Biografía en Español
Tupac Amaru, The Life,
Times, and Execution of the Last Inca -
The ANDES Web Ring
James Q. Jacobs
In 1533 Francisco Pizarro, after
killing Inca Atahuallpa, marched from Cajamarca, Peru, towards the
Incan capitol of Cuzco unopposed by native forces. He was
accompanied by Manco Capac II, half-brother of the assassinated
Inca. Manco Capac, as a reward for submission to Spanish rule, was
appointed puppet Inca by Pizarro. Several years of humiliation and
his imprisonment hardened Manco Capac's hatred for the conquistadors.
After escaping from
his jail, the
Saxsayhuaman fortress, Manco Capac organized an army and
attacked Cuzco in 1536. So began the belated resistance to the
Spanish conquest in South America. Firing red-hot stones with slings
the resistance set their occupied sacred city, Cuzco, afire. The
Spaniards retreated to the Saxsayhuaman fortress, where their force
of 200 with superior armaments held off Manco Capac's force of
40,000 to 50,000. The Incans were unable to adapt to the Spanish
weapons. Although they captured some firearms, they were unable to
use them. Due to the onset of planting season many of the rebels
abandoned the uprising.
Manco Capac's forces
prematurely ended the siege and altered their strategy. They moved
to Ollantaytambo to wage a war of attrition on the conquerors. When
driven from Ollantaytambo the Incas retreated to the more remote and
difficult to access Vitcos, a town in the rugged and nearly
impenetrable Vilcabamba Andes. From their remote mountain location
Manco Capac directed the harassment of the Europeans, making it
impossible for the Spaniards to establish settlements anywhere in
southern Peru. Meanwhile, Paullu was crowned puppet Inca in Cuzco.
civil war broke out among the conquerors Manco Capac sided with
Almagro against Pizarro. Upon defeat Almagro fled towards Vitcos in
the Vilcabamba valley. He was captured en route. Seven of Almagro's
followers managed to escape Pizarro and were given refuge by Manco
Capac. He ordered that they should have houses, "treating them very
well and giving them all they needed. He even ordered his own women
to prepare their food and drink." (Titu Cusi Yupanqui 74) In 1544
these seven assassinated the Inca , their host and protector of two
years, by stabbing him in the back while playing horseshoes. After
repeatedly stabbing the defenseless Inca the seven men escaped on
horseback. Their escape plan failed when they took a wrong turn.
They were found and executed the following day.
Sayri Tupac, a
five-year-old, witnessed his father's murder and succeeded him.
Prince Philip of Spain wrote to Sayri Tupac in 1552 acknowledging
that Manco Capac's actions had been provoked. Prince Philip pardoned
Sayri Tupac for all crimes since his accession. Prince Philip also
asked the Viceroy to negotiate with the Incas. In 1557 Sayri Tupac
abandoned his father's struggle for independence and accepted the
offer of the Spaniards to return to Cuzco. He departed Vilcabamba
province without the royal insignia. His half-brother, Titu Cusi,
and the military commanders were using Sayri Tupac as a guinea-pig,
to test the real intentions of the Spanish.
In Cuzco Sayri Tupac
received a special dispensation from Pope Julius III in order to
consecrate his marriage to his sister Cusi Huarcay. The Spaniards
were pleased that the Inca was now a Christian and that the
rebellion had been ended. In 1561 the young Inca suddenly died of
poisoning. Just as suddenly Vilcabamba was again ruled as a separate
Another of Manco
Capac's sons, Titu Cusi, became the Inca from 1560 to 1571, usurping
his younger half-brother, Manco Capac's legitimate son Tupac Amaru.
Titu Cusi made Tupac Amaru a priest and the custodian of Manco
Capac's body in Vilcabamba. Negotiations to lure Titu Cusi to Cuzco
failed. Titu Cusi initially renewed raiding and encouraged native
uprisings while governing the independent neo-Inca state from
Vilcabamba. Bernabé Cobo reported that Titu Cusi "set himself to
doing the Christians as much harm as he was able. . . (he) killed
travelers. As a result there was no safe place in the districts of
Cuzco or Huamanga, and no one could travel from place to place
without an escort." (Cobo 240)
Governor-General Lope García de Castro accused the Inca of urging
uprisings in Chilé and Argentina. After discovering a possible
concerted rebellion in Peru he wrote to the King, "there has been
much carelessness in this kingdom. The Indians have been allowed to
have horses, mares and arquebuses, and many of them know how to ride
and shoot an arquebus very well." (García de Castro 60)
Governor-General Castro ordered the confiscation from all Indians of
horses and Spanish weapons. A resurgence of native religion was also
occurring. The Spaniards viewed the existence of Vilcabamba and a
non-Christian Inca as a continuing threat to their security. The
Spaniards openly threatened to conquer Vilcabamba.
Cusi, in order to enhance his son Quispe Titu's chances of
succession, wished to see him marry his cousin Beatriz Clara Coya,
the daughter of two of Manco Capac's legitimate children. This
desire and the threats of conquest caused Titu Cusi to renew
negotiations with the Spanish.
Titu Cusi's father had
been killed and his mother, sister and cousin had been raped by
Spaniards. He had been imprisoned, collared like a dog and ransomed
for a trunk of gold. He wrote of his suspicion that the Spaniards
had poisoned his brother, Sayri Tupac. Yet, during his
administration, Titu Cusi moved towards the less bellicose position
of coexistence. Envoys were admitted to Vilcabamba and negotiations
initiated. The peace treaty of Acobamba was signed in 1566. Titu
Cusi gave orders to end raiding and killing of Spaniards.
In 1567 Titu Cusi
declared his allegiance to the King of Spain. On July 9 in a special
ceremony the Inca performed rites to the Sun and "placed his hand on
the ground and [swore] to keep the peace" declaring that he "placed
himself of his own free will . . . under the power and strength of
the kings of Spain." (Coleción 275) Titu's brothers,
including Tupac Amaru, made the same submission.
agreed by treaty Titu Cusi allowed two Augustine monks and a
corregidor (royal administrator) into Vilcabamba. Quispe Titu was
baptized on July 20, after instruction. King Philip requested a
papal dispensation so Quispe Titu and his cousin Beatrice Coya could
marry, which was granted.
In 1570 Friar Diego
Ortiz became a close companion to the Inca. When Titu fell ill and
suddenly died Diego Ortiz, who was nearby, was blamed with poisoning
him. Friar Ortiz was tortured and killed.
Tupac Amaru, a
legitimate son of Manco Capac, emerged as the next ruler. Tupac
Amaru had grown up in the Incan convent of Vilcabamba, the so-called
religious university of the Incas. He was favored by the native
religious and military leaders. Unlike Quispe Titu, Tupac Amaru was
an adult. And he opposed Christianity and the Spanish occupation. In
Vilcabamba all signs of Christianity were quickly destroyed and
churches were leveled. The few Spaniards were killed and the borders
closed to further incursions.
Spaniards in Cuzco knew nothing of what had transpired. Two envoys
sent were each in turn not allowed to enter the province and failed
to contact the Inca. Also, the Spaniards had failed to send the
tributes promised to the Inca in the treaty of Acobamba. A third
envoy was killed by an Indian captain at the border, and this
incident became known in Cuzco.
King Charles, in 1549,
had decreed that conquest expeditions were to engage in fighting
only in self-defense because, in good conscience, their underlying
authority stemmed from a papal edict to convert the pagans. Using
the justification that the Incas had "broken the inviolate law
observed by all nations of the world regarding ambassadors" (Murua
1, 246) the new Viceroy, Francisco de Toledo, decided to attack and
conquer Vilcabamba. His proclamation of war was published on April
14, 1572. Two weeks later ten soldiers with artillery and firearms
took possession of the bridge of Chuquichaca, the entrance to
Vilcabamba province on the Urubamba River. By late May Toledo had
assembled 250 Spanish soldiers and 2,000 Indian warriors.
On June 1, the first
engagement of the war commenced in the Vilcabamba valley. The
natives "advanced with their lances, maces, and arrows with as much
spirit, brio and determination as the most experienced, valiant and
disciplined soldiers of Flanders" (Salazar 4, 832) against the
firearms and artillery for hours, then retreated. On the 23rd of
June the fort of Huayna Pucará surrendered to Spanish artillery
fire. Tupac Amaru had left for Vilcabamba the previous day. On June
24, 1572 the invaders occupied Vilcabamba, the last free Inca city.
The city was found deserted and sacked. The houses of the Inca had
been burned. All food stores had been destroyed and were still
smoldering. Inca Tupac and a party of about 100 had escaped into the
jungle in various directions the day before.
groups of pursuing Spanish soldiers returned. One group had captured
Tuti Cusi's son and pregnant wife. A second returned with prisoners
and a million in gold, silver and emeralds, which was divided
between the soldiers and priests. The third group returned with
Tupac Amaru's two brothers, other relatives and several of his
generals. The Inca and his commander remained at large. A group of
forty hand-picked soldiers set out to pursue them. They followed the
Masahuay river for 170 miles, where they found an Inca warehouse
with quantities of gold and the Inca's tableware. Captured Chunco
Indians reported that Tupac was down river in Momorí. Expedition
leader García de Loyola ordered the building of five rafts and
pursued the Inca, surviving turbulent rapids en route.
At Momorí they
discovered that Tupac had escaped by land. They followed with the
help of the Mamarí Indians, who advised which path the Inca had
followed and reported that Tupac was slowed by his wife, who was
about to give birth. After a fifty mile march they saw a campfire
around nine o'clock at night. They found Tupac Amaru and his wife
warming themselves. They assured them that no harm would come to
them and secured their surrender. Tupac Amaru was arrested.
The captured were
marched into Cuzco on Sept. 21. Tupac Amaru was "held by a chain of
gold round his neck" (Salazar 30, 278). The victors also brought the
mummified remains of Manco Capac and Titu Cusi and a gold statue of
Punchao, a representation of the Incan lineage containing the mortal
remains of the hearts of the deceased Incas. The final stage of the
conquest began in the prison where the attempt to indoctrinate and
convert Tupac and his fellow captives to Christianity was
undertaken. In a mere two days and nights they were instructed by a
small army of proselytizers in all that was necessary for their
baptism. At the same time they were tried and convicted. The five
Native generals received a summary trial at which nothing was said
in their defense. They were sentenced to hang. Several who died of
the severe torture they received were nonetheless hung.
The "trial of the Inca
was hurried and was manifestly unjust." (Hemming 445) Tupac Amaru
was convicted of the murder of Friar Diego Ortiz and others, of
which he was certainly innocent. Tupac Amaru was sentenced to be
beheaded. Numerous clerics, convinced of Tupac Amaru's innocence,
pleaded to no avail, on their knees before the Viceroy Toledo, that
the Inca be sent to Spain for a trial instead of being executed.
An eyewitness report
from the day recalls that Tupac Amaru was led through the streets of
Cuzco between Father Alonso de Baranza and Father Molina, who
instructed him for the benefit of his soul. Vega Laoiza has him
riding a mule with hands tied behind his back and a rope around his
neck. Gabriel Oviedo and Baltasar de Ocampo report great crowds and
the Inca surrounded by 400 guards with lances. In front of the main
cathedral in the central square of Cuzco a black-draped scaffold had
been erected. The plaza was so densely crowded for the spectacle
that the chief officer of the court rode down many people to clear a
path. Reportedly 10,000 to 15,000 witnesses were present.
Tupac Amaru mounted
the scaffold with Bishop Agustín de la Corunna. The "multitude of
Indians, who completely filled the square, saw that lamentable
spectacle [and knew] that their lord and Inca was to die, they
deafened the skies, making them reverberate with their cries and
wailing." (Murúa 271)
Murúa, writing in
"Fue cosa notable, y de
admiración, lo que refieren: que como la magnitud de indios en
la plaza estaban, y toda la henchían, viendo aquel espectáculo
triste y lamentable, que habían de morir allí su Ingá y señor,
atronasen los cielos y los hiciesen retumbar con gritos,
vocerío y los parientes suyos, que cerca estaban, con lágrimas y
sollozos celebrasen aquella triste tragedia, los que en el
tablado estaban a la ejecución mandase callar aquella gente a lo
cual el pobre Tupa Amaro alzando la mano dio una palmada con la
cual toda la gente callaban llanto ni voz ninguna, que fue
indicio y señal manifiesta de la obediencia, temor y respeto que
los indios tenía a sus incas y señores. Pues aquel que jamás los
más habían visto, pues siempre se estuviere en Vilcabamba,
retirado desde niño, a una palmada reprimieron los llantos y
lágrimas salidas del corazón que tan dificultosas son de ocultar
Tupac Amaru calmly raised his hands
and silence and motionlessness fell upon the densely packed crowd.
Several versions survive of the Inca's speech. In one report Tupac
spoke and implored the crowd to never curse their children for bad
behavior, but only to punish them, for once he had annoyed his
mother and she cursed him with an unnatural death. The priests
convinced him that his death was the wish of God. He asked
forgiveness of everyone and told the Viceroy he would pray to God
for him. Bishop Popoyán and some priest implored the Viceroy to send
Tupac Amaru to Spain to be tried by the king. The viceroy, Francisco
de Toledo ordered Juan de Soto, his servant and law officer of the
court through the crowd to the center of the spectacle. He galloped
furiously to the gallows with the Viceroy's order that the Inca's
head be cut off at once, crushing many people in the crowd.
In another report,
based on Salazar, the Inca is reported to have renounced Incan
religion and admitted to the crowd that he had become a Christian.
He reportedly stated that everything the Incas had said about their
relationship to the Sun was false. It is likelier that a priest
delivered this message from the gallows.
Juan Quispe Kuro, reports that Tupac Amaru's last request was that
he be allowed to say good-bye to his young children, who ascended
the gallows with dignity and hugged their father.
As reported by
Baltasar de Ocampa and Friar Gabriel de Oviedo, Prior of the
Dominicans at Cuzco, both eyewitnesses, the Incas last words were,
"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
"Mother Earth, witness how my enemies shed my blood."
By one account Tupac
Amaru placed his head on the block. The executioner took Tupac's
hair in one hand and severed his head in a single blow. He raised
his head in the air for the crowd to view. At the same time all the
bells of the many churches and monasteries of the city were rung. A
great sorrow and tears were brought to all the native peoples
The military leader of the Incan army, Wallpa Yupanki was also
decapitated, two generals were hung and the hands of three other
resistors were chopped off, according to Guillon's recounting.
Toledo also ordered the burning of the mummies of the Incas.
reports that Tupac Amaru's severed head was impaled on a lance near
the gallows. At night the Incan people began to gather in the plaza.
In the early morning Juan del la Serna observed this practice,
considered idolatrous worship. The Viceroy then ordered the head
buried with the body. A pontifical mass was celebrated for the
Inca's soul and all the clergy of the great city took part in the
funeral. Tupac Amaru's mortal remains are buried in the Church
constructed upon the remains of the Coricancha, the Incan monument
to the Sun which had housed the mummies of his ancestors.
Nearly forty years
after the conquest of Peru began with the execution of Atahuallpa,
the conquest ended with the execution of his nephew. A roundup of
Incan descendants was soon initiated by the Viceroy. Several dozen,
including Tupac Amaru's three-year-old son, were banished to Mexico,
Chilé, Panama and elsewhere. King Philip overturned some of the
ruled Peru with a harshness never before known. He wrote a large
volume of laws, including "Any Indian who makes friendship with an
Indian woman who is an infidel, is to receive one hundred lashes,
for the first offense..." and "Indians shall no longer use surnames
taken from the moon, birds, animals, serpents, or rivers, which they
In Cuzco on Sept. 18,
1589, the last survivor of the original conquerors of Peru, Don
Mancio Serra de Leguisamo, wrote in the preamble of his will the
following in parts:
"[W]e found these kingdoms in
such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise
that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man,
nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor
were there immoral people.
men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests,
mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated
and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property
without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were
there law suits respecting it...
which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my
conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by
our evil example, the people who had such a government as was
enjoyed by these natives. They were so free from the committal
of crimes or excesses, as well men as women, that the Indian who
had 100,000 pesos worth of gold or silver in his house, left it
open merely placing a small stick against the door, as a sign
that its master was out. With that, according to their custom,
no one could enter or take anything that was there. When they
saw that we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed that
it was from fear of them, that they might not kill us, but not
because they believed that anyone would steal the property of
another. So that when they found that we had thieves among us,
and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they
despised us." (Markham 300)
According to Spanish records the
'number of souls under their jurisdiction' fell from about 1.5
million in 1561 to 600,000 in 1796 (including European descendants).
Prior to 1561 it is estimated more than 75% of the native population
perished due to small pox, measles and influenzas introduced by the
Europeans. Famines also took their toll due to the disruptions of
economic and social life. In some provinces fully two-thirds of the
population was conscripted to work in silver mines, where most
perished. By 1800, the population was reduced to one-tenth the
aboriginal level, if not far less.
In 1780 Tupac Amaru's
great-grandson, José Gabriel Condorcanqui, better known as Tupac
Amaru II, led the first major Incan uprising against the Spaniards
in two centuries.
His rebellion was suppressed, he was captured and sentenced to be
tortured and put to death. After his torture he was killed by being
drawn and quartered on the main plaza in Cuzco in 1781, in the same
place as his namesake had been beheaded. Other regional revolts
followed. Thereafter all the descendants of the Incas were once
again traced and many were executed. A group of ninety were sent to
Spain where most died in prisons.
When the Creole
(mestizo) aristocracy of Peru won independence from Spain the
Indians suffered even greater atrocities, particularly the loss of
community lands. A system of chattelism was imposed in exchange for
the right to live on haciendas and maintain a few animals. Agrarian
reform was not initiated in Bolivia until 1953. In Peru in 1969 a
revolutionary military junta decreed a land reform law. This author,
as a Peace Corps worker in the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture,
participated in the liberation of several haciendas. At Hacienda
Sollocota the enslavement of 100 native Incan families ended when
the junta presented them title to their ancestral lands. On that
day, during a great celebration with traditional music and dancing,
one of those given ownership stated to this author, "We have waited
four hundred years for our freedom, and today we are free."
Machu_picchu.kmz Valley of the Incas, Inca Trail, and Machu
Historia del Nuevo Mundo, bk 12.
documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y
organización de las antiquas posesiónes españoles de Ultramar,
ed. Angel de Altolaguirre y Duvale and Adolfo Bonilla y San Martin,
25 vols., Madrid, 1885-1932, vol.15. In Hemming.
García de Castro,
Lope, Despatch, Lima, Mar. 6, 1565, Gobernantes del Perú, cartas
y papeles, Siglo xvi, Documentos del Archivo de Indias, Coleción de
Publicaciones Históricas de la Biblioteca del Congreso Argentino,
ed. Roberto Levillier, 14 vols., Madrid, 1921-6. In Hemming.
Edmundo, La Guerra de Reconquista Inka, Historica epica de como
Los Incas lucharon en Defensa de la Soberanía del Perú ó
Tawantinsuyu entre 1536 y 1572, Primera edición, ímpeso en Lima,
Hemming, John, The
Conquest of the Incas, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc., New
Markham, Sir Clements,
The Incas of Peru, Second Edition, John Murray, London, 1912.
The History of the Incas, Translated from the French by George
Ordish, Pantheon Books, New York, 1969.
Mura, Martín de,
Historia General del Perú, Orígin y descendencia de los Incas
(1590 - 1611), ed. Manuel Ballesteros-Gaibrois, 2 vols., Madrid,
1962, 1964. In Hemming.
Ocampa, Baltasar de,
Descripción de la Provincia de Sant Francisco de la Vitoria de
Vilcapampa (1610). Trans, C. R. Markham, The Hakluyt Society,
Second Series, vol. 22, 1907. In Hemming.
Bautista de, Relación sobre el periodo del gobierno de los
Virreyes Don Francisco de Toledo y Don García Hurtado de Mendoza
(1596), Coleción de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento,
conquista y colonization de las posesiones espanolas en América y
Oceanía sacadas en su mayor parte de Real Archivo de Indias, 42
vols., Madrid, 1864-84. In Hemming.
Titu Cusi Yupanqui,
Inca Diego del Castro, Relación de la conquista del Perú y hechos
del Inca Manco II; Instrución el muy Ille. Señor Ldo. Lope García de
Castro, Gouernador que fue destas rreynos del Pirú (1570), Coleción
de libros y documentos referentes a la historia del Perú, ed.
Carlos A. Romero and Horacio H. Urteaga, two series, 22 vols., Lima,
1916-35. In Hemming.
Valladolid, 29 April
1549, Colección de documentos para la historia de la formación
social de Hispano-América, ed. Richard Konetzke, 4 vols.,
Madrid, 1953. In Hemming.
Vargas Ugarte, Ruben,
Historia del Perú, Virreinato (1551-1600), Lima, 1949, p.
Many of the
translations in this article are quoted from the work of John
Hemming. Hemming's work, Conquest of the Incas, is both a
major work of excellent scholarship and an enthralling narrative. I
highly recommend the book to those seeking further authoritative
information and greater detail about one of the most tragic
genocides in human history. I receive many inquiries due to this
page, and I direct most of them to Hemming's publications. Thanks
are extended to Tom Shoemaker for his editing help and to Peruvian
native Frank Fernandez for comments and a helpful correction.
Aug. 2006. I received
a careful review of a passage in the article from Manuel J. Inguanzo.
I had written, "At the age of eight or nine Beatriz Clara Coya, the
daughter of Sayri Tupac and heiress to his great estates, was wedded
to Cristóbal Maldonado and then raped by him to give greater force
to the wedding claim. This was done in an attempt to secure her
inheritance." Manuel noted, other histories do not report this
marriage actually taking place, and he kindly provided the further
summarizing Spanish language histories he found on the topic,
reported, "The royal child was raised by the nuns of the convent of
Santa Clara in Cuzco until she was eight years old, when her mother
took her to the house of Arias Maldonado, an influential
conquistador. In that household, plans were laid our to marry her to
Cristobal, brother of Arias Maldonado. ... It was even murmured that
Cristobal Maldonado had raped the child Beatriz Clara in order to
force a marriage to take place. ... Titu Cusi Yupanqui, as a
condition to abandon the refuge in Vilcabamba, which had been so
irritating to the Spanish crown, wanted the authorization of the
marriage of his son Quispe Tito to the girl... doña Beatriz was
returned to the convent where she stayed until she turned 15 years
old, when at the behest of the viceroy Francisco de Toledo, she
indicated her preference for"marriage. The viceroy Toledo gave her
in marriage to a captain in his retinue, Martín García de Loyola, as
a reward for having captured and taken in chains to Cuzco Tupac
Amaru..." Sources: Diccionario histórico-biográfico del Perú. Tomo
segundo, Manuel de Mendiburu Lima, Imprenta de J. Francisco Solis,
1876, and http://www.cervantesvirtual.com, entry: Doña María Coya de