The Inkas, Quechua and Perú


Where to Obtain Information

Welcome, we have Music, Photos, Poems and stories from the Andes mountain region of South America, which includes artist from Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile; in Spanish and the Quechua indian language: Ada and Russ Gibbons' Cultures of the Andes should be your primary source for a virtual guided tour of the Andes. The Gibbons will gladly help you with any problems you might have with Quechua. This site is a work of love and dedication.

For a list of Peruvian languages, visit the page Languages of Peru of Ethnologue.

Serafin M. Coronel-Molina's CyberQuechua! is a gateway to a great deal of information about Quechua. Many stories are available in Quechua, Spanish and English versions.

Other Quechua language resources can be found at David Brantley's ¡Viva el Perú!. Take a Quechua course by (virtually) attending the Curso de Quechua in Perú.

Be sure to visit, especially the pages Peru, Nazca and Paracas, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. View Lou Albert's photographic essay Machu Picchu.

Le web de l'Amérique Latine is a great Web site with a Peruvian page: Le Pérou en quelques mots. A synoptic description of pre-Colombian Peruvian cultures is given in the page Les principales civilisations du Pérou Préhispanique.

Will the few remaining quipus yield their secrets? Perhaps they will, depending on the authenticity of a manuscript found in Naples. If you are interested, read Talking Knots of the Inka, by Viviano Domenici and Davide Domenici.

More links can be found by visiting Perú in LatinWorld.

Do not miss Ice Mummies of the Inca by NOVA Online, or Ice Treasures of the Inca by National Geographic Online.

A map of Perú, is available by courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency. For an interesting travel package, visit the Magical Journeys Web site.


The Nazca Lines

Some 250 miles south of Lima we find some of the most intriguing man-made landmarks in existence: the Nazca Lines. Until retirement, past age 90, Maria Reiche dedicated her personal resources and a great deal of her life to the preservation of the Nazca Lines. See Markings: Aerial Views of Sacred Landscapes by Marilyn Bridges, Maria Reiche and Lucy Lippard, Aperture, 1986, ISBN 0893812285 at and Barnes and Noble.

There are many links for Maria Reiche and many images.


A Romantic View of the Inkas

By many accounts, around 1438, Pachakuti Inka had made Quechua, the language of Cusco, the official language of the Inka Empire. It appears that originally Quechua was the language of a people by that name who lived along the Apurímac River, some distance from Cusco, leaving open the question of what language was originally spoken by the Inkas and whether they were conquered before becoming conquerors. Nevertheless, it is Quechua, the collective name of a family of languages closely related (including Quichua), that remains the predominat living language of those who are descendants of the subjects of the Inka Empire.

Extensively edited by Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, Pedro de Cieza de León's The Incas (University of Oklahoma Press, 1959; now available as The Incas of Pedro De Cieza De Leon) is a modern version of his original Chronicle, first published in Spanish in 1554 and in English translation in 1709. His account of how Quechua became the official language follows.

Realizing how difficult it would be to travel the great distances of their land where every league [about 3 miles] and at every turn a different language was spoken, ond how bothersome it would be to have to employ interpreters to understand them, these rulers, as the best measure, ordered and decreed, with severe punishment for failure to obey, that all the natives of their empire should know and understand the language of Cuzco, both they and their women. This was so strictly enforced that an infant had not yet left his mother's breast before they began to teach it the language it had to know. And although at the beginning this was difficult and many stubbornly refused to learn any language but their own, the Incas were so forceful that they accomplished what they had proposed, and that all had to do their bidding. This was carried out so faithfully that in the space of a few years a single tongue was known and used in an extension of more than 1,200 leagues; yet, even though this language was employed, they all spoke their own [languages], which were so numerous that if I were to list them it would not be credited
The most interesting part of this account is that, evidently, the Inkas did not forbid the use of other languages, thus showing a degree of humanity manifestly absent in those who would conquer them. That, unlike other cultures, the Inkas were not fond of revenge, mass murder and genocide is made plain in Pedro de Cieza de León's account of the events following a resounding Inka victory over the rebellious Chollas:
The Chollas who managed to escape alive from the battle were so fearful, it is told, that the men of Cuzco were hot on their heels that they fled with all the speed they could muster, and kept looking back from time to time to see what was not to be seen, for the Inca had forbidden it. Once they had crossed the Desaguadero, the men gathered and took counsel with one another, and decided to sue the Inca for peace, promising that if he would receive them as his subjects, they would pay the tribute due from the moment of the revolt, and that forever henceforward they would be loyal. The wisest of them were dispatched on this mission, and they encountered Topa Inca as he was coming toward them. He heard out their embassy with kindly countenance, and replied in the words of a magnanimous victor that he deplored all that had happened because of their folly, and that, without hesitation, they should all come to Chucuito, where a piece would be drawn up which they would find advantageous. This was no sooner said than done.

Further, Topa Inka, did not make the payment of tribute retroactive, since this would have placed great hardships on the Chollas.

While the Inka Empire had extremely privileged classes, the social structure and work ethic was far superior to many found today. Again, Pedro de Cieza de León paints a fairly clear picture:

As this kingdom was so vast, as I have repeatedly mentioned, in each of the many provinces there were many storehouses filled with supplies and other needful things; thus, in times of war, wherever the armies went they draw [sic] upon the contents of these storehouses, without even touching the supplies of their confederates or laying a finger on what they had in their settlements. And when there was no war, all this stock of supplies and food was divided among the poor and the widows. These poor were the aged, or the lame, crippled, or paralyzed, or those afflicted by some other diseases; if they were in good health, they received nothing.
He adds: "No one who was lazy or tried to live by the work of others was tolerated; everyone had to work."

The Inkas left us no written records. No body of classical literature was passed on as inheritance to future generations. What they left behind that is transportable is tradition, explaining, perhaps, why so many Peruvians take the business of being such rather seriously. Explaining, indeed, why WAYANAY INKA takes the business of making music so sacredly.