The Jesuit and the Incas: The Extraordinary Life of Padre Blas Valera, S.J.

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University of Michigan Press, 2003 - History - 269 pages
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"[A] refreshingly lucid account of an important but poorly known figure in colonial Latin American history."
-Richard L. Burger, Yale University

"This is a beautifully written, deeply informed and highly informative work. . . . [Hyland] has cast a bright light into a corner of early colonial Latin American scholarship that we had all but abandoned hope of ever seeing into very clearly."
-Gary Urton, Harvard University

In the spirit of justice Blas Valera broke all the rules-and paid with his life. Hundreds of years later, his ghost has returned to haunt the official story. But is it the truth, and will it set the record straight?

This is the tale of Father Blas Valera, the child of a native Incan woman and Spanish father, caught between the ancient world of the Incas and the conquistadors of Spain. Valera, a Jesuit in sixteenth-century Peru, believed in what to his superiors was pure heresy: that the Incan culture, religion, and language were equal to their Christian counterparts.

As punishment for his beliefs he was imprisoned, beaten, and, finally, exiled to Spain, where he died at the hands of English pirates in 1597.

Four centuries later, this Incan chronicler had been all but forgotten, until an Italian anthropologist discovered some startling documents in a private Neapolitan collection. The documents claimed, among other things, that Valera's death had been faked by the Jesuits; that he had returned to Peru; and, intriguingly, while there had taught his followers that the Incas used a secret phonetic quipu-a record-keeping device of the Inca empire-to record history.

Far from settling anything, the documents created an international sensation among scholars and led to bitter disputes over how they should be assessed. Are they forgeries, authentic documents, or something in between? If genuine, they will radically reform our view of Inca culture and Valera. The author insightfully examines the evidence, showing how fact and fiction intertwine, and brings the dimly understood history of this author-priest to light.

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Luis Valeras signature from the Libro del cabildo de Chachapoyas fol 43b
In the land of strong men
Title page of Jeronimo Valeras Commentarii ac Questiones in Universam Aristotelis 1610
Blas Valeras signature
to go without subterfuge or excuse 32
Jesuit church in Cuzco
Valeras Writings and Sources
Anello Oliva Additional MS 25 327 fol 82a
Paramonga quipus
Royal quipu symbols from Sanseveros Lettera apologetica 1750
the laws of religious ceremonies and of
Remains of Coricancha surmounted by the Church of Santo Domingo
A Danger to Peru
The Naples Documents
The Continuing Controversy over Blas Valera

Anello Oliva Additional MS 25 327 fol 120a
the age of our country and sequence of events
the terminology of all matters human and divine
A Father Jeronimo Valera O F M on Native Rights

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About the author (2003)

Sabine Hyland is currently working on an edition of a seventeenth-century chronicle of Inca history. She is also co-director of a multidisciplinary project studying the Chanka people of Peru. She holds a doctoral degree in anthropology from Yale, and is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, St. Norbert College.

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