Túpac Amaru

gigatos | January 21, 2022


Tupac Amaru (Cusco, 1545-ibidem, September 24, 1572), also known as Felipe Tupac Amaru, was the fourth and last Inca of Vilcabamba.

Son of Manco Inca, he was made priest and guardian of his father”s body. In Quechua, tupaq amaru means ”shining serpent”.

Tupac Amaru took over as Inca of Vilcabamba after the death of his half-cousin the Uari Inca Titu Cusi Yupanqui in 1570.

The Incas believed that Titu Cusi had been forced to admit the missionary priests in Vilcabamba and that they had poisoned him. The Spaniards, who were still unaware of the death of the former Inca Uari, routinely sent two ambassadors to continue the ongoing negotiations. The last of these was the conquistador Atilano de Anaya who, after crossing the bridge of Chuquisaca, was captured and executed along with his escort by the Inca general Curi Paucar. When this news was confirmed by the priest of Amaybamba, the new viceroy of Peru, Francisco Alvarez de Toledo, decided to subdue the kingdom of Vilcabamba by force, appealing to the justification that the Incas had broken “the inviolable law of all the nations of the world: respect for the ambassadors”.

Viceroy Toledo entrusted the command of the military expedition to the encomendero and alderman Martín Hurtado de Arbieto; Juan Álvarez Maldonado was appointed as field master; and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa was appointed as royal ensign and secretary. Hurtado”s powerful troops were made up of several pieces of artillery, 250 Spanish soldiers and 2500 native allies, among which were 1000 cañaris, mortal enemies of the rebel Inca panaca.

For the defense of Vilcabamba, the Inca Túpac Amaru counted on approximately 2000 soldiers, of which 600 or 700 were anti warriors (called chunchos by the Incas of Cuzco), of whom the deceased Titu Cusi used to say to the Spanish emissaries, pretended or really, that they still practiced cannibalism. Among their generals were Hualpa Yupanqui, Parinango, Curi Paucar and Coya Topa.

To attack the Inca stronghold, Hurtado de Arbieto divided his army into two groups, the first one under his direct command would attack through Chuquichaca while the second column, under the command of Arias de Sotelo, would attack through Curahuasi. A great number of skirmishes were fought, but the only great battle of the campaign took place at Choquelluca, on the banks of the Vilcabamba River. The Incas attacked first with much spirit in spite of being only lightly armed, but the Spaniards and their indigenous allies managed to resist them; according to Martín García Óñez de Loyola, the Spaniards were at a critical moment about to be overwhelmed by the Inca warriors, but suddenly these abandoned the combat after being arcabuceados and dead their generals Maras Inga and Parinango. A peak moment of the combat was reached with the personal and bare-knuckle fight between the Inca captain Huallpa and the Spanish García de Loyola, when the Spanish commander was in a desperate situation for having received several direct blows and being in risk of being overrun, one of his loyalists shot traitorously on the back of the Inca, killing him and provoking a climate of indignation that rekindled the combat. The Spanish chroniclers narrated it this way:

They fought very fiercely on both sides, and Martín García de Loyola found himself in evident danger of death, because while he was fighting an enemy Indian came out of nowhere with such a great disposition of body and strength that he looked like half a giant, and he embraced him above the shoulders that he could not let him fall back, but a friendly Indian, one of ours, called Currillo, came to his aid, who arrived with a cutlass and threw a knife at his feet, which knocked them down and, secondly, another one through his shoulders, so that he fell there dead, who arrived with a cutlass and threw a knife at his feet, which knocked them down, and then another one through the shoulders opened him so that he fell there dead, and thus, through this Indian, Captain Martin Garcia de Loyola escaped death, which was certainly a feat worthy of being recorded in history the courage and alacrity with which Currillo took the life of the half giant with two knives, and saved his captain.

After this battle the Spaniards captured the city and the palace of Vitcos. When approaching the expedition to the citadel of Tumichaca, they were received by their commander Puma Inga, who surrendered his forces and manifested that the death of the Spanish ambassador Atilano de Anaya had been responsibility of Curi Paucar and other rebel captains to their Inca desirous of the peace. On June 23 fell before the Spanish artillery the last focus of Inca resistance, the fort of Huayna Pucará, that the natives had built recently and it was defended by 500 chunchos flecheros. The remains of the Inca army, now retreating, opted to abandon Vilcabamba, their last city, and head for the jungle to regroup.

On June 24, the Spaniards took possession of the city and Sarmiento complied with the solemnities of the case, who after hoisting the royal standard in the town square proclaimed:

“I, Captain Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, general ensign of this camp, by mandate of the illustrious lord Martín Hurtado de Arbieto, general of it, take possession of this town of Vilcabamba and its comarcas, provinces and jurisdictions.”

He then raised the banner three times and with loud voices said:

“Vilcabamba, by Don Felipe, King of Castile and Leon.”

He nailed the banner to the ground and fired the ordinance salvos.

Accompanied by his people, Tupac Amaru had left the previous day heading west into the lowland forests. The group, which included his generals and family members, had split into small parties in an attempt to evade pursuit.

Groups of Spanish soldiers and their Indian auxiliaries were sent to hunt them down and engaged in bloody skirmishes with the Inca”s escort. One captured Wayna Cusi”s wife and son. The second returned. The third one also returned; he/she made it with two brothers of Túpac Amaru, other relatives and their generals. The Uari Inca and his commander remained loose.

Capture of Tupac Amaru I

Next, a group of forty personally chosen soldiers set out in pursuit of the Inca. They followed the Masahuay River for 170 miles, where they found an Inca storehouse with quantities of Inca gold and crockery. The Spaniards captured a group of Chunchos and forced them to inform them of Inca movements, and whether they had seen the Inca Uari. They reported that he had gone downriver by boat, so the Spaniards built 20 rafts and continued the chase.

Downriver they discovered that Túpac Amaru had escaped by land. They continued with the help of the aparis, who advised which route the Incas had followed and reported that Túpac was slowed down because his wife was about to give birth. After a 50-mile march they saw a campfire around nine o”clock at night. They found the Inca uari Túpac Amaru and his wife warming each other. They were assured that no harm would come to them and they would secure their surrender. Tupac Amaru was taken prisoner.

The captives were brought back to the ruins of Urcos and, from there, arrived in Cuzco through the arch of Carmenca on November 30. The victors also brought back the mummified remains of Manco Capac and Titu Cusi Yupanqui, and a golden statue of Punchao, the most precious relic of the Inca lineage that contained the mortal remains of the hearts of the deceased Incas. These sacred objects were later destroyed.

Tupac Amaru was taken by his captor, Garcia de Loyola, to the viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who ordered his imprisonment in the fortress of Sacsayhuamán under the custody of his uncle, Luis de Toledo. Guamán Poma says that it weighed heavily on Toledo”s spirit that having sent for him, Amaru answered him.

The Spaniards made several attempts to convert Túpac Amaru to Christianity but it is believed that these efforts were rejected by a very strong man, who was convinced of his faith. The five captured Inca generals received a summary trial in which nothing was said in their defense and they were sentenced to the gallows, although several could not be executed because the plague the call -chapetonada- attacked all in prison making them impossible to walk, they had to take them out agonizing and in blankets of the cell, dying three in the journey and only two, Cusi Paúcar and Ayarca, arrived to the scaffold.

The trial of the Uari Inca began a couple of days later. Tupac Amaru was condemned for the murder of the priests in Urcos, of which he was probably innocent. He was sentenced to decapitation. Numerous clergymen, convinced of Tupac Amaru”s innocence, pleaded on their knees to the viceroy that the Inca leader be sent to Spain for trial instead of being executed.

Execution of Tupac Amaru I

An eyewitness on the day of the execution, September 24, 1572, remembered him riding a mule with his hands tied behind his back and a rope around his neck. Other witnesses said that there were large crowds of people and that the Inca Uari left Sacsayhuamán surrounded by between 500 cañaris, enemies of the Incas, armed with spears and the retinue descended into the city. In front of the cathedral, in the central square of Cuzco, a gallows had been erected. There were more than 300,000 people present in the two squares, streets, windows and rooftops.

Tupac Amaru went up to the scaffold accompanied by the bishop of Cuzco. While he was doing so, it is said in the sources that

a multitude of Indians, who completely filled the square, saw the lamentable spectacle that their lord and Inca was going to die, deafened the heavens, making them reverberate with their cries and lamentations.

Garcilaso says that the Inca raised his right arm with his right hand open and placed it on his ear, and from there he lowered it little by little until he placed it on his right thigh. With this, those present ceased their shouting and chanting, leaving them in such silence that “there seemed to be no soul born in the whole city”.

As related by Baltasar de Ocampo and Fray Gabriel de Oviedo, prior of the Dominicans in Cuzco, both eyewitnesses, the Inca raised his hand to silence the crowds, and his last words were.

Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta(”Illustrious Pachacamac, witness how my enemies spill my blood”)

The Spaniards and the Viceroy among them, who from a window watched the execution of the sentence, were greatly admired by this scene. Noting with horror the obedience that the Indians had to their prince, the Viceroy sent his servant, Juan de Soto, who went out on horseback with a stick in his hand to make his way to the scaffold, saying there that they should proceed to execute the Inca. The executioner, who was a cañari, prepared the cutlass and Tupac Amaru put his head on the scaffold “with Andean stoicism”. At the moment of the execution, all the bells of Cuzco, including those of the Cathedral, were tolled.

The head was nailed to a pillory, but the body was taken to the house of Doña María Cusi Huarcay, aunt of the decapitated monarch, and buried the following day in the main chapel of the cathedral, attended by the Spanish neighbors who did not believe they were compromising themselves before the Viceroy, and all the indigenous Nobles, descendants of the Incas.

Viceroy Toledo informed King Philip II of the execution of Tupac Amaru in a letter dated September 24, 1572, stating:

what Your Majesty commands about the Inca has been done.

Some historians indicate that when Viceroy Toledo left his post to return to Spain, he was received by King Philip II with the following words:

You may go home, for I sent you to serve kings, not to kill them.

alluding to the execution of Tupac Amaru.

Nearly forty years after the conquest of the Inca Empire had begun with the execution of Atahualpa, it concluded with the execution of his nephew.

In order to prevent the resurgence of the empire and to erase all traces of their descendants, the source of future royal generations was promptly expelled by the viceroy. Several dozen people, including Tupac Amaru”s three-year-old son, were banished to what are today: Mexico, Chile, Panama and other distant places. However, some were eventually allowed to return to their places of origin.

Two centuries later, in 1780, his great-great-grandson, José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Túpac Amaru II), would assume the title of Inca and lead an indigenous uprising that would initiate the process of emancipation against the Spanish presence in America.


  1. Túpac Amaru I
  2. Túpac Amaru
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