Cusco – History
Cusco is a region steeped in history. From pre-Inca times to the present, several glorious centuries have passed. As testimonies of what happened today you can see the very strong Inca walls and the majestic colonial temples. For this reason, the historic center of Cusco is considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity, according to UNESCO.
Cusco, before the Incas
All the investigations maintain that the Incas came from the cold plateaus of the Peruvian highlands, settling around 1230. Before, the Cusco territory was the scene of various human groups such as cultures: Marcavalle, Chanapata, Lucre, Cotacalle, Wari and Killke. Many of the Inca customs were taken over by these cultures, such as the Quechua language.
In Cusco, the oldest settlements date back to 5,000 years before the Christian era. One of the cultures that most influenced Cusco were the Wari (mainly from the current department of Ayacucho). As a testimony Wari in Cusco until today survives the citadel of Pikillaqta. According to research, the first Inca was Manco Cápac who ruled in Cusco from 1200 after the Christian era.
The first men of Cusco (5000 BC)
- The first human settlements in Cusco were primitive. They inhabited the Andean caves where they left testimony of their existence through cave paintings.
- The ‘Man of Qhorqa’ is considered the first human settlement in Cusco (2000 BC). The cave paintings show a plant on a central base.
- Other of the oldest finds in Cusco are: the ‘Man of Chawaytiri’ (in the current limit of Pisac and Paucartambo), the ‘Hombre de Canchis’ (in the current Sicuani), the ‘Hombre de Chumbivilcas’ (in the current province of Chumbivilcas) and the ‘Man of Yauri’ (in the current territory of Espinar).
- The first men of Cusco did not know pottery but they domesticated some camelids. They also made basic musical instruments.
- The constructions were very basic (rocky forms that protected from the cold and rain).
The Marcavalle and Chanapata cultures (1,000 BC – 700 BC)
- The Marcavalle culture settled in the current urban area of Cusco. Much is unknown about this ancestor culture of the future Inca civilization. They developed agriculture and camelid grazing. They were socially organized into ayllus (family groups in a certain region of the Andes), which were built of adobe. They worshiped felines, camelids and birds (present in their ceramics).
- The Chanapata culture developed in the current peripheries of the city of Cusco (Santa Ana neighborhood) but its expansion reached the provinces of La Convencion and Paucartambo. They organized into ayllus and exchanged their products (mostly camelid meat and wool) with other ayllus. A lithic carving was found with the representation of Wiracocha (Andean god before the Incas). The chanapatas made burials and developed an incipient architecture.
The Cotacalle and Lucre culture (600 AD – 1000 AD)
- The Cotacalle or ‘Qotakalli’ culture was established south of the current city of Cusco (approximately 3 kilometers from the Main Square). They were a group of ayllus who inherited the customs and organization of the Marcavalles and Chanapatas. Its origins date back to 600 AD, after which they expanded their territory along the South Valley of Cusco until approximately 1,000 AD
- The cotacalles had to suffer the invasion of the powerful Wari empire, so there is evidence of ceramics with a marked influence of this last culture. They also left engravings with human motifs and geometric figures.
- The Lucre culture probably settled in the current territory of Lucre in the province of Quispicanchis. Its origins date back a thousand years before the Christian era. However, their greatest expansion was in the thousand years after the Christian era when they covered much of the Cusco region. They fought with the Wari culture, whom they managed to expel from the southern territory of Cusco.
The Wari culture (600 AD – 1200 AD)
- The Wari culture (also known as Huari) developed throughout much of today’s Peruvian territory, although it had its center in the current department of Ayacucho. In Cusco, it covered a good part of the southern territory for which it had continuous wars with the Cotacalle, the Lucre, the Killke and other local ayllus. Its main urban center was Pikillaqta, located in the so-called South Valley of Cusco. They settled until approximately 1200 AD, when they were expelled by the local ayllus. Its influence on architecture, ceramics, and organization was taken over by the Incas.
The Killke culture (1,000 AD – 1,476 AD)
- The Killke culture were the ancestors of the Incas. They inhabited most of the current urban territory of Cusco. They established their main temple in the current ‘Coricancha’. They organized into ayllus and worshiped felines and lightning. They had a lot of influence from the Wari culture, especially in ceramics. Its constructions already show a stone polishing technique (a technique that was perfected by the Incas). Many of its buildings are waiting to be discovered under the modern buildings of the city of Cusco.
The Incas (1438 AD – 1533 AD)
- The Incas came from the Altiplano peoples and settled in Cusco around 1200 AD. For this, they made strategic alliances with the ayllus who lived there. Oral tradition indicates that they imposed their customs and organization on the barbarian peoples. However, it is most likely that in Cusco they learned the language (Quechua) as well as some techniques in ceramics and architecture. Its expansion took almost two centuries until in 1438, the Inca Pachacutec founded a well-organized empire, the largest in South America.
The origin of the Incas
The Incas came from the peoples of the Altiplano (current plateau of Peru and Bolivia) seeking a new territory after the invasion of the Aymara peoples. After many years of wandering life, they settled in the Cusco valley where, after several centuries, they would found the largest empire in South America.
However, the Inca oral tradition explains this historical process with 2 very famous legends today: a) the legend of the Ayar brothers and b) the legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. Both narrate the journey that the first Incas (children of the Sun) made to find a sacred place to settle. Thus, the gods (Sun, Moon, Mountain) took them to Cusco where they would create a new civilization.
The Inca origin according to history
- The Incas were direct descendants of the Tiahuanaco culture in southern Peru (in the highlands). However, these ayllus (families) had to flee their territory due to the sudden invasion of Aymara peoples.
- On their way to find a new territory to settle in, these people crossed places mentioned in the legends of their founding (legend of the Ayar brothers) such as the Pacaritambo hill.
- After many years of wandering life, these families achieved alliances with some peoples that settled in the Cusco valley. There they settled and founded the ‘Inca lineage’.
- The first Inca ruler was Manco Capac. The Incas had to fight the peoples that settled around Cusco. In time, they would become an empire.
The legend of the Ayar brothers
- Legend has it that the Andean god ‘Huiracocha’ ordered his 4 children to look for a new fertile land where they could grow corn and thus feed the world.
- Thus, from the Pacaritambo cave the 4 Ayar brothers and their respective partners left: a) Ayar Cachi and Mama Huaco, Ayar Uchu and Mama Ipacura, Ayar Auca and Mama Rahua and Ayar Manco and Mama Ocllo.
- Each brother was the leader of an ayllu (group of families). Ayar Cachi, who was strong and temperamental, caused fear in his brothers. Thus, he was deceived and taken to the cave of ‘Tampu Tocco’ where the other brothers ordered to lock him up forever.
- The other brothers continued their journey. In the mountain ‘Huanacauri’ they found a stone idol. Ayar Uchu, full of respect and fear for the new discovery, was turned to stone by daring to jump on the idol.
- The other brothers continued their journey until they saw a fertile land (where the rod sank). Ayar Auca, who grew wings, decided to fly forward there.
- The Ayar brothers finally arrived in the city of Cusco. There they found a temple where Ayar Auca was turned into stone. The temple would be the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun).
- Ayar Manco, the leader was the first Inca who subdued the ayllus of Cusco and founded a new civilization. Since then it was renamed Manco Cápac.
The legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo
- Legend has it that the god Inti (sun) ordered his sons Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo to found a civilization that will end the chaos and barbarism that existed in the world.
- For this he gave them a golden scepter ordering them that wherever the scepter sinks it would be the place chosen to found their new civilization.
- Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo spent many years walking through the Andean and highland towns in search of the promised place.
- Finally, one day they arrived at the foot of the ‘Huanacaure’ hill where the golden scepter sank and they founded the Inca civilization.
- Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo had to deal with the peoples that inhabited Cusco. He taught men to farm, hunt, build houses, and more. She taught women how to knit, cook, and more.
The Inca rulers
The Inca empire lasted only 2 centuries, however, its rapid expansion reached the current territories of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador as well as part of Chile, Argentina and Colombia. Its first governor was Manco Cápac (ruled approximately from 1150 AD to 1178 AD) who is the protagonist of the legends about the origin of the Incas. His continuing successors reorganized life in the Cusco Valley and made alliances with neighboring ayllus.
The true Inca expansion occurred during the government of the Inca Pachacutec (ruled from 1430 AD to 1478) who defeated his rivals Chancas and founded the new Inca empire. The continuous governors continued with the expansion as well as the Inca architectural development. However, during the civil war between the Huáscar brothers and Atahualpa, the Spanish invaded and killed the last Imperial Inca.
After the Spanish invasion, the last rebellious Incas took refuge in the Vilcabamba jungle since they ruled in parallel with the invaders since 1533 AD. to 1572 AD). The wars for the reconquest ended with the death of Túpac Amaru and the imposition of the Spanish viceroyalty. However, many of the Inca traditions continued and continue to this day.
According to the Peruvian chronicler Inca Garcilaso, these were the Inca rulers:
- Manco Cápac “Rich Lord of Vassals” (Period 1150 AD – 1178 AD)
- According to Inca legends, he was the first governor and organizer of the first Incas. Together with his wife Mama Ocllo, he stars in the Legend of the Ayar brothers and the Legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo.
- Manco Cápac organized the basic laws of the Incas and imposed severe punishments on: murder, adultery and theft.
- Manco Cápac built the famous Coricancha temple (then called Inticancha).
- Sinchi Roca “Magnificent Warrior” (1178 AD – 1190 AD)
- Sinchi Roca was the son of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. He had to face wars against the ayllus neighboring the territory.
- He expanded the Inticancha and ordered the swamps that abounded in the territory of Cusco to dry up.
- It is believed that he was the first Inca to wear the ‘mascaipacha’, a royal mask that was used as a crown since it represented power for the Incas.
- Lloque Yupanqui “Lefty memorable” (1197 AD – 1246 AD)
- Lloque Yupanqui was the third Inca ruler. He had to face the constant wars for the possession of the Cusco Valley.
- He reached a peace agreement with the Ayamarca, an enemy ethnic group of the Incas for a long time.
- He managed to expand the Inca domains, although without the success of Manco Capac. He died in the Inticancha, leaving his son Mayta Cápac as heir.
- Mayta Cápac “The melancholic” (1246 AD – 1276 AD)
- Mayta Cápac was the fourth Inca ruler who had to deal with tough battles by the Alcahuisa ethnic group and the Aymara kingdoms.
- He successfully defended the Inca territory in Cusco. It did not manage to expand its domains. He left the government to his son Tarco Huaman who suffered a coup by Cápac Yupanqui.
- Cápac Yupanqui “Supreme accountant” (1276 AD – 1321 AD)
- Capac Yupanqui was the fifth Inca ruler. He came to power with a coup against his cousin, the legitimate Inca Tarco Huaman.
- It expanded in a few kilometers the Inca domain in Cusco. He made an alliance with the enemy Ayamarca tribe to fight the powerful Chanca army (much larger than the Incas at this time).
- He couldn’t fight the Chancas because he was poisoned.
- Inca Roca “Courageous Supreme Sovereign” (1321 AD – 1348 AD)
- Inca Roca was the sixth Inca governor (the first of the Hanan dynasty). He came to power by poisoning Capac Yupanqui. He left the Inticancha to the Hurin dynasty and moved to his own palace (in what is now the Twelve Angle Stone).
- It began with the construction of buildings in the city of Cusco. He left several descendants although his successor would be Yahuar Huaca.
- Yahuar Huaca Yupanqui “The one who cries blood” (1348 AD – 1370 AD)
- Yahuar Huaca was the seventh Inca ruler. The chronicles say that as a child he was kidnapped by the Ayamarca tribe who spared his life when they were surprised that he was crying blood.
- He faced various wars and rebellions. He slightly expanded the territory although he was unable to free himself from his most bitter enemies. He died without choosing his successor.
- Viracocha “Sea foam” (1370 AD – 1430 AD)
- Viracocha (also known as Huiracocha) was the eighth Inca governor. According to the chronicles, his name is due to the fact that he had a divine dream with the Andean god Huiracocha.
- Although he was not the son of Yahuar Huaca, he was elected governor because he belonged to the royalty of the Hanan dynasty.
- He expanded the Inca territories towards Yucay and Calca, where he built his palace. However, he left Cusco before the threat of the Chancas.
- After his surrender, his son Cusi Yupanqui achieved strategic alliances with neighboring ethnic groups and managed to expel the Chancas from Cusco.
- Viracocha died in Calca far from Cusco and without being able to designate a successor.
- Pachacutec “Transformer of the world” (1430 – 1478)
- Pachacutec was the ninth Inca governor. His real name was Cusi Yupanqui but after getting the Chanca expulsion from Cusco and expanding the territory in all directions, he founded the Inca empire ‘Tahuantinsuyo’ and was named the Inca Pachacutec.
- The enormous territorial expansion achieved by Pachacutec was accompanied by various reforms such as the reorganization of the Inca State (culturalization of the newly conquered).
- Pachacutec ordered the construction of hundreds of buildings, of which the following stand out: the rebuilding of the Coricancha (formerly Inticancha) and the construction of Machu Picchu.
- Inca Yupanqui “Supreme shrewd sovereign” (1478)
- Amaru Inca Yupanqui was Pachacutec’s chosen successor. However, according to the chronicles, he was a very peaceful ruler, inept to face the challenges of the nascent Inca empire.
- Pachacutec soon changed his mind and named Túpac Yupanqui as his true successor.
- Túpac Yupanqui “Resplendent and memorable king” (1478 – 1488)
- Túpac Yupanqui was the tenth Inca governor. He is known as the Inca explorer since he made expeditions to all the limits of the empire (it is even said that he discovered Oceania).
- He expanded the territory like no other Inca did before: he founded the city of Quito, defeated the Chimús, Chachapoyas, Huambos, the Aymara kingdoms and more.
- He died poisoned by his wife who did not like the appointment of Huayna Capac as his successor.
- Huayna Cápac “Mighty young man” (1488 – 1525)
- Huayna Cápac was the eleventh Inca ruler. I continue with the expansionist missions to the north. He faced the harsh rebellions of the Huancas and Punás.
- He was recognized for his aggressiveness against the rebellious peoples. Likewise, he had to deal with a group of rebel armies during his campaigns.
- According to some historians, in one of his campaigns to the north, Huayna Cápac heard information about the existence of the Spanish who were already in Inca territory at that time.
- Huáscar “Gold chain” (1525 – 1532)
- Huáscar was the twelfth Inca governor after the death of his father Huayna Cápac and his successor Ninan Cuyuchi (probably due to smallpox brought by the Spanish). His appointment as Inca caused the disapproval of his brothers, especially that of Atahualpa, then governor of the Inca territory in Quito (current Ecuador).
- Huáscar dedicated himself to fighting the conspiracies against him (he ordered the death of several of his brothers). However, he was unable to save himself from the onslaught of Atahualpa, who advanced to Cusco, achieving his capture.
- Once captured, Huáscar was taken half naked to Atahualpa who ordered his immediate death since he was already captured by the Spanish.
- Atahualpa “Happy victor” (1532 – 1533)
- Atahualpa was the last Inca emperor after being captured and executed by the Spanish invaders in 1533, a year after achieving power in a civil war against his brother Huáscar.
- Atahualpa failed to claim his throne in Cusco from Quito. In Cajamarca he was captured by the Spanish under Francisco Pizarro, after a massacre with firearms.
- Atahualpa paid an immense fortune of gold and silver for his ransom, but he was not released and finally died strangled in Cajamarca, ending the Inca empire.
Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba:
- Manco Inca (1533 – 1536)
- After the death of Atahualpa, the Spanish named Túpac Hualpa Inca in order to obtain more wealth and rule in the shadows.
- However, Túpac Hualpa was poisoned so they decided to appoint Manco Inca as the new ruler.
- Manco Inca, who belonged to the armies of Atahualpa, decided to rebel when he saw the abuses that the Spanish committed against the Incas.
- Manco Inca established his reign in Vilcabamba, an enclosure in the jungle of Cusco where the horses of the Spanish could not reach. From there he fought the Spanish until his murder by poisoning as a result of treason.
- Sayri Túpac (1545 – 1558)
- Sayri Túpac was the second Inca rebel from Vilcabamba. At first he established his residence in Vilcabamba. However, he resumed negotiations with the Spanish.
- In Lima he met with Viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza who offered him land, wealth and indulgences if he left Vilcabamba and converted to Catholicism. Sayri Túpac accepted and established her new residence in Yucay (55 kilometers from Cusco).
- Sayri Túpac died in Yucay under strange circumstances (he was probably poisoned).
- Titu Cusi (1558 – 1570)
- Titu Cusi Yupanqui was the third Inca rebel from Vilcabamba. After the death of his brother Sayri Túpac, he assumed power establishing his residence in Vilcabamba.
- During his government, he obtained great wealth through the commercialization of the coca leaf. He also returned to negotiate with the Spanish with whom he signed the Acobamba treaty (he accepted Catholicism in exchange for wealth but kept his power).
- Titu Cusi allowed missionaries to enter Vilcabamba, many of whom were murdered after the Inca died of pneumonia (they believed that the missions were the culprits).
- Túpac Amaru (1570 – 1572)
- Túpac Amaru was the last Inca of Vilcabamba. His mandate lowered, Spanish ambassadors who sought to negotiate his surrender were killed. Because of this, he had to fight bloody battles with the Spanish for control of Vilcabamba.
- The last rebellious Incas were defeated and had to flee from Vilcabamba. In their flight, Túpac Amaru and his wife were arrested and taken to Cusco to be tried.
- Finally, Túpac Amaru was hanged in the town square. His descendants were exiled to Mexico, Chile, Panama and other far away places. Thus, 40 years after Atahualpa’s death, the Spanish finished off the last rebellious Incas.
Pachacutec and the Inca Empire
The Incas lived their best development and prosperity during the government of the Inca Pachacutec, the ninth and first imperial Inca. In addition to expanding the territory in all directions (creation of the Tahuantinsuyo), the Inca organized the new state and ordered the construction of huge buildings such as Machu Picchu.
Pachacutec was a great statesman. Some chronicles also point out that he was an administrator, a philosopher and even an observer of human psychology. He assumed power in the middle of a war against the Chancas and managed to create the largest empire in South America. He died in Cusco naturally, after more than 30 years of government, approximately.
Inca War vs. Chancas
- During the rule of the Inca Huiracocha (1370 AD – 1430 AD) there was the invasion of the Chancas to the Incas.
- The Chancas were an ever-expanding warrior people. They rivaled the Incas for control of the territory. That is why when an emissary was sent to Cusco to negotiate the surrender, the Inca Huiracocha fled leaving the city at the mercy of the Chancas.
- In the absence of a leader (Inca Urco was Huiracocha’s successor but he also fled); the young prince Cusi Yupanqui (Pachacutec) took the leadership of the Inca defense.
- Cusi Yupanqui organized the Inca army and negotiated aid from neighboring towns. Thus, after tough confrontations in Cusco, they managed to expel the Chancas and consolidate their dominance.
- About this war there is a legend “The legend of the Pururauca soldiers” that refers to the fact that the stones became Inca soldiers, which caused the Chanca to flee.
- After defeating the Chanca army, Cusi Yupanqui had to face his brother Inca Urco who wanted to regain power. After being defeated, Cusi Yupanqui was named Inca and his name changed to Pachacutec “The transformer of the world”.
Creation of Tahuantinsuyo
- After the Inca victory over the Chancas, another expansionist stage began, favored by the adhesion of different curacazgos to the Incas.
- The Inca Pachacutec led the expansionist process through strategic alliances as well as peaceful subjugation or through wars.
- Thus, in the days of Pachacutec, the Inca dominions advanced throughout the Chanca territory to the north, the Coya territory to the south.
- Due to the new dimensions of the Inca territory, Pachacutec established the ‘Tahuantinsuyo’ (four regions).
- Then, the following Incas Túpac Yupanqui and Huayna Cápac, continued with the expansionist process throughout the South American continent.
- Huayna Cápac achieved the maximum Inca territorial expansion: to the south with the Maule River in Chile. To the north with the Mayo River in Colombia. To the southeast with the Tucumán region in Argentina. To the east with the high jungle region of Peru and Bolivia. On the west with the coast of Peru to the Pacific Ocean.
Reorganization of the Inca State
- Due to the new dimensions of the territory, Pachacutec had to reorganize the new Inca empire.
- One of his new implementations was to create a colonization system known as ‘the mitimaes system’. This consisted of moving human groups (especially rebels) to territories recently conquered by the Inca. They had to implement the new Inca lifestyle.
- Pachacutec also ordered the construction of a network of roads that would keep the newly conquered territories communicated with Cusco. Thus, he began the creation of the road network ‘Qhapac Ñan‘ (Tahuantinsuyo road network).
Construction of Machu Picchu and more
- Pachacutec ordered the construction of dozens of citadels, temples, roads and many other buildings throughout Tahuantinsuyo.
- Many of these constructions had a colonizing purpose as it involved the implantation of a temple of worship to the new Inca gods, in territories where other divinities existed.
- Today, one of the most famous buildings is the Inca City of Machu Picchu, which was ordered to be built by the Inca Pachacutec in approximately 1450.
- In addition, Pachacutec ordered the construction of: Ollantaytambo, the Temple of the Sun of Vilcashuaman, Raqchi as well as the improvement of Cusco, Sacsayhuaman and the Coricancha (old Inticancha).
Death and succession
- Pachacutec died naturally in 1471. At the time of his death, the Inca empire was experiencing a great organization and expansion of its territory. His successor was his son Túpac Inca Yupanqui who already assumed a leading role in conquering new territories for his father.
- After his death, Pachacutec (as was customary) was mummified and received a sumptuous tribute in the Plaza de Aucaypata (current Main Square of Cusco), dressed in gold, silver as well as feather ornaments and more.
- His mummy was transferred to the temple of Tococache (current church of San Blas in Cusco), a construction ordered to be built by Pachacutec himself for the god of lightning.
- Pachacutec is remembered in history for being one of the great governors of pre-Columbian times. According to the Peruvian historian María Rostworowski; the Inca Pachacutec: “with his measurements he gave geographic and idiomatic unity; initiating the uniformity that later allowed the formation of present-day Peru”.
Huáscar and Atahualpa
Huáscar and Atahualpa starred in the Inca civil war that ended with the death of Huáscar and the capture of Atahualpa by the Spanish, which would later cause the death of the Inca and the conquest of the Inca empire.
Throughout Inca history, there have always been social conflicts over command control. However, the civil war between Huáscar and Atahualpa (from 1529 to 1532, approximately) marked an important break in the hegemony. Huáscar represented the power of the armies of Cusco while Atahualpa, the forces of Quito in the north of the empire.
At the end of the war, historians report that there were between 60,000 and 1,100,000 deaths on both sides. This radically weakened the forces of the Inca empire who were finally subdued by the Spanish, leading to the conquest and the end of their empire.
Causes of the conflict
- The Inca Huayna Cápac died in 1525 in the kingdoms of Quito due to a strange disease (probably smallpox brought by the Spanish). Earlier, he appointed his son Ninan Cuyuchi as his successor, who also died of the same disease.
- In the absence of a successor, Huáscar (son of Huayna Cápac) assumed as Inca in Cusco. However, this decision did not satisfy his brothers who also aspired to the throne. Thus, Huáscar had to assassinate his conspirators.
- Meanwhile, in the kingdoms of Quito, Atahualpa (also the son of Huayna Capac) continued his expansive work in the north. He was gaining more and more followers and powers, which caused fear in Huáscar.
- The war between Huáscar and Atahualpa did not take long to break out. Thus, in 1529 hostilities began between both sides.
- There are various historical versions of the battles that the Huáscar and Atahualpa armies faced. The most widely accepted is that there were several battles that lasted several years and that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
- Atahualpa began by facing the rebellions of the northern peoples allied to Huáscar (especially the Cañaris). Then he set out on the march to Cusco with an army of 40,000 men.
- The battles took place first in the north (Chillopampa, Chimborazo, Ambato) but later, with the victories of Atahualpa) they took place closer and closer to Cusco.
- In 1532, Atahualpa’s armies occupied much of present-day northern and southern Peru. In the battle of Huanacopampa (current Apurímac), Huáscar’s army achieved an important battle. However, they suffered a setback and fell into the hands of Atahualpa’s army.
- Finally, in Quipaipán, Huáscar’s army was attacked by surprise. The Inca Huáscar was taken prisoner and the city of Cusco sacked. Meanwhile, in Cajamarca, Atahualpa learned of his victory and the presence of the Spanish who would kill him.
Death of Huáscar and capture of Atahualpa
- In 1532, the Inca Atahualpa was taken prisoner by the Spanish in Cajamarca. The Spanish achieved their mission by the force of their firearms as well as the ignorance of the Inca who only brought his personal guard and not his army.
- During the capture of Atahualpa, Huáscar was taken prisoner, tortured and taken to Cajamarca. However, during his transfer he was assassinated on the orders of Atahualpa, who believed that the Spanish would vindicate him in power.
- Atahualpa was a prisoner for several months until he offered a treasure for his ransom. The chronicles indicate that he offered two rooms of silver and one of gold as far as his raised hand can reach. The result was one of the greatest treasures in the history of mankind: 1,326,539 gold pesos and 51,610 silver marks.
- However, despite paying for his ransom, Atahualpa was executed in Cajamarca in 1533 on the orders of Francisco Pizarro.
Consequences of war
- The civil war between Huáscar and Atahualpa caused the weakening of the empire and led to the Spanish conquest.
- In total, between 60,000 and 1,100,000 deaths were recorded (there are different versions), both on the Huáscar and Atahualpa camps.
- The peoples most affected by the Inca civil war were the Cañaris, who registered up to 60,000 deaths. It is believed that its population was reduced to its minimum expression after the war.
- After the Inca civil war, the nobility of Cusco was stripped of their treasures and, over time, of their hierarchy.
- The few Incas who disagreed with the Spanish invasion rebelled and fought to regain their power from the kingdoms of Vilcabamba.
The Spanish conquest in Cusco
The Spanish conquest of Cusco occurred at a time of the Inca civil war. The powerful Inca empire was fragmented into sides in favor of Atahualpa and Huáscar. The Spanish took advantage of this event to negotiate with the Incas of Cusco (in favor of Huáscar) their trip to the imperial city. On the way he had to face the rebellious Incas. However, thanks to the help of the Cañaris, Huancas and Chachapoyas peoples; they finally managed to besiege the Cusco city. Finally in 1524, after looting the city, they founded the City of Cusco to perpetuate themselves in power.
The capture of Atahualpa and the march to Cusco
- In 1532, the Spanish founded the first city in Peru, known as the town of San Miguel de Tangarará (present-day Piura). By then they had news of the enormous Inca kingdom whose capital Cusco was located south of the Andes.
- The Spaniards undertook their expeditions in the direction of Cajamarca where they knew the Inca Atahualpa was located.
- In Cajamarca they captured the Inca Atahualpa by means of an ambush with firearms. As a result, they shared a booty of gold and silver offered by the Inca himself who was finally executed.
- After Atahualpa’s death, the Spanish named Túpac Hualpa Inca with whom they marched to Cusco.
- During the long journey, however, Túpac Hualpa mysteriously passed away (possibly poisoned by Atahualpa’s supporters).
- On their way to Cusco, the Spanish had to face uprisings of troops from Atahualpa. However, thanks to the help of the local Indians (enemies of the Incas), they managed to continue on their way to Cusco.
- After the death of Túpac Hualpa, Pizarro appointed Manco Inca to satisfy the nobility of Cusco. Thus, after many uprisings, he managed to enter the capital of the empire.
The sacking of Cusco
- The Spanish troops entered Cusco without any resistance as Manco Inca represented the claim of an Inca from Cusco, after many years of civil war.
- Once in Cusco, the Spanish marveled at the beauty and riches that were in the capital of the empire. The chronicles indicate that they dedicated themselves to looting the Coricancha temple as well as other Inca temples full of gold and silver.
- Meanwhile, Atahualpa’s army feeling already decimated was reduced to a bare minimum. Many of the warriors, feeling far from their lands to the north, set out on the long journey home.
- In Cusco, Francisco Pizarro officially named Manco Inca as the new Inca. However, deep down, their purpose was to keep the Inca nobility happy while they got rich.
The foundation of Cusco
- On March 23, 1524, the Spanish founded the city of Cusco. Francisco Pizarro distributed lands among his troops and also entrusted a number of Indians to each owner (encomienda system) to ensure their dominion in Cusco.
- One of the first strategies used by the Spanish to stay in power in Cusco was to marry the sisters and wives of the Incas. In this way, according to Inca tradition, they ensured a space between the nobility and in power.
- In addition, the Spanish kept the Inca nobility some of their privileges.
The Inca rebellion
After the conquest of Cusco, the Spanish sacked the city. The Cusco Incas, seeing the true intentions of the foreigners, decide to fight them. However, seeing themselves at a numerical disadvantage, they flee into the jungle and take up residence in the town of Vilcabamba. For almost 40 years, the Incas reigned in this inaccessible place. At that time, 4 governors succeeded each other: Manco Inca, Sayri Túpac, Titu Cusi Yupanqui and Túpac Amaru. The latter lost control of Vilcabamba, was captured and executed in the Main Square in Cusco. With him ended the rebellion and the Inca genealogy.
The rebellion of Manco Inca
- Throughout the conquest, the Spanish had to face the constant uprisings of the Inca troops from Quito, who supported Atahualpa.
- However, thanks to the support of the Cusco Incas (who supported Huáscar) and the Inca peoples of Quito, the Spanish established themselves in power.
- As time passed, the Cusco Incas realized the true intentions of the Spanish. Manco Inca, who was named Inca by Francisco Pizarro, escaped to the town of Yucay where he gathered a powerful army to regain the city of Cusco.
- Manco Inca kept the city of Cusco located (under the command of the Spanish) for almost a year. The fiercest battles were fought in the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, on the outskirts of the city.
- Finding himself at a disadvantage, Manco Inca fled in the direction of the jungle. There, in the inaccessible town of Vilcabamba, he established his residence where he ruled as an Inca parallel to the Spanish mandate in Cusco.
- Finally, in 1545 he was assassinated betrayed by a Spanish soldier.
The Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba
- Vilcabamba was the last Inca stronghold from where the Spanish power was fought in Cusco. Access to the Spanish and their horses was difficult due to its rugged geography full of vegetation.
- After the death of Manco Inca, the first Inca rebel from Vilcabamba, he was succeeded in power by his son Sayri Túpac who maintained a period of peace with the Spanish.
- In 1556, Sayri Túpac meets with Viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza in Lima (the capital of the viceroyalty) and accepts his conversion to Catholicism in exchange for wealth and land in Yucay, north of Cusco.
- After the death of Sayri Túpac in 1561 (probably poisoned), his brother Titu Cusi Yupanqui took control of Vilcabamba fiercely fighting the Spanish.
- Titu Cusi Yupanqui acquired great wealth due to the coca leaf trade in Vilcabamba. Thus in 1556, he signed a peace treaty with the Spanish in exchange for a title as a legitimate Inca.
- Titu Cusi Yupanqui is famous for the letter he sent to the King of Spain Felipe II. In the letter, he stated the grievances suffered by his relatives.
- He died in 1570, probably of pneumonia. In his place, Túpac Amaru II was named, his brother who would be the last Inca of Vilcabamba.
Túpac Amaru and the end of the Inca rebellion
- Túpac Amaru was the fourth and last Inca rebel from Vilcabamba. During his childhood he was appointed priest and guardian of the body of his father, Manco Inca.
- In 1570 Túpac Amaru Inca became the new Inca of Vilcabamba after the death of his brother Titu Cusi Yupanqui.
- In retaliation for the death of Titu Cusi Yupanqui (the Incas believed that he was poisoned by the Spanish), two ambassadors of the colony were assassinated. The Spanish were enraged and Túpac Amaru had to face the invasion of Vilcabamba.
- The Spanish attacked Vilcabamba with an army made up of 250 soldiers and 2,500 allied Indians. They took the city of Vitcos, Huayna Pucará and, finally, Vilcabamba. Túpac Amaru had to flee into the jungle with the last men of his army.
- After intense persecution, the Spanish captured Túpac Amaru and transferred him to the city of Cusco along with other rebellious Incas.
- In the Main Square in Cusco, Túpac Amaru rejected Christianity and the crimes he was accused of. Finally, in 1572, he was beheaded to the scream of the Indians who congregated there.
- After the death of Túpac Amaru, his descendants and royal family were exiled by the Spanish to distant lands (present-day Mexico, Chile, Panama), in order to maintain power without any kind of indigenous rebellion.
- With the death of Túpac Amaru the Inca hegemony in Vilcabamba ended.
Cusco during the Spanish colony
On June 19, 1540, the city of Cusco was founded in the midst of a tension for the control of the wealth of the city among the Spaniards themselves. The first years of the Spanish colony in Cusco were marked by the wars against the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba. Then, after the death of Túpac Amaru I and the end of the rebellious Incas, there was a period of prosperity where imposing churches were built on the ancient Inca temples.
However, the abuses against the indigenous people of Cusco continued for many years. Faced with this, uprisings occurred, of which the most important was the one undertaken by José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Túpac Amaru II) in 1780. Despite his death, which occurred a year later, in the Main Square of Cusco; the pro-independence voices sounded louder. Finally, after several libertarian struggles, such as that of Mateo Pumacahua in 1814, Cusco was part of the independence of Peru proclaimed in 1821, after almost 300 years of Spanish rule.
Clashes between Spaniards
- The Spanish conquerors of Cusco and Peru were divided into 2 camps: the troops in favor of Francisco Pizarro and the troops in favor of Diego de Almagro. In 1537, the ‘almagristas’ took control of Cusco in the battle of Abancay.
- However, after a second fight ‘battle of Las Salinas’, Diego de Almagro was executed in 1538 in the Main Square of Cusco.
- The battles between Spaniards did not end with this death but increased. Francisco Pizarro was assassinated in the government palace of Lima in 1541, a year after founding the city of Cusco (1540).
- Tensions for control of Cusco continued for several years in conjunction with the wars against the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba.
The colonial splendor in Cusco
- The colonial splendor in Cusco came after eradicating the rebellious Incas from Vilcabamba and with the new measures taken by Viceroy Toledo in 1576.
- Cusco was a strategic site that communicated the new mines discovered in Huancavelica and Potosí. The ancient capital of the Incas became an important place of commercial transit in the new viceroyalty.
- During the almost 3 centuries (from 1542 to 1824) that the Spanish colony in Peru lasted, important Christian temples were built in Cusco on top of the ancient Inca religious temples. Some of the most important were: the Cathedral of Cusco (1735), the Convent of Santo Domingo (1633), the Society of Jesus (1668), the church of Santa Clara (1622) and more.
- Many of the constructions undertaken by the Spanish were affected by the 1650 earthquake. Likewise, in 1720 an epidemic occurred that left approximately 80,000 dead.
- The reforms undertaken during the colony did not eradicate the abuses against the indigenous population in Cusco. Inhumane work in the mines (often unpaid) as well as abuses by the Spanish authorities caused indigenous uprisings in Cusco.
The uprising of Túpac Amaru II
- In 1780, the indigenous leader José Gabriel Condorcanqui (descendant of the last Inca Túpac Amaru I) organized the largest anti-colonial rebellion of the 18th century.
- José Gabriel Condorcanqui was a mestizo nobleman educated by a Spanish priest. As a descendant of the Incas, he owned land and Indians in his charge. However, discontent with the abuses of the Spaniards in their lands and against the natives; decided to take up arms. That is how it was named Inca, under the name of Túpac Amaru II, requiring the abolition of indigenous slavery and the eradication of the colony.
- The independence movement launched by Túpac Amaru was violent. He summoned indigenous leaders from various regions gathering an army of tens of thousands of Indians.
- The uprising of Túpac Amaru lasted between 1780 and 1783 and caused the death of 100,000 people, approximately. It spread throughout the territory of Cusco, Puno and part of the viceroyalty of Buenos Aires.
- Túpac Amaru and his relatives were captured in 1781. Taken to the city of Cusco, he was tortured (he saw the death of his wife, children and brothers) and executed in the city’s Main Square. After his death, the independence flame was lit in Cusco and Peru. His uprising continued after his death until 1783.
The struggle for independence in Cusco
- At the end of the fourteenth century throughout the Spanish viceroyalty in America there were independentist uprisings organized by Creoles with the support of a part of the indigenous population. In Cusco, in 1814 a movement was organized led by the Angle brothers as well as the indigenous leader Mateo Pumacahua.
- In Cusco they made the first declaration of the independence of Peru. However, after imposing his forces in 1814, the Cusco rebellion was quenched and Mateo Pumacahua, as well as the revolutionary leaders, executed by the Spanish colony in 1815.
- The rebellion of Cusco meant the first great independence uprising organized by Creoles of Peru. Later, the struggles and conspiracies against the Spanish colony increased throughout the viceroyalty. On July 28, 1821, the independence of Peru was declared.
Cusco during the republic of Peru
After the independence of Peru in 1821, Cusco was for three years the seat of Spanish government throughout the continent. Viceroy José de la Serna moved the Casa de la Moneda and the official printing press of the state there. After the battle and capitulation of Ayacucho in 1824, the Spanish abandoned Cusco and the ancient Inca capital finally gained its independence.
The first years of independent Cusco were marked by the reforms undertaken by Agustín Gamarra and Simón Bolívar. Forced labor was abolished and lands were given to indigenous people. Later, Cusco was a central point of the Peruvian-Bolivian confederation in 1835 as well as the War with Chile in 1879. The industry brought negative consequences for Cusco during the 20th century.
Cusco in the first independent years
- After the declaration of the independence of Peru (in Lima, 1821); Viceroy José de la Serna moved the residence of the weakened Spanish viceroyalty to the city of Cusco.
- In 1824 the battle of Ayacucho happened which marked the end of Spanish rule in Cusco and Peru. General Agustín Gamarra, who was born in Cusco, took the governorship of the ancient Inca capital.
- Agustín Gamarra reorganized the economy of Cusco. Likewise, among its best measures was the abolition of the mita (indigenous forced labor) and the handing over of land to the Indians. The University of San Antonio de Abad (founded in 1692) also reopened.
- Independence brought access to new foreign industries. In Cusco this brought popular discontent due to the decline of the small internal industry.
Cusco during the Peru – Bolivia confederation
- In 1835 the Peruvian – Bolivian Confederation was created. The city of Cusco benefited from the commercial proximity between both regions.
- During the four years that the confederation lasted, a rumor occurred that the ‘Señor de los Temblores’ (Patron of Cusco) would be transferred to Bolivia. This caused the total rejection of the Cusco population.
- Due to internal disputes for power, the Peruvian – Bolivian Confederation was dissolved in 1839.
- Cusco was the scene of riots by the power of the new republic of Peru and Bolivia. In 1830, for example, the rebellion of Colonel Gregorio Escobedo failed.
Cusco in the 20th century
- Before the beginning of the 20th century, in 1879, the War of the Pacific (war with Chile) began. Cusco fulfilled a peaceful attitude during the battles. The prefect of Cusco, Colonel Andrés Avelino Cáceres, left his post to command the Peruvian defense in the Andes.
- In 1911 the American explorer made Machu Picchu known to the world. Over time, this archaeological site would become the main tourist attraction in Cusco and Peru.
- At the beginning of the 20th century, roads and railways were built in Cusco. The route connects the city of Cusco with the province of La Convencion passing through Machu Picchu on the route.
- In the 20th century, Cusco was the scene of important intellectuals such as: Uriel García, Luis Eduardo Valcárcel, Arturo Peralta and many others who promoted the indigenous movement in Peru.
- In 1950, Cusco suffered an earthquake that destroyed several of its buildings.
- Cusco grew economically thanks to tourism. Thus, in 1964 the Alejandro Velasco Astete airport was built, in honor of the Cusco pilot who was the first to fly over the Andes.
- Cusco was one of the first departments to promote agrarian reform in Peru, which was made official in 1969.
- Today, Cusco is the main tourist destination in Peru.
- The number of visitors to the Cusco city increases every year. In 2018, approximately 3.5 million tourists came from all over the planet. Most come to visit Machu Picchu.
- Indeed, tourism is one of the main resources of Cusco. However, there is also an important production in agriculture, mining and hydrocarbons.
- Cusco, however, continues to be a region with high poverty rates in Peru. Other main problems are child malnutrition and access to education.
- Despite the colonization process and capitalist development in Peru, Cusco preserves many of the traditions inherited by the Incas. Thus, approximately 95% of the Cusco population speaks Quechua, the language of the Incas.
- Another of the Inca festivals that continue to this day in Cusco is the famous ‘Fiesta del Inti Raymi’, which revalues the Inca culture through an ancient festival dating from the times of the Inca Pachacutec.
- However, Cusco has also maintained many colonial practices. Most are religious in nature. One of them is the Corpus Christi festival, in which the 15 saints and virgins of the city are carried in procession.
- In 1983, the city of Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. In 2007, Machu Picchu was declared one of the 7 New Wonders of the Modern World.
- The city has hospitals, stadiums, universities, colleges, roads and other modern infrastructure. By municipal ordinance, the Historic Center of Cusco maintains the harmony and simple constructions of hundreds of years ago.
By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, July 19, 2021