Micaela Bastidas

Drawing of Micaela Bastidas from Sesquicentenario de la Independencia del Perú 1821-1971. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Gabby Storey

Born in Tamburco in 1744, Micaela was ruler of the chiefdoms of Tungasuca, Surimana and Pampamarca, Peru, through her marriage to Tupac Amaru II. They married on 25 May 1760 and Tupac inherited the chiefdoms in 1764, becoming cacique, or “king”.

They had three children together: Hipólito, Mariano, and Fernando. Disputes between the Spanish conquerors and the native communities were rife, with the execution of Spanish corregidor Antonio de Arriaga by Tupac after trial leading to battle.

Micaela acted with authority and as a military leader during the rebellion that took place after Arriaga’s death, focussed on recruitment and avoiding post-skirmish banditry, for which she was successful.

Micaela also travelled across the southern heartlands to ensure the loyalty of the local caciques, whether through flattery or intimidation. She was a fervent Catholic and worked hard to ensure the allegiance of the Church against the Spanish.

 Her position as cacica (“queen”) can be seen not only through her influence, but the references to her as “la coya” (Incan queen) and “la reina” (the queen) show her power amongst the native Peruvians.

Micaela was put on trial after the rebellion, unusual as women were not often prosecuted as they were viewed as property of their husbands. In addition to this, the treason law only stated punishment for men, not women.

An exception was made for the execution of Micaela and another female chieftain in order to remove the royal indigenous threat. On 18 May 1781, Micaela was executed: originally meant to be put to death by a hand cranked garrotte, she was later strangled using a rope.

Recommended Reading

Karen Vieira Powers, “Andeans and Spaniards in the Contact Zone: A Gendered Collison,” American Indian Quarterly 24.4 (2000): 511-536

Leon G. Campbell, “Women and the Great Rebellion in Peru, 1780-1783,” The Americas 42.2 (1985): 163-196.

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