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Visualizing a Colonial Peruvian Community in the Eighteenth-Century Paintings of Our Lady of Cocharcas

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image of Religion and the Arts

This essay reaches beyond traditional interpretations of the colonial significance of indigenous devotion to the Virgin Mary and exposes the vital role of ritual in the transculturation of Andean identity. Eleven known eighteenth-century Peruvian paintings of Our Lady of Cocharcas depict the titular sculpture of the Virgin, her sanctuary, and the pilgrimage devotion associated with her. Pilgrims have traveled for centuries, and continue to travel today, in order to pay homage at Cocharcas. This analysis of the paintings of Our Lady of Cocharcas highlights an example of the localization of a religious image through the process of pilgrimage. Our Lady of Cocharcas attracted a variety of devotees, including regional political and religious authorities and ethnically mixed highlanders. In this article, I suggest a dominant local agency in the process which “tolerated” or “suppressed” both pre-conquest and Christian religious practices, founding a powerful colonial ritual used by many different constituents. The multiplicity of the participants produced an equal variety of responses to the colonial Andean divinity; however, it also provided the forum for articulating a unified community of Spanish colonial subjects.

Affiliations: 1: Whittier College


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