By Gabby Storey
Francisca was a young noblewoman and cacica from the town of Nariguala, who in 1610 successfully litigated for recognition as a cacica in Peru. With the support of the procurator general for Indians, Francisco de Montalvo, Francisca demonstrated that women had held political office dating back to before the Spanish conquest.
Francisca had inherited the cacicazgo of Narigula from her grandfather, however her paternal uncle had seized it upon the death of his father. The judges of the royal high court concluded in 1614 that Francisca was to be reinstated to her role, and in the following years she shared this power with her new husband.
After Francisca’s successful legal case, a precedent was established through which other indigenous women could demonstrate they could inherit the office of cacica based upon regional pre-Hispanic customary law.
Her paternal uncle’s actions upon the death of her grandfather, colluding with Spanish officials to disinherit Francisca, demonstrated that there was a pre-existing culture of female rule in various cacicazgos.
All of this was conducted whilst Francisca was legally a child, however as her birth and death date are unknown, we are uncertain of further details of her rule and its longevity. Given the testimony at her case, we can envisage that cacicas in Peru regularly exercised power and administered lands and revenues, though her husband, Juan Temoche, appears to have mediated between the community and colonial authorities, according to Graubhart.
Karen B. Graubhart, ““Women were governing before the Spanish entered in this kingdom”. The institutionalization of the cacica from the north coast of Peru,” in Cacicas. The Indigenous Women Leaders of Spanish America, 1492-1825, eds., Margarita R. Ochoa and Sara Vicuña Guengerich, 139-164 (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2021)
Karen V. Powers, “Andeans and Spaniards in the Contact Zone: A Gendered Collision,” American Indian Quarterly 24(4) (2000): 511–536
María Rostworoski de Diez Canseco, Curacas y sucesiones: Costa norte (Lima: Minerva, 1961).