August 2014

Civil Strife and Success:
The Incas in Cochabamba

The Inca Empire, or Tawantinsuyu in Quechua, arrived in Cochabamba at around 1550 A.D. They declared a war in the region against the local population, soon claiming victory. Henceforth, the occupation of Cochabamba started, which lasted for almost 100 years. This brought a period of great change to the area. The Incas supplanted the local population and developed the infrastructure to connect Cochabamba with the rest of the Empire.

By: Luke Andrews
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Surrey - United Kingdom

The previous inhabitants of the Cochabamba area are represented by four ethnic groups. These are known as the Quta, Chuy, Qhaui and SipeSipe according to Walter Sanchez, head of researchers of Iniam at San Simon University. He says that based on what we know of the Incas, these groups rejected their rule. Initially the Inca would offer gifts and autonomy in return for the local rulers accepting the rule of the Inca. (History of Bolivia – US Library of Congress.) If this did not work then the Incas would declare war. This also allowed them to “come and dominate.” There was no escape from Inca rule. Their methods allowed them to place their “structure of imperial rule on top of an existing system of local societies,” claims Terence D´altroy, a professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. In Cochabamba, this was done the hard way.


Inca (INKA) Empire (TAWANTINSUYU) 1532
Photo: Ian Mladjov at the University of Michigan.

They changed the culture of the area. The Incas usurped the local ethnic groups in favor of Quechua speakers, as mentioned by Walter Sanchez. This completely changed Cochabamba, with the loss of old languages and rituals, and the addition of new ones. Redistribution was a major part of the Inca state. They moved over “500 groups of the altiplano” alone during their political domination of the area. Quechuas were moved in as part of an integration policy, to spread the Inca language and culture in the empire, according to Schwartz, an expert on the Incas. This was important in Cochabamba due to its material value.

The region was important primarily for its ability to produce maize. The Incas built farms all along the Rocha River and imported people to work the fields, enabling Cochabamba to provide 476,794 bushels of wheat to the empire, according to Brooke Larson, an expert on Cochabamba from 1500 – 1900. Here is the key to Cochabamba’s importance to the Incas. The maize was necessary for their diet and religion. Brooke Larson views maize’s importance through the drink known as chicha. This beverage was “shared with ancestors and dieties” and used to enforce hierarchy and social status. Hence, it was important to their systems of expansion and methods of maintaining authority.

The maize obsession caused a further change to Cochabamba. It meant that roads and forts were built here to redistribute and protect the area’s wealth. The road, or Qhapaq Ñan system, is said by Terence DçAltroy to be the “most extensive and advanced” system for its time. It allowed for the complete redistribution of all resources found in the empire. The paths interweaved with the agricultural landscape in up to “40,000 km of highway,” according to John Hyslop, author of “The Inka Road System.” This created a network linking the entire empire. Goods were moved using llamas, all under state control. This made different regions of the empire “dependant on the state for goods that were difficult to acquire,” according to Schwartz. Cochabamba would provide maize to the wider community and receive meat in return. The economic system the roads carried to Cochabamba required no market and no money. All redistribution was controlled by the state; somewhat scathing the underside of communism. The Incan maize obsession pulled Cochabamba into the key economic system of the Andes for that time.

The forts also brought a new feature to the landscape. Today, the remnants of this activity can be viewed at Incallajta. Bolivia Cultura identifies it as one of the largest forts in the Incan empire – somewhat unsurprising from a tourism provider. The fort provided a garrison for soldiers. This allowed the Incas to ensure control over the local populace while at the same time discourage invaders. They were never able to exert control over the people of the today Santa Cruz district, according to the US Library of Congress. Hence, Cochabamba marked the furthest point of Incan expansion into Bolivia.

The entire political landscape of the region was irreversibly changed with the removal of the local ethnic groups. The settling Quechuas found themselves capable of continuing to practice their local customs and maintain a degree of autonomy thanks to the Incas not removing their cultural elites and allowing them to maintain their culture. Instead, they took the “existing structures and Innovated,” according to Terence D´Altroy. The new Cochabambinos not only recognized their dependence to the Inca state as a provider of resources, but also recognized their ability to continue to live as before, just in a new area. The Incas were never capable of exerting full control, but they could claim the loyalty of local groups.

The Inca interfered directly with a group’s kinship system. When a new group joined the empire, it was traditional that it would also marry into the Inca family. This ensured obedience through family connections. More importantly, they also demanded that the children of the elites were educated by the state in Machu Picchu. This ensured their assimilation into the empire. However, towards the end this system was showing signs of wear. The last Inca ruler, Huayna Capac, is said to have taken “along 2,000 of his wives, whilst leaving the other 4,000 at home” (Terence D´altroy) during a visit to the neighboring province. This shows an unsustainable kinship system. As so many groups had ties to the Incas, they could also claim the throne of the empire, ensuring a high chance of civil war.

The Inca engineering of Cochabamba is far from a disappointment. They tied Cochabamba into a system built to last by connecting all areas regionally and politically. However, the arrival of the Spanish changed this. They removed all the empire´s achievements. All that can be seen today to remind us of the Inca empire are people of the same cultural groups separated by hundreds of miles, and ruins like Incallatja. Although the Incas caused great changes in Cochabamba, today these changes are barely visible. It would appear that modernizing Cochabamba has taken another step in a new direction.

High heels, bad for feet and body?
Queen of high heels, Sarah Jessica Parker, 48, whose Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw made high heels the must-have fashion accessory, has been forced to give them up.
read more ...

Archive Issues

2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016