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Chayanta, Revolt of (1777–1781)

Chayanta, Revolt of (1777–1781)

Revolt of (1777–1781) Chayanta, an indigenous insurrection in Chayanta Province of Upper Peru (modern Bolivia). It began earlier than the more famous 1780–1781 revolt of Túpac Amaru, with which it became associated.

In 1777 the Aymaras in Macha began protesting the colonial government's failure to protect traditional land practices and rights to cacicazgo (chieftainship). A corregidor (provincial governor), Nicolás Usarinqui, appointed as a cacique (chief) of Macha a mestizo, who had no legitimate claim to leadership within the ayllu (kinship unit). Among other duties the cacique allocated ayllu lands, but this one did so to his own rather than to the community's advantage. By so doing he harmed the villagers, who depended on their agricultural production to pay tributes and provide food and other things for their ill-paid mitayos drafted for the mines of Potosí. To protect his people, Tomás Catari, the rightful cacique, protested this corruption and abuse to royal treasury officials in Potosí, who decreed the false cacique's removal. Nonetheless, the new corregidor, Joaquín Alós, disregarded the ruling.

Between early 1778 and January 1781, Catari appealed four times to the Potosí officials and four times to the royal Audiencia of Charcas. Seeking redress, he also traveled by foot to Buenos Aires, where he met with the viceroy. The colonial bureaucracy repeatedly approved his petitions but did not force local officials to comply. For his troubles, Catari suffered beatings, five arrests, and ten months in jail. Threats and riots by his followers secured his release. Violence mounted, and disturbances spread to neighboring provinces. The audiencia and Alós conspired to eliminate Catari, who was murdered during the night of 15 January 1781.

The insurrection in Chayanta intensified following Catari's death, with his brothers Dámaso and Nicolás helping lead the movement. Chayanta was crucial in spreading rebellion throughout Upper Peru, where dissatisfaction with repartos (forced distribution of merchandise to Indians), the Mita (forced labor), and the colonial system generally was explosive. Although the Spanish suspected that the revolts of Tomás Catari and Túpac Amaru were linked, and in fact there was correspondence between the two, the causes of the Chayanta revolt were peculiar to its Aymara peasantry.

See alsoAymara; Bolivia: The Colonial Period.


An excellent analysis of the revolt's causes is Sergio Serulnikov, Reivindicaciones indígenas y legalidad colonial: La rebelión de Chayanta (1777–1781) (1989). Also see Lillian Estelle Fisher, The Last Inca Revolt, 1780–1783 (1966), esp. pp. 53-94; and María Cecilia Cangiano, Curas, caciques, y comunidades: Chayanta a fines del siglo XVIII (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Hylton, Forrest, ed. Ya es otro tiempo el presente: Cuatro momentos de insurgéncia indígena. La Paz: Muela del Diablo Editores, 2003.

Jacobsen, Nils, and Cristóbal Aljovín de Losada. Political Cultures in the Andes, 1750–1950. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

Serulnikov, Sergio. Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

Stavig, Ward. The World of Túpac Amaru: Conflict, Community, and Identity in Colonial Peru. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Stern, Steve J. Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 18th to 20th Centuries. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987.

Walker, Charles C. Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru, 1780–1840. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

                                   Kendall W. Brown

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