People of the Volcano

Andean Counterpoint in the Colca Valley of Peru

People of the Volcano

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 41 b&w photos, 12 tables, 2 maps Published: June 2007

History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Andes

While it now attracts many tourists, the Colca Valley of Peru’s southern Andes was largely isolated from the outside world until the 1970s, when a passable road was built linking the valley—and its colonial churches, terraced hillsides, and deep canyon—to the city of Arequipa and its airport, eight hours away. Noble David Cook and his co-researcher Alexandra Parma Cook have been studying the Colca Valley since 1974, and this detailed ethnohistory reflects their decades-long engagement with the valley, its history, and its people. Drawing on unusually rich surviving documentary evidence, they explore the cultural transformations experienced by the first three generations of Indians and Europeans in the region following the Spanish conquest of the Incas.

Social structures, the domestic export and economies, and spiritual spheres within native Andean communities are key elements of analysis. Also highlighted is the persistence of duality in the Andean world: perceived dichotomies such as those between the coast and the highlands, Europeans and Indo-Peruvians. Even before the conquest, the Cabana and Collagua communities sharing the Colca Valley were divided according to kinship and location. The Incas, and then the Spanish, capitalized on these divisions, incorporating them into their state structure in order to administer the area more effectively, but Colca Valley peoples resisted total assimilation into either. Colca Valley communities have shown a remarkable tenacity in retaining their social, economic, and cultural practices while accommodating various assimilationist efforts over the centuries. Today’s population maintains similarities with their ancestors of more than five hundred years ago—in language, agricultural practices, daily rituals, familial relationships, and practices of reciprocity. They also retain links to ecological phenomena, including the volcanoes from which they believe they emerged and continue to venerate.


People of the Volcano provides rich and specific information on the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Colca Valley that will be enormously useful to specialists in Andean studies. It also provides a fine-grained description of colonial institutions and the Spanish debates over control of indigenous peoples and how to manage extraction of resources from conquered communities. Its usefulness thus extends well beyond Andean studies.” — John Monaghan, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

People of the Volcano’s most compelling characteristic is the almost seamless way in which environmental, social, cultural, economic, epidemiological and ecclesiastical historiographical approaches. . . . People of the Volcano condenses effortlessly some three decades of research on the Colca Valley and its people. . . . The authors’ mastery of the sources allows them to bring to life the experience of both the indigenous and the Spanish colonizers. . . .[T]here is no doubt that this is a major piece of historical scholarship. . . .” — Paulo Drinot, EIAL

“[People of the Volcano] is analytically innovative because Cook so brilliantly masters the art of doing ethnographic research in historical archives, thereby bringing to the fore the predicaments and vulnerability of human lives that disappeared long ago. . . . Cook’s book is fascinating to read. . . . Cook is also a gifted writer, which makes reading exciting for not merely dedicated Peruvianists and Latin Americanists but also other scholars interested in more general aspects of power, domination, adaptation and resistance.” — Karsten Paerregaard, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“[People of the Volcano] serves well as a rich ethnohistorical account of Andean communities in early colonial time. The authors’ descriptions of these communities’ social, political, and economic institutions are particularly well written, informative, and entertaining, reading much like a traditional structuralist ethnography.” — Cristina Moya, The Historian

“The definitive work on the Colca Valley under Spanish colonial rule and . . . one of the best in . . . regional ethnohistories of native Andean societies.” — Hispanic American Historical Review

“[T]his is an important contribution to the field of Andean studies and Spanish colonialism. . . . It elucidates well the institutional changes that the Spanish irruption into the Andes brought about and the changes that the indigenous population suffered during the first century of the colonial regime.” — Erick D. Langer, Ethnohistory

“[The Cooks] have succeeded in writing a book that can be enjoyed by the educated traveler and from which specialists will greatly profit.” — S. Elizabeth Penry, Sixteenth Century Journal

“Cook’s book is a masterful synthesis of methodologies from geography, demography, and anthropology. . . . Cook’s analysis of changes in the landscape evinces a familiarity with the geography of the region that, together with his extensive archival research, provides a fruitful approach for a regional study.” — Miguel Leon, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Cook’s study is based upon solid archival data and scholarly research accomplished by the author over several decades. It constitutes an insightful, well-documented analysis of the impact of the Spanish conquest upon a specific valley and its native groups. Not surprisingly, Cook’s proposals can easily be applied to the whole Andean region and to major areas of colonial Latin America.” — María N. Marsilli, Social History

“The research adventure of many years, following many twists and turns, has led to a fine book. . . .[It] is one of the best and most richly documented regional studies of indigenous peoples and Spaniards in the early colonial Andes to appear in some time. We ought keenly to await volume three in this trilogy.” — Kenneth Mills, American Historical Review

“This is an excellent book, which is very well researched and written. It gives anyone studying the Incas or pre-Columbian history a deep insight into their customs, history and administration. It does concentrate on the Colca valley, but through it the authors present an outstanding version of life during the Empire and the colonial period. I would recommend this book not only to historians, but to anthropologists and archaeologists who are studying the Incas as a culture.” — Robert Barker, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Well researched and beautifully written, it reflects the principal author’s intimate knowledge of this region and its past. “ — Gavin O’Toole, Latin American Review of Books

“The first chronological history, in English, of Peru’s Colca Valley, People of the Volcano displays Noble David Cook’s intimate knowledge of the valley’s geography, people, and past.” — Susan Elizabeth Ramirez, author of To Feed and Be Fed: The Cosmological Bases of Authority and Identity in the Andes

People of the Volcano is simply the best micro-regional account of colonial Peru available in English. It sets a new standard for ethnohistorical research in Spanish America.” — David J. Robinson, Dellplain Professor of Latin American Geography, Syracuse University

“Noble David Cook’s People of the Volcano is a masterpiece of history writing. The story is set in one of the most rugged and dramatic landscapes in the Andes—the Colca Valley, in the southern highlands of Peru, near the city of Arequipa. From his close reading of the Spanish chronicles and administrative documents, Cook fashions a virtual ethnography—the closest approximation we are likely ever to have of a “thick description”—of everyday life in the Colca Valley during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was the period when the inhabitants of this remote valley were incorporated into the Inca empire, the last great state of the pre-Columbian Andean world, and then, following the Spanish conquest, when they became the unwilling and troublesome provincial subjects of the first global empire of the modern world, that of the Hapsburg kings of Spain. Cook’s account of the imposition of the sixteenth-century Toledan reforms in the Colca Valley will stand for many years to come as the most informative and readable account of this critical, transformative process in colonial Andean history.” — Gary Urton, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies, Harvard University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Noble David Cook is Professor of History at Florida International University. He is the author of Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492–1650; The People of the Colca Valley: A Population Study; and Demographic Collapse: Indian Peru, 1520–1620.

Alexandra Parma Cook is an independent scholar. They are the coauthors of Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy and the coeditors and translators of The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, by Pedro de Cieza de León, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations and Tables ix

Preface xi

Part I: Foundations

1. Beneath the Soaring Condor 3

2. Return of the Viracocha 29

3. Crisis of the New Order 51

Part II: The Republica de los Indios

4. Constructing an “Andean Utopia” 79

5. “Republica de los Indios”: Social and Political Structure 105

6. Tribute and the Domestic economy 131

7. Extractive Economy 155

8. Indoctrination and Resistance 181

Part III: The “Republica de los Espanoles”

9. Crisis in the “Republica de los Espanoles” 215

Epilogue: Andean Counterpoint 243

Notes 261

Bibliography 285

Index 311
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3971-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3988-5
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