PERU: THE GREAT FLOOD

A third myth about the early people sounded:

In ancient times, a long time before there were Incas, the lands of Peru were heavily populated with people who lived in disarray without lords and justice. These people were savages and lived without order or reason. And before the Incas a great flood came upon this land, which rose up to the highest mountaintops and eradicated everything that lived in that land. During my travels to the Huancas and to Chucuito in southern Peru, near Collao, the people of the highlands and of the coast all talked to me about this flood, and they all agreed that everyone perished. But they also told me that six people escaped this flood either in a boat or a raft and that these six are the basis for the people who exist today.

Six people in a raft! Great story from a distant past told almost five hundred years ago. Retold by Pedro Cieza de Leon, who had personally listened to, collected and recorded Indian stories in Peru. So we are closer to the sources than the priest López, even though Cieza had also left his mark on the stories.

Born was Pedro around 1520 in Extremadura, Spain, where he had received a modest school education after which he as a boy had left his homeland and continent, had participated as a childsoldier in expeditions in northern South America, had participated in founding several cities and had been rewarded with an encomienda.

But there was chaos, and Cieza left his property to fight with Pedro de la Gasca, a Spanish Bishop who in 1546 by the Spanish King had been sent to Peru to fight Gonzalo Pizarro – a half brother of Perus murdered conqueror Francisco Pizarro – and other rebellious Spaniards after these had demanded that the newly conquered land should be theirs. The rebels had insisted that it was they and their fathers who had conquered the land, those who had dared their lives! It was also those who had murdered the first Spanish Viceroy, Blasco Núñez Vela, who with the Kings new Indian laws, should have protected the Indians. In order for no one to be in doubt, they subsequently had beheaded the body of the murdered Viceroy. In short: The rebels were gathered under the slogan: This must be ours and we will not pay taxes to the Spanish King! Under the leadership of Pedro de la Gascas, they were defeated near Cusco, many lost their heads, others were wounded, lost courage and fled. The leader of the rebellion, Gonzalo Pizarro, was executed by royal soldiers.

But then Bishop Gasca refused to introduce the Kings new Indian laws, which had been the cause of the warlike conflict which he was supposed to replace with the royal order. So nothing changed! At least nothing for the Indian population.

It was in this bloody battle among Spaniards in Peru that Pedro Cieza de Leon had won prestige. He was a man the King could trust, and despite his short-term schooling, he was appointed as historian and traveled as such in Perus highlands and coastlines. Weapons were replaced with pen and paper.

For hours we have been driving through the majestic plains of the high plateau with bristling itchu grass and nervous scouting vicuñas, as well as large flocks of llama, sheep and alpaca, with weather changing rapidly from sharp sun to inkblack sky with hail, so I think you can imagine young writer Cieza: riding rank through this rugged highlands along the long Incapaths, through valleys and to settlements, safely protected by companions who scouted in all directions.

Ciezas collection took place just 16 years after the Spaniards had begun the conquest of the Inca Empire, 12 years after Manco Inca had ordered his Inca warriors to revolt, 7 years after the conqueror Francisco Pizarro in Lima had been murdered by his Spanish rivals and just a twist of the shoulder since Cieza had participated in stifling a Spanish rebellion in blood.

Although the Kings iron fist had won the power struggle, Cieza had to be vigilant, could never feel secure. Avengers could lie in wait everywhere and he therefore stopped at curacas, chiefs, in royal-controlled settlements, or took a seat in secured houses in Cusco, that was about completely changing form from Inca capital to Spanish colonial town. There he listened to summoned orejones, big ears, as the former powerful officials of the Inca Empire were designated by the Spaniards, because their ears had been pierced and weighed down by decorated gold plugs. Incas called the big ears pacuyoc, since the big ear decoration was called pacu.

In my inner ear I can hear Cieza asking insistently, no powerfully questioning. I can imagine him fast writing down notes on myths, as confusing as they may sound to this Spanish soldier historian. In 1553 he published the first part of his Chronica del Peru (Perus History). The following year he died.

Some historians have termed Pedro Cieza de Leon as very reliable, others have called him the first Inca historian, although the Incas probably had a different view of who was Inca historian and not least who had been the first.

The myth, that the country had been densely populated by people who had lived without lords, that these people had been savage and lived without order and reason until a mighty flood washed ashore, reached the highest mountain peaks and wiped out all life except six people in a raft and that these six later became the basis of all others, was the Incas myth of the time before the Incas, their myth of origin.

According to Cieza, the myth had been widespread. Everybody he had asked had answered that before the Incas, humans had lived without order. Perhaps the myth was inspired by real events, drought or rain had sometimes made life impossible in the Andes, and tsunamis had wiped out life. But the most important thing was the use of the myth. It had legitimized the Incas domination over tribes and kingdoms that had been persuaded to voluntarily or had been forced to become part of what became the worlds largest Indian empire.

The myth must therefore not be understood as a depiction of a single natural disaster or a historical description of the first Incas unification. The myth could have been inspired by actual events, perhaps it had been shaped while the Inca Empire was growing as part of the Incas efforts to wipe out even the slightest in the collective memory of the existence of older civilizations. The past was absorbed by the Incas by constructing a concept that they constituted the very beginning of history: We, gods chosen.

To ensure this religiously based concept, it was crucial for the Incas to retell the ancient times before themselves. The Incas occupied history: Before the Inca Empire, barbarism reigned. BASTA!

The Inca Empire could not appear as just another evolution in historical development, as a civilizing step forward, no no, the realm should be presented as the first and only real civilization that had ever existed! Therefore, the Incas told and retold the myth to convince themselves and especially to legitimize their power over those they had suppressed. Conscious of the significance of the storytelling, the Incas therefore marked people of earlier civilizations as creatures who lacked any form of education, justice and order, and that they had been naked.

It became a very tough myth.

The Incas occupied the power to define.

——————————

(pp. 35-39 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2

476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors

400  Dkr. for each volume (Danish tax is included) + shipping

Published by Selskabet for smukkere Byfornyelse

Sale: selskabetfor@outlook.dk

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