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".
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.
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 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.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CELEBRATES 400TH ANNIVERSARY OF "ROYAL COMMENTARIES" BY EL INCA GARCILASO DE LA VEGA, NOV. 19.
Oct 19, 2009; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by the Library of Congress: "The Royal Commentaries of the Inca," by El Inca...