In 1744, a Peruvian woman named Josefa Puyucahua Sisa gave birth to a baby girl named Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua, the father of the baby was a man named Manuel Bastidas. Details on Manuel’s life are not clear, some scholars believe he was an African man, other scholars believe he was a priest. Because of the uncertainty of Manuel’s life, Micaela is believed to be of mixed Indigenous Peruvian and African origins, but it is not confirmed. Micaela was born in the Pampamarca province of Canas, Peru. Within the Pampamarca province Micaela was considered a illegitimate child because of the possibility of her being mixed race, as a result, she was called a Zamba. She was often described as “a very beautiful Indian girl” who had very little education, she wasn’t very fluent in Spanish, her indigenous language which was Quechua. Because of Spanish occupation in Peru, Micaela, like other Peruvians had become devout Christians instead of continuing her indigenous spiritual system. At the age of 16, Micaela married a man named Jose Babriel Condorcanqui, who is better known as Tupac Amaru II, the legendary Peruvian freedom fighter.
Tupac Amaru II was a descendent of the great Tupac Amaru I, a monarch of the last Incan state and freedom fighter in Peru. Tupac Amaru II, like Micaela was of mixed race, and in 1764, he became the chief of the Peruvian territories that include the Pampamarca, Tungasuca, and Surimana districts. Tupac and Micaela’s marriage was positive and fruitful, the couple produced three sons and became a very prosperous family. As Tupac and Micaela’s wealth grew, Tupac noticed that his people were not prospering, in fact, they were experiencing poverty and oppression which led to revolts by the Peruvian people. Soon after, Tupac decided to join his people in revolt against the Spanish, Micaela was right by his side ready to fight. Micaela and Tupac had rebelled against the Spanish for a number of years before the year 1780, which was the year the rebellion of Tupac Amaru II began. Tupac and his rebels were able to overtake the Tungasuca region of Peru. During the overtaking of Tungasuca, Tupac, Micaela, and the rebels defeated the Spanish commander Antonio de Arriaga and then hung him.
To give themselves an advantage against the Peruvians, the possession of weapons was outlawed, so the Peruvians had to obtain weapons and other resources by raids of Spanish camps. Micaela was in charge of the supplies and logistics for the rebels. She mapped out routes to travel, made sure the rebels had food and supplies, managed and distributed money, obtained and distributed weapons, organized systems of communication, and even fought in battle. As Micaela, Tupac, and the rebels gained victories over the Spanish, they would free Peruvians that were being oppressed by the Spanish. Micaela and a woman named Aymara established a program to help Peruvian women who were traumatized by the Spanish reincorporate back into Peruvian society. The rebels gained an important victory over the Spanish in November of 1780, this victory was important because the rebels were joined by the Creole, mestizo, zambo, and Indian ethnic groups to fight the Spanish.
Micaela, Tupac, and the rebels would battle for another six months with a rebels army being seven thousand people strong. On May 18, 1781, Micaela suggested to Tupac that they launch a surprise attack against the Spanish, Tupac didn’t agree with her, unknown to Tupac, the Spanish gained reinforcements to their army. During the next battle between the Spanish and the rebel army, the Spanish outnumbered and out gunned the rebel army. Both Tupac and Micaela were captured by the Spanish. Micaela was hung by the Spanish on May 18, 1871. Tupac was beheaded and one of their son’s was also executed. Micaela was only 36 years old, but lived a life of resistance, fighting for her freedom against the Spanish. Meeting and Marrying Tupac Amaru II changed the course of Micaela’s life, but it also helped many Peruvian people oppressed by the Spanish gain their freedom. To Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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