I am writing to you, my dearest wife and children, about what happened to me the day we were captured by the Incas. First and foremost, I would like to send my gratitude to our parents in Tucapel that at the perfect time, they asked us to visit them and I was the only one left behind to man the house. Nevertheless, you need not to worry about me. In this letter, I would just like to describe what happened to me, as well as the way things are now.
Living near the Maule River, a very peaceful and comforting place, brought us a convenient daily life. Besides, life is very simple these days; there is not much complication in our daily tasks and livelihood. What would always come into one’s mind is the ease and privilege of living on our own terms: we have our own beliefs, own social system, and more. Unfortunately, this didn’t last for so long. Just a months ago, we already heard rumors about the rapid expansion of the so-called Inca Empire which begun in the neighboring countries near the basin of Cuzco1. Under Pachacuti Inca and the succeeding Inca leaders, the empire extended further even up to the southern part of the present-day America. After the battle of Cuzco, the Incas and their allies rapidly forwarded their military campaigns. Yupanqui, their leader, even added the term “Pachacuti”2 to his name as a portrayal of his power. Later on, just five days after you have left home, they finally reached our hometown; we soon became part of their empire. The good thing is, however, the Araucanos, who have allies from Tucapel and Puren, were able to withhold the Inca army from going beyond the Maule River3 . You are perfectly safe there.
As usual, the Inca social rules, beliefs, and political systems are implemented to the newly conquered people. Thankfully, I don’t find it to be tyrannical. The government, with its systems, is characterized by its great objectives. Unlike the Aztecs, the Inca’s rule over us is done by means of imperial unification4. For instance, the Inca government do not only impose its political systems and regulations in our community, but also influence us with their social and religious beliefs and customs. The first day of our adaption to the Inca culture was very remarkable for me. We were required to worship and offer to their gods, and the Inca priests were leading the congregation in prayers and rituals – such as offering human beings to their gods5. Religious rituals are observed in occasions like military victories, natural disasters, etc.
Additionally, we are required to pay tribute to all Inca authorities. Public officials gathered a number of men and brought us to a particular place to do certain public duties: building public structures, maintaining roads, cleaning temples, and other civil works. We were also instructed about the daily task of gathering enough goods as tribute to government officials. Nevertheless, although we are expected to work hard for them, they promise to provide us with services and goods, food and clothing, drinks, and entertainment6. In fact, it is their pleasure to give even land properties to exceptional public servants. And that looks like hometown to me. Even if they require them of certain daily labor quotas, they make ways to keep their objective fulfilled – that is, that the subject people will be more unified with the Inca Empire.
However, another thing with the social structure of the Inca civilization has to do with sexuality. On that same day, I came to know one couple who are both native Incas. I found out that virginity is not very much valued for them, and premarital sex is just a common thing for them to do7. Virginity is not an absolute requirement for them to marry. In marriages, Incas marry at young ages. Women marry at the young age of between 16 and 20, while men marry around the age of 258. In the Inca culture, having more wives are bestowed mostly upon the nobles. Since it is hard to support big families, only such individuals are privileged of that thing.
Furthermore, I have also witnessed the elaboration of the final life cycle of an Inca. That is the death/burial ceremony. In the afternoon, I saw a number of soldiers who died for courageously fighting in battles during that Inca imperialism. According to their practice, the dead is covered with cloth. And before the burial ceremony takes place, a number of mourners – mostly the relatives – will perform a slow dance around the dead body. Afterwards, the person will be burned along with his/her possessions9. Like in other cultures today, Inca people wear black clothes during burial ceremonies as a manifestation of deep sorrow for the person that passed away. The nobles and other Inca rulers were given exceptional respect from the public when it comes to their burials. Unlike the common Incas, the bodies of the nobles are preserved with some herbs, and the mourning throughout the land lasts almost for a whole year.
The structure of the ayllu10 is mainly composed of those things. Every day, the subject people – who have differing native cultures – endeavor to gain the favor of the Inca nobles, while the native Incas provide us even our special needs and wants as if we are native ones. I just hope that one day we will soon be seeing each other. Also, give courage to our children. Goodbye.
Malpass, Michael. Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Julien, Catherine. Reading Inca History. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press, 2009.
John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, eds. A History of World Societies, Eighth
Edition, Volume A: From Antiquity to 1500. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s,