Childhood & Early Life
It is believed that Túpac Amaru II, named José Gabriel Condorcanqui at birth, was born between March 8 and 24, 1738, in Surimana, Tungasuca in the Cusco province. His parents were Miguel Condorcanqui Usquionsa Tupac Amaru and María Rosa Noguera. He was baptized on May 1, by Santiago José Lopez in a Tungasuca church.
As a child, before his father’s death, he spent his time in the Vilcamayu Valley, often accompanying his father to the temple, the market, and various society events. He lost both his parents by the time he was 12 years old. Following this, he was raised by his aunt and uncle.
When he turned 16, he began his education at the Jesuit church of ‘San Francisco de Borja.’ Soon, he earned several titles from the Spanish vice royalty. After marriage, he succeeded his father as a “kuraca” and inherited the right to control over Tungasuca and Pampamarca from his older brother. He thus became the leader of many Quechua communities. He also turned into a regional muleteer after inheriting 350 mules that belonged to his father’s estate.
He learned the art of regional trading, which helped him earn valuable contacts in many indigenous communities and understand their economic settings. All of this proved useful to him in the oncoming rebellion of 1780–1781.
Despite working on behalf of the Spanish governor, he was well aware of the sufferings of his people. He lobbied for the better treatment of his community and used his own wealth to lessen their burdens and slavery. When he realized that his efforts had not been fruitful, he became angry with the oppressors.
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Popularly known as “The Túpac Amaru Rebellion,” his revolt was an Inca revival uprising with an aim to strengthen the rights of the indigenous Peruvians and lessen their misery under the Spanish ‘Bourbon Reforms.’
The revolt began with the capture and killing of Antonio de Arriaga, the Tinta “corregidor” and governor on November 4, 1780. The incident took place after Túpac Amaru II and the governor attended a banquet.
The governor left the party in a drunken state and was immediately kidnapped by indigenous rebels. They forced Arriaga to write letters to a large number of Spaniards. When 200 of them rallied in the next few days, they were soon surrounded by Túpac Amaru II and his 4,000 natives.
Claiming that he had acted under direct orders from the Spanish Crown, he gave Governor Arriaga’s slave, Antonio Oblitas, the opportunity to slay his master. However, the initial attempt to hang Arriaga failed, and the governor escaped. The natives captured him again and successfully hanged him at the second attempt. Their leader then renounced his birth name, “José Gabriel Condorcanqui,” and publicly assumed the new title as the frontrunner of a renewed indigenous rebellion.
Soon, 2,000 more natives joined the rebellion and the band of 6,000 rebels marched toward Cuzco. They occupied the Quispicanchis, Tinta, Cotabambas, Calca, and Chumbivilcas provinces, which the Spaniards ruled. The natives killed the Spaniards and raided their property.
On November 18, 1780, to suppress the rebellion, Colonial Cuzco sent more than 1,300 of his solders, made up of 578 Hispanics and 722 indigenous loyalists, who clashed with the rebels in the town on Sangarará. The rebels won the fight, killing all 578 Spanish soldiers and taking possession of their weapons and supplies.
The victory, however, did not last long. The fight exposed that Túpac Amaru II’s rebels were uncontrollable, since they had slaughtered the Spaniards without any direct orders. The massacre diminished the rebels’ chances of winning the support of the Criollo class. What followed was a string of defeats.
The worst defeat came when he failed to capture Cuzco where his supporters (around 40,000 to 60,000) were prevented from entering the fortified town by Cuzco’s combined forces of loyalists and reinforcements from Lima. He was then captured, taken to Cuzco’s ‘Plaza de Armas,’ and eventually executed.
After being captured, he was also forced to bear witness to the cruel executions of his wife; his eldest son, Hipólito; his uncle, Francisco Tupa Amaro; his brother-in-law, Antonio Bastidas; and some of his captains.
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He himself was brutally tortured and was condemned to death by dismemberment. However, after a failed dismemberment by four horses, his body was quartered, and he was beheaded on the main Cuzco plaza. It is said that the beheading had taken place at the same location where his great-great-great-grandfather, Túpac Amaru I, had been beheaded.
After his death, the Spaniards executed the remaining members of his family, except his 12-year-old son, Fernando. The child was initially condemned to die with his father. Instead, he was imprisoned in Spain for the rest of his life.
Túpac Amaru II’s body parts were thrown across the towns that had shown him loyalty. His houses were demolished, and his goods were confiscated. All his relatives were announced as infamous, and all the documents testifying his descent were burned.
Family, Personal Life & Legacy
In 1760, at the age of 22, he married Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua. Micaela was of Afro-Peruvian and indigenous descent.
It is believed that Michaela scolded him for not organizing a surprise attack on the Spaniards in Cuzco. He had, in fact, lost precious time trying to gather more rebels outside the city. Using this opportunity, the Spaniards had succeeded in bringing reinforcements to stop the revolt. This led to his capture, along with his wife and the natives.
Even though he lost, his rebellion marked the first large-scale battle in the Spanish colonies and went on to inspire several new uprisings in the surrounding regions, such as “Upper Peru,” which is now known as Bolivia.
His legacy was such that the document that condemned him to death also stated that "the Indians stood firm in the place of our gunfire, despite their enormous fear of it.” Even after his tragic death, his loyal natives continued to believe in his immortality and heritage.
The Peruvian Marxist–Leninist rebellious group called the ‘Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement’ (MRTA) became famous across the world for their involvement in the Japanese embassy hostage emergency.
During the ‘Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces’ (1968–1980), he was chosen by military leaders as the symbolic figure representing the Peruvian Revolution.
In Clive Cussler’s book ‘Inca Gold,’ one of the villains called himself Túpac Amaru and claimed that he was a direct descendant of the revolutionary.