Publication: Cacicas: The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492-1825. Eds. Sara Guengerich and Margarita Ochoa.

 Cacicas: The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492-1825 (University of Oklahoma Press) will be out on March 11, but it is already available for pre-order. Enter the code 18CACICAS at checkout on the website to receive 20% off. This coupon will be active from 2/8/2021 to 4/1/2021, and it also guarantees free shipping on orders over $75.

About the book:

The term cacica was a Spanish linguistic invention, a female counterpart to caciques, the Arawak word for male indigenous leaders in Spanish America. But the term’s meaning was adapted and manipulated by natives, creating a new social stratum where it previously may not have existed. This book explores that transformation, a conscious construction and reshaping of identity from within.

Cacicas feature far and wide in the history of Spanish America, as female governors and tribute collectors and as relatives of ruling caciques—or their destitute widows. They played a crucial role in the establishment and success of Spanish rule, but were also instrumental in colonial natives’ resistance and self-definition.

In this volume, noted scholars uncover the history of colonial cacicas, moving beyond anecdotes of individuals in Spanish America. Their work focuses on the evolution of indigenous leadership, particularly the lineage and succession of these positions in different regions, through the lens of native women’s political activism. Such activism might mean the intervention of cacicas in the economic, familial, and religious realms or their participation in official and unofficial matters of governance. The authors explore the role of such personal authority and political influence across a broad geographic, chronological, and thematic range—in patterns of succession, the settling of frontier regions, interethnic relations and the importance of purity of blood, gender and family dynamics, legal and marital strategies for defending communities, and the continuation of indigenous governance.

This volume showcases colonial cacicas as historical subjects who constructed their consciousness around their place, whether symbolic or geographic, and articulated their own unique identities. It expands our understanding of the significant influence these women exerted—within but also well beyond the native communities of Spanish America.


Prologue: Cacicas in the Early Spanish Caribbean 

Ida Altman 


Sara Vicuña Guengerich and Margarita R. Ochoa 

Part I. North and Central America 

Chapter 1:The Cacicas of Teotihuacan: Early Colonial
Female Power and Wealth

Bradley Benton 

Chapter 2:Founding Mothers: The Tapias of Querétaro,
1571–1663 63 

Peter B. Villella 

Chapter 3:Doña Marcela and the Cacicas of Bourbon Mexico
City: Family, Community, and Indigenous Rule

Margarita R. Ochoa 

Chapter 4:Sinking Fortunes: Two Female Caciques and
an Ex-gobernadora in the Kingdom of Guatemala, 1700–1821

Catherine Komisaruk

Part II. South America 

Chapter 5:“Women were governing before the Spaniards
entered in this kingdom”: The Institutionalization
of the Cacica from the North Coast of Peru

Karen B. Graubart 

Chapter 6:Public Voice and Political Authority:
Native Female Leadership in the Sixteenth-Century Northern Andes

Chantal Caillavet 

Chapter 7:Cacicas, Land, and Litigation in
Seventeenth-Century Chincha, Peru

Liliana Pérez Miguel and Renzo Honores 

Chapter 8:A Royalist Cacica: Doña Teresa Choquehuanca
and the Postrebellion Natives of the
Peruvian Highlands

Sara Vicuña Guengerich 

Chapter 9:Peacemaker Cacicas in the Río de la Plata
Southern Frontier

Florencia Roulet 

Conclusion:To Be Cacica in Colonial
Times—The Rhetoric of “Pureza”

Mónica Díaz 

Appendix:Cacicas in Nicaragua, 1522–1550

Patrick S. Werner