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Tupac Amaru

Tupac Amaru (Thupaq Amaru in modern Quechua) (d. 1572), was the last indigenous leader of the Inca state in Peru.


Following the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in the 1530s, a few members of the royal family established a small independent state in Vilcabamba, in the relatively inaccessible Upper Amazon to the northeast of Cuzco. The founder of this so-called Neo-Inca state was Manco Inca Yupanqui. (also known as Manco Capac II), who had initially allied himself with the Spanish, then led an unsuccessful war against them before establishing himself in Vilcabamba in 1540. After a Spanish attack in 1544 in which Manco Inca Yupanqui was killed, his son Sayri Tupac assumed the title of Sapa Inca , before accepting Spanish authority in 1558, moving to Cuzco, and dying (by killing hiself in the foot then his head(with a gun)) in 1561. He was succeeded in Vilcabamba by his brother Titu Cusi, who killed himself and his family in 1571. Tupac Amaru, another brother of the two preceding emperors, then succeeded to the title in Vilcabamba.

Final war with Spain

At this time the Spanish were still unaware of the death of the previous Sapa Inca (capac) and had routinely sent two ambassadors to continue ongoing negotiations being held with Titu Cusi. They were both killed on the border by an Inca captain.

Using the justification that the Incas had "broken the inviolate law observed by all nations of the world regarding ambassadors" the new Viceroy, Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa, decided to attack and conquer Vilcabamba. He declared war on April 14, 1572. Within two weeks a small party of Spanish soldiers had captured a key bridge on the border and from here Toledo assembled his army.

On June 1, the first engagement of the war commenced in the Vilcabamba valley. The Inca people attacked first with much spirit despite being only lightly armed. Again and again, they attempted to lift the siege held by the Spanish and their native allies but each time they were forced to retreat. On June 23 the fort of Huayna Pucara surrendered to Spanish artillery fire. The Inca army now in retreat opted to abandon their last city and head for the jungle to regroup. On June 24 the Spanish entered Vilcabamba to find it deserted and the Sapa Inca gone. The city had been entirely destroyed, and the Inca Empire, or what was left of it, officially ceased to exist.

Flight from Vilcabamba

Tupac Amaru had left the previous day with a party of about 100 and headed west into the lowland forests. The group, which included his generals and family members, had then split up into smaller parties in an attempt to avoid capture.

Three groups of Spanish soldiers pursued them. One group captured Tuti Cusi's son and wife. A second returned with military prisoners along with gold, silver and other precious jewels. The third group returned with Tupac Amaru's two brothers, other relatives and several of his generals. The Sapa Inca and his commander remained at large.

Following this, 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. The Spanish captured a group of Chunco Indians and compelled them to tell them what they had seen, and if they had seen the Sapa Inca. They reported that he had gone down river, by boat, to a place called Momori. The Spaniards then constructed five rafts and pursued them.

At Momori, they discovered that Tupac Amaru had escaped by land. They followed with the help of the Mamari 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 the Sapa Inca 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 captives were brought back to the ruins of Vilcabamba and together they were all marched into Cuzco on September 21. 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. These sacred items were then destroyed.


The five captured Inca generals received a summary trial and were sentenced to death by hanging. Several had already died of torture or disease.

The trial of the Sapa Inca himself began a couple of days later. Tupac Amaru was convicted of the murder of the priests in Vilcabamba, of which he was probably innocent. Tupac Amaru was sentenced to be beheaded. It was reported in various sources that numerous Catholic clerics, convinced of Tupac Amaru's innocence, pleaded to no avail, on their knees, that the Inca be sent to Spain for a trial instead of being executed.

Some have argued that Viceroy Toledo, in executing a head of state recognized by the Spanish as an independent king, exceeded his authority and committed a crime within the political ideas of his own time. Other claims have been made to the contrary — that Tupac Amaru was in rebellion (his predecessors having allegedly accepted Spanish authority), that Toledo had tried peaceful means to settle differences, that three of his ambassadors to the Inca were murdered, and that Tupac Amaru subsequently raised an army to resist the colonial army. In this view, there was nothing arbitrary or unjust about the execution of the Inca leader. King of Spain Philip II, however, disapproved of the execution.

An eyewitness report from the day recalls him riding a mule with hands tied behind his back and a rope around his neck. Other witnesses reported there were great crowds and the Sapa Inca was surrounded by hundreds of guards with lances. In front of the main cathedral in the central square of Cuzco a black-draped scaffold had been erected. Reportedly 10,000 to 15,000 witnesses were present.

Tupac Amaru mounted the scaffold accompanied by the Bishop of Cuzco. As he did, it was reported by the same witnesses that a "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." (Murua 271)

As reported by Baltasar de Ocampa and Friar Gabriel de Oviedo, Prior of the Dominicans at Cuzco, both eyewitnesses, the Sapa Inca raised his hand to silence the crowds, and his last words were;

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."

"Mother Earth, witness how my enemies shed my blood."


In Cuzco in 1589, Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo one of the last survivors of the original conquerors of Peruwrote in the preamble of his will, the following, in parts:

We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] 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. The 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 the motive 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."''


Nearly forty years after the conquest of Peru began with the execution of Atahualpa, the conquest ended with the execution of his nephew. A roundup of royal descendants was soon initiated by the Spanish Viceroy. Several dozen, including Tupac Amaru's three-year-old son, were banished to Mexico, Chile, Panama and elsewhere. Some of them were allowed to return home and Tupac Amaru's great-grandson, Tupac Amaru II, was to lead an indigenous uprising in 1780 against continued Spanish presence in Peru.

See also


Inca Empire


Tupac Amaru II

Tupac Shakur


James Q. Jacobs, Tupac Amaru, The Life, Times, and Execution of the Last Inca

Cobo, Bernabe, Historia del Nuevo Mundo, bk 12.

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Garcia de Castro, Lope, Despatch, Lima, 6 March 1565, Gobernantes del Peru, cartas y papeles, Siglo XVI, Documentos del Archivo de Indias, Colecion de Publicaciones Historicas de la Biblioteca del Congreso Argentino, ed. Roberto Levillier, 14 vols., Madrid, 19216. In Hemming.

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Mura, Martin de, Historia General del Peru, Origen y descendencia de los Incas (15901611), ed. Manuel Ballesteros-Gaibrois, 2 vols., Madrid, 1962, 1964. In Hemming.

Ocampa, Baltasar de, Descripcion de la Provincia de Sant Francisco de la Victoria de Vilcabampa (1610). Trans, C. R. Markham, The Hakluyt Society, Second Series, vol. 22, 1907. In Hemming.

Salazar, Antonio Bautista de, Relacion sobre el periodo del gobierno de los Virreyes Don Francisco de Toledo y Don Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza (1596), Colecion de documentos ineditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y colonization de las posesiones espanolas en America y Oceania sacadas en su mayor parte de Real Archivo de Indias, 42 vols., Madrid, 186484. In Hemming.

Titu Cusi Yupanqui, Inca Diego del Castro, Relacion de la conquista del Peru y hechos del Inca Manco II; Instrucion el muy Ille. Senor Ldo. Lope Garcia de Castro, Gobernador que fue destos rreynos del Piru (1570), Colecion de libros y documentos referentes a la historia del Peru, ed. Carlos A. Romero and Horacio H. Urteaga, two series, 22 vols., Lima, 191635. In Hemming.

Valladolid, 29 April 1549, Coleccion de documentos para la historia de la formacion social de Hispano-America, ed. Richard Konetzke, 4 vols., Madrid, 1953. In Hemming.

Vargas Ugarte, Ruben, Historia del Peru, Virreinato (15511600), Lima, 1949, p. 258.

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