What happened to the Inca descendants? Where are they?

The Incas were the largest empire in South America until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. With the formation of the Viceroyalty of Peru, the heirs of the Inca royalty took different paths. Some continued to enjoy certain privileges while others were stripped of their property, and some were even sentenced to death. Today, more than five hundred years later, various studies have found people whose lineage comes from the Inca elite. Who are they? Where are they? Meet the Inca descendants.

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Who were the Inca emperors?

The Inca civilization had two moments in its history: a first moment as the curacazgo of Cusco or culture that had a local government that settled in the valley of Cusco between 1,200 A.D. and 1,400 A.D. The greatest figure was Manco Cápac, the mythical founder of the Inca dynasty.

The second moment of Inca history begins with the formation of the Tahuantinsuyo empire in 1438, under the great statist Pachacútec. Since then the empire has expanded throughout the South American continent, encompassing regions of present-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

However, in the 16th century, the Spanish arrived, subduing the Inca army, pitting them against another army made up of towns subjugated by the Incas (especially in the northern region). This is how the Inca history is concluded.

According to chronicles, eight rulers existed at the time of Cusco’s curacazgo: Manco Cápac, Sinchi Roca, Lloque Yupanqui, Mayta Cápac, Cápac Yupanqui, Inca Roca, Yahuar Huácac and Huiracocha Inca.

In imperial times there were six more rulers: Pachacútec, Amaru Inca Yupanqui, Tupac Inca Yupanqui, Huayna Cápac, Huáscar and Atahualpa.

After the capture of Cusco by the Spanish, there were other Inca descendants who, led by Manco Inca, resisted for almost forty years. They, known to history as ‘Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba’ were: Manco Inca II, Sayri Tupac, Titu Cusi and Túpac Amaru. With the death of Túpac Amaru, the government of the Incas ended.

Queros descendientes incas
The Queros community, known as the last Incas in Cusco

The panacas or Inca royal families

The panacas in the time of the Incas, also known as “Nobility of Blood”, were those families formed by all the offspring of a monarch. However, it is believed that the name refers to the Hurin Cusco dynasty, the first in power. On the other hand, the name of Ayllu Real corresponds to the Hanan Cusco dynasty, the last one in power.

According to the chronicles, the first 5 Inca rulers were from the Hurin family whose palaces were located in the lower area of ​​the city of Cusco. The lineages and royal families of these governors also lived there.

On the other hand, the last 9 Inca rulers belonged to the Hanan division whose palaces were located in the upper part of the city. Their families and descendants also stayed there.

The royal families of the Inca rulers, the so-called blood nobility, lived in a kancha, which had a single access door and were always located in the central area of ​​the city of Cuzco.

The most important Inca institution was the ayllu. An ayllu was a group of families, which descended from a common ancestor. They were united by culture and religion. They were also organized for agricultural, livestock and fishing work in their territory.

In turn, the family of each Inca constituted an ayllu, which was named as panaca. The only member of the panaca who did not belong to the ayllu was the auqui (the legitimate son of the Inca). This is because the auqui at some point would be emperor and would form his own panaca.

One of the most striking features of the families or panacas was the preservation of the mummies of the Inca ruler, who was called Mallqui.

This is because the mummies were in transit to another life. In other words, it was carried out because they considered the dead as if they still had religious aspects of life. The mummies were destroyed or disappeared when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

What happened to the Inca emperors after the Spanish conquest?

The families or panacas of the Incas, by right of blood and nobility, continued to have certain privileges in the recent Viceroyalty of Peru. Some heirs became hacendados or caciques of large lands and Indians. Others converted to Catholicism ensuring a better social position. Others, like the case of Túpac Amaru II, faced the Spaniards and were assassinated.

Inca palaces were stripped and, in some cases, destroyed to build colonial mansions and churches in their place. The Inca emperors were assassinated as were their main descendants (the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba). Only a few decided to convert to Catholicism (even in name) and accepted the Spanish government while retaining certain privileges.

To prevent religious worship and erase all traces of extinct Inca power, the Spanish destroyed the mummies of the Inca rulers. In this way the Spanish extirpated the Inca idolatries and imposed their religious beliefs.

Descendientes incas
Inti Raymi festival in Cusco of Inca origin.

Are there Inca descendants today?

With the passing of the years, the privileges of the last Inca descendants were lost. The new privileged class during the colony was the Spanish governing class or the new Creole class that, based on land and Indian ownership (under the encomienda system) maintained high economic privileges.

Genealogists have investigated, through historical sources and molecular studies, the descent of the Incas in present-day Peru.

For example, in current Cusco, the Choquehuanca family stands out, which descends from Cristóbal Paullu Inca (son of Huayna Cápac) who was the half-brother of the last Inca rulers, the famous Huáscar and Atahualpa brothers.

Cristóbal Paullu Inca was one of the exemplary cases of how the Inca nobility accepted the new Spanish government to preserve their benefits. Cristóbal (he accepted that name) was chosen as Inca ruler by the Spanish. Their heirs and direct family obtained titles of caciques or local rulers.

Thus there are other families with kinship of the Inca royalty. For example, the Cusicanqui family (related to Túpac Yupanqui) whose descendants include people recognized as: Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui and Hernán Siles Zuazo. Or the Fernández Cornejo family (also descendants of Túpac Yupanqui) whose lineage shows important Peruvian writers such as Mateo and Mariano Felipe Paz Soldán, Juan de Arona, José Santos Chocano and Mario Vargas Llosa.

More research on Inca descent

Currently in the city of Cusco there are still districts created by the Spanish, which were destined for members of the ancient Inca nobility, such are the districts of San Sebastián and San Jerónimo.

For many years there are many families from Cusco and outside the city, which have proven to be descendants of Inca royalty. In some cases, these people achieved public recognition from the Peruvian authorities.

However, due to the lack of interest and discredit that the members of the Inca royal family obtained, no one was able to maintain the titles of nobility or documents that support this inheritance of the Inca nobility.

It is still believed that there are stored or hidden documents that would prove the royal Inca descent for some families in Cusco and other regions of Peru. It is the task of the researchers to find these documents and reassess the Inca past that is still alive in the country.

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