Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

By Nicholas A. Robins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8

Prophecy in Action: Messianism and Genocide in Upper Peru

Túpac Catari, Túpac Amaru, and Tomás Catari knew the burdens, frustrations, and hopes of their people well. What the latter two perhaps did not know was how deeply these feelings ran, how repressed they were, and how, once untapped, they would be expressed in a collective, genocidal rage. Both were Catholic reformists at heart, hoping to eliminate abuses in a system, and in the case of Túpac Amaru, to crown himself Inca king and rule the realm that had been usurped from his ancestors. Tomás Catari, illiterate and speaking only Aymara, continued to recognize the Spanish king Charles III and act in what he saw as the royal interest. Both, however, saw events rapidly escape their control and exceed their goals, as those who operated in their name began a rampage of killing non-Indians and their sympathizers, desecrating churches, and uprooting the system that had oppressed them for so long. Túpac Catari, on the other hand, much more closely represented the urge of the Indians to cleanse their society of nonnative culture and blood, bluntly stating that he sought to “shake off this intolerable yoke” and to “finish off everyone with the objective that there will not [even] be Mestizos.” 1

The abolition of tribute, the mita, and ecclesiastical taxes, as well as the insistence that all people wear exclusively Indian dress, chew coca, and greet each other in the native tongue, both reflected and encouraged the genocidal urge. Likewise, the violation of church sanctuary, massacres inside temples, and the widespread destruction of religious articles not only rid them of their oppressors, but, as Szeminski notes, showed that the native gods were once again ascendant over Kay Pacha, this world. 2 As one Indian shouted while killing a Spaniard in Caylloma, “The

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