Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru

University of Texas Press, 2014

Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru by Regina Harrison looks closely at the implementation of the European sacrament of confession in the early modern contest of the Andes. This book examines the practice of cultural translation through analysis of Spanish ecclesiastic literature written in Quechua, the language of the Incas. Explicit in the writing of the early Spanish-Quechua tests is a desire to communicate Christian concepts to the Andean ‘heathen’; also present in these texts is abundant documentation of both cultural conversion and cultural survival. The catechisms, sermons, manuals for the confessor and grammars written by secular and regular clergy serve as a rich repository of semantic changes as Quechua is pressed into service by the Spanish translators. However, these semantic ‘refashionings’ often retained traces of ancient Andean modes of thought despite the didactic lessons preached from the pulpits and in the plazas. With examples drawn directly from the pages of the confession manuals, we see how sin is newly defined in Quechua lexemes, the role of women is circumscribed to fit Old World patterns, and new monetized perspectives on labor and trade are taught to the subjugated indigenous peoples of the Andes by means of the Ten Commandments. Although outwardly confession appears to be an instrument of oppression, in the hands of indigenous champion Bartolomé de Las Casas and other Dominicans in Peru, confessional practice ultimately became a political weapon to compel Spanish restitution of Incan lands and wealth. (University of Texas Press, June, 2014)