Posts filed under 'Peru'

1971: Victor Apaza Quispe, Arequipa folk saint

Add comment September 17th, 2014 Headsman

From Frank Graziano’s Cultures of Devotion: Folk Saints of Spanish America:


In Arequipa, there is active devotion to Victor Apaza Quispe, who was born in the Miraflores district in 1932. Apaza led a vagrant life supported by odd jobs after fleeing his abusive father. In a variant version that he related to inmates, he was sold by his father into farm labor. Apaza married in 1953, continued a life of transient jobs and petty crime, drank heavily, and physically abused his wife and daughter until he finally abandoned the home. When he returned ten years later, the marriage was beyond repair. In January 1969, Apaza dreamed that his wife was unfaithful to him. He went to the location revealed in the dream and saw the shadowy figure of a man escaping. His wife, also there, was not as fortunate. Apaza beat her to death with a rock.

It was later revealed that the crime was premeditated and carefully planned. Apaza originally denied responsibility but confessed his guilt once the evidence mounted against him. Later, during appeals for clemency, he again declared his innocence. He was convicted partially on the evidence of his two daughters, who wittingly or unwittingly offered testimony that supported the death penalty. Apaza did not understand the sentence until his lawyer translated it for him into Quechua. He hugged his lawyer, the two of them crying, and then collapsed into his chair.

People in the courtroom were shocked by the death sentence. The rarity of the event — this would be the first execution in Arequipa — resulted in extensive press coverage. Apaza suddenly gained a celebrity derived less from his crime than from the punishment. The press represented him as a poor, simple man and a good Christian. According to Apaza’s defense attorney, “the very foundation of society was shaken” when the public learned that Apaza had been sentenced to death. Horror and indignation were aroused because the imminent execution was “an unjust action of human justice.” Divine justice would make amends.

Apaza faced the firing squad in prison on September 17, 1971. (The drama is intensified in some folkloric versions by locating the execution in Arequipa’s main plaza.) Arequipa’s residents were outraged, even traumatized, and some fifteen hundred attended Apaza’s funeral. They organized themselves into squads, taking turns to carry the coffin.

Apaza had been in prison for two years before he was executed. Like Ubilberto Vasquez Bautista in Cajamarca, he became a model prisoner and something of a populist. Fellow inmates described Apaza as a good, hardworking, honest man. In 1971, the 531 men incracerated with him sent a letter to the court petitioning clemency, in part because Apaza had proven himself to be “an honorable man and dedicated to his work.” The prison chaplain, a Jesuit, found Apaza to be pious and God-fearing, and the warden thought he was a “completely good” man. Later, retrospective press accounts described Apaza and Ubilberto together as “innocent men crushed by the Kafkaesque and labyrinthine cruelties of the administration of justice in Peru.”

Book CoverThe devotees with whom I spoke in Arequipa knew little about Apaza. Even the official rezador, a man who prays for tips at the shrine, did not have the story clear. Many devotees had a vague idea that Apaza had been executed under circumstances that suggested injustice, however, and the key word offered by all was “innocent.” Some believed that the true killer confessed the crime after Apaza was executed.

When I asked devotees how they knew that Apaza was innocent, one woman astonished me with her answer: “because a sinner cannot work miracles.” I later encountered this same response in other devotions. Once a folk saint’s fame for miracles is accepted as true, then this truth — this evidence — revises backward to create the conditions necessary for the production of miracles. Miracles make Apaza’s apparent guilt impossible, so the verdict is reversed. Innocence causes miracles, and miracles cause innocence. Miracles occur within the circularity defined by these parameters.

Apaza is miraculous, like all folk saints of this prototype, because “he died innocent and is beside Our Lord.” “You were shot, you suffered,” people said when they requested the first miracles, because these misfortunes qualified Apaza for sainthood.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,History,Murder,Peru,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Religious Figures,Sex,Shot,Wrongful Executions

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1731: Jose de Antequera, Paraguayan comunero rebel

Add comment July 5th, 2014 Headsman

On this date in 1731, Jose de Antequera had his head cut off in Lima for leading a comunero rebellion against the Spanish crown in Paraguay.

Antequera, a judge, began his revolution legally in 1721 by affirming an impeachment the city council of Asuncion (Paraguay’s present-day capital) against the unpopular Spanish governor. Antequera, conveniently, also happened to be the guy who would succeed the unpopular territorial governor.

The conflict between the two would-be governors spiraled into a wider revolt for local autonomy pitting criollo settlers against the crown, though it would likely be overstating matters to call this a true bid for independence. One notable sore spot between the two parties was the prerogatives of Jesuit Reductions: these mission settlements for Christianizing natives (particularly prominent in Paraguay for the Guarani people) had originally been placed at the far fringes of Spain’s New World reach, and they enjoyed a wide autonomy, sustaining themselves economically with the yerba mate trade. For the Guarani, these were also welcome refuges from the brutal encomiendas; Guarani militias stoutly repelled slave raiders.

For these prerogatives, the Jesuits and the Guarani were loyal to the Spanish crown as against the local settlers better inclined to view the Reductions (and the potential slaves who inhabited them) as assets they’d like to get their own hands around. Antequera accordingly expelled the Jesuits near Asuncio and for a few years his word was law in Paraguay. Guarani troops mustered by the crown helped put the rebellion down, taking Antequera into custody and forwarding him to the notoriously severe Marquis of Castelfuerte, the Peruvian viceroy.

Society at Lima was in [Antequera’s] favor. Great efforts were made to delay his trial. But the viceroy was resolved to punish him, and sentence of death was passed. The judges, the university, the municipality, petitioned for pardon, as well as the people of all classes. The stern old marquis refused to listen, and Antequera was brought out for execution in the great square of Lima on July 5, 1731. There were cries for pardon, and the mob began to throw stones. Hearing the tumult, the viceroy came out on horseback and ordered his guards to fire. Antequera fell dead, as well as the two priests by his side, and several others. The viceroy then ordered the body to be taken to the scaffold and beheaded. His conduct received the approval of the king by decree of September, 1733. (Source)

The Spanish had not heard the end of Antequera.

During his imprisonment, Antequera befriended and inspired a fellow-prisoner named Fernando Mompo. After Antequera’s execution, Mompo returned to Paraguay brandishing the late rebel governor’s banner: “The authority of the commune is superior to that of the King himself!” Mompo launched a recrudescence of the comunero rebellion in the early 1730s. Mompo too shared Antequera’s fate.

A change in the political winds decades later led to the Spanish king Charles III himself expelling the Jesuits — and posthumously exonerating Jose de Antequera.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Judges,Lawyers,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Paraguay,Peru,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Shot,Spain,Treason

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1957: Jorge Villanueva Torres, Monstruo de Armendáriz

Add comment December 12th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1957, Jorge Villanueva Torres was shot in Lima, Peru as the notorious “Monstruo de Armendáriz”.

Except Jorge Villanueva Torres wasn’t actually the monster. His case is well-known in Peru but less so beyond, and all links in this post are to Spanish pages.

Villanueva’s hasty transmogrification began on the ninth of September 1954, when headlines announcing the discovery of a dead three-year-old child near Lima commenced a national crime hysteria. Authorities surmised that the little boy had been raped, too.

Vague eyewitness fixing on the suspect’s height and dark skin* brought many arrests of people fitting these loose criteria. Villanueva, a career petty criminal, fit that bill; when police announced him as the suspect, he became the object of his countrymen’s hatred.

Convicted in an atmosphere of prejudicial hysteria on the strength of eyewitness testimony loosely matching him to someone who might have given the victim a sweet to lure him off, Villanueva exploded with rage, even attempting to attack the judge. Naturally this only served to further implicate him as an uncontrollable beast — not as a falsely accused man pitiably near the breaking-point after two years as a nation’s scapegoat.

Villanueva asserted his innocence all the way to the fatal stake.

Those futile protestations are today widely accepted as true. There was little firm evidence against him and even the contemporary autopsy ruled against the incendiary child-rape allegation. Later forensic investigations have suggested that the poor child might simply have been the victim of a hit-and-run car accident. The mingled torments of guilt and relief in such a motorist as the matter played out must have been profound.

This case remains in present-day Peru a standing warning against occasional attempts to reintroduce the death penalty in response to the outrageous crime du jour. (Peru abolished the death penalty for all peacetime offenses in 1979.)

The Peruvian band Nosequien and Nosecuantos muses on the injustice in a single that shares its title with Villanueva — “Monstruo de Armendáriz”.

Whomever was the true “monster” — and whatever that person’s true measure of monstrosity — has never been known.

* Racism in Peru against black skin was then and remains today endemic.

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1970: Udilberto Vasquez Bautista, Peruvian popular saint

1 comment September 11th, 2013 Headsman

Early this morning in 1970, in the prison at Cajamarca, Peru, Ubilberto Vasquez Bautista was shot for the slaughter of a young shepherdess.

The young girl — either 9 or 11 years old — had been raped, then stabbed 27 times.

Udilberto Vasquez was found with some blood incriminatingly all over his underwear. Though he never admitted guilt, his story went through a few iterations, one of which entailed pointing the finger at his brother. (… with whom he shared underwear, I guess.)

Basically desperate for any angle, his attorney pushed that as a defense.

“Without intending it, I contributed to the creation of the myth,” he said later, according to Frank Graziano’s Cultures of Devotion: Folk Saints of Spanish America.* We’ll get to that myth in a moment.

As one might readily infer from his presence on these pages, not that defense nor any other sufficed to save his client’s life.

Rather, Vasquez became the first victim (Spanish link, as are nearly all those that follow) of draconian new legislation imposed by the Juan Velasco Alvarado dictatorship reinstating capital punishment for fatal sexual assaults on particularly young victims.** This law was only in place from 1969 to 1973, so it was bad timing as much as anything for Udilberto Vasquez. (Peru’s 1979 constitution would restrict the death penalty to wartime treason.)

So at 6 a.m. this date, and still having never confessed guilt, Vasquez was shot. A dog barked in the distance; a cock crowed out its protest. Etc.

In execution, Vasquez joined the curious pantheon of Latin American folk saints comprised of ordinary criminals (usually ones thought to be innocent). Vasquez had converted in prison to the Adventist Church, and some fellow inmates believed he had the power to work miracles.

Latter-day supplicants hoping for same crowd to a mausoleum-shrine, especially on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. He’s credited with many miracles rescuing the health and fortunes of devotees.†

Such divine providence necessarily implies a view of its author’s innocence in that whole rape-murder thing. Among followers, the attorney’s notion of Vasquez’s brother’s culpability — and still more, the sacrificial concept that Vasquez willingly gave himself to protect his brother (which seems at odds with Vasquez blaming his brother) — has improved into a mythic truism.

Vasquez is the subject of a film by Hector Marreros, Milagroso Udilberto Vasquez.

For a more academic take, check this short Spanish-language article (pdf) by Nanda Leonardini.

* In addition to the book, Graziano has a fascinating site on his investigations into folk religiosity in the Spanish Americas, CulturesOfDevotion.com.

** Ironically, it was doubts about the guilt of the last guy shot for a rape-murder that had caused that law to be rescinded.

Click here for a photo gallery of Udilberto devotions/festivities.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Milestones,Murder,Myths,Peru,Popular Culture,Rape,Religious Figures,Shot,Wrongful Executions

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1883: Leoncio Prado, for defending his homeland

1 comment July 15th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1883, Leoncio Prado Gutierrez (English Wikipedia entry | the very much more extensive Spanish) was shot by the Chileans during the War of the Pacific.

Prado’s father, Manuel Ignacio Prado, was twice the president of Peru (1865-1868,* 1876-1879).

As a military man (Prado’s first presidency was as outright dictator), the old man naturally had his son on a soldierly track as well. Leoncio was all of 12 years old when he took part in the Battle of Callao in 1866, defending that city against a Spanish bombardment during the Chincha Islands War.

That war saw Peru and Chile cooperating against Spain, after the latter seized a lucrative cluster of guano islands.

But different resource rivalries put the two former allies at loggerheads in 1879. When Peru nationalized saltpeter mining in the border province of Tarapaca — dispossessing Chilean interests — and Bolivia took similar measures, the countries fought the three-way War of the Pacific, also known as the Saltpeter War.

Chile would win the war decisively, dramatically reshaping Latin America in the process. Peru lost most of Tarapaca to Chile, devastating Peru’s saltpeter industry and provoking a generation of instability and social crisis. Bolivia fared even worse, losing its only littoral province to Chile: Bolivia remains landlocked to this day.

So it’s safe to say that there was something at stake worth fighting for as hostilities commenced.

By this time Leoncio Prado was 26, and a veteran of the intervening years’ Cuban war for independence from Spain.

As the Saltpeter War got underway, Prado returned from the United States where he was preparing an expedition to help Philippines separatists, and formed a guerrilla force. Though this corps had its highlight moments, it was overwhelmed in a scrap with Chilean regulars in July 1880 and Prado taken prisoner.

Considering his lineage and his exploits, he was an honored captive for the Chileans who repeatedly offered to release him on his honor not to take up arms again.

Prado refused these offers for some time, but he finally accepted his parole at the start of 1882 — a low ebb for Peruvian fortunes, for his father had been deposed by a coup and 1881-82 saw leadership of the country violently contested. Prado’s only thought, notwithstanding his pledge to Chile, was for the defense of his country and he rallied another party of guerrillas to his banner. “The enemy’s bullets do not kill,” he cried. “For to die for the fatherland is to live in immortal glory!”

That has proved to be the case for Prado, who certainly stood out from the politicians of his time for his patriotic heroism.

Captured during the decisive Chilean victory at the Battle of Huamachuco where a grenade shattered his thigh, the crippled Prado was regretfully executed in his bed for having broken his previous parole by resuming arms in the fight.

“We were all crying — all but Pradito,” recalled the Chilean captain tasked with overseeing the nasty business.

Six years after Prado’s execution, his aged father — the ex-president — sired yet another son, Manuel Prado Ugarteche. That son would also go on to hold the Peruvian presidency. While in office, he christened the Leoncio Prado Military Academy, an institution distinguished in literature as the setting for the Mario Vargas Llosa novel The Time of the Hero

* Prado pere was ousted from his first turn at the helm of state — a dictatorship — by Jose Balta, whose sad fate has adorned these macabre pages.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Chile,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Martyrs,Notably Survived By,Peru,Shot,Soldiers,Wartime Executions

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1991: Barrios Altos massacre

4 comments November 3rd, 2010 Michael Baney

(Thanks to Michael Baney for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1991, a Peruvian death squad showed up at the wrong party, and altered its country’s history.

In 1980 the Communist Party of Peru, better known as the Shining Path, launched its “People’s War,” which was never actually supported by the majority of Peruvians. Latin America had had its share of Marxist revolts, but this one was different from the others. There was nothing romantic about the revolutionaries, who wore plain clothes rather than uniforms, attacked the civilian population rather than invest significant capital to win them over to the Shining Path cause, and rose up in an effort to overthrow a democracy rather than a dictatorship.

The Shining Path was based mainly in Andean villages, but once they began to take serious losses in their own territory, they made a concerted effort to accelerate the war by pushing into the capital city, Lima. Both the Shining Path and the Peruvian military were committing deplorable human rights violations by the time Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990, although the vast majority of the violence had been confined to the hinterlands of the country up until then.

With Fujimori’s election, more urban-based death squad activities began. Perhaps the most famous was the November 3, 1991 massacre in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima, a poor barrio only a few minutes’ drive away from the Congress and the Presidential Palace.

The murders are described in great detail in this old US government document (pdf) once classified as secret, but since declassified thanks to the efforts of expert Tamara Feinstein of the National Security Archive.

This date’s incident occurred when members of Grupo Colina (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish), a death squad that was part of the Army Intelligence Service, believed that they had identified a group of Shining Path militants having a pollada, which is a traditional fundraiser in Peru where a party is held so that chicken and beer can be sold to the neighbors. (Here’s a description, in Spanish)

A Grupo Colina squad drove to the building where this terrorist pollada was supposed to be taking place, lined the partygoers up, and extrajudicially executed them with submachine guns with silencers that the army had provided the group for the operation. Then the leader of the group, Santiago Martin Rivas, shot a young child who came running over to the body of his father. The troops got back into their vehicles, turned on their sirens to appear like they were the police in an effort to shift blame over the killings, and got drunk at the beach to celebrate.

Almost immediately it became clear that the death squad members had completely screwed up their hit.

The people who had been murdered were indeed having a pollada … not to fund the Shining Path’s Maoist agrarian war, but to fix the pipes in their building

And it transpired that that fateful night of Nov. 3, there was a different pollada being held on a different floor in the very same building. The participants of that other party fled the building, never to return. There were reports that upon searching the rooms of those who fled, police uncovered many issues of El Dario, the Shining Path newspaper.

If Grupo Colina indeed crashed the wrong party, then it not only slaughtered a bunch of innocent people — it helpfully tipped the Shining Path to the fact that the army was onto them.

In any event, the executions became a media spectacle and the police had to at least go through the motions of investigating them. At first, the government suggested that the murders might have been actually carried out by the Shining Path, and as evidence of this theory they showed that one of the people who had been killed was previously a member of a Ronda, which is a peasant patrol group that fought against cattle rustling and, in some cases, the Shining Path. But it later turned out that the man had been a member of the Rondas many years before and hundred of miles away from the killings, and it seemed extremely improbable that the Shining Path would even bother to target him.

By December 4, 1991, the US embassy in Lima was informing the Secretary of State that the Peruvian government lacked the political will to investigate the murders, and had lied about whether or not the guns used in the extrajudicial executions were equipped with silencers in “an apparently deliberate attempt to obfuscate the situation.”

The Congress created a committee to investigate the crimes, which was a real threat to the Fujimori government because the Fujimoristas did not have a majority in Congress.

This ceased to be a problem on April 5, 1992, when Fujimori suspended the Congress, permanently disbanded the Senate, and fired a good number of the judges in the country, all in total violation of the Constitution. That ended the investigation.

Under pressure from the international community, a new Congress stacked with Fujimoristas was convened to write a new Constitution, and the investigation of the Barrios Altos killing nominally restarted. When the Congress called Nicolas Hermoza Rios de Bari, the Chairman of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces to testify, he took the oppotunity to remind the Congress that the military would never tolerate being “insulted.” When hearings continued, Hermoza Rios held an impromptu tank parade directly in front of the Congress. The few brave Congressmen and women who actually desired to expose the truth about the killings got the message loud and clear: the case would never go anywhere as long as Fujimori remained president.

When it finally looked like the perpetrators might be punished, for example, Fujimori rammed a law through the Congress that provided a general amnesty to everyone who had violated human rights “in defense of the fatherland.” When a judge ruled the amnesty law unconstitutional, Fujimori’s Congress stripped the power of judicial review from the courts in cases of amnesty laws.

In a very real sense, the Peruvian government had legalized illegality. Fujimori created a system in which there was no way to punish — or even investigate — murder so long as someone, somewhere considered the crime to have been committed for patriotic reasons.

All that changed in 2000, however, when Fujimori’s government collapsed amid scandal.

An opposition figure who vowed to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was sworn in as into office, and Peru reaffirmed its commitment to the American Convention on Human Rights. In 2001, in a groundbreaking decision, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in its Barrios Altos case that countries cannot issue an amnesty for “serious human rights violations.” The amnesty was thrown out and Grupo Colina members were arrested.

In 2007, Alberto Fujimori was extradited from Chile, where he had traveled, to Peru. In 2009, the Peruvian courts convicted Fujimori of a number of human rights abuses, including ordering the Barrios Altos murders. Just last month, justice was finally served when the members of Grupo Colina were convicted of murder, kidnapping, forced disappearance, and conspiracy, and were given various sentences ranging up to 25 years of prison. After 19 years, the Peruvian government has finally acknowledged that the extrajudicial executions that took place during that country’s cold war were crimes that must not go unpunished.

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1872: Jose Balta, former President of Peru

1 comment July 26th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1872, four days after he was deposed as President of Peru, Jose Balta was summarily shot by the would-be dictatorship of Tomas Gutierrez.

Balta (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) made his name as a soldier, an ironic background for a martyr to constitutional government.

As a colonel, Balta in 1867 led a revolt against President Mariano Ignacio Prado in Chiclayo (mirrored by a similar revolt by Gen. Pedro Diez Canseco Corbacho in Arequipa). The resistance forced Prado’s resignation, and Balta won the ensuing 1868 election.

(Notably, it was under Balta’s administration that unprincipled American railroad speculator Henry Meiggs got his prolific track-building operations going in Peru. Basically, the government took all the capital it raised on its guano-export contract — appropriate source — and plowed it into Meiggs’ well-hyped railroads, whose returns rarely justified the outlay to construct them. Wealthy and influential at his zenith, this adventurer was widely considered culpable for the disastrous state of the Peruvian economy by the time of his 1877 death, since in the interim the guano market had crashed and Peru found itself buried in debt it would ultimately default on. Oh, and: reason Meiggs was in Peru? He had to flee California after perpetrating a real estate scheme.)

Back to Balta. The soldier-President was adamant about an orderly departure from office (with a handover to an opposition party*) when his term came up in 1872, but others around him were less keen on constitutional precedents when there was power to be kept or lost.

On July 22, 1872, War Minister Tomas Gutierrez and his brother, Col. Silvestre Gutierrez, arrested the president. Tomas Gutierrez proclaimed himself dictator.

He was surely expecting a more appropriately cowed reaction from the country than he got: the President-elect got away on a warship, whose crew declared for him; the Peruvian Congress passed a resolution outlawing the Gutierrez coup; and the public reaction against him was chilly enough that someone gunned down Silvestre Gutierrez in a railway station on July 26.

News of this turn for the worse reached brother Marcelino, who had (ex-)President Balta in his charge at Callao … and Marcelino had Jose Balta immediately shot. This event meets the definition of an execution better by its circumstances than by its ceremony, since there was none of the latter; Balta was simply blasted while lying sick in bed, perhaps even still asleep, and not with the least sense of occasion.

And by no standard did it meet the usurpers’ definition of utility.

Neither of the remaining two Gutierrezes would outlive Jose Balta by so much as a day, and news of Balta’s murder only helped fan the incipient uprising: both were killed by mobs as the would-be dictatorial party collapsed in the hours ahead. All three of Tomas, Silvestre and Marcelino wound up on lampposts in Lima (and then burned to ashes in a public square) as recompense for their four days’ sovereignty.

As one report given out in North America recounted it:

The events of the past week will forever be remembered in Peruvian history. The spectacle of a Constitutional President deposed and imprisoned by a military usurper; of a Congress dispersed at the point of the bayonet, after the members, irrespective of partisan feeling, had united in signing a solemn protest, declaring the new officers of the so-called Government criminals and outlaws; of an entire country gathering together its strength to repel the attack made upon its liberties and legal rights; of the rising of the people when their indignation could no longer be restrained on the news of the cowardly assassination of Balta by the Dictator; of the triumph of moral force and justice over bayonets and a bastard cause; of the terrible vengeance of the populace on their tyrants; of the final re-establishment of peace, order and good government. This wonderful series of events has been witnessed by Lima in the space of five days. The Peruvian people have nobly vindicated their name and their national honor; the country is now on a firmer basis, and presents greater hopes for prolonged tranquility, prosperity and progress than it has for many years past.

(Not exactly. The economy, as mentioned, crashed in the 1870s, and there was a successful coup in 1879.)

* The guy set to succeed Balta was Manuel Pardo — not to be confused with Mariano Prado, whom Balta had supplanted.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Execution,Famous,Heads of State,History,Hostages,Martyrs,No Formal Charge,Peru,Politicians,Power,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,The Worm Turns,Wrongful Executions

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1538: Diego de Almagro, explorer of Chile

Add comment July 8th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1538, Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro was executed* at Cuzco by his vengeful rivals, the Pizarro brothers.

Conquistadoring with the rapacious Pizarros was a good way to get rich, get dead, or possibly both.

Almagro, a soldier, got to the New World in 1514 and soon fell in with alpha male Pizarro Francisco.** He’d become an adjunct to the latter’s conquest of the Incan Empire in the 1520s and 1530s; sent to capture the Incan city of Quito, Almagro found it razed by its defenders, and he sycophantically re-founded it as San Francisco de Quito.†

Things weren’t buddy-buddy for long.

The Iberian mothership divided Spain’s putative New World possessions north and south, putting Almagro in command of the southern cone. Great news … now all he had to do was actually take control of it.

Personally financing an expedition on the expectation of fabulous riches to be seized, Almagro instead foundered in Chile’s northern valleys in a frustrating environment of natives equally hostile and impecunious. After a couple years, he gave up and returned to Peru, angrier and poorer for his trouble — and there found that he could exploit the Spanish preoccupation with intransigent Incan chief Manco Inca to nick the capital city of Cuzco for himself.

Almagro actually had the lesser Pizarros — Gonzalo and Hernando — prisoner for a while, but he bartered them away to Francisco for a hill of beans (that is, a promise not to attack), and the Pizarros took their city back by routing Almagro at the Battle of Las Salinas.

The sentence of death against as august a personage as the appointed ruler of Nueva Toledo shocked many, and it was carried out against Almagro’s own entreaties for an appeal to the crown.


Detail view of a print of Almagro’s capture and execution. (Click for the full image.)

Francisco Pizarro would redeem his want of clemency towards his former partner in his own blood: in 1541, Almagro’s son, Diego de Almagro II or el Mozo, murdered Pizarro in an attempted coup d’etat. (Almagro the Younger, too, would be executed for his trouble.)

Although he was an important conquistador who spent most of his time at points further north, Almagro is best remembered today not in Peru but in Chile — for his abortive and disappointing expedition made him that land’s first European “discoverer”.

* Either beheaded or garroted.

** Almagro also rubbed shoulders with Vasco Nunez de Balboa.

† He pulled a similar trick with Trujillo, naming it after Francisco Pizarro’s birthplace.

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1780: Corregidor Antonio de Arriaga, by his slave

1 comment November 10th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1780, Incan-Peruvian indigenous leader Tupac Amaru launched his insurrection against the Spanish with the public execution of a Spanish corregidor.

Antonio de Arriaga, as Spain’s man in Tungasuca, had as part of his job description forcing curacas to extract the crown’s tribute from the natives. This put some tension between him and the likes of the strong-willed Tupac Amaru, who advocated fiercely enough for his people’s rights that Arriaga threatened him with death.

It also made Arriaga’s death an invitingly emblematic scene to open the indigenous revolt.

On Nov. 4, 1780, Tupac Amaru kidnapped Arriaga returning from a dinner party, then forced him to sign letters summoning Spaniards and curacas alike to Tungasuca.

There, he mustered his own force of armed natives and performed for them a “carefully staged public ceremony.”

According to a primary source excerpted in The Tupac Amaru and Catarista Rebellions

Account of the Most Horrible Crime Committed by Jose Gabriel Tupac Amaru, Cacique of Pampamarca

On the morning of Friday, November 10th, Tupac Amaru ordered that three columns … be organized from all the people from his Province that were already there. Two were composed of Spaniards and Mestizos armed with muskets, sabers, and sticks; and one of Indians with slings. In the middle of this, he brought out the Corregidor, dressed in his military uniform, and publicly started taking his uniform off, stripping him of his rank following the rituals he had understood and seen in other occasions, until he was left in his shirt. He then put a shroud on him … that had the title of La Caridad on it. He then gave the order to take him to the gallows, accompanied by the Priest and two other clergymen, where he went with a resignation and patience worthy of somebody who was already touching the portals of eternity.

Once on the gallows the Corregidor was forced by the tyrant to publicly declare that he deserved to die in that way. A black slave of the Corregidor [named Antonio Oblitas -ed.] served as his executioner, but the ropes snapped and both fell to the ground. But they suspended them again with a lariat around their necks, and thus they completed the execution in clear sight and tolerance of all his Province. [“they” is as rendered in the book; I have no indication that more than one person was executed. -ed.] Not one voice was raised that would disturb the operation. And most surprising of all was that those same Collectors and those close to the Corregidor were the ones who (oh, what an awful spectacle of perfidy!) sped his way to the ignominious place of execution, and who pulled on his feet so he could die even more violently.

The rebellion, needless to say, was on.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Peru,Politicians,Power,Public Executions,Spain

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1781: Tupac Amaru II, Incan insurgent

3 comments May 18th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1781, the last name in Incan rebellion met a horrible end in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco.

José Gabriel Condorcanqui — rechristened Tupac Amaru II, as he was a distant descendant of the last Incan king — was a member of the privileged indigenous population depended upon by the Spanish to administer the forced and extorted labor that made its New World empire worth having.

Condorcanqui evidently had an epiphany.

In November 1780, he launched a well-planned rebellion by engineering the public execution of a hated corregidor Antonio de Arriaga at the hands of his own servant.

“From this day, no longer shall the Spanish feast on your poverty!”

This attention-grabbing entry onto the political chessboard was followed with an exemplary victory over Spanish forces. His revolt rapidly metastasized into an ethno-religious crusade, with all the accumulated bitterness of the Indians’ two-plus centuries maltreatment ferociously visited upon the Spanish.

It was a heady moment — but only a moment; within a few months, the Spanish had rallied and Tupac Amaru was betrayed into their hands.

The rebel had seized Incan symbology for his own purposes — speaking at ancient shrines, for instance — and the Spanish sentence against him included not only the inevitably horrific execution (of both Tupac Amaru and his wife and family) but a comprehensive and explicit programme of cultural annihilation to consign the Incan identity to the past. This lengthy sentence is well worth the read. (Sourced here, a pdf file; the bolded sections are my highlights.)

I must and do condemn José G. Túpac Amaru to be taken out to the main public square of [Cuzco], dragged out to the place of execution, where he shall witness the execution of the sentences imposed on his wife, Micaela Bastidas [Spanish link]; his two sons, Hipólito and Fernando Túpac Amaru; his uncle, Francisco Túpac Amaru; and his brother-in-law, Antonio Bastidas, as well as some of the principal captains and aides in his iniquitous and perverse intent or project, all of whom must die on the same day.

And once these sentences have been carried out, the executioner will cut out his tongue, and he will then be tied or bound by strong cords on each one of his arms and feet in such a way that each rope can be easily tied or fastened to others hanging from t he saddle straps of four horses, so that, in this position, each one of these horses, facing opposite corners of the square, will pull toward his own direction; and let the horses be urged or jolted into motion at the same time so that his body be divided into as many parts and then, once it is done, the parts should be carried to the hill or high ground known as “Picchu,” which is where he came to intimidate, lay siege to, and demand the surrender of this city; and let there be lit a fire which shall be prepared in advance and then let ashes be thrown into the air and a stone tablet placed there detailing his main crimes and manner of his death as the only record and statement of his loathsome action.

His head will be sent to the town of Tinta where, after being three days on the gallows, it shall be placed on a stake at the most public entrance to the town, one of his arms will go to the town of Tungasuca, where he was chief, where it will be treated in like manner, and the other in the capital of the province of Carabaya; one of the legs shall likewise be sent for the same kind of demonstration to the town of Libitaca in the province of Chumbilcas, while the remaining one shall go to Santa Rosa in the province of Lampa along with the affidavit and order to the respective chief magistrates, or territorial judges that this sentence be proclaimed publicly with the greatest solemnity as soon as it arrives in their hands, and on the same day every year thereafter; and they will give notice in writing of this to their superiors in government who are familiar with the said territories.

Since this traitor managed to arm himself and form an army and forces against the royal arms by making use of or seducing and leading with his falsehood the chiefs who are the second in command in the villages, since these villages, being of Indians, are not governed by such chiefs but rather by mayors who are elected annually by the vote or nomination of the chiefs: let these same electoral communities and the chief magistrates that care to give preference to candidates who know Spanish, and who are of the best behavior, reputation, and customs so that they will treat their subjects well and lovingly, honoring only those who have demonstrated honestly their inclination and faithfulness, eagerness, respect, obedience, submission, and gratitude to the greater glory of our great Monarch through the sacrificed of their lives, properties, or ranches in deference of their country or religion, receiving with brave disdain the threats and offers of the aforesaid reel leader and his military chiefs, yet taking care that these elected leaders are the only ones with the right to the title of chief or governor of their ayllus [communities] or towns, and that they cannot transmit their position to their children or other family members.

To this same end, it is prohibited that the Indians wear heathen clothes, especially those who belong to the nobility, since it only serves to symbolize those worn by their Inca ancestors, reminding them of memories which serve no other end than to increase their hatred toward the dominant nation; not to mention that their appear is ridiculous and very little in accordance with the purity of our relics, since they place in different parts images of the sun, which was their primary deity; and this prohibition is to be extended to all the provinces of this southern America, in order to completely eliminate such clothing, especially those items which represent the bestialities of their heathen kings through emblems such and the unco, which is a kind of vest; yacollas, which are very rich blankets or shawls of black velvet or taffeta; the macapaycha, which is a circle in the shape of a crown from which they hand a certain emblem of ancient nobility signified by a tuft or tassel of red-colored alpaca wool, as well as many other things of this kind and symbolism. All of this shall be proclaimed in writing in each province, that they dispose of or surrender to the magistrates whatever clothing of this kind exists in the province, as well as all the paintings or likenesses of their Incas which are extremely abundant in the houses of the Indians who consider themselves to be nobles and who use them to prove their claim or boast of their lineage.

These latter shall be erased without fail since they do not merit the dignity of being painted in such places, and with the same end in mind there shall also be erased, so that no sign remains, any portraits that might be found on walls or other solid objects; in churches, monasteries, hospitals, holy places or private homes, such duties fall under the jurisdiction of the reverend archbishops or bishops of both viceroyalties in those areas pertaining to the churches; and in their place it would be best to replace such adornments with images of the King and our other Catholic sovereigns should that be necessary. Also, the ministers and chief magistrates should ensure that in no town of their respective provinces be performed plays or other public functions of the kind that the Indians are accustomed to put on to commemorate their former Incas; and having carried out the order, these ministers shall give a certified account to the secretaries of the respective governments. In like manner shall be prohibited and confiscated the trumpets or bugles that the Indians use for their ceremonies and which they call pututos, being seashells with a strange and mournful sound that celebrate the mourning and pitiful memorial they make for their antiquity; and there shall also be prohibited the custom of using or wearing black clothing as a sign of mourning, a custom that drags on in some provinces in memory of their deceased monarchs and also of the day or time of the conquest which they consider disastrous and we consider fortunate since it brought them into the company of the Catholic Church and the very loving and gentle domination of our Kings.

With the same goal it is absolutely forbidden that the Indians sign themselves as “Incas,” since it is a title that anyone can assume but which makes a lasting impression on those of their class; and it is ordered, as is required of all those who have genealogical trees or documents that prove in some way their descent, that they produce them or send them certified and without cost by mail to the respective secretaries of both viceroyalties so that the formalities may be observed by those persons responsible to their excellencies the viceroys, consulting His Majesty where necessary according to each case; and the chief magistrates are charged to oversee the fulfillment of such requirements, to seek out and discover anyone who does not observe them correctly, in order to have it done to collect the documents with the aim of sending them to the proper authorities after giving their owners a receipt.

And so that these Indians renounce the hatred that they have conceived against the Spaniards, and that they adhere to the dress which the laws indicate, adopting our Spanish customs and speaking Castilian [Spanish], we shall introduce more vigorously than we have done up to now the use of schools, imposing the most rigorous and fair penalties on those who do not attend once enough time has passed for them to have learned the language; the duties and responsibilities involved in this plan going to the very reverend ecclesiastical prelates so that, in the opposition between parishes and doctrinas, they take care that those candidates bring affidavits from the provincial judges as to the numbers of people who speak the Said Castilian in those provinces … it being left up to the sovereign discretion of His Majesty to reward and honor those towns whose inhabitants have rendered, under the present circumstances, their due loyalty and faithfulness.

Finally, the manufacture of cannons of all kinds shall be prohibited under the penalty that any noble found manufacturing such items will be sentenced to ten years of prison in one of the presidios in Africa and any commoner will receive two hundred lashes as well as the same penalty for the same time period; reserving for a future time a similar resolution with regards to the manufacture of powder. And since there cannons of almost every caliber in the many ore-crushing mills and timber yards in these provinces, they will be gathered up by the magistrates once of the pacification of this uprising has been completely terminated in order to give account of them to the respective captaincy general so that he may determine whatever use he deems proper for them. Thus have I visualized, ordered, and signed: this is my final judgment.

José Antonio de Areche.

Tupac Lives.

The Spanish campaign to eradicate his name and identity didn’t exactly have legs.

The savagery of the crackdown helped generate Incan support for the rebellions that would shake off Spanish authority in the generations to come. He entered the official iconography of the post-colonial state, and can be found on Peruvian currency.

The very name Tupac Amaru became pregnant with the spirit of resistance — both in Peru, where it was adopted by a 1990’s revolutionary movement, and abroad, where a New York City Black Panther activist (pdf) gave the name to a son: Tupac Amaru Shakur.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Dismembered,Execution,Famous,Gruesome Methods,History,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Myths,Occupation and Colonialism,Peru,Popular Culture,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Revolutionaries,Royalty,Separatists,Soldiers,Spain,Torture,Treason

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