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    Guaman Pomas Illustration of the Gender Complementarities in the Andean Society

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    “Andean gender was (and is) constructed in relation to an opposite, and no particular construction of gender is ever meaningful without its compliment” (Dean 148). Guaman Poma describes a culture based on the interdependence of men and women. It is a relationship between the two sexes that completes the lives they live and the situations each encounters. Men and women in the Incan world ‘complement’ each other as separate parts that together make up a composite whole. The contributions of both sexes were indispensable to the maintenance of rural life and to the fulfillment of labor obligations to the empire; this rather than the customs of the Inca provided the basis for the Andean ideal of gender complementarity. The separation of gender labor turned gender relations into separate hierarchies. The two hierarchies broke down even further into grouping of age. As described in the book it is “…as if each age group actually lived on a separate street…” (Guaman Poma 68). Gender parallelism forms a core value in the Andean society.

    Guaman Poma describes the idea of gender complementarity by explaining the way his society functions. The separation of gender and age groups or as he calls ‘paths’ each has a specific role in society. There are ten ‘paths’ for each sex. Every age group and specific gender each goes hand in hand, each sex having an opposite grouping that are similar to one another. It is important to note that when Guaman Poma mentions age, he means “Age was not so much the sum of years as an evaluation of physical attributes, abilities, and dexterity” (Dean 151). One group would not be productive or be able to exist without the other. The age group of categorizing people makes the Andean society successful. Every role in the Andean society seems meaningful, and is essential to the functioning of society as a whole.

    Notions of gender complementarity are also important to the Andean society to make sure that ‘Indians apply themselves in work, so that they may not be idle and lazy in this kingdom, for otherwise they would not be able to support themselves, nor would the other nobles and lord, nor his Majesty the Inca and his government” (Guaman Poma 68). The ‘paths’ cover every possible prospect in the community from the warriors and widows, to the crippled and old. Each ‘path’ also covered both sexes, and each ‘path’ was paired with one another. “The ten “paths” of men are followed by the ten parallel “paths” of women” (Guaman Poma 76).

    For example, if you were sick and wounded, one was expected to be paired up with the opposite sex who was sick or wounded. It almost seems as if the Andeans attempted to strive for a ‘perfect’ community. However ‘perfect’ the idea of this community may or may not be though, it’s main idea relates back to the idea that performing one’s role in society was vital to the survival of community. An example of one of the ‘paths’ in Andean society is that of the ‘brave men’. These brave men are listed as the first ‘path’ in the Andean society. These men are the ‘soldiers of war’ and range from the ages of 25-50.

    The parallel of women to this path is that of the married women and widows, also known as the ‘warrior’s women’. The ages of these people were determined the inspector who visited about every six months. Every path had a parallel, and every gender had a function in the society whether it is a small miniscule task, or a great important task. The only ‘path’ that was deemed to not have an important role was of the tenth ‘path’, which included newborns that were incapable of serving society, and must have society serve them until they were capable of helping themselves and others (Guaman Poma 68-83).

    What is interesting about the Andean society is the idea of gender equality. Even at the time of birth such as it is in today’s society each new born is dressed to portray their sex since they cannot yet act like it. However, the idea of whatever sex one is does not affect their eventual important to their role in society. It is not until the coming of the Spanish that The Andean ideas and values were virtually abandoned. The men realized they must flee to the cities in order to appear Western and ‘mestizo’ to evade slavery that they would suffer as natives. European institutions battered Andean values, strongly exploited women labor, and the idea of family.

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    Guaman Pomas Illustration of the Gender Complementarities in the Andean Society. (2022, Nov 25). Retrieved from

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