An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru

An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru by Ralph Bauer Read Free Book Online

Book: An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru by Ralph Bauer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ralph Bauer
Titu Cusi begins his history of the Conquest by giving a rationale for his legitimacy as a natural ruler: “I am the one legitimate son, meaning the eldest and first-born” (p. 58–59).
    We will return to both Titu Cusi’s invocation of the concept of primogeniture and to Sarmiento de Gamboa’s invocation of the notion of bastardry in regard to the question of succession in a moment. Here, some general remarks about the cultural nexus of legitimacy and historiography in the pre-Hispanic Andes arefirst in order. Inca understanding of genealogy was based on norms of kinship that were quite different from those of Europeans. Although millions of people lived in the Tahuantinsuyu, only about 40,000 of those people were considered to be “Inca,” that is, identified as members of the ethnic group that had originated and expanded their culture from Cuzco some time during the early fifteenth century. The non-Inca subjects of this empire came from other ethnic groups who had been subjugated to Inca rule, owed tribute in labor, and were generally considered to be provincials. While the Inca rulers could be ruthless in dealing with ethnic groups who resisted their expansion or those who rebelled against their rule, they were generally liberal and diplomatic with those who submitted to their supremacy, granting local lords substantial privileges and offices in the hierarchy of imperial administration and incorporating provincial deities into their own pantheon. Frequently, Inca women were married off to local lords of such provincial groups to ensure their loyalty. The Native chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala, for example, was the offspring of such a union. By Inca cultural norms, however, offspring such as Guaman Poma, as well as the offspring of an Inca man with a non-Inca woman, would not have been considered “legitimate” Inca nobility.
    Although those defined as “Inca” thus formed a privileged nobility in the empire—frequently called
orejones
(big ears) by the Spaniards because of their enlarged ears from wearing certain jewelry—not everyone in this nobility could make a legitimate claim to supreme rulership. As Catherine Julien has pointed out, legitimacy to rule was determined by an Inca noble’s closeness to the hereditary line of Manco Capac, the legendary founder of the Inca dynasty. A claim to supreme rulership was thus determined by what she calls an individual’s “
capac
status” (23). Hereditary descent was reckoned in Inca culture, as in European culture, patrilineally. However, as the Incas, unlike the Europeans, practiced polygamy, each new Inca ruler established his own patrilineal royal descent or kinship group, called a
panaca,
that was distinct from that of his father. 28 At a given ruler’s death, the members of his panaca were responsible for preserving his mummy, memory, and reputation. Each Inca oral history tradition was therefore not a general history of the Inca dynasty or realm, as was commonly aspired to by European chroniclers in sixteenth-century imperial Spain, but rather a partisan history particular to a specific panaca. Intent on exalting different founders and different descent groups that competed with one another for prestige, Inca oral traditions could thus be at great variance with one another. As Julien points out, the purpose of Inca historiography was not only to recall past glory, but also to “locate . . . members of the Inca descent group with relation to one another and to the other residents of Cuzco” (35). It is in this light that we must also see Titu Cusi’s historical narrative of the Conquest, which places his father at the center of events from the very beginning, even though most other histories are in agreement that Manco Inca, because of his young age, was a relatively insignificant figure at the time of the Spanish arrival. Titu Cusi’s historical account (relación) of the conquest is

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