Túpac Amaru is one of the most notable and attractive heroes in Latin American history—charismatic, martyred in a noble cause, and genuinely indigenous. Not surprisingly, then, subsequent revolutions and revolutionaries, ranging from San Martín to the present Peruvian military regime have claimed him and his movement for their own.
The present work, the first-prize recipient in a contest sponsored to celebrate the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Peruvian independence, exemplifies this continuing phenomenon. In it, Daniel Valcárcel depicts Túpac Amaru as the prototype patriarch of Peruvian nationalism and relentlessly strives to demonstrate that the Inca’s rebellion was a precursor to the later independence movement.
The ambiguity concerning certain events and edicts of the brief 1780-1781 revolt makes possible these extrapolations. However, in this instance, Valcárcel fails to note that the Bando de Libertad (proclaiming liberty for slaves) and the Edicto de Coronación (the authenticity of which has been questioned by other scholars) might also illustrate in the former case the caudillo’s attempt to attract supporters of whatever stripe, and in the latter indicate either the overenthusiasm of followers or a Spanish attempt to brand the movement as separatist.
For those interested in a less biased review of the Inca’s revolt, Valcárcel’s own short 1947 work on the rebellion is more balanced, and Boleslao Lewin’s detailed book, including many reprinted documents, is valuable. Lillian Fischer’s The Last Inca Revolt, 1780-1783, remains the most complete history in English.
It would be better still to consult the pertinent volumes in the Colección documental de hi independencia del Perú, edited by Valcárcel and representative of one of the worthy projects resulting from the sesquicentennial celebration. There, the documents can address the validity of proclaiming Túpac Amaru a precursor to Peruvian independence—without, as in this case, Valcárcel’s determined hagiographic prose or the necessity to press the Inca into the service of modern Peruvian nationalism.