as the other islands; to each of these I also gave a name, ordering that one should be called Santa Maria de la Concepcion, another Fernandina, the third Isabella, the fourth Juana […]. The inhabitants of box sexes in this island […] go always naked as they were born. […]. They bartered, like idiots, cotton and gold for fragments of bows, glasses, bottles and jars; which I forbade as being unjust, and myself gave them many beautiful and acceptable articles which I had brought with me, taking nothing for them in return; I this in order that I might the more easily conciliate them, that they might be led to become Christians, and be inclined to entertain a regard for the King and Queen, our Princes (Columbus, 1892, 43-45).
In this letter is easy to realize that Columbus had a strategy of colonization that consisted in the eradication of indigenous culture by renaming the places, imposing a new faith and new sovereigns. The annihilation of American indigenous culture was a common “routine” performed during the Spanish colonial period. Even those who have been considered as defenders of the indios had looked for the disappearance of the natives’ culture. That is the case of the Sevillian Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, considered the Father of anti-imperialism and anti-racism (Quesada Monge, 2004, 172). Even though would be absurd to deny that Las Casas was an early and energetic advocate and activist for the right of native people by denouncing the abuses of the Spanish encomenderos in front of Charles V, it would also be ingenuous to believe that he was devoid of colonial intentions. In fact, Las Casas took up the ideas about the providentialism to justify the Spanish colonization.
Personally, we do not believe that Las Casas defense of the indios is a proof of anti-imperialistic ideas by the part of colonizers, because even if he suggested that indigenous should be treated more “humanely”, he esteemed Spanish Culture superior to the natives’ tradition. The difference between las Casas and other colonizers is that he suggested a “colonization of love”. The colonization without violence, desired by Las Casas, is a fallacy. There cannot be imperialism without regression of sacrifice of the colonized, without the expense of those subjugated.
It clearly appears that there are no races in the world, however rude, uncultivated, barbarous, gross, or almost brutal they may be, who cannot be persuaded and brought to a good order and way of life, and made domestic, mild and tractable, provided […] the method that is proper and natural to men is used; that is, love and gentleness and kindness (Las Casas, 1971, 200).
Columbus and Las Casas tried to show an image of the indios as good servants and peaceful creatures who needed to be colonized because they ignored the real religion. They did not know the indigenous culture properly and were not interested on discovering it. Columbus intention was to give an account of the creatures that his benefactor wanted to be described, and Las Casas wished for granting a better treatment for those who were considered victims of the superiority of the colonizer. Their peaceful and benign methods of colonization served to minimize their desire for land and trade, camouflaging a discourse of subjugation. Their ideology is very far of being based on the indigenous free agency and self-government, it was a rigorous colonization of religion and state typical of the Catholic powers.
1.4. Indios described as degenerated creatures
Even if Las Casas was not against Spanish colonization, he was a divulgator of the Spanish power’s abuse, specially from the part of the encomenderos, for that reason, his accounts were divulgated in the rival potencies, where served to spread the fame of the Spanish colonialist exploitation, which it is better known as “leyenda negra”(Carbia, 2004, 47). Las Casas texts also influenced the promulgation of the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians, issued on November 20, 1542, by King Charles I of Spain and regard the Spanish colonization of the Americas. They were promulgate to prevent the exploitation of the Amerindians by the landowners by limiting their power and dominion. Blasco Núñez Vela, the first Viceroy of Peru, tried to enforce the New Laws that caused a encomenderos rebellion in which he died. Having seen the effects of the New Laws in the Viceroyalty of Peru, Antonio Mendoza, Viceroy of New Spain, decided not to enforce the New Laws in his territories, avoiding economic and political conflicts with the landowners. In this way, due to massive pressure from the landowning classes, the New Laws were never implemented in the two largest colonies of the Spanish Empire (Carbia, 2004, 47).
As an effect of the rejection to the New Laws, several Spaniards supported the ideas of Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, whose Democrates alter, sive de iustis belli causis apud Indos defended the war against the indios and the Spanish’s hostility towards them. His text consisted on a dialogue between a man named Demócrates, who argues with a German Lutheran who originally believed the conquest to be unjust, but is finally convinced that the king of Spain is obliged to wage war against natives. Demócrates maintains that war against the Indians was scrupulous and rightful because Indians were idolaters, sodomites, and inferior. Actually, with this thesis Sepúlveda became one of the first defenders of modern imperialism, since he invented a justification for slavery based on Aristotle’s doctrine of natural slavery (Phelan, 1979, 65).
The belief in the superiority of Spanish fed the expansion of the empire. They grew up with the idea that Spanish and Catholics were born to rule the world, a view openly expressed by Sepulveda. His theological theories of the inferiority of the indios were accepted by the encomenderos and European superiority was taken for granted.
Sacrifice of children from Tlatelolco. National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Wolfgang Sauber
1.5. Cortés and Sahagún: knowing the indigenous culture to annihilate it
All the chroniclers mentioned above tried to justify colonization by dint of superficial thesis based on Christian reasons, European superstitions and prejudices about the indigenous inferiority. In our opinion, the first chronicler who really showed interest on understanding the indigenous mentality without any a priori was Hernán Cortés whose expedition started with a research of information about Mesoamerican natives, their beliefs, strategies of war, etc. Cortés is, according to us, the first Spanish who really wanted to have a real imagine about the Indios. His accounts are not simple subjective descriptions about indigenous, since he tried to be familiar with the configuration of Mexico as a society.
Before I begin to describe this great city and the others already mentioned, it may be well for the better understanding of the subject to say something of the configuration of Mexico, in which they are situated, it being the principal seat of Moctezuma’s power.
His Cartas de Relación are one of the first documents written by Spaniards that offer real information about Mesoamerican civilization. Cortés described Azteca’s society, religion, habits, and professions doing a perfect distinction between the modus Vivendi of indigenous principle chiefs and the plebs. In fact, He was the first chronicler who informed how an indigenous monarch was served and the codes of an indigenous civilization.
Another chronicler who wrote in a documented manner about the indigenous from America was Bernardino de Sahagún who is considered by scholars as “the father of modern ethnography” and creator of the first encyclopaedia of the New World (Nicholson, 1997, 3). For his research, Sahagún used native informants to elicit information on Aztec culture, considering their perspective. He was one of the first Europeans who learned an indigenous language (he spoke nahualt), but his intention was to know the indigenous tradition in order to Christianize and indoctrinate them to be loyal servants of the Spanish Crown and the Pope. As Cortés, Sahagún considered necessary to understand indigenous culture to dominate them. In La Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, Saguhún declared his intentions about saving the souls of the indigenous by knowing their spiritual illness.
The preachers and confessors are physicians of the souls for the curing of spiritual aliments […] for the confessor, in order to know how to ask what is proper and understand what they may say pertaining to his work, it is very advisable to know what is necessary to practice their works […].
Bernardino de Sahagún intention was to know perfectly the indigenous language and culture to discover if there existed some perilous cultural substrates. He expressed the necessity of knowing the colonized culture to eliminate any vestige of the indigenous original customs, ideas, religion, etc. Sahagún desired to discern and divulgate the indigenous beliefs in order to eradicate their tradition.
According to Louise M. Burkhart, Sahagún, the pioneer ethnographer, cannot be fully separated from Sahagún the zealous missionary (1988, 67). Even if we agree with Burkhart we consider important to take into account that Sahagún’s intentions as ethnographer were also associated to his interests as a colonizer. In fact, like Cortes, Sahagún’s ethnography was performed within an ideological framework supported by the Church and the Crown.
1.6. European Conquerors and their influence in the conception of the American indigenous
The descriptions and definitions about indigenous written by the Spanish conquerors, priest or Europeans travellers in general, were influenced by the conception of the Antipodes and the idea of European superiority over the “other” (including the Euro descendants who were born in the “New World”). A radical ideologist who believed in the inferiority of Amerindians was the French anthropologist Georges Louis Leclerq, better know as Count of Buffon, considered as one of the greatest French naturalist and a key philosopher of the Enlightenment. The Count of Buffon deemed that the North American population was the most retarded and degenerate and, unfortunately, their physiological and psychological inferiority was transferred onto the Europeans immigrants (Brendon O’Connor, 2007, p.31).
Those thesis about the superiority of Europeans in relation to the others were propagated during the centuries, scholars as Voltaire, Carl Lineo, Petrus Camper, Joseph Arthur Conde de Gobineau, Francis Galton contributed to the debate by supporting their ideas about the inferiority of no-Europeans by means of physiological, ethical, religious and geographical explanations.
2. Indigenous studies by insiders
The Amerindians descriptions done for Europeans had a counter-part in the indigenous studies written by chroniclers who were born in the American soil. Those scholars were not exclusively Amerindians, but locals who needed to be acquainted with indigenous culture to define their “particular” self. They belonged to three different social and ethnic classes; they were indios (indigenous), mestizos (mixed-blood), and criollos (From European origin born in America). They tried to re-construct their identity not by following the ideas imposed by outsiders; they needed to know the roots of an environment that belonged to them, even if not all of them were indigenous.
2.1. Indios write about themselves
During the last decades of the XVI and the beginning of the XVII historical works written by indigenous started to circulate in the American continent. These chronicles, of unquestionable importance, were real information from the past of these lands, because they were based in a wide variety of direct sources as pictographic manuscripts, and directly testimonies from elderly indigenous connected with the native nobility (Romero Galván, 2002, 270). Those chronicles constituted an aboriginal perspective of the indigenous society. Probably, these intellectuals with indigenous blood began to write, because they had the sensation of being displaced in society by persons who did not know the peculiarities of the territory and culture as they knew.
Hernando Alvarado Tezozómoc was an intellectual with indigenous ancestry, in his work he intended to demonstrate his status as a nobleman to preserve his social privileges. He was the son of Diego de Alvarado Huanitzin, who served as tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan under the Spaniards, and of Francisca de Moctezuma, daughter of Monctezuma II (Romero Galván, 2002, 275). Much of his chronicle, entitled Crónica Mexicana, constitutes a genealogy of Mexica nobility, in which he locates himself and his progenitors. Tezozomóco had access to several indigenous pictographical writings, oral informants, and prose narratives. From these diverse sources, the author constructed an epic account of Mexica history, from their lowly beginnings as wondering Chichimecas to their triumphs over Azcapotzalco and the establishment of their dominance over Anáhuac.
Our parents dwelt in that happy and joyful place called Aztlán, which means whiteness: in this place, there is a large hill, surrounded by water, which they called Culhuacan […] In this hill there were opening or caver and hollows were our parents and grandparents lived for many years, there were plenty of rest, under the name Mexitin and Azteca.
In this passage is easy to realize that the writer tries to emphasize that the territory belonged to his backgrounds, namely that the indigenous were the real owners of it. In addition, he mentions a kind of Amerindian Golden Age, in which previous generations of indios lived in harmony. Alvarado Tezozómoc aims to demonstrate the glory of the indigenous past, extolling the power and honour of the Mexican nobility. According to his perspective, the Aztecs are seen as a warlike nation, because they were the earthly representatives of Huitzilopochtli, who was the god of war and sun, and was the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. Fighting and practicing sacrifices was not a barbarous practice, according to Alvarado Tezozómoc, because was the sole way that the Aztecs warriors had to pay tribute to their patron.
Another chronicler interested about the indigenous culture was Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, who descended from a noble aboriginal family from Yacovilca of Huánuco. He spoke Quechua, some Aru dialects, and Spanish. The research of this Peruvian intellectual consisted on travelling throughout the Inca territories to reconstruct the features of Peruvian society before and after the Spanish conquest (Adorno, 2001, 14). Guamán de Poma is the author of a Chronicle entitled Nueva Crónica y Buen Gobierno, in which he wrote about the pre-conquest indigenous reality and the damaging effects that Spanish colonization produced on it.
The main objective of Guamán Poma de Ayala’s research was to solve the problems of his time, for this reason he used the Chronicle as a source of dissemination on the Andean reality in its different aspects, such as medicine, law, agriculture, rituals, traditional painting, etc. His illustrated historical account constituted an anti-colonialist ideology that denounces colonial abuses and the terrible situation of indigenous people, and it remains until today on of the most substantial critics to the Spanish colonialism. Even if during the colonial period, the censure was against the circulation of creeds that were different from Christianity, and the Spanish Crown wanted to destroy every track of any previous empire in their colonies, there were intellectual indigenous who attempted to recover and rescue the traditional native culture.
2.2. Mixed-blood scholars looking for the indigenous values
Being a mestizo during the Spanish colonial period was a disadvantage, because mestizaje was considered a marker of illegitimacy, consequently people with mixed-blood were regarded as inferior (De la Torre, 2009, 353). Mestizos and indios could not hold high positions in government and the Church (De la Torre, 2009, 354). Their segregated status imposed by the Spanish rules instigated their identification with the indios, for that reason many mestizo intellectuals tried to demonstrate their pride of having indigenous blood and their desire of returning to the pre-conquest period.
Fernando de Alva Ixlixóchilt was a descended of Nezahualpilli, tlahtoani from Tetzcoco, and son of Nezahualcóyolt. Because of the marriages of his grandmother and her mother with Spanish men, he is defined as a castizo. He was a cultured man, who knew both the indigenous principles of his maternal lineage, and the Spanish philosophy of this paternal ancestry, for that reason he held several positions in the colonial administration as interpreter at the juzgado de indios (court of indigenous), governor of Tetzcoco and Tlalmanalco, and provincial judge at Chalco (Romero Galván, 2002, 281).
Fernando de Alva Ixlixóchilt wrote about the pre-Hispanic past, mainly on the former domain of Tetzcoco. His texts were the result of the analysis of pictorial material and some works written by other indigenous men from different states in the Valley of Mexico, including Axayaca Alonso, who had amassed a large collection of original documents. There is not doubt that these stories, preserved in the memory of some indigenous who belonged to the nobility, meant to Fernando de Alva Ixlixóchilt the opportunity to make contact with narratives characterized by memories of the elderly. He tells the history of Mexico chronologically, besides the historical events, he also adds some Indigenous myths about the creation, the nature, and the arrival of whites as carriers of evil (Romero Galván, 2002, 283).
In the year 1003, when in the fist days, a little boy was white, blond… that had to have been a demon, was on a hill. They took him to the City to show him to the king. When the king saw him, he demanded that they bring him back from where they had taken him, because it did not seem to be a good sign. And then the little demon boy’s head began to rot. And many people died from the horrible smell. The Toltecs decided to kill him when one of them was able to reach him, because every one who arrived near the boy died soon after. With this horrible smell, disease spread all over the land and out of the 1, 000 Toltecs, 900 died […].
It is clear Fernando de Alva Ixlixóchilt considers the discovery and conquest of America as an unfortunate fact, prophesied since ancient times, the arrival of white beings, which were a sign of bad omen. Undoubtedly, his perspective about the conquest and the history of Mexico in general, can be defined as indigenous.
Garcilaso de la Vega el Inca, born Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, is consider as a cultural and biological mestizo, because his knowledge of both European and American traditions and his genetic origin. He was the son of Captain Garcilaso de la Vega, who was part of the nobility of Extremadura, and the Inca princess Isabel Chimpu Ocllo, who was the granddaughter of Tupac Yupanqui and the niece of Huayna Capac (Wilson, 2000, 105). His major works, focused primarily on the American past and the viceroyalty of Peru, are La Florida del Inca and Comentarios reales, texts whose main interest is to safeguard Andean civilization and tradition. Consequently, the scholar describes the Incas as benevolent monarchs who ruled a nation of justice and mercy, they were righteous sovereigns, for that reason their servants were always loyal to them.
In this easiness several years passed, during which time the Inca performed the part of a kind and indulgent Prince, and the People of loving and loyal Subjects, who with all readiness and affection applied themselves to the service of the Inca; particularly in building the Temple of the Sun, and erecting other Edifices, wherein they showed great willingness and diligence, because they were works recommended to them by the Inca (Garcilaso de la Vega, 2006, 49).
Garcilaso de la Vega’s descriptions about splendid Inca sovereigns who governed wisely and were revered by their servants constitute a contrast with the dissatisfaction that indigenous experimented as servants of the Spanish Crown. In addition, the nostalgic tone of his descriptions about an indigenous empire disappeared by the imposition of a foreign Crown, was a proof of melancholy about an earlier period full of prosperity for the Peruvians. In fact, in the XVIII century, his most important text, Comentarios reales, was vetoed by the Spanish Crown to be considered seditious and dangerous to the Spanish interests due to the uprising of Tupac Amaru (Arguedas, 2009, 189).
The common characteristic of these mixed-blood scholars is their research about an idealized indigenous past. Fernando de Alva Ixlixóchilt and Garcilaso de la Vega tried to demonstrate that the pre-conquest period was better than the colonial one, their reconstruction of the indigenous tradition is an instrument to show their discomfort in relation to the codes imposed by the colonizers, and their methodology consisted in a reconstruction of the natives’ original culture.
2.3. The birth of the criollismo
The word criollo was first used to refer to a person whose parents were from Spain, but who was born in America. With the passage of time, Peninsulares regarded criollos as inferior and treated them accordingly. Their ethnocentric prejudice came from a subjective perception of criollos as physically and mentally weaker to their European ancestors, because they were born in the New World and were exposed to the tropical sun since birth. Discrimination toward criollos was also legitimized by the Spanish monarchy, which feared the threat criollos might pose if they became too powerful. As a result criollos rarely achieved high-ranking positions in the church or government of the Indias (Lee, 2003, 244).
In 1573 Juan López de Velasco observed that criollos “are known to come out differentiated (from Peninsulares) in colour and size.” In his book Geografía y descripción universal de las Indias, he mentioned the consequences of climate and constellations on the bodies of Spaniards who reside in the Indies, and especially on the criollos, in whom the qualities of the soul tend to follow those of the body, and when this changes they are altered too (Lee, 2003, 244).
Original Lopez de Velasco. Collected by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, general map of America, the Pacific Ocean and the eastern part of Asia, from his description of the West Indies, 1726 edition.
The already mentioned ethnographer Bernardino de Sahagún shared the view on the generation of the criollos. He judged that those Spaniards who were born in America had the same bad inclinations than the indios. He was very clear in his “observations”, because he elucidated that also Europeans who lived in America, if they did not take care, were victims of this process, because the inferiority of the people who lived or were born in America was conditioned by natural factors, such as the geography, climate, etc.
I do not marvel at the great defects and imbecility of those who are born in these lands […] because the Spaniards who inhabit them, and even more those who are born here, assume these bad inclinations. Those who are born here become like the Indians, and although they look like Spaniards, in their constitution they are not; those who are born in Spain, if they do not take care, change within a few years after they arrive in these parts; and this I think is due to the climate or the constellations in these parts.
The contempt that Europeans felt toward their descendants born in America, produced in the criollos a patriotic reaction. They started to define and to feel as natural from the “New World”; additionally they tried to demonstrate the values of the indigenous culture in order to express the lack of solid foundations about the theses supporting the inferiority of the people who were born in the Indias.
One of the first criollos who wrote an important account about Mexico was Agustín de Vetancurt, who was born in Mexico in 1620 and proclaimed himself a “hijo de la tierra” (son of the land). He wrote a chronicle entitled Teatro Mexicano, in which he boats that he could write better accounts that the Spanish chroniclers, because he was born on Mexican soil and was able to include information that Europeans did not know (Rose, 2002, 260). Vetancurt proclaimed himself an insider of Mexico, for that reason he felt more capable than Spanish to know the Mexican values, sentiments, beliefs and experiences. Besides his insider point of view, there is an interesting aspect of Vetancurt interpretation about the history of Mexico: he considered that the fall of the Aztec empire should not be interpreted as a punishment (as the Spanish affirmed), but as a natural cycle of rise and fall, common to all the kingdoms in the world. He eliminated the notion of punishment and providentialism, and used a cyclical interpretation of the Aztec decadence.
If Vetancurt was the first criollo who recognized himself as an insider, there were other criollos as Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, who wrote with a critical sense about the dignity of Hispanic American society, and nowadays are judged as the precursors of the criollismo . In the specific case of Sigüenza y Góngora, he was one of the first criollos who openly rejected the European view on the inferiority of individuals who lived in the tropics. In fact, in his text entitled Teatro de Virtudes Políticas que constituyen a un príncipe, he baffled some members of the colonial society and the Viceroy himself by choosing pre-Cortesian gods and kings as models of political virtue. In his dedication to the excelentísimo señor don Tomás Antonio Lorenzo Manuel Manrique de la Cerda, Enríquez de Ribera Portocarrero y Cárdenas, conde de Paredes, marqués de la Laguna, he declared that Aztec sovereigns’ virtues should be a model for the Spanish governors. Bravo Arriga sees in Siguenza y Góngora’s account, a kind of proclamation of New Spain as a homeland (instead of Spain). According to her, Sigüenza’s idea of using Indian monarchs was to show that all the features needed to govern had been owned by indigenous kings, who according to Sigüenza were paradigms of wisdom, mercy, kindness, generosity, perseverance, etc. (Bravo Arriaga, 1990, 85-89).
It is important to consider the fact that a criollo chose the Indians rulers as prototypes of the good monarch, could be regarded as an indicator of decolonizing thought, and could prove the existence of an American identity during the Spanish colonial times. Vetancurt and Carlos de Siguenza y Góngora were part of those criollos who felt decoupled from Spain and attached to American Soil. They are part of those who became aware of their American identity.
After analyzing the accounts written by Europeans and locals, we can conclude that even if they used similar research tools (informants, translators, pictographic codes, observation, collection of oral testimonies, etc.), the postulates of they reasoning were different, because they were looking for different aims: The first wanted to colonize, and the second wanted to de-colonize, and to re-define themselves.
The Europeans chroniclers wanted, by means of their studies, to prove that indigenous were a kind of sub-race, which had been created to be dominated. Local chronicles, instead, gave to indigenous their role of owners of the local patrimony. In this manner, local researchers were looking for decolonizing the Spanish imperialistic theories about the inferiority of indigenous, because as Jelena Porsanger says, they have looked for what is meaningful for indigenous peoples’ own understanding of themselves and the world (Porsanger, 2004, 107).
The researches done by locals during the Spanish colonial period, even if have been done by heterogeneous ethnic groups, namely, indios, mestizos and criollos, constituted an important corpus of studies done by intellectuals whose relationship with the environment was a clue for their way of interpreting the indigenous tradition. All these scholars respected the collective memory of the indigenous community, and even if some of them did not have indigenous blood, they have an aboriginal knowledge that connected them with the indigenous community. All the local researchers that we have mentioned in this essay, claimed for the conservation of the local tradition, contradictory to the rules of western precepts.
We consider that local scholars that we have studied in this essay did a revolution on the indigenous methodology during the colonial period, because they studied indigenous as subjects. According to Jelena Porsanger, Indigenous Methodologies should give credits to the true owners of indigenous knowledge. It has to communicate the results of research back to the owners of this knowledge to support them like subjects rather that objects of research (Porsanger, 2004, 117). In our opinion, the local scholars that we have mentioned in this paper are the pioneers of de-colonization of indigenous studies in the American continent, because their researches were looking for a radical change in a society in which there existed a nomenclature of individuals depending on their role of dominators or dominated.
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 Quoted by John D. Gartner in ”Christopher Columbus”, in The hyponanic edge: the link between a little craziness and a lot of success, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2005, p.22.
 Quoted by Michael P. Branch in Reading the roots: American nature writing before Walden, Athens, University of Georgia Press, 2004, p.21.
 Quoted by Oliver J. Thatcher in The Library of Original Sources, Milwaukee, University Research Extension Co., 1907, Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries, pp. 317.
 Quoted by Miguel León Portilla in Bernardino de Sahagún, first anthropologist, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002, p.133.
 Quoted in Spanish by Michael Pina in “the Archaic, Historial and Mythicized Dimensions of Aztlán”, in Aztlán: essays on the Chicano homeland, p.21, UNM Press, 1991, New Mexico. The translation is ours.
 During the colonial period, mixed-blood people were classified on the basis of the ethnic combinations they had. The taxonomy was, grosso modo, the following: European + indio = mestizo, castizo + European = European, indio + negro = zambo, negro + zambo= zambo prieto, European + negro = mulato, mulato + European= morisco, European + morisco = albino, European + mestizo= castizo, indio + mestizo = cholo, mulato + indio= chino, European + chola= harnizo. For more information about the subject, see María Elena Martínez, Genealogical fictions: Limpieza de sangre, religion, and gender in Colonial Mexico, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2008, p.166.
 Quoted by Rodolfo Acuña-Soto in ”Historical, Scientific, and Technological Approaches to studying the Climate-Disease Connection, in Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events, Washington, The National Academics Press, 2008, p.188.
 Quoted by Ralph Bauer and José Antonio Mazzotti in the introduction of Creole Subjects in the Colonial Americas: Empires, texts, identities, Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 2009, p. 1.
 , word that that was born as a response to the needs of a complex society that became aware of its “difference” and “marginalization” from those who were born in the metropolis
 In the dedication, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora wrote some verses in which he expressed his intention to produce a reawakening of the Aztec sovereigns, The verses are: Y si era destino de la fortuna el que en alguna occasion/Renaciesen los mexicanos monarcas de entre las cenizas en que los/ tiene el olvido, para que como fénixes del Occidente los/inmortalizase la fama, nunca major pudieron obtenerlo que en la/presente, por haber de ser vuestra excelencia quien les infundiese.
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