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Have Mercy on Us: Inca Heritage, Christianity, and Salvation in Colonial Cuzco  

Sebastian Ferrero

The coming of the gospel to America with the Spaniard conquistadors meant the launch of the most important salvation of souls campaign ever seen. The knowledge of the written Law and the administration of the sacraments, such as the sacrament of baptism, allowed the “Indians” to be redeemed from original sin and access, at least, Purgatory. While the colonial church promised salvation to the Andeans, it faced the problem of “deciding” the eschatological destiny awaiting the ancestors of the “Indians” (new Christians), especially the Inca rulers. After an inevitable condemnation of the Incas by the early colonial catechisms, new discursive channels appeared suggesting a possible redemption of the Incas, with arguments that evoked the principle of natural law and the acquisition of natural enlightenment. The redemption and salvation of the monarchs of Tawantinsuyu would reach various discursive spaces. It is found subtly in the field of visual representations, especially in a group of canvases produced during the period commonly called the Inca Renaissance, and in performative acts where the evocation of the Inca past acquires an important eschatological dimension.