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Keywords:

  • race;
  • Peru;
  • morality;
  • evidence;
  • rape trials

The life of Mercedes Ccorimanya Lavilla renders a telling portrait of the pursuit of justice in Cuzco, Peru, revealing how courts of law can be key sites in the production and negotiation of racial and gender taxonomies. Mercedes (who was gang-raped as a young woman) illustrates the near-heroic efforts necessary to mount and pursue rape charges in Peruvian courts, where rape victims largely manage the construction of evidence in lieu of the state. In the following article, I reconstruct the social circumstances and legal institutional setting surrounding the rape trial of Mercedes Ccorimanya Lavilla through the use of historical and ethnographic materials. In arguing that race mutually defines women's sexuality in rural Peru, I show how (in order to achieve a conviction) Mercedes had to develop a strategy in which she instrumentally employed the languages of race to distance herself from her own indigeneity, as well as that of her alleged attackers.