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The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega was the nickname by which the Cuzco born historian Gómez Suárez de Figueroa was known. He was born in the Viceroyalty of Peru on April 12, 1539 and is considered one of the first children of the Mestizo Latin American nobility.

He was the son of Extremadurian noble Sebastian Garcilaso de la Vega, a Spanish conquistador, and the Inca princess Isabel ñusta or Chimpu Ocllo, descendent of Huayna Capac, emperor of the "Kingdom of the Four Parties." He studied at the College of Nobles of the Cuzco Indians, with other like minded mestizos, amongst which were the illegitimate children of Francisco and Gonzalo Pizarro.

Upon the death at the age of 21, El Inca decided to leave Peru to undertake the perilous journey to Spain. There he established himself in Montilla and entered the orders of Don Juan de Austria, with whom he reached the rank of captain, the same degree as his father. In Spain he would only ever be known as Garcilaso de la Vega.

El Inca Garcilaso had a passion for true history and the works of classical and Renaissance, and is famous for his translation of The Dialogues of Leon Hebreo. He also knew other contemporary authors such as Miguel de Cervantes, with whom he met in Montilla, and Luis de Góngora, although the latter met him indirectly.

His most famous work is Los Comentarios Reales de los Incas which was published in two parts. In the first part (Lisbon, 1609) documents the Inca civilization until the arrival of the Spanish and describes their customs, religions, political system, etc., in a pastoral form depicting it as if a lost paradise. In the second part (Córdoba, 1617), entitled General History of Peru, he recounts the Spanish conquest of the Inca civilization and the fratricidal wars for power.

The first part of the work was well received by readers, but with the lifting of Tupac Amaru II in 1780, it was banned in Peru and the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires, as it was considered dangerous to the interests of both.

This work is considered very important for Spanish historiography for the Spanish-American as it is a truthful source as regards the culture of Peru. The author himself said that his work would ensure that this civilization did not fall "in the darkness of time and oblivion".

Another of his reports is Historia de la Florida y jornada que a ella hizo el gobernador Hernando de Soto, which tells the story of this character.

Garcilaso died in 1616, and was buried in the Chapel of the Souls of the Cathedral of Cordoba, which he had bought for this purpose some years before. In 1978, Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain, presented a chest with some of his ashes to the Cathedral of Cuzco, where they remain buried today.