Shaky Colonialism: The 1746 Earthquake-Tsunami in Lima, Peru, and its Long Aftermath

Charles Walker uses the 1746 earthquake to explain people’s reaction to disaster. In his book, Shaky Colonialism, he lays the emphasis on the tragedy that was later followed by a tsunami to ridicule parts of the society and the ruling class. Unluckily, Lima’s port called Callao experienced a 50-feet high tsunami, and only a fraction of population of around 6000 people survived. The epidemic’s aftermath was also devastating. These sequences of calamities resulted in a somewhat unbearable atmosphere characterized by uncertainty and premonition.

Walker begins by explaining the immediate effects of the tsunami. He introduces a character, a Spanish commander who tours the city after the devastating outcomes of the earthquake. The consequences of the disaster are comparable to those of Troy in Greece. This depicts the true image of the situation at the site. He uses this chance to introduce the political conflict between the reformists and the conservatives. The author satirically utilizes this fact to ridicule the weaknesses and the priorities of the inhabitants of Lima. Instead of working towards the recovery from the war, they are busy fighting amongst themselves. This battle is, however, not clearly explained in the book, but the writer ends the reader’s doubts by saying it terminated in a stalemate. Walker also uses this event to explain the people’s perception of the earthquake. They mainly blamed this on God claiming that it was a sign of his wrath over the people of Lima (Walker, 2008).

Walker advances the plot of the story explaining the causes of the earthquake according to the people’s opinions. In the second chapter, he explains their interpretation of the disaster was mainly religious. Prior to the disaster under discussion, they experienced a similar earthquake in 1687, comets in 1667, epidemics in 1723 and the revolts in 1750. Everyone considered this sequence of disasters a divine punishment (Walker, 2008). The preachers and the priests preached only a message of destruction, and this brought distress to the population. Normally, it is expected that the inhabitants of the land should embark on the plans to recover from the crisis in the economy. Rather, the people did not make much effort to advance; instead, they focused on what had happened pointing fingers at the cause of the calamity. It is obvious that Walker uses the events to ridicule the weakness of people’s beliefs.

The writer also discusses the disorder and disobedient nature of the inhabitants before the earthquake. As he explains, the citizens were unruly, and the government had lost the control of its subjects. The occurrence of the disaster posed a threat to the colonial control over Lima. The lower-class was hard to manage. The church had its own strict doctrines that brought controversy to the governmental rule, and the upper-class wanted independence (Walker, 2008). Consequently, there was a state of anarchy on the territory as each group of people wanted to be superior to the other. There were clashes over land, and a variety of races present in Lima worsened the tension. Using these facts, Walter manages to explain the weaknesses of the ruling in the society. The government failed in its responsibility of implementing the law, and the subjects also suffered a set-back in their obligation of adherence to the law.

Try our service with
Get 15% OFF
Your first order

Rebellion of the Barrios

In the Rebellion of the Barrios, McFarlane uses the 1765 uprising of the Barrios to ridicule the society and to show poor governance. In the history, the event has been termed as one of the longest outbreaks that have ever occurred. The author uses it to explain the weakness of the government in implementing policy and maintaining order.

There was a condition of anarchy in Quinto, and the effects of the war were tremendous. This event was a huge challenge to the government as lack of cooperation from the citizens made the situation even more problematic. As it is accounted for, the large Indian population of the Ecuadorian highlands caused civil disorders, and this was a potent threat to the security in Quinto (McFarlane, 1989). The author capitalizes on this happening to ridicule the incompetence of the government. In addition, the population is also satirized in the sense that they contributed to the disruptions instead of working together in order to neutralize the threats.

Tax rates in Quito shot up tremendously. This made the citizens’ living standards worse, and it was harder for them to cope with the difficult situation. The Indians did their best by selling on the markets to at least live up to the economic expectations, but it was still difficult. The government made every effort to improve the state of affairs, and they went as far as seeking external help but this did not relieve the situation. McFarlane tells that the leaders even decided to raise funds to send a representative, Francisco de Borja, to present the case to the king in Madrid (McFarlane, 1989). All these events took place during the colonial period, and the government did not do everything within its limits to achieve peace in the land. It would have been a little more effective if the people had sought to maintain peace amongst themselves first before looking for the external help. The author uses this situation to bring out the weakness of the government during that event and the effects of war.

The Analysis of the Tensions and Outcomes of the Events

The earthquake and tsunami in Lima had colossal effects on Peru. First of all, it had a sensational influence on the religious sector. It raised a lot of concern regarding its origin, and most people drew conclusions that it was a divine punishment. In addition, the clergy were deeply affected, and they began preaching about the Earth’s destruction. It caused premonitions among the citizens and uncertainties about their fate. Moreover, there was tremendous destruction of property due to the disaster. It led to the ruined economy causing economic instability (Walker, 2008). Furthermore, the society was influenced as well since people began pointing fingers at one another. They blamed the women as the cause of the calamity claiming it was due to their infidelity and dressing code. Finally, there were radical disruptions in Lima. There was war between the reformists and the conservatives. This resulted in political instability in the land and the rise of anarchy.

The rebellion of the Barrios had comparable effects on the people. To start with, there was serious economic recession in Bourbon Quito. Living standards were rather high, and this made it difficult for people to meet the economic expectations. The collision resulted in massive social effects. Furthermore, there was an outbreak of civil wars among the Indians which led to deaths. Moreover, the conflicts over land between the citizens started. This led to insecurity in the land. The ruling class was also strongly affected. It was under immense pressure due to the war, and they were tasked with an overwhelming obligation of restoring peace among the inhabitants (McFarlane, 1989). Additionally, people’s culture was also influenced. Colonial rule during the period had a significant impact on individuals, and civilization eroded the cultural beliefs. As a result of colonialism in Spanish America, culture was greatly affected due to the westernization.

The Comparison of the Results of Events and Authors’ Conclusions

In both instances, the aftermath of the disasters involved the communal distress. For example, there was war outbreak between the Indian population and the blacks. The outcome of the catastrophes in both instances also included the numerous deaths amongst the citizens. Moreover, both events also led to civil problems. The ruling class was not in a position to control its subjects. In Lima, the low-class organized a revolution, and they were against the upper-class citizens and the colonial government. This resulted in a state of anarchy. In addition, both events had an effect on the economy of the regions. There was economic distress in Quito and Lima, and this made living standards hard to maintain (McFarlane, 1989). On the contrary, there was a difference in the impact of the disasters on the religion. Lima was strongly affected concerning the religion compared to Quito. This was because the calamity in Lima was natural but the one in Quito was induced by the citizens.


Walker and McFarlane have used a pretty influential method to expose the reactions to the events and to ridicule some aspects in the society. People have diverse perceptions of catastrophe, and this makes them act differently in case of a tragedy. In most situations, the actions have negative outcomes which make life difficult. As a result, it is prudent to keenly evaluate life processes and events especially in times of tragedy and determine the best alternative to overcome the effects of calamity. Clearly, erroneous assessment of disastrous situations leads to unbearable life situations, and it should, therefore, be avoided. Every individual has the obligation to act rationally in case of a disaster and to avoid unendurable aftermath. Moreover, people in authority as well as the citizens should make their contributions to neutralize the effects of the catastrophe. Peace can easily be achieved if everyone makes efforts to reach the common goal and deal with all the consequences.

Get a price quote
Title of your paper
Type of service
Type of your assignment
Academic level
- +
1st time order 15% OFF

Related Free Sociology Essays