Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

The Incas

The "Bolson" of Cusco.—The great plateau of the Andes north of the Titicaca Basin, (which was the seat of the Piruas before the Eleventh Century,) is broken up here and there by valleys, or, to use the Spanish term, bolsones, which means pockets. Among these, about the sixteenth parallel of south latitude, is the bolson  of Cuzco,—a Quichua word meaning the navel, or center. It is about seventy miles in length and sixty miles in width, and is blessed with bracing uplands and sunny slopes, and with a climate on the whole like that of the south of France, and which is quite remarkable considering its altitude—1,380 feet above the level of the sea. It was, all things considered, well adapted for the development of a people along the line of a progress, which, if not arrested, leads at last to civilization.

Manco Capac.—To this bolson, in the year 1240 of the Christian era, according to tradition, came a tribe of the Quichua stock, led by Manco Capac, or Manco the Ruler, and his wife, Mama Ocllo. They came from Peccari Tampu, which was "where, as seen from Cuzco, the sun appeared to rise." Tradition further avers that Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo were brother and sister, both being children of the Sun. They bore with them a wand or wedge of gold, having been sent by the glorious Inti, (the Sun,) to instruct the simple tribes in that locality. Wherever the gold wand or wedge, upon being struck upon the ground, sank into the earth and disappeared forever, there it was decreed that Manco Capac should, build his' capital. It was in the bolson  of Cuzco, where now stands the city of that name, that the wand disappeared in the earth, and there Manco Capac rested. And thence he and Mama Ocllo went their different ways in the bolson, "speaking to all people they met in the wilderness, and telling them how their father, the Sun, had sent them from heaven to be rulers and benefactors of the inhabitants of that land . . . and in pursuance of these commands they had come to bring them out of the forests and deserts to live in villages." Manco Capac instructed the men in agriculture and the arts, and gave them a religion and a social organization. Mama Ocllo taught the women to sew, to spin and to weave, and inculcated in them modesty, grace and the domestic virtues.

In this tradition we find another version of a story common to all primitive peoples, by which they seek to account for the beginning of their history. Manco Capac is the Peruvian version of the Chinese Fohi, of the Hindoo Buddha, of the Egyptian Osiris, of the Mexican Quetzalcoatl, and of the Central American Votan. It is not without its historic value, however, for rightly interpreted it would seem to fix the time when the Indian tribe that subsequently developed in Cuzco ceased to be nomadic, emerged from savagery, became sedentary, began the practice of agriculture, entered upon the lower status of barbarism, and took its earliest steps in human progress. Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo could not have been brother and sister and at the same time man and wife; for under the system of social organization universal among the Indians, and which the tradition tells us Manco Capac himself established in Cuzco, the law was inflexible prohibiting marriage within the gens. And although the statement is made by the best authorities that the office of Inca was hereditary, and that the Inca was required to marry his sister, that the oldest son of this marriage succeeded to the office—all in order that the blood of the Incas might be kept pure—the present writer is disinclined to believe it. Nor can he find any case in which proofs of it are adduced. Always the assertion is made without any other authority than the bare assertion made by someone else.

The tribal followers of Manco Capac were Sun worshipers and were totemistic. Garcilaso de la Vega, a Spanish writer of the seventeenth Century, in whose veins the blood of Manco Capac was supposed to flow, tells us that every Peruvian deemed himself "dishonored unless descended from a fountain, river or lake, or even the sea; or from a wild animal, such as a bear, lion, tiger, eagle, or the bird they call a condor, or from a mountain, cave, or forest." The totem of the gens to which Manco Capac belonged was evidently the Sun.

Incidentally the tradition leads us to believe that the Cuzcans were from the first divided into two phratries. Garcilaso de la Vega, in relating the tradition, tells us that those who followed Manco Capac settled Upper Cuzco, and those who followed Mama Ocllo, settled Lower Cuzco. He thus accounted for the two wards of the "city" at the time it was brought to the notice of the Europeans. These two wards acted separately in all religious observances and in social games. We learn from another source that the tribe was composed of twelve gentes, five belonging to one phratry and seven to the other. The tribal council was composed of twelve members. The tradition implies that there were other tribes in the bolson  of Cuzco, but whether sedentary or nomadic does not appear.

The site where Manco Capac rested was strategically strong under the military system of the Indians. Its military strength rested upon a lofty eminence toward the north, where now stands the Sacsahuaman, or "Fortress of Inca," still among the interesting features of the architectural remains of the ancient Peruvians. Modern archaeologists are inclined to believe that the Sacsahuaman is a part of the remains of a Pirua settlement and of nearly the same age as the ruins of Tiahuanuco in the Titicaca basin, which attest the existence at one time of the Piruas and their progress toward civilization. If this be true, we may readily suppose that the tribal followers of Manco Capac were invited to this spot by what was especially attractive to them walls behind which they could entrench themselves and withstand the assaults of surrounding tribes.

Manco Capac appears in the tradition as the chief of his tribe—"Inca," he is called—a Quichua word meaning chief or ruler. In the organization of every Indian tribe that has been closely studied the tribal war chief was elected by the tribal council and held his office during life or satisfactory behavior. When a chief died or was deposed, the council elected another to take his place. The chief was selected for merit and had to justify the choice by deeds of prowess on the field of battle. It was usual to select the war chief from one particular gens, which may have been for totemistic reasons. There were in Cuzco (as in Tenochtitlan, the seat of the Aztecs), two elective chiefs. One was the Capac Inca, or dispensing chief; the other was the Uillac Umu, or speaking head, or the head which gives counsel. The first named was the chief military leader of the tribe. The latter was the chief of the tribal council and his functions were civil in character, though he is sometimes described as the chief priest of the tribal worship. Among all Indians who have become historic the war chief has attracted far more attention than his civil coadjutor. Of no Indian tribe do we possess any information regarding the civil chief, but the names of the military chiefs have been preserved to us, and such prominence has been given to them in the case of the Aztecs and also of the Cuzcans that they have been invested with royal attributes and circumstances.

Successors of Manco Capac.—We are supposed to have the names of the successors of Manco Capac, who were Sinchi Rocca, Lloque Yupanqui, and Mayta Capac in the Thirteenth Century, but we know very little of what they did or what progress was made by the tribe under them. It is said, however, that, in the period of their official lives, the Cuzcans began to establish a tribal predominance in the bolson, by "drawing in the surrounding tribes rather by peaceful means than by conquest;" which probably means that they confederated with the neighboring tribes for purposes of warfare defensive and offensive. They thus established the highest form of government known to the Indians at that time and laid the foundations of the future Incariate. The accession of Capac Yupanqui probably marks the completion of this confederation and the beginning of aggressive operations beyond the bolson.

With the Indians, war was a very important matter. Every able-bodied man of the tribe, (excepting the priests in some cases), was a warrior, trained to the use of arms from his infancy, and making fighting his business. He was accounted "idle" when no war was in progress. War was not, in the earlier periods of Indian history, waged for conquest of territory, for the Indians had no conception of ownership in lands or of expansion of territory. War was carried on for other purposes, however, of which subsistence was probably chief. Among tribes where human sacrifices were offered, war was waged at the demands of religion to secure captives for that purpose. Furthermore, only by warlike deeds on the battlefield was a warrior eligible to the office of chief; and when elected he was expected to prove the wisdom of the tribal choice by some especial act of bravery. He must, if possible, break his own record. And there were in many tribes certain warriors upon whom was conferred the honorary title of distinguished braves, not by heredity, but by reason of the capture of prisoners in actual combat. In consequence of all this pretexts were eagerly, sought for going to war, and were frequently found in some real or fancied insult offered by one tribe to another.

Capac Yupanqui, who succeeded Mayta Capac about the beginning of the Fourteenth Century, was successful in finding pretexts for war, and conquered the tribes of the west as far as the pass of Vilcanote, overlooking the Titicaca basin. Inca Rocca, the next Inca, is said to have given his attention to internal improvements, which would seem to imply that the development of the Incariate had begun, and that Cuzco was becoming wealthy. Yahuar Huaccac, the seventh Inca, was unfortunate and the period of his rule was disastrous. His successor bore the name of the Peruvian deity, Uira Cocha, and began a wonderful series of conquests which, within a century and a half, extended the Incariate over half of the western part of South America. By the conquest of the Collas he annexed to the Cuzcan Incariate the whole of the Titicaca basin, once the seat of the Piruas, but at that time occupied by tribes of shepherds being too high and cold for successful agriculture. There were copper mines in the region capable of furnishing materials for weapons and tools for the Cuzcans superior to those to which they had been accustomed. As a result of these conquests a system of colonization began, to be subsequently developed into what were called mitimaes, and these led to commercial enterprises whereby maize and cotton raised in one part of the country could be exchanged for the wool, potatoes, livestock and copper of the higher regions. Uira Cocha also annexed the tribes of the Yucay valley, and then turned his attention to the Chancas, who were at the head of a great confederation of tribes beyond the Apurimac river. But while his military operations in that direction were incomplete, he died.

He was succeeded by Urco, who, being defeated by the Chancas, was deposed by the tribal council, thus furnishing evidence that the office of Inca was still elective and had not passed beyond the control of the council of the tribe. The Chancas came within sight of Cuzco and the decisive battle in the history of the Incariate was fought on the heights above that famous seat of the Incas. Urco's younger brother, Yupanqui, had there gathered warriors from all parts of the territory already subject to the Cuzcans, and his brilliant victory over the Chancas gained for him the election to the office of Inca, from which his brother was deposed. He assumed, then or after his further victories, the title of Pachacutec, (he who changes the world). The memory of the great battle between the Cuzcans and the Chancas was fresh in the popular mind, a century and a half later, when the Europeans arrived in the country, and as they passed, over this ancient battlefield, they saw the stuffed skins of the vanquished Chancas set up as memorials by the roadside.

The "Mitimaes"—In the process of "changing the world," Yupanqui Pachacutec subdued the Huancas, allies of the Chancas, and thus extended the Incariate to the shores of the Pacific. It was also in accordance with his program of changing the world that the mitimaes  were fully developed and applied, as a stroke of policy on the part of the Inca and for the relief of the overcrowded portions of the Incariate. We are told by Pedro Cieza de Leon, in a book published in Seville in 1553, that, "as soon as a province was conquered (by the Cuzcans), ten thousand to twelve thousand men were ordered to go there with their wives; but they were always sent to a country where the climate resembled that from whence they came. If they were natives of a cold province, they were sent to a cold one; if they came from a warm province they went to a warm one.

These people were called mitimaes  which means Indians who have gone from one country to another." This account seems to have been verified by the discovery of colonists on the coast of Peru in the middle of the Nineteenth Century who still retained traditions concerning the villages of the Andes highlands whence their ancestors were transported as mitimaes. Only, these colonists from the cold highlands occupying the warm low-lands do not exhibit the great care for the hygiene of the people which Pedro Cieza de Leon would have us expect from the Inca. Undoubtedly, in many cases a war waged by the Cuzcans resulted in the extermination of a tribe. In such an event the depopulated Indian village was re-peopled by Cuzcans, but voluntarily and because of the advantage that was seen to be offered by such a course, and not in obedience to the edict of a despot.

The Coast Valley Tribes.—The Pachacutec was succeeded by Tupac Yupanqui, who completed the subjugation of the coast valley tribes, and extended his conquests south as far as the River Maule, three hundred miles beyond the site of the present city of Santiago in Chile. In that region the tribes are said to have retained their autonomy after the ancient manner, and became allies of the Cuzcans rather than their subjects. To the north of what is now the boundary between Peru and Ecuador dwelt tribes which were loosely attached members of a confederacy headed by the Caras of Quito. Their resistance to the warriors of Tupac was brief, and he was able to make these tribes the military base of a great war against Quito. In 1455 he won a great battle over the Caras. On the coast he extended his conquests to the Gulf of Guayaquil and returned to Cuzco in 1460. He died three years later, while in the midst of preparations to wipe Quito out of existence.

The contest in the Ecuadorean Andes was between peoples of the same degree of civilization and of nearly equal military strength. Tradition, which relates that the Caras reached this region about the seventh century of the Christian era, bringing with them a religion to which they were fanatically devoted and a tribal and military organization which insured their becoming the dominant peoples of all that region, begins to gather in clearness six centuries later. The military chief of the tribe was then named the Shiri, and his seat was at Quito. Under the twelfth Shiri, more by treaties of confederation and alliance than by conquests, a political system was established not unlike that of the Cuzcan Incariate, and embracing the mountain fastnesses of the Ecuadorean Andes. In 1430 Hualcopo became Shiri, and upon him was imposed the task of opposing the military operations of the Cuzcan Inca, Tupac Yupanqui. It is alleged that the victory of Tupac Yupanqui, in 1455, left sixteen thousand Cara warriors dead upon the field of battle. Hualcopo retired first to Riobamba and then to a well-fortified position further north and nearer to Quito. From this position Tupac Yupanqui was unable to drive him. He died in the same year that Tupac Yupanqui died, and was succeeded by Cacha, the fifteenth, and, as it proved, the last Shiri. He was a warrior and devoted the first years of his official life to recovering what his predecessor had lost to the Cuzcans.

Huayna Capac was the successor of Tupac Yupanqui. He was delayed in resuming his predecessor's campaigns against the Caras, by the necessity of conducting some military operations in the south. Returning thence in due time victorious, he devoted the remainder of his life to the conquest of Quito. He first reduced to absolute obedience the tribes of the Gulf of Guayaquil, whom his predecessor had left half independent, and extended his conquests on the northern shore nearly as far as the equator. Some of the tribes he exterminated. Having thus here and elsewhere secured lines of communication, he advanced against Quito. The Caras under Cacha fought stubbornly, but were overthrown in one battle after another, and were finally defeated, and their Shiri was slain. Huayna Capac entered Quito in triumph. The Caranquis, a warlike people living north of Quito, were overwhelmed and exterminated. Tradition states that twenty-four thousand Caranquis were massacred, and their bodies were thrown into the lake which now bears the name of Yahuarcocha (the pool of blood).

Size of Ancient Peru.—From about the year 1475, what had before been the political system of the Caras, was an integral part of the Cuzcan Incariate, whose borders now extended nearly two thousand seven hundred miles along the Pacific, from the River Maule, about the thirty-eighth degree of south latitude, to about the sixth degree of north latitude; and perhaps some distance down the eastern slopes of the Andes. This gave it an average breadth of from three hundred to three hundred and fifty miles, and an area therefore of about eight hundred thousand square miles, or equal to that portion of the United States lying between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic. Throughout this vast extent of territory there existed something like nationality, the only instance of its kind in America before the advent of the Europeans. And it is all the more remarkable as the only instance in the history of the world of the development of such a political system before that of any idea of private property.

The national life was not homogeneous throughout the territory embraced within the Incariate. In the southern and older portion it was more so than in the more recently subjugated regions north of the latitude of the site upon which the Spaniards subsequently established the city of Lima. The tribes north had been too recently conquered and brought within the political system to be counted upon to strengthen it. Garrisons were established among the coast tribes to keep them in subjection. The mountain tribes retained more or less autonomy. The Caras of Quito were so loosely attached to the Incariate of Cuzco as to appear to be but awaiting an opportunity to regain their old-time independence. All this despite the fact that Huayna Capac adopted a conciliatory policy toward the conquered Quitos. He caused the Shiri to be buried with funeral honors, married his daughter, and spent the remainder of his life in Quito.

In the south, from very early times, the conquest by the Cuzcans of a tribe had been followed by the sacking of the temple and the removal of the tribal gods to Cuzco. This had served to create a pantheon at Cuzco, and to turn the thoughts of every Indian in that direction as to a religious, if not a political, capital, and it must in time have led to a regard for Cuzco as the political center of Peruvian nationality. The effort, furthermore, to introduce the Quichua language into every conquered tribe had succeeded in this region, even though it has failed repeatedly where it has been tried among peoples much farther advanced in civilization.