For those who know me, its no secret that I love history. As a PCV, I’ve hit the jackpot with a placement in Peru. There’s so many different cultural heritages to learn about and so many great archaeological sites to visit that would make any history buff want to cry. Not to mention, there is so much more to Peruvian history than just than the Incas and Machu Picchu. So in the spirit of sharing my love for history, I decided to do a series called Throwback Thursday where I highlight a specific part of Peruvian history on a Thursday of course. Enjoy – I hope ya’ll learn something new.
If I asked most folks what they think of when they hear the name Tupac, I’d probably hear a couple of bars from Hail Mary, listen to thoughts on the epic East Coast vs West Coast feud, and hear conspiracy theories about faked deaths. Now, if you’re a ride or die for this Death Row heavy hitter, excuse my blasphemy, but Tupac Amaru Shakur wan’t the original – at least in name. In fact, there were two Peruvian Tupacs before Mr. Shakur graced the 90s rap game with his nose ring and iconic “Thug Life” tattoo. So happy Throwback Thurday ya’ll – This is the tale of two Tupacs and it goes a little somethin’ like this:
Túpac Amaru (or Thupaq Amaru in Quechua) was the last emperor of the “Neo-Inca State.” Neo-Inca State is just a fancy name for what was left of the Inca government and royal family after the Spanish came through and crashed the party. Túpac was the son of the founder of the new Inca state, Manco, who had originally allied himself with the Spanish until he realized they were only there to wreak havoc and disrespect. Anywho, after the death of two of his brothers, Túpac rose to power as the new Sapa Inca (Emperor, literally meaning “Only Inca”). Meanwhile, the Spanish had been sending ambassadors to “work things out” with the Sapa Inca however, during one incident two ambassadors were killed by an Inca captain. The Spanish melodramatically played the victim, stating that the Incas had “broken the inviolate law observed by all nations regarding ambassadors.’ — so of course from henceforth it on an poppin’ between the Neo-Inca State and the Spanish Viceroyalty.
Subsequently, the Spanish laid siege to the Inca refuge at Vilcabamba, which is now a tourist site. After failed attempts in battle to lift the siege, the Incas retreated into the lowland forests. The next day, the Spanish found the the city completely destroyed and empty but they still decided to purse the Sapa Inca into the lowlands. After capturing various members of his family and government, the Spanish finally caught up to Túpac who, in a unfortunate case of baby mama drama, had been slowed by his wife who was about to give birth.
On September 21, 1572 Túpac Amaru and the other captives were marched to Cusco – all Tupac jokes aside – on death row. However, during his trial numerous Catholic clerics pleaded for Túpac to be sent to Spain instead of to his death because they were convinced of his innocence. It is even said that the King of Spain, Phillip II, had disapproved of his death. Tragically, the execution still took place. His last words are said to be:
“Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta”
“Mother Earth, witness how my enemies shed my blood.”
And so like Tupac Shakur, Túpac Amaru met a tragic end.
Enter Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, a mestizo (mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry)
who claimed to be a direct descendant of the former Sapa Inca, Túpac Amaru. Jose Condorcanqui was born into privilege but as he grew into adulthood, he began
to sympathize with indigenous peoples who were still being oppressed by the forced labor system and extorted by the Catholic Church. After he realized that his concerns were falling on deaf ears, he then decided to change his name to Túpac Amaru II and to start to foment his revolution- on some real thug life ish.
The rebellion began with Túpac Amaru II capturing the governor Antonio de Arriaga
and forcing him to write letter to a large number of Spaniards summoning them to his house. When approximately 200 of them showed up, Túpac rolled up 4,000 deep ready to kill members of the Spanish aristocracy in Peru. He even gave the task of executing Arriaga to Arriaga’s slave, Antonio Oblitas. As he continued his insurrection, the Vice-royalty sent approximately 1,300 troops to quell the rebellion. After a victorious battle at Sangarara, Amaru was sadly betrayed by two of his captains and captured. When probed for names of his accomplices, he simply but eloquently stated, “There are no accomplices here other than you and I. You as oppressor, I as liberator, deserve to die.” #NoSnitching
He was sentenced to death by quartering in the same square that his ancestor Túpac Amaru had been executed in. However, before his own death he was made to watch the execution of his wife, eldest son, uncle, and brother in law. His quartered body was then unnecessarily beheaded and his body parts were sent to various parts of the country to be put on display. After his death, in a quite literal case of overkill, the rest of his family was executed except for his youngest son, who was sentenced to prison in Spain for the rest of his life.
His legacy survives in Peru today as a national icon for indigenous rights and liberation. There is even a room in the Government Palace named in his memory. A a large, beautiful portrait of him hangs in the room above a fireplace. I put the picture here so if you’re ever in Lima, you don’t have to waste your time at palace which totally isn’t worth the visit.
And that was the fairly long but still very abridged tale of two Túpacs. Now the next time you hear a Tupac Shakur song on the radio, you can turn to a friend and tell them all you know about this part of Peruvian history. They’ll probably politely shrug off the impromptu history lesson but at least you’ll have the satisfaction that comes with dropping random knowledge on unsuspecting audiences – and who could want more than that?
If you’re a history buff like me and want to read more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.