Symbolic Discourse and Exterminatory Movements: The 1680 and 1696 Pueblo Revolts of New Mexico and the 1780-1782 Great Rebellion of Peru and Upper Peru


The 1780-1782 Great Rebellion of Peru and Upper Peru



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The 1780-1782 Great Rebellion of Peru and Upper Peru

The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782 erupted almost 100 years to the day after the Pueblo Revolt. Though many more people died, upwards of 100,000, it did not succeed in bringing the natives of the region independence from Spanish rule. The rebellion first erupted in the town of Macha, Upper Peru, on August 6, 1780 with the execution by the villagers of the local curaca,59 Blas Bernal. For over two years, Tomás Catari, an illiterate Aymara Indian, had unsuccessfully tried to to reduce the tribute burdens on his brethren and assert his hereditary claim to be curaca of Macha. His efforts had involved his repeated imprisonment, numerous escapes, and even a foot journey to Buenos Aires where he arrived “without poncho, hat, shirt or shoes” before making an appeal for redress before the viceroy.60 Upon his return to Macha, he claimed to have been confirmed as curaca, and unilaterally decreased tribute collections by about a third. This led again to his imprisonment, and in their efforts to secure his release his supporters captured and, on August 6, 1780, killed, the curaca Blas Bernal, igniting the Great Rebellion. Subsequently, they kidnapped Joaquín Alós, the corregidor,61 and freed him in exchange for Catari’s release from jail and confirmation as curaca of Macha on August 30, 1780.62


Rather than mollifying the Indians of the region, it stimulated their expectations. Rumors ran throughout Chayanta, Paria and Yamparáez provinces that Catari, supposedly with royal approval, not only had decreased tribute demands but also had abolished the repartimiento de mercancías,63 the mita64 and numerous religious fees and civil taxes. Communities began to replace and often kill their curacas, many of whom were Mestizos appointed on an open-ended, “interim,” basis and represented Hispanic, as opposed to Indian, interests.65 Throughout September, 1780, rebels were active in these provinces "killing the Spaniards, Mestizos and the very Indians" who did not support them.66
As the rebellion spread in Upper Peru, another insurgency erupted in the region of Cuzco, Peru. Like Tomás Catari, the curaca of the village of Tungasuca, José Gabriel Condorcanqui y Thupa Amaro, had in 1777 journeyed to Lima in an unsuccessful effort to reduce the demands upon his people. Unlike Tomás Catari, however, he was a Mestizo and a matrilineal descendent of the last Inca, Túpac Amaru I, who was executed in Cuzco in 1572.67 After returning to Tungasuca, Túpac Amaru II plotted his rebellion in earnest, and may have advanced its date somewhat for fear of the plot being discovered as a result of the unrelated outbreak in Upper Peru. On November 4, 1780, he kidnapped the corregidor of the district, Antonio Arriaga, and, claiming to be acting under Spanish royal orders, had him executed six days later.68 After distributing Arriaga’s property to the Indians, Túpac Amaru spent the following weeks leading his ever-increasing hoardes of followers through the provinces of Tinta, Quispicanchis, Cotabambas, Calca and Chumbivilcas, looting and burning Hispanic interests, killing Hispanics, and declaring an end to corregidors, the mita and taxes.69 As his forces increased, and he realized that Creole support for the rebellion was not forthcoming, he stopped claiming to act in the name of Charles III, and began to issue orders in his own name as Inca king.70
Having also dominated the provinces of Azángaro and Carabaya, he set his sights on Cuzco, the former capital of the Inca empire, which he besieged on December 28, 1780.71 Opting for a siege as opposed to an attack proved to be a mistake, as it allowed the Spanish to send reinforcements to the city, many of whom were Indians from Lima.72 After an indecisive skirmish on January 3, 1781, the Hispanics led a more concerted attack five days later which broke the siege.73
The Inca’s cousin, Diego Túpac Amaru, had meanwhile conquered the provinces of Calca, Paucartambo and Urubamba before being defeated in Huaran, Yucay and Paucartambo by Hispanic-led forces. He subsequently retreated to Tungasuca on January 18 where he rejoined Túpac Amaru.74 Despite Túpac Amaru’s efforts to consolidate his grip on the region under his sway, by April 4 the Hispanics had him surrounded.75 Seeing the tide going against the rebels, the insurgent Colonel Ventura Landaeta decided to seek pardon and captured Túpac Amaru. On April 14, 1781 Túpac Amaru arrived manacled and in Spanish custody in Cuzco, where he was subsequently executed.76 Although the Inca and much of his family and inner cirlce had been killed, his relatives continued the insurgency. Diego Cristóbal Túpac Amaru continued to operate in the region of Cuzco and Puno, and Andrés Mendagure Túpac Amaru, the nineteen-year old nephew of José Gabriel, captured Sorata in August, 1781 and would later join the siege of La Paz.77
In Upper Peru, soonafter the siege of Cuzco had been broken, Tomás Catari had been captured near Aullagas. On January 15, his followers attempted to free him as he was being escorted to La Plata. Instead of relinquishing the captive, however, the Hispanic commander ordered him shot.78 As in Peru, the death of the original leader did not slow the rebellion, but rather radicalized it and led to the rise of kin to the leadership. Tomás’ cousins, the half-brothers Dámaso and Nicolás, continued to operate in the region. Dámaso led a brief siege on La Plata before he and Nicolás were captured and killed in April and May 1781. In the town of Oruro in February, 1781, a Creole-Indian rebellion led to the death of many Spaniards before the Indians began to target Creoles, the alliance broke down, the Indians besieged the town. The flame of rebellion swept as far south as Tupiza, where a Mestizo-led uprising was quickly quashed by royalists headed north to aid in suppressing the rebellion.79
La Paz would suffer more in terms of human life than other towns as a result of a siged against it led by Túpac Catari . Catari was born Julián Apasa in the province of Sicasica around 1750. Apparently an orphan, he was reared by the sacristan of his hometown of Ayoayo. Prior to raising the standard of rebellion, he worked in a sugar mill, in the mines, as a baker and later as a seller of coca leaves and textiles.80 Around the time he became a rebel, he intercepted a letter from Túpac Amaru to Tomás Catari and adopted the nom de guerre of Túpac Catari in an effort to draw support from adherents of both leaders.81
Having built his forces in the provinces of Sicasica and Pacajes during January and February of 1781, on March 14 he led them to besiege La Paz. In the months ahead his forces would swell to about forty thousand as rebels from the areas of La Paz and Lake Titicaca joined the siege in the company of others whom had earlier rebelled in the provinces of Paucarcolla, Cochabamba, Chayanta, Oruro, Paria, Carangas, Pacajes and Porco. Despite a protracted siege and considerable combat, the rebels were unable to take the city before it was succored by troops under Commandant Ignacio Flores on June 30, 1781.82 The help was welcomed by the Hispanics, but too late for many. About a third of the town’s population, or about 10,000 people, had already died.83 One contemporary wrote that “there was not one” who was uninjured, and the inhabitants ate "not only the horses, mules, and donkeys but also (after having run out of dogs and cats) leather and trunks served as the best subsistence.”84 A cleric wrote that they ate the “meat, perhaps or perhaps not of people, of which there is no shortage of people who assure me of this.”85
While Flores broke the siege and brought desperately needed provisions to the town, he was so plagued by desertion by his own troops that in late July he withdrew to Oruro. By August 5th, Túpac Catari and his forces had again besieged the city, and a few weeks later they were joined by forces led by Andrés Túpac Amaru. In mid-September, another cousin of the Inca rebel, Miguel Bastidas Túpac Amaru, arrived to help prosecute the siege before it was finally broken by loyalists led by Josef Reseguín on October 17, 1781.86 As the royalist noose tightened, Túpac Catari was captured after a feast and was executed on November 13, and Diego Cristóbal Túpac Amaru was captured at Marcapata, in Quispicanchis, on March 15, 1782.87 Seeing few alternatives, Miguel Bastidas Túpac Amaru obtained a pardon by assisting the Spanish in suppressing what was left of the rebellion.88
By January, 1782, the remaining major rebels signed the Peace of Sicuani, bringing the rebellion largely to a close.89 Estimates put the number of dead at about 40,000 Indians and 60,000 Hispanics, or about eight percent of the population in the affected area.90 Seeking to reassert royal authority while preserving their labor source, the crown implemented an ethnocidal campaign to extirpate reminders of the pre-Hispanic culture.91 Not only was the position of curaca abolished, but all Incaic icons were prohibited, such as Incaic clothing, paintings, flags and dramas. In addition, an effort to ban the use of indigenous languages, which had begun in 1774, was reinforced with the prohibition of the use of Quechua.92




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