Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Visit to Peru

Cruising around the Internet looking for Nativity figures (for my other blog, Spanish Nativity), I came across something that I thought might be of interest.

The Monty Python "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" joke makes light of the Leyenda Negra that, paradoxically, encouraged by the British, portrays Spain as sunk in the terrors of the Inquisition. Acknowledging that the Inquisition may not have been the best way of handling the problems of the time and that the process was certainly used by political powers, it was no more brutal than the practices of civil law in those centuries and in fact actually had more checks and balances than ordinary civil law and was sometimes even more moderate in its punishments, treating actions as sins rather than criminal acts.

The Inquisition also went to the Spanish colonies. Here most of the persons processed by the Inquisition were Europeans or criollos, because the indigenous peoples and people of non-European descent (such as African slaves) were considered not knowledgeable enough about the Faith to be heretics. The Inquisition maintained a court in Lima, Peru, which was a very important center of law and learning in Colonial days. Now, the Peruvian government sponsors a museum devoted to the Inquisition, not only in Peru, but in other Latin American countries and, of course, in the mother country, Spain. The Museum, named the Museo de la Inquisición y del Congreso, also has a section dedicated to the Peruvian Congress and Peruvian political history.

The virtual museum is fascinating, and not only provides detailed documentary information, but interesting visuals. My favorite was the chart we see here, which shows some of the many different people who participated in a trial. The process was based on civil law proceedings of the time, and also on ecclsiastical courts. On the website, if you cursor over these figures, you will see their names - everything from the Inquisidor to the Portero - and their duties. As a Spanish translator specializing in legal matters, I was particularly interested to see that many of these figures are still with us, including the all-important Notario.