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Book Reviews / Colonial Period

147

The Jesuit and the Incas: The Extraordinary Life of Padre Blas Valera, S.J.
By sabine hyland. History, Languages, and Cultures of the Spanish and
Portuguese Worlds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. Photographs.
Illustrations. Map. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. xv, 269 pp.
Cloth, $30.00.
The life and work of Blas Valera, a sixteenth-century Jesuit and Peruvian mestizo
historian of the Inca past, has been too little known for too long. The mestizo
Valera, who served his novitiate during the rule of viceroy Francisco de Toledo,
attempted to reconstruct and interpret the history of the Inca Empire using quipucamayocss (keepers of the Andean system of knotted cords) as informants, as well as
other historical sources, such as Francisco de Chavess Relacin.
Although considered important, his writings are available only indirectly
through a very few sources, so this fresh attempt to study his life and signicance,
therefore, is met with great interest. Valeras writings are known only through Garcilaso de la Vegas Spanish translations, quoted in the Comentarios reales de los Incas,
and some quotations in Giovanni Anello Olivas Historia del Per. The anonymous
Relacin de las costumbres antiguass has also been attributed frequently to Valera;
Hyland concurs, although not all scholars agree. Valera and the anonymous Jesuit
disagree on the origin of the name of Peru, the merits of the Andean people, the
duration of the Inca Empire, and, most importantly, the character of Inca rule.
Hyland ignores these substantial differences of outlook (p. 82), and while we cannot attribute the work of the anonymous Jesuit to Valera because of these differences, Hylands work offers other contributions regarding the mestizo Jesuit from
Chachapoyas.
The rst part of the book is biographic, the second presents Hylands interpretations on Valeras opinions on Incan history, religion, and language, and the third
comments on the controversial manuscripts of the Miccinelli collection of Naples,
Italy, brought to light in 1996. Mindful of this, Hyland claims to base chapters 1
through 8 entirely on material unrelated to the manuscripts from Naples (p. 5).
Yet this is not the case. The Naples materials provide the basis for her novel assertions concerning Valeras suspension from priestly duties and lengthy incarceration
and claims about the existence of royal quipus, known best, if not exclusively in his
time, by Blas Valera himself (pp. 45, 134, 140, 186). These assertions are supported
by only two unconvincing external sources.
Hyland relies primarily the ofcial reports and personal letters of the Jesuits in
Peru published in Antonio Egaas Monumenta peruana. This documentary corpus
sheds light on central aspects of Valeras life but regrettably does not explain others.
One of these crucial issues is Valeras suspension from priestly duties and subsequent
imprisonment. A 1583 letter from the general of the Society of Jesus in Rome to the
provincial in Lima notes, If you consider it appropriate to dismiss Father Valera,
take as the occasion for it what he did with the woman and dismiss him; and, if not,

148

HAHR / February

keep him [in the order]. Francisco de Borja de Medina and other historians have
inferred that Valera was being punished for moral misdemeanors allegedly committed while administering confession. Hyland rejects this hypothesis based on the
Naples documents, one of which, she states, asserts that Valera had been imprisoned by the Jesuits for his writings on Inca religionnot by the Inquisition for fornication (p. 186). This Hyland corroborates with only one archival source, whose
meaning is unclear, at best: an accusation made by the Jesuit Lucio Garcete in 1591
to the comisario of the Inquisition in Panama. Garcete accused the Jesuit provincial
in Lima of tampering with the compendia that outlined some of the Jesuits inquisitorial privileges, claiming that the provincial had ordered some of these passages
covered over with paper and paste, and others cut out, in order to assure that these
privileges be retained by the afore-mentioned Provincial and those who enjoyed
his favor. He adds, I very much doubt that [Valeras] imprisonment . . . was related
to matters governed by the Holy Ofce, because it was a very conning and lengthy
imprisonment. Garcetes afrmation is imprecise without a fuller context. Standing alone (and it is the only statement, outside the disputed Naples manuscript, that
Hyland cites on the matter), it is insufcient to support her claim that Valera was
convicted not by the Inquisition for fornication but his own religious order, for his
potentially heretical teachings (p. 186).
The Naples materials are also brought to bear concerning a certain type of
quipu described in Fernando de Montesinoss manuscripts. Hyland cites this unpublished source rather haphazardly. She transcribes and translates Montesinoss
remarks that Garcilaso created a false account of the quipu system because he did
not have full knowledge of it, yet she gives no explicit reference in Montesinos for the
sensational assertion that Garsilaso received many of these special quipus and . . .
lied about them in his Comentarios reales (p. 134).
4 I wish that Hyland had transcribed
Montesinoss statement, but she turns instead to the Naples manuscripts, asserting
their claim that Blas Valera taught his followers that the Incas had a secret phonetic
writing system used by the historians of the empire. She asserts that these texts
claim that numerous examples of these special phonetic quipus were sent to Garcilaso, who, however, lied about them in the Comentarios reales (p. 134). The only
other extant source for these quipus is Raimondo di Sangros tongue-in-cheek
scheme of a quipu syllabary in his 1750 Lettera apologetica. Hyland is quick to point
out that Sansevero . . . does not fully explain how to read the quipuss illustrated in
his work; only the Naples documents provide a complete explanation of the system
(p. 140).
A pattern emerges. Although Hyland declared that she would not rely on the
Naples materials in chapters 18, her expositions belie this. She, in fact, places them
at the very core of her study and makes them an important basis for her assertions,
long before the nal chapters where she indicated she would explain what the documents are and consider their authenticity and their implications for our knowledge of Valera and of the Incas (p. 5). In nal two chapters, she presents scholars

Book Reviews / National Period

149

doubts about the form and contents of the manuscripts but dismisses these opposing
arguments one at a time. She concludes that such objections do not prove that the
manuscripts are modern forgeries produced within recent decades (p. 221; see also
p. 224). She has inverted the case: the burden of proof should be on those who would
authenticate the manuscripts. Yet Hyland makes no original, critical examination of
the manuscripts of her own.
In the end, Hyland begs the question about the Naples manuscripts authenticity by declaring them to be true liesauthentic documents containing falsehoods
that express the frustrations and desires of certain Jesuits in Peru, a notion that
seem[s] to t the evidence most closely (p. 228). This may be an easy way out of
the conundrum, but it presents a new one: can one really write the true story of
the little-known life of Blas Valera on the basis of documents whose contents, in the
end, one acknowledges to be false?

pedro m. guibovich-prez, Princeton University


National Period

Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 18681898. By ada ferrer. Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. Photographs. Maps. Tables.
Notes. Bibliography. Index. xi, 273 pp. Cloth, $55.00. Paper, $18.95.
This magnicent book explores the contradictory and shifting roles that race played
in the Cuban struggles for independence during the late nineteenth century. Beautifully written, carefully researched, and persuasively argued, Insurgent Cuba represents a signicant addition to the scholarship of race, nationalism, citizenship, and
revolution in Cuba.
Ferrer begins by noting some of the peculiarities of the Cuban nationalist revolution. Its timing did not coincide with similar anticolonial movements in the Americas, for in the early nineteenth century, Cubas prosperous slaveholding elites sided
with Spain to safeguard their investments. The coalition that almost incessantly
waged war against Spain for 30 years deed dominant ideas about race, civilization,
and nationhood. In the age of scientic racism, when intellectual abilities and moral
qualities were measured by the size and weight of skulls, a cross-racial and multiclass
army battled the remnants of European imperial power in the Americas. This was
an army in which individuals of African descent were prominentnot only among
the rank and le but also in positions of leadership. Moreover, blacks and mulattoes
commanded troops in which white Cubans participated. In the long war against
the forces of Spanish colonialism, this coalition created a nationalist ideology that
proclaimed all Cubans to be equal, regardless of race or color.
This is a remarkable story, particularly if one considers that in the 1860s,
when the rst armed revolt began, Cuba boasted a successful slave-based planta-

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