The Role of the Kuraka

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The Role of The Kuraka During The Spanish Conquest

During the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire the role of the Kuraka was crucial in gaining control over the Andean society. The role of the Kuraka could be thought of as “provincial nobility”[1] whose main job was to control the labor and tribute made and delivered from the natives to the state. In order to do this job the Kurakas had to maintain respect from the natives while maintaining good relations with the colonial state. This could be difficult considering that too much affiliation with the state could lead to a loss of status to the natives, and a loss of respect from the natives would make one useless to the state. “The Indian who broke entirely with his own culture and tried to become European was an isolated and ultimately pitiable figure”[2] . They “had to be willing to use their traditional authority and their knowledge of values and standards of their own culture in the service of the European rulers”[3]. The role of the Kuraka is not one that can be simply defined. The relationship between Kurakas and the Spanish and Kurakas and the indigenous Andean people is complex and varies between every village and each individual Kuraka. The Kurakas walked a fine line in both societies, but without them the relationship between the Natives and the state would not have been possible. An example of a “Perfect Kuraka” is Don Sebastian, the Kuraka of Huarochiri in the 1640’s, who not only helped maintain local Andean traditions, but also actively participated in sacrifices and other traditions banned by the state. He was able to keep this information from reaching the Spanish authorities and in doing so was able to balance his loyalty to the colonial state, and at the same time, maintained respect and acceptance from his local people.[4]

Before Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire the Inca’s already had their own roads, ways of trade and commerce, and infrastructure. Despite what one may...
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