The Indian, The Mestizo, and The Impostor: The Fictionality of Race in Inca Garcilaso de la Vega


  • Manuel Garzon University of Pittsburgh



Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Decolonial studies, Colonial studies, Indigenous studies


Inca Garcilaso de la Vega is perhaps one of the most racially conscious authors of early modernity. In fact, he is the first American-born author to self-identify as a direct descendant of a colonized indigenous nation. As such, Inca Garcilaso understood well the epistemic implications of his biracial and bicultural status (his mestizo condition). Most literary critics have analyzed the incessant reiteration of his mestizaje throughout his texts as a way of countering the racist colonial labels imposed on Amerindians and their descendants. However, there is a complex and somewhat contradictory usage of racial terminology throughout his works. Sometimes Garcilaso claims to be a mestizo, sometimes an Indian, and at times he seems to only highlight his Spanish heritage, depending on the situation. In this sense, Inca Garcilaso’s depiction of his authorial persona is not a straightforward decolonial counter-discourse. Instead, I argue that the Inca Garcilaso that appears in his texts is a fictional author whose deliberately inconsistent use of the different racial labels amounts to a modern decolonial strategy: a critique that ironizes the traditional meaning of racial labels, thus destabilizing their epistemic status. In this paper, I aim to flesh out Garcilaso’s complex decolonial strategy, through a literary reading of his authorial persona.