In the sixteenth century, Andean communities were forcibly removed from their villages by Spanish colonizers and resettled in planned, self-governed towns. Rather than conforming to Spanish cultural and political norms, indigenous Andeans adopted and gradually refashioned the institutions imposed on them, in the process producing a new kind of civil society that merged their traditional understanding of collective life with the Spanish notion of the común to demand participatory democracy. This hybrid concept of self-rule spurred the indigenous rebellions that erupted across Latin America against Spanish rulers and native hereditary nobility. Through the letters and documents of the Andean people themselves, The People Are King examines the community-based democracy that played a central role in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions and continues to galvanize indigenous movements in Bolivia today.
“Elizabeth Penry offers a sharply original account of the Andean Age of Rebellions, placing it in a culture of civic populism whose roots extended to both pre-conquest Peru and medieval Spain. Where previous narratives have gravitated toward charismatic leaders, The People are King breathes a democratic spirit that is both moving and persuasive.”—Jeremy Mumford, Brown University
“This meticulously researched and gracefully narrated look at the transformation over time of the public sphere in indigenous communities of highland Bolivia offers readers a remarkable window into how and why the Great Rebellion of the 1780s unfolded by focusing on communities instead of on the leadership. This is an unusual and exciting second look at the prelude to independence in Spanish America.”—Joanne Rappaport, Georgetown University
“Elizabeth Penry’s skillfully crafted study reconstructs the ways colonial Andean comunes or commons became grassroots laboratories where modern ideas of communal self-government and popular sovereignty gradually emerged. Inscribed in the best traditions of Andean history and ethnohistory, The People are King is a much-needed contribution to the intricate ways indigenous community politics helped establish the foundations of the modern world.”— José Carlos de la Puente, author of Andean Cosmopolitans: Seeking Justice and Reward at the Spanish Royal Court