WHOA

Ok, so I found this in my reading for Native American Lit, and it kinda floored me. This is from “Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation,” by Mary Louise Pratt.

“in 1908 a Peruvanist named Richard Pietschmann was exploring in the Danish Royal Archives in Cophenhagen when he came across a manuscript he had never seen before. It was dated in Cuzco in the year 1613, some four decades after the final fall of the Inca Empire to the Spanish, and signed with an unmistakably Amerindian, Andean name: Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala. (Guaman in Quechua means “falcon” and poma means “leopard.” Written in the mixture of Quechua and rough, ungrammatical Spanish, the manuscript was a letter addressed by this unknown Andean to King Philip III of Spain. What stunned Pietschmann was that the letter was twelve hundred pages long. There were nearly eight hundred pages of written text and four hundred elaborate line drawings with explanatory captions. Titled the New Chronicle and Good Government and Justice, the manuscript proposed nothing less than a new view of the world. It began by rewriting the history of Christendom to include the indigenous peoples of America, then went on to describe in great detail the history and lifeways of the Andean peoples and their leaders. This was followed by a revisionist account of the Spanish conquest, and hundreds of pages documenting and denouncing Spanish exploitation and abuse. The four hundred line illustrations followed the European genre of the captioned line drawing but, as subsequent research revealed, they deployed specifically Andean structures of spatial symbolism. Guaman Poma’s letter ends with a mock interview in which he advises the King as to his responsibilities, and proposes a new form of government through collaboration of Andean and Spanish elites.”

I mean WOW. For one thing, this was written; this guy devoted this much time and effort to something of this scale in both size and breadth; for another it survived, albeit completely forgotten and somehow in Denmark. I want to know the story behind this. I want to research it and write a play about it, because that seems to be my instinctive response to everything these days.

Give me a grant, someone?

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