Tupac Amaru II...
A mythical figure of the Peruvian Andes

Tupac Amaru II. History of Peru
Tupac Amaru II (1742-1781)

During the times of Spanish occupation of Peru, many aboriginal uprisings took place in the Andes, mainly due to the established labor system - forced labor basically.

Among them, there is one that epitomizes the level of cruelty and brutality that characterized that chapter in the history of Peru by the hands of Spanish conquistadores and adelantados: the rebellion of Túpac Amaru II.

Even though unsuccessful as a revolt, Túpac Amaru II became a mythical figure for aboriginal rights movements.

He inspired many other revolutionary attempts by Indians and mestizos in this part of South America.
Barely half a century later, this became a reality through the hands of Simon Bolivar.

T. Amaru II was a mestizo, strongly identificated with the history and culture of the Incas.

In fact, he claimed to be descendant of Túpac Amaru - the son of Inca Yupanqui, also known as Manco Capac II - executed by hanging at Cuzco's main square in 1572, and remembered as the last Inca of Vilcabamba.

By the way, Túpac Amaru II is not to be confused with Túpac Amaru Shakur (American rapper) or the Peruvian leftist group, or even with Túpac Katari, an Aymara warrior who also led an Indian rebellion in the region now known as Bolivia at about the same period.

The two forms of labor in the Andes back then were known as "mita" and "encomienda".
Mita was elaborated by the Inca civilization and essentially meant forced public work, a form of tribute to the government. It was based on the premise that a familiy needed sixty five days a year to farm for their own subsistence.

The remaining time was dedicated to the mita: construction of bridges, buildings, expanding the road network, mandatory military service, etc.

Families were organized in ayllus (clans-like) under the supervision of the Curaca (principal), an official of the Inca empire who ranked fourth in the chain of command after the supreme ruler, Sapa Inca. Mita was also adopted by Spanish conquerors a bit later, in order to supply silver mines with the required workforce. Mining for gold and silver was the economic engine in colonial times.

Tupac Amaru. Inca Civilization. History of Peru
Tupac Amaru

The "encomienda" (from the Spanish verb recomendar- to entrust) was the power granted by the Spanish Crown to some adelantados (conquistadores to take control over a number of natives).
A trusteeship labor system later abolished in 1720.

Adelantados were to instruct Indians in the Catholic faith and the Spanish language. In return, they would extract tribute from them, in the form of labor, gold or other products (wheat, corn, chickens, etc).

The property and control of conquered lands was to remain under the Spanish Crown.

In this historical context, Túpac Amaru II emerged...

Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui was born in Tinta, province of Cuzco, Peru, in 1742.
He received Jesuit education (Jesuits played an important role in Spanish America for nearly two centuries - visit Jesuit Missions of the Guaranis for more info on this), and later on was entitled Marquis of Oropesa.

This title - granted by the Spanish authorities - gave him a voice, a capacity to be listened to, which he frequently used to petition for the improvement of the Indian workforce, whether in farms, mills or mines.

None of this rendered the desired effect, even when using his own wealth and resources to help the impoverished condition of natives, so he decided to start a rebellion.
It was then when he changed his name to Jose Gabriel Túpac Amaru II.

The insurrection was marked by the hanging of governor Antonio de Arriaga - he'd threatened T. Amaru II with death following his stall in collecting tribute payments for the governor.

It was open rebellion now.
He organized a small army of several thousand Indians and marched towards the city of Cuzco, occupying several provinces along the way.

He never managed to do it, he was surrounded and captured after some skirmishes in the nearby region. A betrayal by two of his officers put an end to his ideals.

The advent of his execution is one of the most cruel ever documented in the history of Peru.

After being forced to bear witness to the execution of his wife, eldest son and some of his captains, his tongue was cut out and his limbs tied to four horses.
The attempt to quarter him failed so he was beheaded

The rest of his family was also killed when the revolt continued, with the exception of his youngest son - he was imprisoned in Spain for life.
Amaru's body parts were strewn across the towns loyal to him and relatives declared infamous and their goods confiscated.

In addition, all things related to Inca culture and traditions were outlawed and remained as such until Peru's independence from Spanish occupation.

Túpac Amaru II died at the age of thirty nine at Cuzco's plaza de armas on the 18th of May, 1781.


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