PhD Dissertations: Michael St. Denis, 2008

EL HOSPITAL DE LA REAL CARIDAD: A HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF INSTITUTIONAL POWER AT A LATE SPANISH COLONIAL PERIOD HOSPITAL IN THE ECUADORIAN ANDES

Hospitals have a 500-year history in the Americas but have been the focus of study by only a few researches.  This is particulary true of Latin American hospitals operating during the spanish Colonial Period, the 16th through early 19th centuries. This work seeks to redress this problem by examininig the Hospical de la Real Caridad, and 18th century hospital intended for indigenous people, within the colonial city of Riobamba inthe Ecuadorian Andes.  Combining existing published sources, archival evidence, and archaeology, this work examines the role of the Hospital de la Real Caridad's beyond medical provision: namely its social role.

The theoretical framework used to examine the social context in which the hospital operated is drawn from Erving Goffman's study of the "total institution".  Total institutions were facilities designed to isolate their inmates, strip them of their identity, and model new behaviour.  Using documentary and archaeological evidence, the Hospical de la Real Caridad is shown to engage in this process.  Through the use of surveillance, religious teaching, colonial medicine and majolicas, a form of glazed ceramic typically associated with the elite in colonial society, indigenous people were isolated and modelled behaviour that was designed to support the colonial system.

Indigenous people did not experience the institutional process universally when engaging with the medical system and on occasion they were able to use it to their own advantage.  For example, a series of applications were made for release from mita (tribute labour), owed to the Crown by indigenous people, due to medial reasons.  Changes in the application process are interpreted as an attempt by the Spanish colonial administration to curb a perceived abuse of release from tribute labour for medial reasons.

Hospitals played important roles beyond the provision of medical care.  They were fundamental components of the urban lansdcape, settings where important changes in medical philosophy were implemented, and unique locations where the colonial process was experienced by indigenous people.