Hayna Cápac, the 11th Sapa Inca, followed his predecessors tradition of having many children. At least three or four of his sons were of decisive importance to Inca history, but none of them could foresee the future of the enormous Inca Empire, which was succumbing to its own success, respectively cracking as a result of internal resistance from the conquered. Perhaps somebody sensed and hoped something, but no one knew that a brotherly battle would trigger a weakening so that a few Spaniards could conquer the empire.
It was Pachcútec, Hayna Cápacs grandfather, who, with the split inheritance between his panaca and the acceding Sapa Inca, had laid the foundations for the growth of the empire: the acceding Sapa Inca SHOULD conquer new land to establish his power. But at the end of his life, Hayna Cápac grabbed for almost the opposite strategy: he divided his empire between two of his sons. So some saw the development.
Pedro Cieza de Leon wrote in the first comprehensive spanish Incahistory:
Others say that, knowing that the extensive land of the Quillacingas and Popayas was a lot for one person to rule, he ordered that Atahualpa, his beloved son, who had accompanied him always in his wars, was to govern from Quito to those regions, and Huáscar was to govern the rest of the Empire, as the sole heir of it.
However, without lining sharp boundaries, Cieza described Hayna Cápacs deliberate division of the empire, so that Huáscar was sole heir who got the majority and Atahualpa the smallest, northern part.
About the two heirs origin, Cieza explained:
Both of them were born in Cusco, not in Quito, as some have said and even written, without understanding if it was reasonable. For Huayna Cápac was in the conquest of Quito and in those lands for no more than twelve years, and Atahualpa was over thirty years old when Huayna Cápac died.
Cieza was convinced that Atahualpa and Huáscar were both Inca sons and both were born in Cusco. Atahualpa was the first-born, but Huáscars mother had been the royal, namely the Incas full sister, and therefore, Huáscar was to be the sole heir.
In Incas tradition of heritage it was no matter who was the oldest. Decisive was who was ‘genuine’, who was supported by the powerful and who was crowned by the ruling Sapa Inca. Atahualpa could never legitimately become Sapa Inca because of his mothers origin. According to Cieza.
The other Spaniard who shortly after wrote an overall Inca story, Juan de Betanzos, stated from what he had heard about Huayna Cápac:
Upon his return he found that a son, Atahualpa, had been born. He was very pleased with the birth and celebrated a solemn fiesta. Afterward, when Atahualpa reached his first birthday, his father ordered that his hair be cut so that the lords of Cusco could perform this ceremony and offering because cutting the hair of such a recently born child was their custom.
About Huayna Cápac, he continued:
Arriving at a town named Huáscar in a place they call Mohina, another son was born. This son was named Huáscar, since he was born there in this town called Huáscar. This Huáscar was the one who had a dispute with Atahualpa.
The difference in treatment was clear. To further highlight Atahualpa as the indisputable first-born, Betanzos wrote that chiefs around the Inca had reminded him that all were deadly, and that one day the Sun would also call Huayna Cápac home. Wouldn’t he probably appoint a successor? Huayna Cápac had responded a little unintentionally, did they think he was old, that he like his old grandfather had shaking hands?
He had his son Atahualpa brought before him. He was a beautiful boy whom it greatly pleased him to see. He said that in facial features he resembled his own father, Túpac Inca Yupanqui.
And to further accentuate Atahualpa, Betanzos described the mothers of the two Incasons:
Atahualpa was the son of a nobel lady of Cusco called Pallacoca of the lineage of Pachacútec. She was Huayna Cápacs second cousin and the great-granddaughter of Pachacútec. Her father was called Llapcho and he was Pachacútecs grandson and a son of Pachacútecs own son. There were Atahualpas fathers and grandfathers. He was part and parcel of the family and lineage of Cápacaillo, which they say was of the line of Pachacútec.
Huáscar was the son of a woman they called Ragua Ocllo of the nation of those of Hurin Cusco and a distant relative of Pachacútec. She was related to many who were rulers from the group of Hurin Cusco and likewise were the principal lords of the city.
Betanzos was in no doubt: Atahualpa and Huáscar were both sons of the Inca, but Atahualpa was the oldest born in Cusco, while Huáscar was born outside the city. And crucially: Atahualpas mother had been of more nobel origin than Huácars mother. However, none of the mothers had been Incas full sister.
According to Betanzos, the Spaniard who had been married to the Atahualpas widow. One might think that he was close to his source but also that the source had interests in how the story was told.
Now follows a completely third Inca story.
Around 1570, Titu Cusi Yupanqui – the socalled 16th Sapa Inca – dictated his story to Spanish monks in the rainforest, from where he tried to fight the Spaniards. Titu Cusi Yupanqui claimed that the conflict of the brothers was completely misunderstood:
Many days later, my uncle Atahualpa was engaged in war and altercations with one of his brothers, Huáscar Inca, over the question of who was the rightful king of this land.
In truth, neither one of them was the legitimate heir, for they had only usurped the power from my father, who was still a boy then. However, each of them made claims based on various uncles and relatives and argued that, although their father may have named my father king in his last days, a boy could not be king and that, therefore, it would be better if one of the elder ones, not the child, be king.
Of course, these justifications were hardly motivated by sound reason but rather by passions of greed and ambition; for, although both were sons of Huayna Cápac, their mothers were commoners, whereas my father had pure royal blood, as had Pachacútec, the grandfather of Huayna Cápac. (Yupanqui 2005:61)
Titu Cusi simply disputed that Atahualpa and Huáscar, the two warring brothers, his two uncles, had inherited the Inca dignity because their mothers were both COMMONERS. That argument struck everything: They had robbed the dignity from their brother, that is, Titu Cusis father Manco Inca. Tawantinsuyu should not be divided as Cieza had written.
Titu Cusi referred to a conversation half a century before; in 1532 the Spaniards in Cajamarca had asked Atahualpa:
Are you the king in this country? He answered that he was, and they said: There is none other beside you? For we know that there is another one called Manco Inca. Where is he? My uncle answered: In Cusco. They asked: And where is that Cusco? My uncle replied: Cusco is two hundred leagues from here. The Spaniards in turn said: We have learned that Cusco is the capital of this country. Therefore he who resides in Cusco must be the king. And my uncle said. He is indeed, for my father willed that he would be, but because he is very young, I govern the country in his place. The Spaniards answered: Even though he may be young, he should be notified of our arrival and that we have come on orders of Viracocha.
According to Titu Cusi, Atahualpa allegedly had conceded to the Spaniards that not he, but his minor brother Manco Inca, that’s Titu Cusis father, was the fatherly designated heir. It was apparently a case of confession – according to Titu Cusi, who had not been present. And not a word he said about the right of inheritance of Huascar. He had written Huáscar completely out of history.
Titu Cusi – who, like his father, had been Christian-baptized – argued in his text aimed at the Spanish King Philip – the self-proclaimed defender of Christianity – tactically witty. And in between, he succeeded mentioning that the attacking Spaniards themselves had claimed to have come by orders from the Inca creatorgod Viracocha; it must have exposed the Catholic Spaniards in an embarrassing light when the claim was read in Spain.
Titu Cusi Yupanquis account is characterized as the oldest independent scripture told by a native of the Inca Empire, but thus written 40 years after the Spanish conquest began. Scholars consider the account to be a well done spin that would confirm Titu Cusis position in Spanish eyes.
A central phrase reads: I am the one legitimate son, meaning the eldest and firstborn, among the many sons whom my father Manco Inca Yupanqui left behind.
It was characteristic of Incas that they staged themself and their genus. The relation to the oldest known ancestor of the Incas – including the parents siblings – was crucial. Titu Cusis argument that he was the eldest and firstborn was due to the fact that he would live up to the Spanish lords expectations of a legitimate ruler. It was pure European thinking.
Much later, Garcilaso de la Vega in Spain wrote – based on what his mother and relatives in Cusco had told him – that he wanted clarify the family tree.
(pp. 308-312 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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