1781: Twelve Aymara rebels

Add comment October 26th, 2017 Headsman

My very esteemed friend. [I write to you] in the midst of all the travails I have suffered during these two sieges, the first lasting 109 days and the second 15. In both of them, more than 14,000 will have perished in this unhappy city, the great majority through starvation; others were shot, and still others were beheaded by the rebels in the fields that many attempted to cross even though they knew that the rebels would not show them any mercy if they looked Spanish in any way …

There is no Indian who is not a rebel; all die willingly for their Inca King, without coming to terms with God or his sacred law. On October 26th twelve rebels were beheaded and none of them were convinced to accept Jesus; and the same has happened with another 600 that have died in executions during both sieges …

In these nine months we have survived eating biscuits and to do this we hae been taking the tiles from the roofs of our houses. I, who find myself taking care of the gunpowder during the day, have estranged almost all the city. Nobody wants to fight willingly … I have threatened them with military execution and have promised to spare their heads as long as they obey me …

More troops are needed from both Viceroyalties or from Spain, some 8,000 to 10,000 men to make Our Sovereign’s name respected throughout the entire Sierra and to finally, once and for all, cut off some heads and be finished with all these cursed relics. We need, I repeat, seasoned troops and these as soon as possible.

-Juan Bautista de Zavala, in a November 1781 letter after surviving Tupac Katari‘s 1781 indigenous siege of La Paz (via The Tupac Amaru and Catarista Rebellions: An Anthology of Sources)

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1781: Twelve Aymara rebels

Add comment October 26th, 2014 Headsman

[M]ore than 14,000 will have perished in this unhappy city, the great majority through starvation; others were shot, and still others were beheaded by the rebels in the fields that many attempted to cross even though they knew that the rebels would not show them any mercy if they looked Spanish in any way. And I, in the middle of all this misfortune and despite having as many bullets pass over me as passed over Carlos Federico of Prussia, I am still alive up to this date and after having satisfactorily carried out all the enterprises entrusted to me by my friend Commander Segurola, and having shown myself on all occasion to be very competent, and with a selfless love of service towards both Majesties, risking my life and everything I own to defend this hapless city. And everybody has celebrated, but especially said Commander, my activity and boldness at night as well as during the day, as I could always be found in the most dangerous areas of this wretched city, supervising and reprimanding those officers who were slack in their duties. Whatever happens from now on, God was served.

There is no Indian who is not a rebel; all die willingly for their Inca King, without coming to terms with God or his sacred law. On October 26th twelve rebels were beheaded and none of them were convinced to accept Jesus; and the same has happened with another 600 that have died in executions during both sieges.

The head of the infamous Tupac Catari still hangs from one of the gallows of this square, and on the 20th of last month they began to form the cases against twenty-four of the principal rebel officers who served under his perverse and iniquitous command. Equal diligence is being practiced against five women who are being held in the command post of this square. Among them is Catari’s sister and one of his women with the same inclinations as that iniquitous Indian, who must have come from the depths of hell.

More troops are needed from both Viceroyalties or from Spain, some 8,0000 to 10,000 men to make Our Sovereign’s name respected throughout the entire Sierra and to finally, once and for all, cut off some heads and be finished with all these cursed relics.

-Dec. 3, 1781 letter from Juan Bautisa Zavala “summarizing the calamities” of La Paz under Aymara siege over the foregoing months (As quoted in this anthology)

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1782: Bartolina Sisa, indigenous rebel

Add comment September 5th, 2014 Headsman

September 5 is International Indigenous Women’s Day, in honor of the torturous execution in Bolivia on this date in 1782 of the Aymara peasant rebel Bartolina Sisa.

Sisa (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) shared with her husband Tupac Katari leadership of a huge indigenous uprising against the Spanish.

Eighteen months before Bartolina’s execution, she and Tupac Katari — Julian Apasa, to use his given name before he staked out a nom de guerre claiming the inheritance of Tupac Amaru and Tomas Katari — laid La Paz* under siege with an army 40,000 strong. Over the course of that spring summer, the Bolivian capital lost 10,000 souls and teetered on the brink of collapse — actually in two separate three-month sieges with a brief interim between.

Bartolina Sisa was recognized by the rebels as the coequal of her husband; the two took command decisions together in consultation.

As such, when the siege was finally relieved and the natives defeated that October, Sisa was in line to share her husband’s fate. This was easy to effect because she had been betrayed into Spanish hands between the first and second sieges. Her enemies refused Tupac Katari’s every blandishment to exchange her, and in time had the cruel pleasure of forcing her to watch her defeated husband’s butchery. Nearly a year later Sisa tasted a like fate, and her body was thereafter chopped up to display as a warning in various towns to cow potential future native insurgents.

A present-day peasant women’s union bears Sisa’s name, the Bartolina Sisa Confederation; the president of Brazil’s 2006 Constituent Assembly that drafted the country’s current constitution was an indigenous Quechua woman named Silvia Lazarte, who was the Bartolina Sisa Confederation’s former executive secretary.

* The city‘s full original name was Nuestra Señora de La Paz, “Our Lady of Peace”. It was founded in 1548 at the site of a former indigenous village and the “peace” referred to is the restoration of calm after Gonzalo Pizarro‘s rising.

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1927: Alfredo Jauregui, Bolivian lottery winner

Add comment November 5th, 2012 Headsman

La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 5 (AP). — Selected by lot to die for the murder ten years ago of former President Jose Manuel Pando, Alfredo Jauregui, 28, was executed this morning. The young man died instantly from eight bullets from the rifles of a firing squad.

New York Times, Nov. 6, 1927

Jose Manuel Pando (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish), wealthy landowner, military leader, former president, had seen Bolivia’s Liberal Party to power by prevailing in civil war in 1899, then peaceably handed off power to a Liberal successor in 1904.

The Liberals controlled Bolivia until 1920, but Pando grew overtly critical of his increasingly authoritarian successors. Though the circumstances of his murder in 1917 remain murky, his disgruntled affinity for the upstart Republican party is a likely contributing factor.

Jauregui faced the fusillade proclaiming his innocence; his supposed confederates were the beneficiaries of a Bolivian law permitting only one execution for a single murder … even of the former President’s murder. The four drew lots to determine which would be the “one”.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Bolivia,Capital Punishment,Chosen by Lot,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Shot

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1781: Tupac Katari

Add comment November 15th, 2011 Headsman

On or about this date in 1781,* the native Aymara revolutionary Tupac Katari (or Tupac Catari, or Tupaj Katari) was torn apart in the Bolivian village of Penas — a messianic warning on his lips of his Spanish captors’ future comeuppance.

Hard on the heels of Tupac Amaru‘s public dismembering in nearby Cuzco (present-day Peru), Julian Apasa Nina took up the name and mantle of recent Bolivian insurgent Tomas Katari.

Julian Apasa’s new name Tupac Katari was as ambitious as his plans, for he took the thousands of indigenous Americans who flocked to his banner and laid siege to La Paz from the adjacent El Alto.**

The object was not mere plunder, but rolling back Spanish domination full stop.

A friar who met Katari reported that the Spanish tongue was forbidden on pain of death, and the rebel leader aimed to “totally separate himself from all Customs of the Spanish.” (Source) He did not shrink from ferocity to achieve his ends, hanging captives outside the walls of the city, enforcing military discipline ruthlessly. (Source) The Aymara fought with “a spirit and pretentiousness so horrible that … it can serve as an example as the most valiant nation.” (Source)

Though the siege† reduced Spanish defenders to eating bark and horseflesh, and starved out thousands, the city held out and the siege was at length lifted and Tupac Katari betrayed into his enemies’ hands.

Condemned to death (a fate his wife Bartolina Sisa would share months later), Katari was lashed to four horses who strained until his body ripped into quarters suitable for placarding towns of the district. But before he went, Katari bequeathed posterity a legendary final sentiment.

“I shall return, and I shall be millions.”

* It appears that the primary sources themselves are unclear on the precise date, and there are citations for the execution taking place anywhere from Nov. 13 to Nov. 18. Nov. 15 appears to be the best-preferred by scholars, or the co-number one with Nov. 14, and we’re inclined to prefer this date because of the 20th century Indian social justice movement which explicitly cited Katari’s inspiration — the Movimiento 15 de Noviembre (more in Spanish). It’s part of an entire political tendency in Bolivia called Katarismo. If the date is good enough for the Aymara, it’s good enough for this blog.

That wasn’t the only 20th century movement to situate itself as Katari’s heirs. A set of Marxist indigenous guerrillas styled themselves the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, and a former member of this Che-inspired militia is currently Bolivia’s vice president.

** From the Aymara siege of La Paz developed the local tradition of Ekeko.

† Actually, two distinct sieges in 1781, one lasting just over three months and the next lasting just over two.

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2004: Benjamín Altamirano lynched

Add comment June 15th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2004, Bolivian Aymara peasants burned to death the mayor of Ayo Ayo.

Disgruntled residents of his fiefdom had accused Benjamin Altamirano (who was also Aymara) of corruption, and received no redress. Likewise had Altamirano complained to the central government of growing threats against him without receiving protection.

The situation came to a shocking head when Altamirano was kidnapped from the capital city of La Paz the night of June 14 and driven overnight to his home in Ayo Ayo. There, according to wire reports,*

[o]fficials said he was then burned to death inside his house, with his body later dragged through the streets and dumped in the town square. Witnesses said he was tied up, set aflame in the town square and hung upside down from a lamppost.

The Andean Altiplano region to which Ayo Ayo belonged was at this time being riven by the Bolivian gas war, a social conflict that would ultimately force the resignation of neoliberal President Carlos Mesa and lead to the election of leftist** indigenous leader Evo Morales.

From 2003 to 2005, the region (on both sides of the Peru-Bolivia border) was paralyzed with repeated peasant protests and the community expulsion of disagreeable state authorities (other government officials fled Ayo Ayo after Altamirano died).

In the words of one unrepentant Aymara quoted in this Guardian piece,

‘We Aymara carry rebellion in our blood,’ said Ramón Coba, who heads the leading Ayo Ayo peasant organisation. ‘Bolivia is totally corrupt, not just the mayor. All of them should be finished in the same way, if not burnt then drowned or strangled or pulled apart by four tractors… It’s the only way they are going to learn.’

* This one ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 16, 2004.

** Morales, in 2009:

After more than 500 years, we, the Quechuas and Aymaras, are still the rightful owners of this land. We, the indigenous people, after 500 years of resistance, are retaking the power. This retaking of power is oriented towards the recovery of our own riches, our own natural resources such as the hydrocarbons. This affects the interests of the transnational corporations and the interests of the neoliberal system. Never the less, I am convinced that the power of the people is increasing and strengthening. This power is changing presidents, economic models and politics. We are convinced that capitalism is the enemy of the earth, of humanity and of culture.

Morales has floated elevating indigenous “communal justice” actions like Altamirano’s lynching into the stature of de jure law.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Bolivia,Borderline "Executions",Burned,Disfavored Minorities,History,Lynching,No Formal Charge,Politicians,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Summary Executions

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1810: Pedro Domingo Murillo, for Bolivian independence

Add comment January 29th, 2010 Headsman

Today is the bicentennial of the execution of Pedro Domingo Murillo and eight fellow martyrs to Bolivian independence.

Men like Gregorio Garcia Lanza and Juan Bautista Sagarnaga (both Spanish links) wagered their necks under the leadership of wealthy mestizo Murillo. (all links Spanish)

Something of a career troublemaker, Murillo had had a few scrapes with the crown’s agents over his patriotic aspirations for the territory the Spanish called Upper Peru.

On July 16, 1809, taking advantage of the confused political situation in Spain following Bonaparte’s conquest, he put himself at the head (Spanish) of a breakaway state.

Unfortunately for the self-proclaimed Junta Tuitiva, neither masses nor elites really rallied to their side, and the Spanish swiftly crushed the uprising.

July 16, the date these dreamers declared independence, is still celebrated in La Paz.

And why not? Though militarily overwhelmed, this quixotic enterprise turned out to be one of the opening acts in a (largely successful) generation-long struggle for independence throughout the Spanish possessions in the New World.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Arts and Literature,Bolivia,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Lawyers,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Spain,Treason

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