In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Sources for Classroom Use

Latin American Studies Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala
Rolena Adorno
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 June 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0252


The Andean chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala and his Nueva corónica y buen gobierno stand at the intersection of the study of the Andean world of the past and that of Latin America in the present. Written in the early 17th century, the Nueva corónica y buen gobierno is both colonial and postcolonial: created in the Spanish colonial past of the Peruvian viceroyalty it reflects on the society of its day; read from the postcolonial perspective of the present, its concerns have never been more current. As a long-ago antecedent of the testimonial literature of today, Guaman Poma combines the resonances of Andean oral traditions and European written sources. As a testimony to the lifeways of the Andean past and Guaman Poma’s Spanish colonial present, there are few sources like it. Its 399 full-page drawings speak louder than its 800 pages of Quechua-inflected prose, and its images of Inca-era history and practices are followed by a unique pictorial account of life in the Peruvian viceroyalty that depicts the activities of all the castes and classes of colonial society. The life of Guaman Poma has been a topic of considerable interest. His presence in the archival documentary record as well as his work as an artist for the first version of the Mercedarian friar Martín de Murúa’s history of the Incas are key points of access to his experience. The Nueva corónica y buen gobierno offers new and ongoing challenges to research and teaching in such fields as history, art history, environmental studies, linguistics, and literary and cultural studies in Andeanist, Latin Americanist, and postcolonialist perspectives. Guaman Poma’s account reveals how social roles and identities could evolve under colonial rule over the course of a single individual’s lifetime. As a speaker of indigenous languages who learned Spanish, and thus called an “indio ladino” by the colonizers, Guaman Poma’s Quechua-inflected Spanish prose may present reading challenges but his 399 drawings welcome casual as well as scholarly and student readers into the rooms and onto the roadways of the multiethnic—Andean, African, Spanish, and Spanish creole—society that he inhabited.

General Overviews

Guaman Poma’s vast Nueva corónica y buen gobierno offers glimpses of ancient Andean institutions and traditions as well as those of colonialized Andean society. Thus it calls for an awareness, if not analysis, of a broad range of topics on Andean society and culture. This General Overviews section is divided according to topics that address the many contexts of Guaman Poma’s work: Inca Civilization; Spanish Conquest; Andean Society under Colonialism; Mestizaje; Religion in the Andes; and Amerindian Traditions and Alphabetic Writing.

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