Choose an historical figure from Latin America that interests you who didn’t know much about before this class. What was their contribution, and what is their legacy?
Prior to this class, I did not know much about Túpac Amaru II and his legacy of resistance across colonial South America. Although this is largely due to a lack of emphasis on Peruvian/Aymara/Incan history(s) in previous coursework, I have found that he was deeply pervasive and is highly visible across subsequent movements in South America. His work can certainly be categorized as revolutionary, but by comparing and contrasting his actions with his legacy, he has emerged in the modern mind as a dramatized revolutionary that is pliable in the hands of whoever wants to use his likeness in their political agenda.
When you Google Túpac Amaru II, he is described as “an indigenous Cacique who led a large Andean rebellion against the Spanish in Peru.” This broad statement insinuates that he led some kind of charge for freedom from colonizers, when in reality his movement was motivated by a desire to uphold the Spanish king’s newly relaxed guidelines that Caciques in Peru were bypassing. He saw power-hungry, corrupt local officials abusing power and instituting unfair increases in taxes; what once was a system of indigenous hereditary power was transforming into a merit-tapping system by the Spanish that undermined how power was transmitted.
Túpac Amaru II’s great rebellion ultimately fell before the Spanish rule because he had insufficient allies to fight alongside him, partially due to his case being framed as a predominately Indigenous issue despite the corruption of Caciques impacting everyone living in Peru. However, his movement is held very fondly in the modern eye as inspiring, subversive, and relentless by nearly everyone–his story has been used by myriad political movements in areas with Aymara populations (predominately Peru, Bolivia, and Chile) with a diverse spread of motivations. Because of this apparent lack of consensus of what he did for the area, there is an argument to be made as to whether or not his movement actually had any true impact on local politics, though that is not what I hope to discuss in this reflection post. Rather, I think it’s interesting to consider how we use historical figures as political pawns without fully considering their contexts. It provides the opportunity to reflect upon who we utilize in American history in this same way–Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln come to mind for me–and the ways in which people dilute or dramatize their personalities and/or politics to better fit whatever it may be that they are trying to promote.