Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll


"There arises before the prophetic eye a great picture in which the lofty roads of Peru, the sumptuous temples, palaces and gardens are . . . to be numbered with Babylon, Nineveh and the things that have been."

Confusion of Names.—Great confusion exists in regard to the names of the races and tribes occupying the western world at the time of its discovery, conquest and colonization by Europeans. It was due to an error that the native races of America came to be called Indians in the first place, and after the error was discovered it was thought unnecessary to devise another name by which to designate the red race. This but illustrates the first difficulty that confronts us in an attempt to write accurately and intelligibly, albeit briefly and concisely, of the people who are the subject of this book. We have called them in the title to the book, "The Peruvians," which is our English form of the Spanish "Peruanos." The latter means the natives of Peru. Looking at a modem map of South America, however, we may observe that the country, now called Peru, is bounded on the south by Chile, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the east by Brazil, and on the north by Ecuador, and has an area of about 450,000 square miles. The people of whom we are writing occupied in the early years of the Sixteenth Century a country which knew no such boundaries. It was not until the early part of the Nineteenth Century that the states of Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile were definitively partitioned off from a country which has retained the name of Peru.

The Piruas.—Previous to the Eleventh Century of the Christian era, there existed a people in the highlands of the Andes, in the vicinity of what is now the boundary between Peru and Bolivia, who departed, leaving behind them the evidences of their having been somewhat advanced in civilization. They were the Hatun Runas, or, as they are also called, the Piruas. Not unlikely the name of Peru was remotely derived from the Piruas. However that may be, Biru was the name of a chief in the territory south of the Isthmus of Panama. His country was visited by two Spanish explorers in 1515. For ten years thereafter the "land of Biru" or "Peru" was the most southerly land on the Pacific coast known to the Spaniards, and was much talked of among Spanish adventurers as a land supposed to be full of gold. As it was a long time after this that the name Peru was restricted to a single South American state, embracing but a small portion of territory which formerly went by that name, it seems quite as proper that we should call the people of whom we are writing, "Peruvians," as that we should designate them as Indians in the first place, or seek any other name to confer upon them.

If, however, we desired to be more scientifically exact, we might find a name in this manner: In the western portion of the South American continent are chains of mountains rising abruptly from the coast to an average height of about 12,500 feet. The length of these chains is about 4,500 miles, their average width about one hundred miles, and they contain many celebrated volcanoes. This mountain system is known to the Spanish-speaking people as "Los Cordilleros de los Andes"—the chains of the Andes—probably deriving the name Andes from anti, a word in one of the aboriginal languages of the region, meaning copper. Of late years a general name has been bestowed upon all the native races occupying this region previous to the advent of the Europeans. They are called Andesians, or Antesians, to distinguish them from the tribes occupying the other portions of the continent. Such a title is geographical rather than ethnological, signifying the region in which the people live rather than their racial characteristics.

The Quichuas.—Having thus discovered a term that can be used, for the sake of convenience, to designate the Indians of this region, it becomes necessary, for further convenience, to divide the Andesian Indians into groups of tribes related to each other through the languages they spoke. Under this ethnological classification, the most important group has received the name of Quichuas (spelled also Quechuas, Kichuas, or Kechuas). This name meant originally "mountaineers," and was never used by the Indians themselves as a tribal designation, but was first employed in a grammar published in 1560, by Fray Domingo de San Tomas, a Dominican monk, to designate the languages spoken with dialectic differences, in the Thirteenth and subsequent centuries, by the tribe of Andesians which became dominant in Cuzco about the year 1240 of the Christian era.

The Quichua language is still a common language in the interior of the country designated as Peru on the modem maps of South America. So widely was it spoken in the early part of the Sixteenth Century, when the Europeans first made their appearance in that region, that it was called by them "La Lengua General del Peru" the general language of Peru.

The Incas, or Cuzcans.—Quichua is, after all, a group name, and it would serve our convenience greatly if we could find a name by which to designate the tribe which settled at Cuzco, about the year 1240, and upon whose development the whole story we have to tell depends. Some writers allege that this tribe "assumed the name of Incas" as a special tribal title, and we read a great deal about the "Incas," as though that name were the equivalent of ancient Peruvians. Inca was the title of the tribal chief and the name of the office he held. Into the character of the office we shall inquire later. We can readily imagine that the Europeans might have understood the title of the tribal chief to have been a tribal name, just as they understood the name of a chief, Biru, to be the name of a territory. But we can scarcely believe that such a name was assumed by the tribe, or even accepted after it had been conferred by someone else. Such a thing would have been very unusual among Indians, and there seems to be no conclusive evidence that anything like it ever occurred until subsequent to the appearance of the Europeans.

We may do this, however. We may, to serve our present convenience, derive a name for the tribe from the locality it occupies, as has been so often done in Mexico and elsewhere. For example, we speak of the Texcucans, the Chalcans, the Tlatelolcans and others of the Mexican valley. So we might call the tribe in whose career at Cuzco we are so deeply interested, the Cuzcans.

The Incariate.—It has been repeatedly declared in books upon Peru and the Peruvians, that the settlement in Cuzco developed in the course of a few centuries into an Empire, which is usually called the "Empire of the Incas." This seems to have been a ready way of disposing of matters which might, with a little trouble, have been otherwise more accurately explained. Neither the Peruvians nor any other Indians knew anything whatever about monarchical government. It was wholly foreign to their conceptions. Their political institutions consisted at first of a military democracy, governed by a tribal council, in which the tribal officers were elective, never hereditary. In Mexico this form of government advanced one step in the formation of a confederacy of tribes. In Peru it advanced still further. How much further we do not know precisely. It seems improbable that it should have attained to the exalted height of an empire, or even to that of a kingdom, as we understand those words; or that its government ever lost its relation to the tribal council. It is evident, however, that the relation of the Cuzcans to other tribes brought under their dominating influence, usually by conquest, was superior to that established between the Aztecs and their surrounding tribes; and that this relationship, as it developed, increased the powers and extended the territorial jurisdiction of the Incas, and elevated the pueblo of Cuzco to the position of a capital or seat of government for a wide expanse of territory.

This dominance of the Cuzcans, under a succession of Incas, over other tribes, demands the use of a convenient term more accurate than Empire, by which it may be designated. There was no term in the Spanish language by which to designate it. Nor have we any in the English language, unless we coin one and call it an "Incariate." We call the government of a viceroy (Spanish virey), a vireinate. We speak of the functions of the Incas as Incarial. It seems proper, therefore, to use the term "Incariate" to indicate what is usually termed the "Empire of the Incas."

The American Indians.—When first observed by Europeans, early in the Sixteenth Century, the Cuzcans presented the highest plane of civilization reached by any of the native races in America. In no other part of the western world had the progress of an indigenous race advanced so far. The so-called "civilization" of the Cuzcans has had the misfortune to be exaggerated by the majority of writers. This has been due to the too recent application of the sciences of ethnology and anthropology to the American peoples. We properly approach a study of the Peruvians and their "civilization" by a study of some of the characteristics of the race to which they belonged.

With the exception of the Eskimos, the Indians of the western hemisphere constitute a single race, whose physical characteristics are remarkably alike throughout all tribes, though diverse conditions of life in various parts of the two continents have caused differences of stature, of color and development in certain directions. Yet these differences are of minor importance, and there is no wide variation, such as is to be found among the different groups of the white, black and yellow races of the other parts of the world. But though an Indian is always and wherever found an Indian, yet each tribe has its own characteristics. These characteristics may relate to the language the tribe speaks. There have been in North America, north of Mexico, nearly sixty distinct linguistic stocks or groups of languages spoken by Indian tribes; languages which, so far as known, had no relation to each other, and represented groups of Indians apparently unconnected by ties of blood with any other family.

As the families differed one from another, so the tribes differed in culture. Some were in the nomadic state. Some had become sedentary. Some were in savagery. Others had advanced to one or the other of the two earlier periods of barbarism. For all Indians below the art of pottery were in savagery. The making of pottery presupposes village life and more or less progress in the simpler arts. The stage of progress towards civilization known as barbarism has been divided into three periods. The transition from the lower status, or older period of barbarism, was marked by the regular employment of tillage of the soil and the use of adobe brick or stone in buildings. The middle period merged into an upper status, or later period, by the use of metals other than iron. The upper, or later period, was marked by a knowledge of the process of smelting iron ore. The end of this period, and the beginning of true civilization, is marked by the adoption of a phonetic alphabet and the production of written records.

This method of classification being employed, it will be observed that no American Indians of either continent had reached the upper status of barbarism, for none had attained to a knowledge of smelting iron. The Peruvians, though somewhat in advance of the Aztecs as regards the development of a system of government which rendered homogeneous many tribes within a wide extent of territory, and created something akin to national life, were, in common with the Aztecs, in the middle status of barbarism.

Indian Social organization.—Substantially universal in the Indian race in both continents was that system of social organization which is called gentile. This consisted of organization into gens (kin or clan), phratry and tribe. Gentile organization is one of the oldest and most widely prevalent institutions of mankind. It furnished the plan of government of ancient society in nearly or quite every portion of the world. It was everywhere the means by which society, in the beginning, was organized and held together.

Under this system the gens or kin furnished the unit of tribal existence. Briefly explained, a gens or kin is composed of a supposed female ancestor and her children, together with the children of her female descendants to the end of time. It includes her sons, but not their children, who must belong to the gentes of their respective mothers. Among Indians with whom a system of tribal subdivision denoted by totems prevailed, each member of the gens bore the name of the totem of the female ancestor; for the right of conferring names upon its members was one of the several rights, privileges and obligations by which the gens or kin was individualized.

The phratry was a collection of gentes or kins made for religious purposes and for social games. The tribe was the aggregate of the gentes, for it was possible for a tribe to exist without a division into phratries, but not without the existence of gentes. The three attributes of the tribe were, a particular territory, a common dialect, and a common tribal worship. Since the tribe was formed of gentes or kins associating voluntarily, the latter stood on an equal footing, and all had an equal share in the tribal government. This was vested in a tribal council composed of delegates elected by the kins to represent them. The council of chiefs was the supreme authority from whose decisions there could be no appeal.

With this knowledge of the social organization of Indian tribes, we are prepared to take up the study of that particular tribe which settled in Cuzco and developed into one of the most powerful and progressive peoples of either continent.