Revolution in the Andes: The Age of Túpac Amaru

Revolution in the Andes: The Age of Túpac Amaru

by Sergio Serulnikov, David Frye

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Revolution in the Andes is an in-depth history of the Túpac Amaru insurrection, the largest and most threatening indigenous challenge to Spanish rule in the Andean world after the Conquest. Between 1780 and 1782, insurgent armies were organized throughout the Andean region. Some of the oldest and most populous cities in this region—including Cusco, La Paz, Puno, and Oruro—were besieged, assaulted, or occupied. Huge swaths of the countryside fell under control of the rebel forces. While essentially an indigenous movement, the rebellion sometimes attracted mestizo and Creole support for ousting the Spanish and restoring rule of the Andes to the land's ancestral owners. Sergio Serulnikov chronicles the uprisings and the ensuing war between rebel forces and royalist armies, emphasizing that the insurrection was comprised of several regional movements with varied ideological outlooks, social makeup, leadership structures, and expectations of change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822378303
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 09/20/2013
Series: Latin America in Translation
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 226,345
File size: 989 KB

About the Author

Sergio Serulnikov is Professor of History at the University of San Andrés in Buenos Aires and researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas de la Argentina. His previous books include Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes, published by Duke University Press.

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Revolution IN THE Andes

The Age of Túpac Amaru


Duke University Press

Copyright © 2013 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-5498-7


The Violence of Facts

No event shook the foundations of the colonial order in Spanish America more profoundly than the massive uprising of the Andean peoples in the early 1780s. Over the course of more than two years, whole insurgent armies were organized, from Cusco in southern Peru all the way south to territories that now belong to Chile and Argentina. Some of the oldest and most populous cities in this region—Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno in southern Peru; La Paz, Oruro, and Chuquisaca (today Sucre) in Upper Peru (modern Bolivia)—were besieged, assaulted, or occupied. Huge swaths of countryside in the jurisdiction of Charcas, in the highlands surrounding La Paz, and in southern Peru fell under the full control of the rebel forces. At times those forces attracted explicit support, or tacit sympathy, from large numbers of mestizos and creoles living in rural towns and urban centers.

The conflagration took place in the very heart of the Spanish empire in South America: an extensive economic zone that stretched along the route linking Lima to Buenos Aires. At its hub was Potosí, one of the world's greatest sources of silver, the main export commodity of the Americas and the engine of regional development. The insurgency also encompassed other mining towns, such as Puno and Oruro; fertile agricultural lands, including Cochabamba, Arequipa, Ollantaytambo, the Yungas, and Abancay, that supplied the Andean cities with grains, sugar, coca leaves, wine, and brandy; rich cattle-raising areas like Azángaro province; and textile mill zones, such as the provinces of Quispicanchis and Canas y Canchis near Cusco. These large territories were mainly inhabited by Aymara- and Quechua-speaking peoples, the descendants of the great pre-Columbian polities: the Charka-Karakara confederations in the southern Andes; the Aymara kingdoms of the Collao, the region around Lake Titicaca; and, of course, the mighty Inca empire, which by the time of the European invasion had expanded from its core in Cusco to dominate the entire Andean region. Though many of the Indians who joined the uprising worked permanently in the mines, cities, and Spanish haciendas, the vast majority belonged to native communities that owned the land collectively and maintained their own governing structures, including the caciques (indigenous ruling elites) and other lesser ethnic authorities. From these rural groups the Spanish treasury drew its most dependable source of fiscal revenues, the Indian tribute, and the mining industry its most dependable source of labor, the mita—a colonial institution that forced each Andean community in the area to send each year to Potosí and other mining towns one-seventh of their population. Members of the indigenous communities were the heart and soul of the insurrection.

By virtue of their sheer magnitude the uprisings completely overwhelmed local militias. Regiments of the regular army had to be sent in from the distant viceregal capitals, Lima and Buenos Aires. In Cusco alone, more than seventeen thousand soldiers were mobilized against the Túpac Amaru forces. The Crown had not been compelled to mobilize its armies since the distant days of the conquest, when the Pizarro and Almagro families tore each other to bits over the right to control the newly discovered territories and populations. It is difficult to establish the precise number of casualties. Some sources estimate that about a hundred thousand Indians and some ten thousand persons of Hispanic origin—Peninsulars (Spaniards from Spain itself ), creoles, and mestizos (people of mixed ancestry)—died over the course of the conflict. Although the numbers are imprecise, it is clear that in a society with a population of no more than a million and a half, the death rate was appalling.

Like any major revolutionary movement, this uprising occasioned the rise of charismatic figures whose names reverberated across the continent, and even beyond. They left behind vivid and powerful myths that pervaded—and still do pervade, with unfaltering intensity—the historical consciousness and political imaginaries of the Andean peoples: José Gabriel Condorcanqui, a cacique from Canas y Canchis province in southern Peru, who took the name Túpac Amaru II to signal his kinship with Túpac Amaru I, the last Inca emperor executed in 1572 in Cusco by orders of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo; Tomás Katari, an Indian peasant from northern Potosí who became the symbol of resistance to colonial rulers in the Charcas region; and Julián Apaza, a petty merchant from an indigenous village in Sicasica province who led the siege of the city of La Paz and called himself Túpac Katari to symbolize the intimate linkages between the events taking place southward and northward of the La Paz region.

Behind these men and these events one can discern the outlines of an idea—an idea diffuse and malleable enough to harbor disparate and at times contradictory expectations, but one whose essential message nobody should have missed: a demand that the government of the Andes be restored to the land's ancient owners.


The Violence of Time

The French historian and philosopher Ernest Renan famously declared that "forgetting, and getting one's history wrong, are essential factors in the making of a nation" (Renan 1995 [1882]: 145). A key moment in the history of the Andean societies, the dramatic events of 1780, has taken on many different incarnations over time. In the formative years of the countries that emerged from the dissolution of the Spanish empire, these events were consigned to oblivion or reduced to an isolated, albeit spectacular, episode in the decline of the colonial regime. How could the massacres of men, women, and children who had taken refuge in churches, or the devastating siege of La Paz and other cities, be reconciled with the self-proclaimed march of progress and the embracing of European paradigms of social and political development? How could the subjugation of the Indians to the new republican elites be reconciled with the grand monarchical aspirations of Túpac Amaru and his hundreds of thousands of followers?

To be sure, the Peruvian and Bolivian upper classes were not blind to the cultural heritage of the populations they ruled. Inca civilization was occasionally appended to the genealogical tree of the nations. Influential figures such as Andrés de Santa Cruz, president of the failed Peru-Bolivian Confederation of 1836–1839, and his obstinate enemy, the powerful Cusco caudillo Agustín Gamarra, made the first efforts in this direction. Yet exalting the virtues of the Andeans of the past did not prevent them from condemning the backwardness of Andeans in the present, and thus justifying the forced labor regimes or the condition of legal inferiority that continued to weigh them down just as in the time of the viceroys. "Incas yes, Indians no" is the maxim that best seems to encapsulate the spirit of the era. The Tupamarista revolution was too radical, and too recent, to be domesticated, stripped of its disquieting anticolonial connotations, folklorized, processed by the collective memory of the new nation-states.

It would take more than a century for the year 1780 to cease being a date in the history of savagism and become a date in the history of the nation. By the mid-twentieth century, the conjunction of sweeping political changes, the unraveling of vigorous popular movements, and the growing influence of indigenista and Marxist intellectuals of various creeds contributed to the birth of a new narrative. With the rise to power of populist and reformist coalitions—the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement in Bolivia in 1952, and General Juan Velasco Alvarado in Peru in 1968—there were attempts to recognize Quechuas and Aymaras as full citizens, agrarian reforms were implemented, and the Peruvian and Bolivian governments forged close alliances with working-class unions and peasant organizations. In this new climate of ideas, Túpac Amaru found a new home. The Andean leader now appeared as the embodiment of resistance by the people—all the people, not just the Indians—to colonial oppression. His figure took on the dimensions of a founding father; his cause, that of an epic patriotic saga. The publication of a multivolume collection of documents on the Tupamarista rebellion in the early 1970s by Peru's military government stands as a monument to this ideological endeavor.

Scholars also participated in this process of reinvention. In the 1940s and 1950s, Polish-Argentine historian Boleslao Lewin, Bolivian historian Jorge Cornejo Bouroncle, and Peruvian historian Daniel Valcárcel wrote the first professional studies on the topic. Based on painstaking archival research, their works offered an account of the events that would not be revised for many years to come. The overarching interpretative frame of these narratives is encapsulated in the very titles of their books: The Túpac Amaru Revolution: Forerunner to Independence from Colonial Rule (Cornejo Bouroncle); The Túpac Amaru Rebellion and the Origins of American Independence (Lewin); and Túpac Amaru, Forerunner to Independence (Valcárcel) (Cornejo Bouroncle 1949; Lewin 1957; Valcárcel 1977). This loud chorus underlines the widespread belief of the era in the close bonds that presumably existed between the indigenous insurrection of 1780 and the creole independence movement thirty year afterward. Now taking the form of a marble statue, Túpac Amaru seemed to look down in satisfaction from his pedestals in the city plazas onto his new seat of honor in the country's pantheon of heroes. So said the state, and so said the historians.

This interpretation proved ephemeral, however. There is no question that Túpac Amaru (though not necessarily his peers to the south of Lake Titicaca) appealed to notions of American or Peruvian patriotism in his formal declarations, or that some Hispanic groups, resentful of the direction that Spanish rule had been taking since the mid-eighteenth century, initially favored the insurrection. Some creoles even took on leadership roles in it. But soon enough, it became evident that the social antagonisms the rebellion had unleashed were as damaging to the Españoles Americanos (the creoles) as to the Espa.oles Europeos (the Peninsulars). The deep anticolonial stance of the movement was not so much geopolitical as ethnic and cultural. It also had a definite class component. In the eyes of the peasant masses, including many of their leaders, the distinction between Peninsulars and creoles was utterly irrelevant. In addition, the mobilization of thousands of Indians, whatever their overt aims, inevitably tended through its own dynamics to dismantle the established forms of authority, economic control, and social deference. It does not take a historian or social scientist to understand this. At the outset of another of the great social cataclysms in Latin American history, the 1910 Mexican revolution, the dictator Porfirio Díaz, a very old hand at interpreting these matters, berated his enlightened opponents for believing that the uncontainable destructive force of a social revolution could be restrained by virtuous government programs and statements of good intentions. Before going into exile, he remarked that Francisco Madero had "unleashed the tiger" in his zeal to transform Mexico into a liberal democracy. "Now let's see if he can control it," he famously added. The ten years that followed, which shook the country to its core and changed the course of its history forever, answered this query. Much like Porfirio Díaz, but 130 years earlier, the creole landowners, merchants, mine owners, lawyers, and state officials—the future leaders of the young Andean nations—realized that the return of the Inca did not augur well for them. How could it?

By the 1970s and 1980s, therefore, the Tupamarista revolution had acquired a new image and a new destiny. Earlier generations had characterized the movement as a prefiguration of the creole cause; now they began to define it by what made it diverent. That is, the events of 1780 could be explained only by the existence of a unique Andean worldview. At the center of that worldview was a cyclical concept of time, which foretold the return of past civilizations and conceptualized historical change as the result of larger cosmological changes. Historians now argued that the rebellion had been preceded by the spread of prophecies, myths, and miracles announcing the changing of an era, a pachakuti, which would put an end to the dominion of the Spaniards and their gods. The Incas would rule again in this world; the Andean deities, in the other one. The Amarus and Kataris were seen not merely as charismatic leaders but as bearers of divine powers, the prophets of a new era. The pan-Andean uprising suddenly ceased to evoke the subsequent revolutions for national independence, with their vague beliefs in the virtues of the French Enlightenment and Anglo-Saxon liberalism, and began instead to be linked to a different order of phenomena: the millenarian, messianic, and nativist movements that punctuate the history of the lower classes in medieval and early modern Europe, as well as the anti-colonial resistance movements of Asia and Africa. What inspired the native peoples to rise up in arms was not emancipation from Spain but a utopian ideal: their projection into the future of an idealized golden age from the past. And that utopian ideal was distinctively Andean. In Search of an Inca: Identity and Utopia in the Andes is the title the finest Peruvian historian of the era, Alberto Flores Galindo, chose for his book on the topic. Another Peruvian historian, Manuel Burga, and the Polish historian and anthropologist Jan Szeminski entitled their books The Birth of a Utopia: The Death and Resurrection of the Incas and The Tupamarista Utopia, respectively. Other times, other choruses (Flores Galindo 2010 [1987]; Burga 2005 [1988]; Szeminski 1984).

The studies of the 1970s and 1980s on the Andean utopia were largely in line with contemporary trends in the field of history at large, such as the growing influence of the history of mentalities and structural anthropology. They would not have been possible without the remarkable surge of Andean ethnohistory, a discipline that approaches the indigenous societies of the past with the questions, methods, and contributions of the ethnography. It is hard to overstate the impact, both direct and indirect, of the ethnohistorical works of John Murra, Tom Zuidema, Franklin Pease, and Nathan Wachtel, to name only a few, on the analysis of these events (Murra 1975; Wachtel 1976; Pease 1973; Zuidema 1990). But the climate of ideas in which these studies prospered was even more extensive and profound. It was the same climate of ideas that led, in Bolivia, to the formation of the first "Katarista" indigenous organizations and unions, a name that by itself signals a search for an ideological and cultural identity separate from the traditional Marxist groups and the country's most powerful political party for most of the twentieth century, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement. The fundamental antagonism underlying contemporary Bolivian society could not be reduced to class struggle or populist nationalism; it was an ethnic, colonial conflict born the very day Christopher Columbus caught sight, without knowing it, of a new continent. Túpac Katari embodied this conflict as no one else did. The discourse of Evo Morales, and the ideological outlook of the social movements that brought him to national prominence and in 2006 elected him the first indigenous president in Bolivian history, are incomprehensible outside of this deep shift in the way power relationships in the Andean world are conceived. In Peru, for its part, studies of the Andean utopia coincided with developments that would long dominate the political agenda of the country and the front pages of newspapers around the world: the rise of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. It should not be surprising, then, that by the mid-1980s, as the tragic consequences of revolutionary armed struggle became apparent, a new generation of Peruvian historians accused their predecessors of reifying Andean culture and endowing indigenous peoples with an essentialistic atavism that they neither possessed nor desired—not at the close of the twentieth century, and not at the end of the eighteenth.

Excerpted from Revolution IN THE Andes by SERGIO SERULNIKOV. Copyright © 2013 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents

Foreword / Charles F. Walker xi

1. The Violence of Facts 1

2. The Violence of Time 5

3. Indian Communities Do Politics 17

4. Rituals of Justice, Acts of Subversion 31

5. The Idea of the Inca 35

6. Cusco under Siege 49

7. "Perverted in These Revolutions" 55

8. The Road of Chuquisaca 65

9. Creole Tupamaristas 73

10. Radicalized Violence in Upper Peru 91

11. The Death of Túpac Amaru 99

12. The Heirs 107

13. "Tomás Túpac-Katari, Inca King" 115

14. War against the Q'aras 121

15. The Battle for La Paz 125

16. The End of an Era 135

17. The Stubbornness of Facts 139

Glossary 143

References 147

Index 155

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