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The Rebellion of Tupac Amaru II

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Questions | Bibliography

Chapter Reference: Colonial Crucible; Independence

This most important of colonial rebellions shook the high Andes and sent shockwaves throughout Spanish America. The mestizo who called himself Tupac Amaru II claimed Inca descent and took that name in memory of Tupac Amaru I, an Inca resistance leader and, subsequently, folk hero who fought a rear-guard action against the conquest in the 1500s. Like the 1810-1811 Hidalgo rebellion in Mexico, Tupac Amaru's uprising was initially "Americano," rather than indigenous, in focus—calling for an alliance among native-born whites, mestizos, and indigenous people against European-born Spaniards. Like Hidalgo's rebellion, however, Tupac Amaru's, once begun, became primarily indigenous and raged out of control, leaping south through the high plateaus like grass fire into Upper Peru (modern-day Bolivia), where it set off another, more stubborn revolt. Finally, like Hidalgo's rebellion, Tupac Amaru's showed that multiclass rebellions of Americanos against Spaniards could easily become more radical wars against the entire white ruling class. As a result, native-born whites in Mexico and Peru were among the last on the continent to embrace the patriot cause during the wars of independence. A paper on the rebellion should look at the ethnic and class makeup of those joining in the fight and consider the appeal they found in following Tupac Amaru. It is also important to highlight the context of colonial reforms in which the rebellion broke out, as well as the impact it had on colonial administrators during the wars of independence.

Questions for Analysis and Further Reflection:

  1. What factors and conditions led to the outbreak of the rebellion, and how was it that Tupac Amaru was able to mobilize such widespread support?

  2. What were the consequences of Tupac Amaru's rebellion during the remaining colonial decades?

  3. What was the legacy of Tupac Amaru and the rebellion during the wars of independence?

Bibliography: (Titles with ** are good starting places.)

Fisher, Lillian Estelle. The Last Inca Revolt, 1780—1783. Norman: University of Oklahoma
           Press, 1966.

Though an older study, Fisher's look at the rebellion is thorough and reads well.

** Flores Galindo, Alberto. "The Rebellion of Tupac Amaru." In Daniel Castro, ed.,
           Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerrilla Movements in Latin America. Wilmington,
           DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999.

Flores Galindo provides a succinct overview of the rebellion.

** Johnson, Lyman L., ed. Death, Dismemberment, and Memory: Body Politics in Latin
Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004.

Students will find the introduction and Ward Stavig's chapter on Tupac Amaru good starting points.

Robins, Nicholas A. Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of
With a foreword by Israel W. Charny. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

Robins presents a scholarly treatment of the rebellion, emphasizing the toll fighting took on both sides and how revolts spread rapidly throughout the region.

Serulnikov, Sergio. Subverting Colonial Authority: Challenges to Spanish Rule in
           Eighteenth-Century Southern Andes.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

This recent study explores peasant politics around Potosí during the late 1800s, in years leading up to the rebellion.

Stavig, Ward A. "Ethnic Conflict, Moral Economy, and Population in Rural Cuzco on the
           Eve of the Thupa Amaro II Rebellion." Hispanic American Historical Review, 68, no.
           4 (1988): 737—70.

** ________. The World of Túpac Amaru: Conflict, Community, and Identity in Colonial
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

Stavig's study of Tupac Amaru is one of the most complete in English.

Thomson, Sinclair. We Alone Will Rule: Native Andean Politics in the Age of Insurgency.
           Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.

** Walker, Charles F. Smoldering Ashes: Cuzco and the Creation of Republican Peru,
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

The introduction and first two chapters introduce students to Tupac Amaru and the rebellion's historical context.

Other Resources:
The Inca Empire
Labor History