Art, Christianity, and the Reconstruction of Social Identities in Oyon Area (Lima Region, Peru)

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Sara Gonzalez-Castrejon, Independent Researcher, Grantee of the British Academy, UK


    This paper presents my work in progress on the networks that the Mercedarian Order established in Lima region in the 17th century and on the spaces its friars created in Oyón area (in the Andes north of Lima). These spaces took the form of two ‘doctrinas de indios’, San Juan Bautista de Churín and Santiago de Andajes, which became sacred landscapes as well as places of cultural exchange and reconstruction of social identities. They were landmarked by doctrinal chapels which today count amongst the best preserved colonial structures in South America, with their mural paintings, polychrome altarpieces, and coffered wooden ceilings, despite of which they remain virtually unknown outside the area, and therefore vulnerable to natural- and human-caused destruction. I am studying these chapels –their arrangement and iconography- and the sacred areas built around them as a coherent whole designed to impose Christianity to the local populations, but also as places of social networking, knowledge transfer, and economic interaction. An analysis of the spaces generated by religious networks in the central Andes can give an useful insight into the creation of new social identities (such as ‘Indians’, ‘villagers’, ‘brethren’, or ‘idolaters’) that accompanied the first evangelization of the area and the – often brutal – campaigns for the extirpation of local beliefs.