The Tupac Amaru Rebellion raged across the Andes from 1780 to 1783. Centered in southern Peru, from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, it also allied with the Katarista uprisings in Upper Peru (Bolivia). In addition, revolts inspired by Tupac Amaru took place in what became Argentina, Chile, and Colombia. José Gabriel Condorcanqui was a kuraka or ethnic intermediary in three small towns sixty miles south of Cuzco and a merchant who worked the Cuzco to Potosí circuit. Well educated and bilingual (Spanish and Quechua), he claimed lineage from the Incas, thus the Tupac Amaru (e.g., Tupa or Túpac, Amaro) name. His wife, Micaela Bastidas, was an important commander in the uprising, overseeing the rebel base in Pampamarca and logistics. The rebellion began in November 1780 when Tupac Amaru seized and executed a local authority, the corregidor Antonio Arriaga. Tupac Amaru organized his indigenous followers and attacked other corregidors, ransacked haciendas, and razed the hated obrajes, or textile mills. He claimed to be fighting in the name of the King of Spain. He and Micaela sought a multiethnic and multiclass alliance, recruiting not only Indians but also mestizos, blacks, Creoles, and “good” Spaniards. Tupac Amaru returned from the Lake Titicaca in late 1780 to lay siege to the city of Cuzco, Peru’s second-largest city and still considered the by many to be the “Inca capital.” Although he surrounded Cuzco with tens of thousands of troops, the rebels could not take the city. The royalists received important reinforcements from Lima in early January. After three months of intense fighting, they captured Tupac Amaru, Micaela Bastidas, and much of their inner circle in April 1781, executing them in a gruesome public ritual in Cuzco’s central plaza on 17 May. Led by Tupac Amaru’s cousin, Diego Cristóbal Tupac Amaru, their son Mariano, and another relative, the rebellion continued for two years, centered in the area around Lake Titicaca. The rebellion became more of a caste or total war as neither side took prisoners. The exhausted rebel leaders signed an armistice in early 1783, but hardline royalists broke the treaty and executed Diego Cristóbal in even more horrific fashion than Tupac Amaru and Micaela Bastidas. Tupac Amaru became a hero in Peru. He became even more famous in 1968 when General Velasco Alvarado’s military regime made Tupac Amaru its icon. The Tupamaro (Uruguay) and MRTA (Peru) guerrilla groups as well as the rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur are named after him.
Numerous scholars have moved beyond the biography of José Gabriel Condorcanqui (or Tupac Amaru II) and placed the rebellion in a broader framework. From the late 1940s to the 1960s, the Polish Argentine Boleslao Lewin, a Jewish refugee of Hitler’s Europe, wrote profound and sympathetic accounts. In the 1970s the Spaniard Eulogio Zudaire published a well-documented study of Viceroy Jáuregui and the rebellion: although the study was much more critical of the rebels and more supportive of the Spanish than other scholarship, it also contains great archival leads. Fisher 1966 provided a concise overview while Elmore 2008, Serulnikov 2013, and Walker 2014 present broader interpretations. These more recent overviews build on the wave of studies and published primary sources that have appeared since the late 1960s. They form a dialogue with works on the Katarista uprisings in Upper Peru or what became Bolivia. Markham 1892 is a highly readable account.
Elmore, Peter. “The Tupac Amaru Rebellion: Anticolonialism and Protonationalism in Late Colonial Peru.” In A Companion to Latin American Literature and Culture. Edited by Sara Castro-Klaren, 213–227. Chichester, UK: Blackwell, 2008.
Smart reflections and valuable bibliography on Tupac Amaru and its place in Peru’s cultural history.
Fisher, Lillian. The Last Inca Revolt, 1780–1783. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966.
Detailed yet accessible narrative history of the uprising. Although Fisher did not have access to the document collections and analyses published after her study, the analysis is solid and the narrative engaging.
Flores Galindo, Alberto, ed. Sociedad colonial y sublevaciones populares: Tupac Amaru II-1780. Lima, Peru: Retablo de Papel Ediciones, 1976.
Leading essays by an international group of scholars on topics ranging from ideology to policy that remain at the analytical forefront in terms of the causes and repercussions of the uprising. These contributions broadened the analysis, incorporating more theoretical and comparative approaches.
Lewin, Boleslao. La rebelión de Tupac Amaru y los orígenes de la emancipación Americana. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Hachette, 1957.
One of numerous studies by Lewin on Tupac Amaru, this is arguably the best narrative history and still an indispensable guide. A refugee from Nazi Europe to Argentina, Lewin makes parallels between the rebellion’s defeat and the Holocaust. This detailed, sharply written text has stood the test of time.
Markham, Clements. A History of Peru. Chicago: Charles H. Sergel, 1892.
A highly readable account by the 19th-century English geographer and explorer Clements Markham. Despite its Victorian worldview, this is a splendid read.
Serulnikov, Sergio. Revolution in the Andes: The Age of Túpac Amaru. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
The best synthesis of the Katarista uprisings in Charcas (what became Bolivia) and the Tupac Amaru rebellion. Serulnikov has a sharp eye for comparisons but also avoids getting too bogged down in details. A sophisticated and useful overview (translated from Spanish, Revolución en los andes: La era de Túpac Amaru, 2012), with a foreword by Charles F. Walker.
Walker, Charles F. The Tupac Amaru Rebellion. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014.
A narrative history that pays particular attention to the role of the church and Micaela Bastidas, Tupac Amaru’s wife, as well as violence. It also stresses the latter period of the rebellion, 1781 to 1783, after the martyrdom of Tupac Amaru and the uprising’s repercussions.
Zudaire, Eulogio. Agustín de Jáuregui, virrey del Perú. Pamplona, Spain: Diputación Foral de Navarra, Dirección de Turismo, Bibliotecas y Cultura Popular, 1971.
A well-documented study of Viceroy Jáuregui that has hundreds of pages on Tupac Amaru and the uprising. Although the apologetic views on Spanish repression and his hypercritical opinions on the rebels (he compares Tupac Katari to Idi Amin) are troubling, the book mines official Spanish correspondence like no other.
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