Cuzco joins together in honoring one of its great heroes and most painful historical events today. On the 18th of May the Spanish drew and quartered the rebel Tupac Amaru and killed his family in the main square of Cuzco. Historians argue this event marked the end of Spanish relevance in the new world and led the way to independence.
It was also a very complex event making its history saturated with contemporary politics and troubles. In what follows we re-post from historian Chuck Walker, the author of a magisterial book on Tupac Amaru, the description of the execution by the nineteenth century historian and geographer. It is deeply moving and painful.
In the annals of barbarism there is probably not to be found a document equalling this in savage brutality and folly: and this was written by a Spanish judge, barely a century ago.
The hideous crime was literally carried into effect in all its revolting details. On Friday, the 18th of May, 1781, after the great square had been surrounded by Spanish and negro troops, ten persons were brought forth from the church of the Jesuits. One of these was the illustrious patriot Tupac Amaru. He had been visited in the early morning in his prison by Areche, who urged him to betray all his accomplices in the rebellion. “You and I,” he replied, “are the only conspirators, you for oppressing the country with exactions which were unendurable: and I for having wished to free the people from such tyranny.” The others were his wife Micaela, his two sons Hipolito and Fernando, his brother in law Antonio Bastidas, his uncle Francisco, his brother in law Antonio Bastidas, his uncle Francisco, Tomasa Condemaita, a lady of Acos, and three captains. Bastidas and the captains were hung at once. The rest were heavily chained, tied up in the bags which are used for packing mate or Paraguay tea, and dragged backward into the center of the square by horses. Francisco and Hipolito Tupac Amaru, the one and old man verging on four score, the other a youth of twenty, then had their tongues cut out and with Tomasa Condemaita, they were garroted with an iron screw, the first had been seen at Cusco. Micaela, the beloved and devoted wife of the Inca, was then placed on the same scaffold, her tongue was cut out, and the screw was placed round her neck, in the presence of her agonizing husband. She suffered cruelly, because her neck was so small that the screw failed to strangle her. The executioners then put a lasso round her neck and pulled different ways, kicking her in the stomach and bosom at the same time until at last they killed her. The Inca himself was then taken into the centre of the square, his chains were removed, and his tongue was cut out. He was thrown on the ground, lassoes secured to the girths of four horses were fastened to his wrists and ankles, and the horses were made to drag furiously in different directions. As the body was thus raised into the air, the Inca’s youngest son Fernando, a child of ten years who had been forced to witness this hideous massacre of his relations, uttered a heart rending shriek, the knell of which continued to ring in the ears of those who heard it to their dying day. It was the death knell of Spanish rule in South America.
But these unspeakable horrors were not yet over. The horses did not pull together, and the body remained suspended in agony for many minutes. At last the brutal miscreant Areche, who was gloating on the scene from a window in the college of the expelled Jesuits, caused the head to be cut off. The child Fernando was then passed under the scaffold, and sentenced to penal servitude for life.