Rebellion of Túpac Amaru II

Túpac Amaru II

The Rebellion of Túpac Amaru II (1780c. 1782) was an uprising of native and mestizo peasants against the Bourbon reforms in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru.[1] While Túpac Amaru II, an early leader of the rebellion, was captured and executed in 1781, the rebellion continued for at least another year under other leaders.


The government of Spain, in an effort to streamline the operation of its colonial empire, began introducing what became known as the Bourbon Reforms throughout South America. In 1776, as part of these reforms, it created the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata by separating Upper Peru (modern Bolivia) and the territory that is now Argentina from the Viceroyalty of Peru. These territories included the economically important silver mines at Potosí, whose economic benefits began to flow to Buenos Aires in the east, instead of Cuzco and Lima to the west. The economic hardship this introduced to parts of the Altiplano combined with systemic oppression of Indian and mestizo underclasses (a recurring source of localized uprisings throughout Spanish colonial South America) to create an environment in which a large-scale uprising could occur.

In 1779 Spain raised sales taxes (known as the alcabala) on goods produced and sold in the colonies, in part to fund its participation in the American Revolutionary War. José Gabriel Condorcanqui, an upper-class Indian with claims to the Inca lineage, in 1780 adopted the name Túpac Amaru II, and called for rebellion. He was motivated in part by reading of a prophecy that the Inca would rule again with British support, and he was aware of the British colonial rebellion in North America and Spanish involvement in the war.

Rebellion near Cuzco

On November 4, 1780, at or after a party in Tungasuca, where Túpac was cacique, Túpac and supporters seized Antonio Arriaga, the corregidor of his hometown of Tinta, held him for six days, and then publicly executed him. Before executing Arriaga, Túpac convinced Arriaga to ask a number of Spaniards to bring money to him, under the pretext of ransoming him. Túpac began moving through the countryside, where he gained supporters, primarily from the Indian and mestizo classes, but also with some Criollos (locals of mostly Spanish descent). On November 17 he arrived at the town of Sangarará, where Spanish authorities from Cuzco and the surrounding area had assembled a force of about 900. Túpac's ad hoc army, which had grown to several thousand, routed this force the next day, destroying the local church where a number of people had taken refuge.

Spanish colonial administrator José Antonio de Areche acted in response to Túpac's uprising, moving troops from Lima and as far off as Cartagena toward the region. Troops from Lima were instrumental in helping repel attempts by Túpac to capture Cuzco in December and January. Following these failures, his coalition of disparate malcontents began to fall apart, with the upper-caste Criollos abandoning him first to rejoin the loyalist forces. By the end of February 1781, Spanish authorities began to gain the upper hand, and Túpac and his family were captured on April 6, 1781. After being tortured, on May 15 Túpac was sentenced to death, and on May 18 forced to witness the execution of his wife and children before he was himself quartered. The four horses running in opposite directions failed to tear his limbs apart and so Túpac was beheaded.

During the rebellion non-Indians were systematically killed by the rebels.[2]

Areche's decrees following the execution of Túpac Amaru II included the banning of the Quechua language, the wearing of indigenous clothing, and virtually any mention or commemoration of Inca culture and history.

Rebellion in the south

Word of Túpac Amaru's activities spread to the south, where in the region near Lake Titicaca in Upper Peru, another rebellion sprang up in December 1780, this one led by Túpac Katari. He was aided by Túpac Amaru's brother Diego, and benefited from the remnants of Túpac Amaru's forces following the latter's capture. He laid siege to La Paz for six months in 1781 with poorly organized forces numbering as much as 40,000. Approximately 10,000 people or one third of the city's population died during the siege.[3] He was captured and executed in November 1781, while Diego Cristóbal Túpac Amaru held out until March 1782 before also being captured and executed.


It is estimated that more than 80,000 Indians and mestizos were killed during the rebellion and its aftermath, while nearly 10,000 Spaniards and upper-caste Criollos were killed.

See also


  1. Genocide and millennialism in Upper Peru: the Great Rebellion of 1780-1782 By Nicholas A. Robins
  2. Nicholas A. Robins, Adam Jones (2009). "Genocides by the Oppressed: Subaltern Genocide in Theory and Practice". Indiana University Press. p.1. ISBN 0253220777
  3. Nicholas A. Robins, Adam Jones (2009). "Genocides by the Oppressed: Subaltern Genocide in Theory and Practice". Indiana University Press. p.1. ISBN 0253220777


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