Garcilaso de la Vega, (b. Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, April 12, 1539 in Cuzco, Peru, d. 1616) was an illustrious Peruvian historian and acclaimed writer who is recognized primarily for his contributions to Inca history, culture, and society. Although not all scholars agree, many consider Garcilaso's accounts the most complete and accurate available. Because of the fact that there was also a Spanish author named Garcilaso de la Vega, he is more commonly known as "El Inca" Garcilaso de la Vega, or simply "El Inca Garcilaso".
Garcilaso de la Vega was born of Spanish
aristocratic and royal Inca roots in Cusco
on April 12
. Garcilaso was the illegitimate son of Spanish captain and conquistador
Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega y Vargas (d. 1559). Garcilaso's mother, Inca princess Palla Chimpu Ocllo, baptized as Isabel Suárez Chimpu Ocllo, was descended from Inca nobility, a daughter of Tupac Huallpa
and a granddaughter (not a niece) of the powerful Inca Tupac Yupanqui
. Garcilaso lived with his mother the first ten years of his life and learned to speak both Quechua and Spanish. Garcilaso received an inheritance of 4,000 pesos when his father died and in 1560 decided to travel to Spain.
After his father abandoned his mother for a younger Spanish woman, his mother was married again to Juan de Pedroche and had two daughters, Ana Ruíz, who was married to her cousin Martín de Bustinza, and Luisa de Herrera, married to Pedro Márquez de Galeoto (the parents of Alonso Márquez de Figueroa). A native Quechua speaker born in Cuzco, Garcilaso wrote accounts of Inca life, history, and the conquest by the Spanish. His writings were published as the Comentarios Reales de los Incas (translated complete into English in 1961 as The Incas). It is recorded that he died in Cordoba, Spain, on April 23, 1616, but the date could also be the 22 or the 21, given the inaccuracy of the existing documents.
Travel to Spain
Garcilaso arrived in Spain in 1561 and traveled to Montilla where he met his father's brother, Alonso de Vargas, who became Garcilaso's protector. Garcilaso soon traveled to Madrid to seek recognition for the rights of his father.
Garcilaso was educated in Spain after his father's death in 1560. At the time, marriages between the Spanish and native people of the Americas were not recognized in Spain. Garcilaso had to present his case in the Spanish courts in order to receive payment for his service to the crown. Embittered by his illegitimacy in Spain and proud of his Inca heritage, Garcilaso took on the name "El Inca" (in this context, "Inca" refers to the old ruling lineage group, not the general people).
He remained in Spain and did not return to his native country (now Peru) due to the danger his royal Inca lineage presented in uncertain times.
He entered Spanish military service in 1570 and fought in the Alpujarra mountains
against the Moors
after the Morisco Revolt
. He received the rank of captain for his services to the crown.
He lived in the town of Montilla until 1591, when he moved to Cordoba until his death. Apparently, he had a first son in 1570, who might have died at a very young age. He then had a second son, Diego de Vargas, in 1590, who helped him copy the Royal Commentaries
and survived him until at least 1651. The mothers of both children were two of Garcilaso's servants.
He received a first-rate, by informal European education in Spain after he relocated there at age 21. His works have enormous literary value, and shouldn't be considered mere historical chronicles. His maternal family were the ruling Inca, and as such, he portrays the Inca as benevolent rulers who governed a country where everybody was well-fed and happy. (Subsequent research has contradicted this idealized view.) Nonetheless, he received first-hand accounts of daily Inca life from his maternal relatives, much of which he conveyed in his writings, and he gives accurate information about the system of tribute and labor enforced by the Incas. Unfortunately, his depiction of Incan religion and gradual expansion is nurtured by his Christianized view of the indigenous past ; as an example, no mention is made of human sacrifices in Inca times. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to portray his Inca ancestors in a good light, or mere ignorance given that he lived most of his life in Spain, is not known.
Comentarios Reales de los Incas
It was in Spain that Garcilaso wrote his famous Comentarios Reales de los Incas
, published in Lisbon in 1609, and based on stories he had been told by his Inca relatives when he was a child in Cusco. The Comentarios
contained two parts: the first about Inca life, and the second about the Spanish conquest of Peru
, published in 1617. Many years later (1780), when the uprising against colonial oppression led by Tupac Amaru II
gained traction, a royal edict by Carlos III of Spain
banned the Comentarios
from being published or distributed in Lima
due to its "dangerous" content. The book was not printed again in the Americas until 1918, but copies continued to be circulated.
Historia de la Florida
Even before the Comentarios Reales
, Garcilaso had also written his popular La Florida del Inca
, an account of Hernando de Soto
's expedition and journey of Florida
. The work was published in Lisbon
in 1605. It contains the chronicles of de Sotos's expedition according to information Garcilaso gathered during various years, and defends the legitimacy of imposing the Spanish sovereignty in conquered territories and submit them to Christian jurisdiction. He also defends the dignity, courage and rationality of the native Americans.
's main stadium, Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega
, was named after him in 1950.