Andean Storm Part 2: Time to Rebel!
Three years later is when things began to kick off. In 1780, José (or rather Tupac) discovered that a Spanish man was controlling the sale of food to indigenous people and thus keeping them impoverished.
Having already seen the futility of trying to negotiate peacefully with the authorities in Lima via legal procedures, Tupac now opted to take the law into his own hands. Along with other men, Tupac captured the guy and put him on trial. Found guilty, the man was hanged.
But, Tupac wasn’t done; he was just getting started! Micaela and Tupac held a dinner at their house and invited other local leaders to forge alliances. The leaders were convinced and actions were planned.
An army was formed out of family members, neighbours and recruits. Led by Tupac, they began to attack Spanish workshops where indigenous people laboured in slave-like conditions.
Subsequently, they attacked some white soldiers on 18th November just south of Cusco. All 600 of those military men were killed and they even burnt the church that some of the soldiers had sought refuge in, which angered the Church.
With this, the rebellion was born! The indigenous people were sick and tired of the way the Spaniards and creoles treated them. They raped indigenous women, coerced the women into becoming their mistresses, forced extortionate taxes on indigenous people and made them work in backbreaking environments in mines and textile sweatshops.
Next on Tupac’s action plan was to form an army. He and Micaela were very good at getting people to join and they soon had 6,000 indigenous people, which they split up into smaller groups. Micaela was in charge of one of the groups.
Tupac respected his wife a lot and often asked her for advice about the rebellion. One example is that when he moved his army to Collao, he appointed Micaela as leader of the headquarters in their hometown. Intelligent and suited to focusing on logistics, she organised food distribution, recruiting new members, signing documents on Tupac’s behalf and moving people around safely. The insurrection spread and spread, extending from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and beyond.
Closer to home, Micaela made sure the church in their hometown was opened so the rebels could pray before battles. Some priests supported the uprising, including the priest who had married the couple. The Bishop of Cusco had also been pro-Tupac to start off with, but he later excommunicated the rebels, meaning that they couldn’t be members of the Church anymore.
Other important members of the rebellion also respected Micaela. They called her Señora Gobernadora, which means Mrs Governor. Even the Spanish on the other side had nice things to say about her. They said she was an excellent horse-rider and was very brave.
And she wasn’t the only prominent female rebel- other leaders included Tomasa Tito Condemayta, who contributed warriors and weapons to the movement.
One brave thing Micaela did was that when she heard her husband was in danger during one battle, she walked barefoot for 22 miles to be by his side. Once she got there, her husband and the other rebels had actually already won. Phew!
In November 1780, she dictated a letter to Tupac (being illiterate herself). In it, she urges him to attack Cusco, but instead he went to recruit more people down in the south near Lake Titicaca. Most history experts agree that Tupac should’ve listened to her! It would have been a much better option. She wasn’t best pleased about that, as we can imagine and kept the pressure on him. An impassioned letter dated December of that year states: “I haven’t got the patience to put up with all of this! … We are surrounded by our enemies. … Because of you, all my children are very close to being in grave danger.”