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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) June 26, 2014

The corregidor as dragon and the encomendero as lion

Symbolic language to depict antisocial behavior in Guaman Poma's Andean colonial world

  • Sabine Dedenbach-Salazar Sáenz EMAIL logo


With his Primer nueva coronica y buen gobierno Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala (ca. 1535–post 1616), the best known Andean early-17th century author of indigenous descent, created a comprehensive and complex work about the indigenous past and the colonial present of his time. Colonial language data and information in an Amerindian language, interpreted from within the writer's framework as well as parting from Andean and European traditions, can be used to better understand the author's objectives for employing a certain text genre and language. This paper gives a sociolinguistic and ethno-historical analysis of Guaman Poma's work. Guaman Poma uses animal imagery of wild beasts in order to portray colonial society. Certain functionaries are likened to animals which threaten the indigenous people. The critical author presents these menaces in two sections of his work: in a critique of the administration which contains an illustration that links wild animals and functionaries directly and explicitly, and through prayers seeking protection from these same threats. Making use of symbolic language, textual and visual imagery, Guaman Poma associates uncivilized elements of nature with the barbaric behavior of the authorities. Nature and culture have always been closely linked in the Andes, and Guaman Poma makes extensive traditional and at the same time creative use of this connection. I argue that in doing so he creates a new colonial indigenous discourse and uses subversion in the repressive context of the time to call the attention of the reader to the social problems created by colonial rule, thereby making an innovative use of both his native language and Spanish traditions.

Published Online: 2014-6-26
Published in Print: 2014-7-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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