Túpac Amaru

Túpac Amaru, 1545-1572 CE, was the last Sapa Inca and the ruler of the Neo-Inca state which survived in Vilcabamba, in a remote part of Peru, once Cusco itself had fallen to the Spanish invaders. In 1572, the Spaniards attacked the new capital too but Túpac Amaru fled into the jungle where he eventually, after a month-long pursuit, was arrested and then executed.

In 1780, a peasant uprising started against Spanish rule, led by a certain José Gabriel Condorcanqui who called himself “Túpac Amaru II” and claimed to be a direct descendant of the last Sapa Inca. Túpac Amaru II gathered many indigenous people behind him and organized an army which comprised some 60,000 followers. After a failure to take Cusco, however, he was captured and killed. After his death Túpac Amaru II became a mythical figure in the struggle for indigenous rights, as well as an inspiration to various left-wing causes in Spanish America and beyond.

In Uruguay, in the 1960s and 70s, the Tupamaros — named after Túpac Amaru II — committed a number of bank robberies and kidnappings. They also stole food which they distributed to the poor. The military junta which ruled Uruguay began an unofficial war against the movement and against other left-wing organizations. The Tupamaros collapsed in 1972 when the leading members were assassinated by paramilitaries working for the government. Democracy was reestablished in Uruguay in 1984, and in 2010 a former member of the Tupamaros, José Mujica, was elected president of the country. He attracted much international attention at the time due to his unassuming life-style.

In Peru a Marxist guerrilla group, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, was founded in the early 1980s. They wanted to turn Peru into a socialist state and fight imperialism. They too robbed banks and organized kidnappings. In December 1996, fourteen members of the movement occupied the Japanese embassy in Lima and held 72 people hostage for more than four months. The hostages were eventually freed and the hostage-takers summarily executed.

The American rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur, 1971–1996 CE, was named after Túpac Amaru II. His parents were both members of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary organization in the United States fighting for the rights of black people. Tupac Shakur was killed in a gang related shooting in Las Vegas.

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