Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru, Part One

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University of Texas Press, Oct 1, 1987 - History - 1530 pages
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Garcilaso de la Vega, the first native of the New World to attain importance as a writer in the Old, was born in Cuzco in 1539, the illegitimate son of a Spanish cavalier and an Inca princess. Although he was educated as a gentleman of Spain and won an important place in Spanish letters, Garcilaso was fiercely proud of his Indian ancestry and wrote under the name EI Inca.

Royal Commentaries of the Incas is the account of the origin, growth, and destruction of the Inca empire, from its legendary birth until the death in 1572 of its last independent ruler. For the material in Part One of Royal Commentaries—the history of the Inca civilization prior to the arrival of the Spaniards—Garcilaso drew upon "what I often heard as a child from the lips of my mother and her brothers and uncles and other elders . . . [of] the origin of the Inca kings, their greatness, the grandeur of their empire, their deeds and conquests, their government in peace and war, and the laws they ordained so greatly to the advantage of their vassals."

The conventionalized and formal history of an oral tradition, Royal Commentaries describes the gradual imposition of order and civilization upon a primitive and barbaric world. To this Garcilaso adds facts about the geography and the flora and fauna of the land; the folk practices, religion, and superstitions; the agricultural and the architectural and engineering achievements of the people; and a variety of other information drawn from his rich store of traditional knowledge, personal observation, or speculative philosophy.

Important though it is as history, Garcilaso's classic is much more: it is also a work of art. Its gracious and graceful style, skillfully translated by Harold V. Livermore, succeeds in bringing to life for the reader a genuine work of literature.

Part One covers the history of the Incas up to the arrival of the Spanish.

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Contents

To the Most Serene Princess
3
Whether there are many worlds it also treats of
9
The derivation of the name Peru
15
Copyright

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About the author (1987)

Born in Cuzco, Peru, the son of a Spanish conquistador and an Incan princess, Garcilaso de la Vega is often considered the first spokesperson for the South American mestizo. Garcilaso spent much of his youth listening to stories of the culture and glories of his mother's civilization and the heroics of his father's conquering comrades. At age 20, after the death of his parents, he moved to Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. In Spain, he served for a time in the Spanish army, was ordained a priest, and wrote on a variety of subjects. His account of Hernando de Soto's travels in Florida, The Florida of the Inca (1605), set the stage for his more personal interest in the pre-Hispanic history of his homeland of Peru. This interest culminated in his masterpiece, Royal Commentaries of the Incas (1609), in which he movingly describes the Incan Empire and its conquest by Spain. A mestizo, Garcilaso wrote a mestizo history in the Royal Commentaries, both praising and criticizing his parents' peoples. His desire to know and understand the past in order to know one's self and one's present reflected a serious historical consciousness and made Garcilaso one of several sixteenth-century chroniclers whose writings began a long Latin American narrative tradition. Their work, with its factual as well as emotional content, continues to enrich the work of students of the Euro-American encounter. Garcilaso was also among the first to appreciate that bicultural encounter from the perspective of the conquered indigenous populations.

Harold V. Livermore is Professor Emeritus of Spanish and Portuguese, University of British Columbia.

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