Sapa Inca was the title of the sole ruler in Tawantinsuyu, The Four Regions. To and including the reign of the 9th Inca, Pachacútec, the ayllus had constituted the foundation of society. The Cusco-kingdom was relatively small, the ethnic Incas clustered in the manageable society and other ethnic groups could see benefits in joining the ruler of Cusco. There were only a few rebel attempts, but with the growth the problems also grew.
To exercise his power, the Inca had four top officials who constituted Council of the Inca; each of these four were responsible for their part of the empire: the northern Chinchaysuyu, the southern Collaosuyu, the eastern Antisuyu towards the Amazon and the western Cuntisuyu at the Pacific. There were hardly very sharp geographical boundaries between the four parts. The division was perhaps ethnic and could be traced back to noble families.
Today Antisuyu may be best remembered because the Andes were named after the area, which also was the country behind the mountains.
As the Inca Empire expanded, the Inca faced new challenges and used the chiefs, curacas he had defeated. After a successful ‘retraining’ – ie. when they realized the benefit in accepting Sapa Inca – they could be reinstated in their function as chiefs. But also that happened differently with time and the expansion of the Inca Empire.
Túpac Inca Yupanqui, the 10th Sapa Inca, initially installed new war-chiefs rather than ‘retraining’ the locals. This obviously increased the tensions between the former local chiefs and the locals on the one hand and the central power on the other.
Túpac Inca Yupanqui also added ayllus to larger units. An ayllu had a common ancestor, but was now dissolved and replaced by a new administrative unit. With the larger units, he hoped to protect himself from the rebellion of the newly conquered. The opposite happened: He promoted the resistance of the conquereds by his attempt to break down their ayllus, their family communities, their ancestral worship.
Then Túpac Inca Yupanqui developed a settlement policy which Sarmiento described from what he had heard from the victims:
He ordered visitors to go through all the subdued provinces, with orders to measure and survey them, and to bring him models of the natural features in clay. This was done. The models and reports were brought before the Inca. He examined them and considered the mountainous fastnesses and the plains. He ordered the visitors to look well to what he would do. He then began to demolish the fastnesses and to have their inhabitants moved to plain country, and those of the plains were moved to mountainous regions, so far from each other, and each so far from their native country, that they could not return to it. Next the Inca ordered the visitors to go and do with the people what they had seen him do with the models. They went and did so.
About the Incas reorganization, Sarmiento continued:
He gave orders to others to go to the same districts, and, jointly with the tucuyricos, to take some young men, with their wives, from each district. This was done and they were brought to Cusco from all the provinces, from one 30, from another 100, more or less according to the population of each district.
These selected people were presented before the Inca, who ordered that they should be taken to people various parts. Those of Chinchaysuyu were sent to Antisuyu, those of Cuntisuyu to Collasuyu, so far from their native country that they could not communicate with their relations or countrymen.
He ordered that they should be settled in valleys similar to those in their native land, and that they should have seeds from those lands that they might be preserved and not perish, giving them land to sow without stint, and removing the natives.
The Incas called these colonists mitimaes, which means transported or moved. He ordered them to learn the language of the country to which they were removed, but not to forget the general language, which was the Quechua, and which he had ordered that all his subjects in all the conquered provinces must learn and know.
To be more correct, the Incas called these colonists mitmaqkuna, while the Spaniards called them mitimaes and reused the system as part of their own colonization.
Túpac Inca Yupanqui reorganized the society. Chiefs in charge of 10,000 men were called huanu, which means 10,000. He appointed leaders for 1,000 and called them huranca. The next was responsible for 500, and was called picha-pachaca. The one named pachac was responsible for 100, while the one responsible for 10 was called chunca curaca. Everyone had the title of curaca, which translated means principal.
An entire society organized by the decimalsystem! Introduced by the 10th Inca! It was a total break with the ayllu-system, with the kin, with the ancestral worship, with the biological connection of past and future, with the eternity of souls, with the safe tradition.
The people of Andes must have experienced it as a cultural revolution: the responsibility for the extended family, which one felt, worked and lived in – even after the collective forced relocations – was replaced by something as abstract as the decimalsystem!
New systems, new rules, new leaders. The break with the most important social contract, the ancestral connection, must have triggered desperation, rootlessness, anxiety. The alienation must have been extensive, the dissatisfaction must have bubbled, fermented and exploded.
Insubordinates were punished by tough chiefs. The new curacas got power; the power of the individual curaca depended on his rank, but his powers were broad, for he was the Incas representative. The system was highly centralistic, so the curaca commanded his subordinates and referred to his superior. Never to his side-curacas – it was forbidden. So also on the various leader levels, dissatisfaction could brew.
The lowest placed curaca was official for 10 heads of families, ie. 10 men aged 25 to 50, and thus for their families. Each family member had its function because no one had to be inactive. Depending on age, the tasks could consist of finding lice in the scalp, chasing birds from maize fields, leading llamas or learning how to do it. Older men could also work, while men over the age of 60 only could advise.
In order for society to function, the population composition was followed closely. Births and deaths fluctuated so that the groups were reorganized. Usually, it happened every third year. In short, a thoroughly controlled, book-keeper-like plansociety.
(pp. 301-305 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
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