We could explain who Túpac Amaru II was, but why not leave it to the master.
In 1781 Túpac Amaru laid siege to Cuzco. This mestizo chief, a direct descendant of the Inca emperors, headed the broadest of messianic revolutionary movements. The rebellion broke out in Tinta province, which had been almost depopulated by enforced service in the Cerro Rico mines. Mounted on his white horse, Túpac Amaru entered the plaza of Tungasuca and announced to the sound of drums and pututus that he had condemned the royal Corregidor Antonio Juan de Arriaga to the gallows and put an end to the Potosí mita.
A few days later Túpac issued a decree liberating the slaves. He abolished all taxes and forced labor in all forms. The Indians rallied by the thousands to the forces of the ‘father of all the poor and all the wretched and helpless.’ He moved against Cuzco at the head of his guerrilleros, promising them that all who died while under his orders in this war would return to life to enjoy the happiness and wealth the invaders had wrested from them.
Victories and defeats followed; in the end, betrayed and captured by one of his own chiefs, Túpac was handed over in chains to the royalists. The Examiner Areche entered his cell to demand, in exchange for promises, the names of his rebel accomplices. Túpac Amaru replied scornfully, ‘There are no accomplices here other than you and I. You as oppressor, I as liberator, deserve to die.’
Túpac was tortured, along with his wife, his children, and his chief aides, in Cuzco’s Plaza del Wacaypata. His tongue was cut out; his arms and legs were tied to four horses with the intention of quartering him, but his body would not break; he was finally beheaded at the foot of the gallows. His head was sent to Tinta, one arm to Tungasuca and the other to Carabaya, one leg to Santa Rosa and the other to Livitaca. The torso was burned and the ashes thrown in the Río Watanay. It was proposed that all his descendants be obliterated up to the fourth generation.
Nearly three centuries after his death, a group of leftist guerrillas in Uruguay would adopt Túpac Amaru as their spiritual leader, calling themselves the Tupamaros. One of their members, José Mujica —who was imprisoned by the military dictatorship for 13 years, more two of them spent at the bottom of a well— would rise to become president of Uruguay in 2010.
Remembering Túpac and the struggle he gave his life for is how we celebrate our heritage.