Túpac Amaru II

Not to be confused with Túpac Amaru.
Not to be confused with Túpac Katari who led a similar uprising in the region now called Bolivia at the same time.
Not to be confused with Tupac Shakur, an American rapper and actor.
Túpac Amaru II
Born (1738-03-19)March 19, 1738
Surimana-Canas, Cuzco, Viceroyalty of Peru
Died May 18, 1781(1781-05-18) (aged 43)
Cuzco, Viceroyalty of Peru
Other names José Gabriel Túpac Amaru, José Gabriel Condorcanqui Noguera

José Gabriel Túpac Amaru (March 19, 1738 – May 18, 1781) — known as Túpac Amaru II — was the leader of an indigenous uprising in 1780 against the Spanish in Peru. Although unsuccessful, he later became a mythical figure in the Peruvian struggle for independence and indigenous rights movement, as well as an inspiration to myriad causes in Hispanophone America and beyond.

Túpac Amaru II was born José Gabriel Condorcanqui in Surimana, Tungasuca, in the province of Cusco, and received a Jesuit education at the San Francisco de Borja School, although he maintained a strong identification with the indigenous culture and population. He was a mestizo who claimed to be a direct descendant of the last Inca ruler Túpac Amaru.[1] He had been given the title of Marquis of Oropesa, a position that allowed him some voice and political leverage during Spanish rule. Between 1776 and 1780 Condorcanqui went into litigation with the Betancur family over the right of succession of the Marquisate of Oropesa and lost the case.[2] In 1760, he married Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua of Afro-Peruvian and indigenous descent. Tupac Amaru II inherited the caciqueship, or hereditary chiefdom of Tungasuca and Pampamarca from his older brother, governing on behalf of the Spanish governor.

He was quartered and beheaded by the colonial authorities in Cusco in 1781.

The Corregidores and the Exploitation of the Natives

Although the Spanish trusteeship labor system, or encomienda had been abolished in 1720, most natives at the time living in the Andean region of what is now Ecuador and Bolivia, who made up nine tenths of the population were still pushed into forced labor for what were legally labeled as public work projects.[3] However, most natives worked under the supervision of a master either tilling soil, mining or working in textile mills. What little wage that was acquired by workers was heavily taxed and cemented Native-American indebtedness to Spanish masters. The Roman Catholic Church also had a hand in extorting these natives through collections for saints, masses for the dead, domestic and parochial work on certain days, forced gifts, etc.[4] Those not employed in forced labor were still subject to the Spanish provincial governors, or corregidores who also heavily taxed any free natives, similarly ensuring their financial instability.[4]

Condorcanqui's interest in the Native-American cause had been spurred by the re-reading of one the Royal Commentaries of the Incas, a romantic and heroic account of the history and culture of the ancient Incas. The book was outlawed at the time by the Lima viceroy for fear of it inspiring renewed interest in the lost Inca culture and inciting rebellion.[5] The marquis's native pride coupled with his hate for the Spanish colonial system, caused him to sympathize and frequently petition for the improvement of native labor in the mills, farms and mines; even using his own wealth to help alleviate the taxes and burdens of the natives. After many of his requests for the alleviation of the native conditions fell on deaf ears, Condorcanqui decided to organize a rebellion. He began to stall on collecting reparto debts and tribute payments, for which the Tintan corregidor and governor Antonio de Arriaga threatened him with death. Condorcanqui changed his name to Túpac Amaru II and declared his lineage to the last Inca ruler Felipe Túpac Amaru.[1]


The Túpac Amaru rebellion was an Inca revival movement that sought to improve the rights of indigenous Peruvians suffering under the Spanish Bourbon Reforms. The rebellion was one of many indigenous Peruvian uprisings in the latter half of the 18th century. It began with the capture and killing of the Tinta Corregidor and Governor Antonio de Arriaga on November 4, 1780, after a banquet attended by both Túpac Amaru II and Governor Arriaga.[6]

When Arriaga left the party drunk, Túpac Amaru II and several of his allies captured him and forced him to write letters to a large number of Spaniards and curacas. When about 200 of them gathered within the next few days, Túpac Amaru II surrounded them with approximately 4,000 natives. Claiming that he was acting under direct orders from the Spanish Crown, Amaru II gave Arriaga's slave Antonio Oblitas the privilege of executing his master.[1] A platform in the middle of a local town plaza was erected, and the initial attempt at hanging the corregidor failed when the noose snapped. Arriaga then ran for his life to try to reach a nearby church, but was not quick enough to escape, and was successfully hanged on the second attempt.[5]

After the execution of de Arriaga, Amaru II continued his insurrection. Releasing his first proclamation, Tupac Amaru II announced, "that there have been repeated outcries directed to me by the indigenous peoples of this and surrounding provinces, outcries against the abuses committed by European-born crown officials... Justified outcries that have produced no remedy from the royal courts" to all the inhabitants of the Spanish provinces. He went on in the same proclamation to state, "I have acted ... only against the mentioned abuses and to preserve the peace and well-being of Indians, mestizos, mambos, as well as native-born whites and blacks. I must now prepare for the consequences of these actions."[7] Tupac Amaru II then went on to quickly assemble an army of 6,000 natives who had abandoned their work to join the revolt. As they marched towards Cuzco, the rebels occupied the provinces of Quispicanchis, Tinta, Cotabambas, Calca, and Chumbivilcas. The rebels looted the Spaniards' houses and killed their occupants.[1]The movement was supremely anti-royalist since, upon arriving at a town the rebels would upturn Spanish authority.

On November 18, 1780, Cuzco dispatched over 1,300 Spanish and Native loyalist troops. The two opposing forces clashed in the town of Sangarará. It was an absolute victory for Amaru II and his Native rebels; all of the 578 Spanish soldiers were killed and the rebels took possession of their weapons and supplies. The victory however, also came with a price. The battle revealed that Amaru II was unable to fully control his rebel followers, as they viciously slaughtered without direct orders. Reports of such violence and the rebels' insistence on the death of Spaniards eliminated any chances for support by the Criollo class.[1] The victory achieved at Sangarara would be followed by a string of defeats. The most critical defeat came in Amaru II’s failure to capture Cuzco, which was fortified by a combined troop of loyalist natives and reinforcements from Lima. After subsequent skirmishes around the surrounding region, Amaru II and his rebels became surrounded between Tinta and Sangarara. A betrayal by two of his officers, colonel Ventura Landaeta and captain Francisco Cruz, sealed Amaru II's defeat and capture.[1] When his captors attempted to procure the names of his rebel accomplices from him in exchange for promises, Amaru II scornfully replied "There are no accomplices here other than you and I. You as oppressor, I as liberator, deserve to die." [8]


Amaru II was sentenced to be executed. He was forced to bear witness to the execution of his wife Micaela Bastidas, his eldest son Hipólito, his uncle Francisco Tupa Amaro, his brother-in-law Antonio Bastidas, and some of his captains before his own death.

The following is an extract from the official judicial death issued by the Spanish authorities which condemns Túpac Amaru II to torture and death. It was ordered in sentence that Túpac Amaru II was condemned to have his tongue cut out, after watching the executions of his family, and to have his hands and feet tied...

"...to four horses who will then be driven at once toward the four corners of the plaza, pulling the arms and legs from his body. The torso will then be taken to the hill overlooking the city... where it will be burned in a bonfire... Tupac Amaru's head will be sent to Tinta to be displayed for three days in the place of public execution and then placed upon a pike at the principal entrance to the city. One of his arms will be sent to Tungasuca, where he was the cacique, and the other arm to the capital province of Carabaya, to be similarly displayed in those locations. His legs will be sent to Livitica and Santa Rosas in the provinces of Chumbivilcas and Lampa, respectively."[9]

After the failed dismemberment by the four horses, his body was quartered, and he was then beheaded on the main plaza in Cuzco, in the same place his apparent great-great-great-grandfather Túpac Amaru I had been beheaded.


When the revolt continued, the Spaniards executed the remainder of his family, except his 12-year-old son Fernando, who had been condemned to die with him, but was instead imprisoned in Spain for the rest of his life. It is not known if any members of the Inca royal family survived this final purge. Amaru's body parts were strewn across the towns loyal to him as ordered, his houses were demolished, their sites strewn with salt, his goods confiscated, his relatives declared infamous, and all documents relating to his descent burnt.[10]

At the same time, on May 18, 1781, Incan clothing and cultural traditions, and self-identification as "Inca" were outlawed, along with other measures to convert the population to Spanish culture and government until Peru's independence as a republic. However, even after the death of Amaru, Native revolt still overtook much of what is today southern Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, as Native revolutionaries captured Spanish towns and beheaded many inhabitants. In one instance, a Native-American army under rebel leader Túpac Katari besieged the city of La Paz for 109 days before troops sent from Buenos Aires stepped in to relieve the city.


Although Túpac Amaru II's rebellion was not a success, it marked the first large-scale rebellion in the Spanish colonies and inspired the revolt of many Natives and mestizos in the surrounding area. The rebellion took on important manifestations in "Upper Peru" or what is today modern Bolivia including the region South and East of Lake Titicaca. Indeed, Túpac Amaru II inspired the indigenous peoples to such an extent that even the official document wherein he is condemned to death, it is remarked that "the Indians stood firm in the place of our gunfire, despite their enormous fear of it" and that despite being captured, his followers remained steadfast in their beliefs of his immortality and heritage.[11]

As well, multi-ethnic elements and utilization of Incan history within Túpac Amaru II's rebellion reflect the first appearance of large-scale counter-hegemonic political initiative in the Andes. The rebellion gave indigenous Peruvians a new state of mind, a sort of indigenous nationalism that would re-emerge and change shape over the course of the country's future. They were now willing to join forces with anyone who opposed the Spanish. By contrast, the Peruvian creoles would prove to be South America's most conservative in the independence movement due to the fear that independence would leave them at the mercy of the Native populations. As well, other Peruvian creoles had prosperous co-owned businesses and land with the Spaniards, and as such did not want to lose those interests in the event of a revolution. While Jose Gabriel Candorcanqui (Túpac Amaru II)'s revolt was spawned in the Vilcanota Valley and ended in the city of Cuzco, the legacy and ideology of his revolt had echoes throughout the Andean region.


Querrán volarlo y no podrán volarlo ("They will want to blow him up and won't be able to blow him up").
Querrán romperlo y no podrán romperlo ("They will want to break him and won't be able to break him").
Querrán matarlo y no podrán matarlo ("They will want to kill him and won't be able to kill him").
Al tercer día de los sufrimientos, cuando se creia todo consumado, gritando: ¡LIBERTAD! sobre la tierra, ha de volver. ¡Y no podrán matarlo! ("On the third day of suffering, when it was believed everything was finished, screaming: FREEDOM! over the earth, he shall be back. And they won't be able to kill him!")
Alejandro Romualdo


In Peru

In novels

In the book, Inca Gold, by Clive Cussler, one of the main villains named himself Tupac Amaru and claims to be a descendant of the real Túpac Amaru.

In the beginning of the book, The Book of Human Skin, Túpac Amaru II's death is described, and a book said to be a bound in his skin plays a major role in the plot.

Around the world

Further Reading


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Native Insurgencies and the Genocidal Impulse in the Americas, Nicholas A. Robins
  2. First among Incas: The Marquesado de Oropesa Litigation (1741–1780) en route to the Great Rebellion, David Cahill
  3. John Crow, The Epic of Latin America ( California: University of California Press Berkeley), p. 404
  4. 1 2 John Crow, The Epic of Latin America, p. 405
  5. 1 2 John Crow, The Epic of Latin America ( California: University of California Press Berkeley), p. 406
  6. The Epic of Latin America, Fourth Edition, John A. Crow
  7. Sarah C. Chambers; John Charles Chasteen (2010). Latin American Independence: An Anthology of Sources. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 33, 34. ISBN 9780872208636.
  8. Daniel Valcarcel. La rebellion de Tupac Amaru (Mexico, 1947)
  9. Sarah C. Chambers; John Charles Chasteen (2010). Latin American Independence: An Anthology of Sources. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. pp. 36, 37. ISBN 9780872208636.
  10. John Crow, The Epic of Latin America, p. 407
  11. Sarah C. Chambers; John Charles Chasteen (2010). Latin American Independence: An Anthology of Sources. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. p. 35. ISBN 9780872208636.
  12. John Crow "The Epic of America" p. 408

See also


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