Juan Santos Atahualpa

Peru, 1742

Juan Santos Atahualpa

The execution of Juan Santos

Juan Santos is tall, a Jesuit-educated mestizo with light skin and short hair worn in the style of the indigenous.  He speaks Spanish, Quechua, and Latin.  He dresses like those who live in the jungle and around his neck is a crucifix which he always wears.

It is May.  The messengers he had sent out days ago are returning to his jungle encampment.  The message they carried to the pueblos and colonial missions was that an Incan Lord had appeared, a direct descendant of the murdered Atahualpa.  He was sent by God to set the world right and usher in a new order that would free the tribes from oppression and bring in prosperity.  The message ends asking for their help to reclaim history.

The messengers return with words from the outlying regions.  The word is Yes.

See Steve Stern, ed., Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, 43; Daniel Valcarcel, Rebeliones Indigenas, 50-51


In what is now Peru and Bolivia, the years 1742-1783 marked a period of intense and constant rebellion by the indigenous people.



The Age of Andean Resistance

History of Defiance


Juan Santos Atahualpa

Well over one hundred times between the years 1720 and 1790 the native Andean people rose up in defiance of colonial authorities.  The causes of the rebellion were rooted both in the repressions that the indigenous population had to endure under colonialism and the vision of the return of the great Incan creator.  The Inkarri myth envisioned the return of an Andean god who would bring in an age of justice.  This belief both unified and legitimized the great rebellion of Juan Santos Atahualpa.

Also during this time, resurrection stories circulated telling of the reappearance of the messiah who would come and recover the Incan greatness.  When the invaders decapitated Tupac Amaru I in 1572 the great Incan dynasty came to an end.  But they believed that his body had been regenerating underground for possible return.


A New Leader

In 1742 in the Andean jungle, a man calling himself Juan Santos Atahualpa Apo Inca arose as a leader.  He was a direct descendant of the Inca king Atahualpa who had been betrayed and strangled by Pizarro.  He called upon the indigenous population to join in an insurrection that would bring in a new order by outlawing slavery and expelling the whites.

The colonial authorities, deeply threatened by a possible insurrection, organized military campaigns against Juan Santos in 1742, 1743, 1746, and 1750.  Never defeated, Juan Santos controlled the jungle regions, keeping this area from further colonization for over a century.  The Spaniards finally had to rely on a defensive strategy that kept the rebellion from spreading to the sierra.


Frequent Upheavals

Los corregidores

From 1751 to 1765 evidence reveals fourteen upheavals against corregidores (local governors) and priests.  Economic repression was behind most of the revolts of this whole period.  The indigenous were under a multiple system of taxes, forced labor, indebtedness, and payments that left them destitute.

The three main types of economic activity were mines, obrajes (weaving mills), and haciendas, or plantations.  The mita system required the indigenous to work unpaid in mines, obrajes, or haciendas from six to twelve months during the year.  This requirement would be repeated every second or third year.

In addition, the reparto system forced the indigenous population to purchase European and native goods at inflated prices from the local corregidor.  They quickly became indebted to the corregidor and therefore had to work for him in the mines, obrajes, or haciendas.  The reparto proved more effective at guaranteeing forced labor than the mita.

Added to this burden were local priests who began demanding free personal services from the indigenous while charging for religious services.  For example, a high mass with a procession cost twelve pesos.  The longer the reparto remained in effect, the more pressure it created, because the debt of the indigenous only increased.

Most of the uprisings of this period can be traced to these economic injustices.

See Steve Stern, ed., Resistance, Rebellion, and Consciousness in the Andean Peasant World, and Scarlett O’Phelan Godoy, Rebellions and Revolts in Eighteenth Century Peru and Upper Peru


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