Incan Wonderer

Incan Wonderer
Year Photographed: 1993

Origin: Peru

Native Language: Quechua

Before the Spanish Conquest, each family head had the right to ask relations, allies, or neighbors for help in cultivating his land. In return, he was obligated to offer them food and chicha, and to help them on their own land when asked. This system of reciprocal exchange existed at every level of Andean social organization.

After conquering the Incas, the Spanish established a system called encomienda. Under this system, districts were drawn up and assigned to colonists. The natives in these districts were called encomendados. These natives became property of the colonists who levied taxes on them and employed them in forced labor. It was the responsibility of the colonist to teach the natives the Christian faith. All natives were required to worship just one God. In addition, these natives were required to travel once a year to the estate of the Spaniard to whom they had been assigned in order to work for a few weeks or months in servitude. As a result they were forced to abandon their own land which was often taken over in their absence. Also, every male between the ages of eighteen and fifty were forced to pay an annual tax of 5 to 8 pesos. It was usually paid in cash, silver, or produce. Others, (one-seventh of the adult men) were required to work in the mercury and silver mines one week out of every three weeks. This work was amazingly difficult.