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Viceroyalty of Peru

Created in 1542, the Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish colonial administrative district that originally contained most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from the capital of Lima. The Viceroyalty of Peru was the more powerful of the two Spanish Viceroyalties in America from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

However, the Spanish did not resist the Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian. The Treaty of Tordesillas was rendered meaningless between 1580 and 1640 while Spain controlled Portugal. The creation of Viceroyalties of New Granada and Rio de la Plata (at the expense of Peru's territory) reduced the importance of Lima and shifted trade to Caracas and Buenos Aires, while the fall of the mining and textile production accelerated the progressive decay of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Eventually, the district would dissolve with much of the Spanish empire when challenged by national independence movements at the beginning of the 1800s.


Exploration and Settlement (1542-1643)

After the Spanish conquest of Peru (153237), the first Audiencia was constituted. In 1542, the Spanish created the Viceroyalty of New Castilla, that shortly afterwards would be called the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1544, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain) named Blasco Nunez Vela Peru's first viceroy, but the viceroyalty was not organized until the arrival of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572. Toledo made an extensive tour of inspection of the colony.

Francisco de Toledo, "one of the great administrators of human times",Mabry, Donald J., Colonial Latin America. Coral Springs, Fla.: Llumina Press, 2002. established the Inquisition and promulgated laws that applied to both Indians and Spanish alike, breaking the power of the encomenderos and reducing the old system of mita, or forced native labor. He improved the safety in the viceroyalty with fortifications, bridges and la Armada del Mar del Sur (the Southern Fleet) against the pirates. Francisco de Toledo also ended the indigenous state of Vilcabamba, executing the Inca Tupac Amaru, and promoted economic development from the commercial monopoly and the mineral extraction, mainly, from silver mines of Potosi.

The Amazon basin and some large adjoining regions had been considered Spanish territory since the Treaty of Tordesillas and explorations such as that by Francisco de Orellana, but the Treaty of Tordesillas was rendered meaningless between 1580 and 1640 while Spain controlled Portugal. However, Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera sent out the third expedition to explore the Amazon River, under Cristobal de Acuna. (This was part of the return leg of the expedition of Pedro Teixeira.)

Many Pacific islands were visited by Spanish ships in the sixteenth century, but they made no effort to trade with or colonize them. These included New Guinea (by Ynigo Ortiz de Retez in 1545), the Solomon Islands (by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa in 1568) and the Marquesas Islands (by Alvaro de Mendana de Neira in 1595).

The first Jesuit reduction to convert and "civilize" the Indigenous population was founded in 1609, but some areas were occupied by Brazilians as Bandeirantes gradually extended their activities throughout much of the basin and adjoining Matto Grosso in the 17th and 18th centuries. These groups had the advantage of remote geography and river access from the mouth of the Amazon (which was in Portuguese territory) making it impossible for the Spanish authorities to control them. One famous attack upon a Spanish mission in 1628 resulted in the enslavement of 60 000 indigenous people. In fact as time passed they were used as a self funding occupation force by the Portuguese authorities in what was effectively a low level war of territorial conquest. Finally the reality of the situation was recognized with the transfer of sovereignty over the much of the basin and surrounding areas to Portugal in the Treaty of Madrid (1750). This settlement led to the Guarani War of 1756. In 1617, Francisco de Borja y Aragon divided the government of Rio de la Plata into two, Buenos Aires and Paraguay, both dependencies of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Viceroy Borja y Aragon also established the Tribunal del Consulado, a special court and administrative body for commercial affairs in the viceroyalty. Diego Fernandez de Cordoba, Marquis of Guadalcazar reformed the fiscal system and stopped the interfamily rivalry that was bloodying the domain.

Other viceroys, such as Fernando Torres, Borja y Aragon, Fernandez de Cabrera or Fernandez Cordoba also expanded the colonial navy and fortified the ports to fight against pirate attacks, as those lead by the Englishman Thomas Cavendish. Fernandez de Cabrera suppressed an insurrection of the Uru and Araucano Indians.

The last Spanish Habsburgs (16431713)

Viceroys had to protect the Pacific coast from French contraband and English and Dutch pirates. They expanded the naval forces, fortified the ports of Valdivia, Valparaiso, Arica and Callao and constructed city walls in Lima (1686) and Trujillo) (16851687). Nevertheless, the famous English privateer Henry Morgan took Chagres and captured and sacked the city of Panama in the early part of 1670. Also Peruvian forces repelled the attacks by Edward David (1684 and 1686), Charles Wager and Thomas Colb (1708) and Woldes (17091711). The Peace of Utrecht allowed the British to send ships and merchandise to the fair at Portobello.

In this period, revolts were common. Around 1656, Pedro Bohorquez crowned himself Inca (emperor) of the Calchaqui Indians, inciting the indigenous population to revolt. From 1665 until 1668, the rich mineowners Jose and Gaspar Salcedo revolted against the colonial government. The clergy were opposed to the nomination of prelates from Spain. Viceroy Diego Ladron de Guevara had to take measures against an uprising of slaves at the hacienda of Huachipa de Lima. There were terrible earthquakes and epidemics, too.

During Baltasar de la Cueva Enriquez's administration, the laws of the Indies were compiled.. Diego de Benavides y de la Cueva issued the Ordenanza de Obrajes (Ordenance of Manufactures) in 1664 and Pedro Alvarez de Toledo y Leiva introduced the papel sellado . In 1683 Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull reestablished the Lima mint, which had been closed since 1572. Viceroy Diego Ladron de Guevara increased the production of silver in the mines of Potosi, and stimulated production in other mines at San Nicolas, Cojatambo and Huancavelica. He limited the manufacture of aguardiente from sugar cane to authorized factories, which he taxed heavily.

The Churches of Los Desamparados (1672), La Buena Muerte and the convent of Minimos de San Francisco de Paula were finished and opened. The Hospital of Espiritu Santo in Lima and San Bartolome hospital were built.

The Bourbon Reforms (17131806)

In 1717 the Viceroyalty of New Granada was created in northern Peru, from the Audiencias of Bogota, Quito and Panama. This establishment lasted only until 1724, but it was reestablished in 1740. With the creation of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata in 1776, the Buenos Aires was similarly lost. The Treaty of Tordesillas was superseded by the 1750 Treaty of Madrid which granted Portugal control of the lands it occupied in South America. Manuel de Amat y Juniet organized an expedition to Tahiti. Viceroy Teodoro de Croix also decentralized the government through the creation of seven intendencias. Francisco Gil de Taboada reincorporated the region of Puna into the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Jose de Armendariz stimulated the production of silver and took steps against fraud, corruption and smuggling. Amat y Juniet established the first Regulation of Commerce and Organization of Customs rules, which led to the building of the customshouse in Callao. Teodoro de Croix collaborated in the creation of the Junta Superior de Comercio and the Tribunal de Mineria (1786).

An earthquake demolished Lima and Callao, in 1746. Viceroy Amat y Juniet constructed various public works in Lima, including the first bull ring. Manuel de Guirior also improved the medical care at ten hospitals in Lima and established a foundling home.

War between Spain and Britain again broke out . Amat y Juniet constructed the fortress of Real Felipe in Callao in 1774.

Nevertheless, throughout this period, the Inca were not entirely suppressed. In the eighteenth century alone, there were fourteen large uprisings, the most important of which were that of Juan Santos Atahualpa in 1742, and the Sierra Uprising of Tupac Amaru II in 1780. The Comunero Revolt broke out in Paraguay from 1721 to 1732). In 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from the colony.

End of the Viceroyalty (1806-1824)

Viceroy Jose Fernando de Abascal y Sousa promoted educational reforms, reorganized the army, and stamped out local rebellions. During his administration, the Inquisition of Lima was temporarily abolished as a result of the reforms taken by the Cortes in Spain.

When the wars of independence broke out in 1810, Peru was the center of Royalist reaction. Abascal reincorporated the provinces of Cordoba, Potosi, La Paz, Charcas, Chile and Quito (Ecuador) into the Viceroyalty of Peru.

In 1812 occurred the great fire of Guayaquil that destroyed half the city.

Lord Thomas Cochrane, in command of the newly created Chilean Navy, unsuccessfully attacked Guayaquil and El Callao, but on 4 February he captured Valdivia, called at the time The Key of the South Seas and the Gibraltar of the Pacific, due to its huge fortifications. However the viceroyalty managed to defend Chiloe Island until 1826.

On September 8, 1820, the Expedicion Libertadora of Peru, organized in Chile, landed on the beach at Paracas, near the city of Pisco, Peru. The army was under the command of Jose de San Martin. After fruitless negotiations with the viceroy, San Martin occupied the Peruvian capital of Lima on July 21, 1821. The independence of Peru was proclaimed on July 28, 1821. Viceroy Jose de la Serna e Hinojosa, still in command of a sizable military force, retired to Jauja, and later to Cusco.

On July 26, 1822, San Martin and Simon Bolivar met in Guayaquil to define a strategy for the liberation of the rest of Peru. The meeting was secret, and exactly what occurred is not known. However, afterwards San Martin returned to Argentina while Bolivar prepared to launch an offensive against the remaining royalist forces in Alto Peru. In September 1823 Bolivar arrived in Lima with Antonio Jose de Sucre to plan the offensive.

In February 1824 the royalists briefly regained control of Lima. Having regrouped in Trujillo, Bolivar in June led his rebel forces south to confront the Spanish under Field Marshal Jose de Canterac. The two armies met on the plains of Junin on August 6, 1824, and the Peruvians were victorious in a battle fought entirely without firearms. The Spanish troops subsequently evacuated Lima for a second time.

As a result of a decree of the Congress of Gran Colombia, Bolivar turned over command of the rebel troops to Sucre on October 7, 1824.

Royalist control was now reduced to a small area around the city of Ayacucho, located in the south-central highlands. It was there that the final battle for the independence of Peru would be fought.

On 9 December 1824, the Battle of Ayacucho, or Battle of La Quinua, took place at Pampa de La Quinua, a few kilometers away from Ayacucho, near the town of Quinua. This battle — between royalist (Spanish) and nationalist (republican) troops — sealed the independence of Peru and South America. The victorious nationalist forces were led by Antonio Jose de Sucre, Bolivar's lieutenant. Viceroy Serna was wounded and taken prisoner. The Spanish army had 2,000 dead and wounded and lost 3,000 prisoners, with the remainder of the army entirely dispersed. After the battle, Serna signed the final capitulation whereby the Spaniards agreed to leave Peru. Serna was released soon afterwards and sailed for Europe.

Spain made futile attempts to regain its former colonies, such as at the Battle of Callao, but in 1879 it finally recognized Peru's independence.


The town of Lima, founded by Pizarro on January 18, 1535 as the "Ciudad de los Reyes" (City of Kings), became the seat of the new viceroyalty. It grew into a powerful city, with jurisdiction over all of Spanish South America except for Portuguese-dominated Brazil. All of the colonial wealth of South America passed through Lima on its way to the Isthmus of Panama and from there to Seville, Spain. The rest of the country was dependent upon Lima, in a pattern that persists until today in Peru. On the local level, Spanish encomenderos depended on local chieftains (curacas) to control even the most remote settlements, in a rigorous hierarchy. By the eighteenth century, Lima had become a distinguished and aristocratic colonial capital, seat of a university and the chief Spanish stronghold in the Americas.

Administrative divisions

The Viceroyalty of Peru was divided into audiencias, or administrative divisions. Each of these was governed by a regional governor who was controlled by the Viceroy of Peru. These divisions included the following (with dates of creation):

Panama (1538)

Lima (1543)

Santa Fe de Bogota (1548)

La Plata de los Charcas (1559)

Quito (1563)


Buenos Aires

Caracas (1786)

Cuzco (1787)


Once the Viceroyalty of Peru was established, gold and silver from the Andes enriched the conquerors, and Peru became the principal source of Spanish wealth and power in South America. The first coins minted for Peru (and indeed for South America) appeared between 1568 and 1570. Viceroy Manuel de Oms y de Santa Pau was able to send back an enormous sum of money to the king to cover some of the costs of the War of the Spanish Succession. This was possible in part because of the discovery of the mines in Caraboya. The silver from mines at Potosi circulated around the world.

Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera prohibited direct trade between Peru and New Spain (Mexico) and the persecution of Portuguese Jews, the principal traders in Lima.


A census taken by the last Quipucamayoc indicated that there were 12 million inhabitants of Inca Peru; 45 years later, under viceroy Toledo, the census figures amounted to only 1,100,000 Indians. While the attrition was not an organized attempt at genocide, the results were similar. Inca cities were given Spanish Christian names and rebuilt as Spanish towns, each centered around a plaza with a church or cathedral facing an official residence. A few Inca cities like Cuzco retained native masonry for the foundations of their walls. Other Inca sites, like Huanuco Viejo, were abandoned for cities at lower altitudes more hospitable to the Spanish.

Viceroy Jose de Armendariz reestablished the system whereby Inca nobles who could prove their ancestry were recognized as hijosdalgos of Castile. This led to a frenzy on the part of the Indigenous nobility to legitimate their status.

In the 1790s Viceroy Francisco Gil de Taboada ordered the first official census of the population.

The last cargo of black slaves in Peru was landed in 1806. At that time an adult male slave sold for 600 pesos.


Viceroy Francisco de Borja y Aragon reorganized the University of San Marcos and Luis Jeronimo Fernandez de Cabrera founded two chairs of medicine. In the 1710s, Viceroy Diego Ladron de Guevara established a chair of anatomy. Teodoro de Croix and Francisco Gil de Taboada founded anatomy centers. In 1810 the medical school of San Fernando was founded.

On the death of the Peruvian astronomer Doctor Francisco Ruiz Lozano, Viceroy Melchor Linan y Cisneros (with the approval of the Crown) gave mathematics a permanent position in the University of San Marcos. Mathematics was attached to the chair of cosmography. Doctor Juan Ramon Koening, a Belgian by birth, was named to the chair. [*]. Viceroy Manuel de Guirior created two new chairs at the university.

Luis Enriquez de Guzman, conde de Alba de Liste founded the Naval Academy of the colony. Francisco Gil de Taboada supported the navigation school. Teodoro de Croix began the Botanic Garden of Lima.

Francisco de Borja y Aragon also founded, in Cuzco, the Colegio del Principe for sons of the Indigenous nobility and the Colegio de San Francisco for sons of the conquistadors. Manuel de Amat y Juniet founded the Royal College of San Carlos.

The first books printed in Peru were produced by Antonio Ricardo, a printer from Turin who settled in Lima. Diego de Benavides y de la Cueva built the first theater in Lima. Manuel de Oms y de Santa Pau founded a literary academy in 1709 and promoted weekly literary discussions in the palace that attracted some of Lima's best writers. These included the famous Criollo scholar Pedro Peralta y Barnuevo and several Indigenous poets. Oms introduced French and Italian fashions in the viceroyalty. The Italian musician Rocco Cerruti (1688-1760) arrived in Peru. Francisco Gil de Taboada supported the foundation of the newspaper El Mercurio Peruano in 1791 and founded the Academy of Fine Arts.

Jesuit Barnabe de Cobo (1582-1657), who explored Mexico and Peru, brought the cinchona bark from Lima to Spain in 1632, and afterwards to Rome and other parts of Italy.

In 1737 Jorge Juan y Santacilia and Antonio de Ulloa, Spanish scientists sent by the French Academy on a scientific mission to measure a degree of meridian at the equator, arrived in the colony. They also had the mission of reporting on disorganization and corruption in the government and smuggling. Their report was published later, under the title Noticias Secretas de America (Secret News From America).

Manuel de Guirior assisted the scientific expedition of Hipolito Ruiz Lopez, Jose Antonio Pavon and Joseph Dombey, sent to study the flora of the viceroyalty. The expedition lasted from 1777 to 1788. Their findings were later published as La flora peruana y chilena (The Flora of Peru and Chile). Again a major concern was stimulating the economy, which Guirior did by adopting liberal measures in agriculture, mining, commerce and industry.

Another French influence on science in the colony was Louis Godin, another member of the meridian expedition. He was appointed cosmografo mayor by Viceroy Mendoza. [*] The duties of cosmografo mayor included publishing almanacs and sailing instructions. Another French scientist in Peru at this time was Charles Marie de La Condamine.

The Balmis Expedition arrived in Lima on May 23, 1806. At the same time these viceroys adopted rigorous measures to suppress the thought of the Encyclopedists and revolutionaries in the United States and France.

On 1671, Saint Rose of Lima was canonized by Pope Clement X. Rose was the first native-born American to become a Catholic saint. Pope Benedict XIII elevated another two important Peruvian saints, Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo and Francisco de Solano.

Diego Quispe Tito was a famous artist before the age of Independence.

See also


List of Viceroys of Peru

Spanish colonization of the Americas

Spanish Empire

Viceroyalty of New Spain

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