Susana Matallana received an M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She completed her Ph.D. in Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers in May 2011.
This study traces the first one-hundred years after the Spanish conquest of the Alto Magdalena Region (1535-1629) in present-day Colombia. In doing so, it focuses primarily on the indigenous actors – male and female, local and non-local – who took part in one way or another in this enterprise. As such it is based on the analysis of twenty-two unpublished archival documents dating from 1540 through 1669. This study argues that Belalcázar‟s Yanacona (Inca) allies played a major role in the conquest and colonization of the Alto Magdalena region, and that Yanacona women were an important part of this expedition. It also argues that Belalcázar and his troops encountered local matrilineal societies (Yalcones, Panches, Coyaimas, Natagaimas, Pixaos) in which women held significant political power, and that a local female (Yalcón) leader by the name of Guatepán may have given rise to the legend of La Gaitana. With regards to the wars of resistance that took place between the second half of the sixteenth century through the beginning of the seventeenth century, it claims that local indigenous groups such as the Coyaimas and Natagaimas who sided with the Spanish were instrumental in defeating the Pixao Indians who were the principal leaders of the revolts. Along this line, it contends that the vicious and “fratricidal” wars between the Indians who sided with the Spanish and those who sided against them were a decisive factor for Spanish victory. In addition it purports to show that local indigenous shamans known as mohanes were in fact politico-religious leaders who were persecuted by Spanish authorities not for religious but for political reasons, and more specifically for their role as leaders of the resistance. Finally, it argues that the wars that ensued after the Spanish incursion destroyed the social networks on which so much of local women‟s power was based, and that as a result, local indigenous women lost much of their traditional power and status.