Information about this project here.

Prototype: Titu Cusi

In our collaboration, Sarah and I decided to render Cummins’s theory of “witness objects” and their importance in Inca histories as speakers with different vantage points. The qiru, or ceremonial drinking cup, is a protagonist as well as the mummy-ancestors that may very well have accompanied Titu Cusi and his amanuensis, Martin de Pando, as he narrated his version of the encounter of Cajamarca to two Augustinian friars in Vilcabamba, the territory held by the neo-Inca state, in 1569.

Forests “Montes” in 16th-century Peruvian Spanish means forest, wild or fallow land and not elevated land as it can be sometimes understood in modern usage. Although Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco glosses this term in 1611 as montaña ˆ’highland’ (812), the Diccionario etimológico de la lengua castellana notes that although “montes” had taken on the meaning of “highlands” in Peninsular Spanish by the late 16th century, the Old Castilian usage of “forests” was retained and transmitted in Peru (Sandoval de la Maza 4:131). Vilcabamba is a region of cloud forest, or in a literal translation of the Spanish ceja de selva it lies on the brow of the Amazon, a mountainous region at 2,000 meters above sea level.

Capac  Inca accounts emphasize each protagonist’s genealogy on the male and female lines. According to Catherine Julien, capac status “flowed through both males and females descended from the pair of dynastic progenitors, ” Manco Capac and Mama Occllo, also his sister (296). Huayna Capac was the first Inca ruler born to the union of a brother and a sister from the preceding dynastic generation […] he could thus claim the honorific capac because he embodied a concentration of capac, as the progeny of two individuals who were closes in descent terms to the original brother-sister pairing (30).

Viracocha(s) Who are they? If the Spanish are false viracochas then who are the real ones? The reception of invaders as “god”-like or “uncanny” beings has received the attention of numerous scholars in the Andean region as well as Mexico and Hawaii. See the annotated bibliography for a longer discussion of the state of the question.

N.B. on Titu Cusi’s appearance: Several accounts describe Titu Cusi with smallpox scars. Inca Huayna Capac, Titu Cusi’s grandfather, died of smallpox in 1527, leading to the wars of succession between Atahualpa and Huascar.

Illapa is the Lightning Bolt in Quechua but also with “musket fire” and “artillery”. See González Holguín for these colonial glosses of the Illapa (367). Illapa is another aspect of Saint James the Greater.

Chicha is a word of Tahina origin, which the Spanish first heard in the Caribbean and they later applied it to the fermented corn beer, aqha in Southern Quechua, that they encountered in Peru. It is a sacred libation to propitiate to the Pachamama, the Apus and one’s ancestors. See the annotated bibliography for the larger discussion on the colonial experience with chicha drinking.

In “Failing to Marvel,” Patricia Seed has interpreted this exchange as one of reciprocated offenses:”Atahualpa’s gesture of throwing the book on the ground mirrors the gesture that preceded it–the Spaniard’s pouring the chicha on the ground–and thus establishes a symmetry between Inca and Hispanic behaviors, each one causing an object sacred to the other to end up on the ground” (21). For Frank Salomon, these parallel gestures of offense offered a comparison between Inca and Spanish forms of aggression (see “Chronicles of the Impossible”).

Qillqa was glossed by Diego González Holguín as “papel carta, o escriptura” ‘letter paper or writing’ (301). In his Vocabulario de la lengua general de los Ingas (1561), Domingo de Santo Tomás had translated quillqa as “letra, o carta mensagera; libro, o papel generalmente” ‘letter or messenger letter; a book or generally, paper’; the verb quillqay is rendered as “pintar, o escrevir generalmente; labrar alguna cosa con colores generalmente” ‘to paint, or write in generally; work with colors in general’ (357).

yungas are the inhabitants of the “lowlands.”

Sapay Inga according to González Holguín means “rey de esta tierra” ‘the king of this land’ (78).  Since sapay means “the one and only” Sapay Inga is an honorific that could be glossed as “the Chosen Inca” or “the One and Only Inca,” in contrast to the leader from the other members of his kin.