The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492–1825
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Cacicas feature far and wide in the history of Spanish America, as female governors and tribute collectors and as relatives of ruling caciques—or their destitute widows. They played a crucial role in the establishment and success of Spanish rule, but were also instrumental in colonial natives’ resistance and self-definition.
In this volume, noted scholars uncover the history of colonial cacicas, moving beyond anecdotes of individuals in Spanish America. Their work focuses on the evolution of indigenous leadership, particularly the lineage and succession of these positions in different regions, through the lens of native women’s political activism. Such activism might mean the intervention of cacicas in the economic, familial, and religious realms or their participation in official and unofficial matters of governance. The authors explore the role of such personal authority and political influence across a broad geographic, chronological, and thematic range—in patterns of succession, the settling of frontier regions, interethnic relations and the importance of purity of blood, gender and family dynamics, legal and marital strategies for defending communities, and the continuation of indigenous governance.
This volume showcases colonial cacicas as historical subjects who constructed their consciousness around their place, whether symbolic or geographic, and articulated their own unique identities. It expands our understanding of the significant influence these women exerted—within but also well beyond the native communities of Spanish America.
“…this work examines how the institutions of pre-Hispanic female leadership, female lineages, and female succession evolved across three centuries of progressive Spanish patriarchalization of the Americas. [It] is a welcome and well-oriented contribution toward the firm establishment of native female leadership as a widespread historical fact in the Americas.”— H-LatAm
“Cacicas: The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492–1825 is not a story about vulnerable, submissive, or oppressed women, nor is it a narrative about women being victims of the colonial system or gender exploitation. Cacicas’s editors, Margarita R. Ochoa and Sara Vicuna Guengerich, declare that “the microhistorical studies herein describe the everyday lives and struggles of colonial women who negotiated the extent of Spanish domination in their communities” Its authors have made major efforts to collect fragmentary sources proving Indigenous female leadership from various chronicles, numerous litigations and lawsuit records, testaments, and account books collected in dozens of archives and libraries located across Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Spain…Cacicas, contrary to what its authors declare, is much more than just a microhistorical narrative about the Indigenous women of Hispanic America; it also looks from a macro perspective at reshaping the Spanish colonial empire, which was approaching collapse…The methodically researched, wellcrafted book brings together female inner perspectives and “connected history” to extract, re/construct, and compare single and collective memory under the Spanish domination in colonial Latin America.”—Early American Literature
“The pieces in this anthology are uniformly excellent, reminding us how far the study of Native American women has come in the past thirty years…Cacicas is truly a joy, offering such rich evidence that readers are able to grapple with large questions and even form their own conclusions.”— Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal