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Earthquakes in Colonial Peru  

Judith Mansilla

Natural events have afflicted human societies periodically. They become disasters when their effects drastically alter and disrupt people’s quotidian patterns of life and political-economic organization. The chaos and distress natural disasters produce require people to react immediately, taking essential measures to cope with post-disaster conditions. While in the early 21st century, technological and scientific tools permit human communities to prepare for certain forecastable natural events, or to expedite responses to sudden and unforeseen disasters, such resources were lacking in early modern times. The viceroyalty of Peru was one of the most valuable colonial territories of the Spanish monarchy. Located over a telluric region, most of this colonial area was prone to earthquakes. However, colonial society’s understanding of earthquakes, and other natural events, influenced its reactions and how authorities responded to disaster. Learning about earthquakes in colonial Peru unveils early modern strategies of crisis management, which included both material and spiritual assistance. Furthermore, it reminds us of human communities’ vulnerability, which may increase when faced with monumental challenges during post-disaster periods.