Despite the fact that Cusco some time ago had ceased to be the capital, it did not lose its character as the nerve center of the Andes. And it was precisely there, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, that the greatest rebellion against Spanish power took place at the end of the XVIII century.
Such was the scope of the movement headed by Tupac Amaru II, that the Spanish crown was obliged to redesign its policies for the Peru Viceroyalty and consider the possibility of one day losing its American territories.
No other rebellion in the American colonies was quite so menacing for Spanish interests in America as this one. Despite the fact that in a certain sense it had been announced beforehand, it took the colonial authorities by surprise, and this oversight helped the movement to acquire sizable dimensions.
Tupac Amaru II, baptized as José Gabriel Condorcanqui, the leader of the movement, was the cacique (chief) of Pampamarca, Surimana and Tungasuca, as well as running a prosperous business. The Bourbon reforms directly affected his business interests and those of the southern caciques.
With support from many half-breeds and creoles, José Gabriel Condorcanqui mutinied. However, what legitimated his uprising in the eyes of the native population was the fact that he was a direct descendant of the Incas. For that reason, as a way of legitimizing his authority, he took the name of Tupac Amaru II, thus reinstating the dynasty of Vilcabamba.
In November 1780, Tupac Amaru ordered the capturing of the corregidor of Tinta who was a symbol of the conquistadors' abuses against the native population, and had him hung in the plaza of Tungasuca. This act was taken as the start of a struggle for freedom from oppression, and the first group of men in America imbued with a new fighting spirit against the Spanish crown was formed.
They faced and defeated the Spanish troops in Sangarará, and they took Lampa and Azángaro, in addition to other small towns. The torch of liberty had been lit. The rebellion rapidly spread to Moquegua, Arequipa, Tacna and Arica, and involved almost the whole southern part of the Andes that supplied the mitayos (forced laborers in the Potosí gold and silver mines).
In fact, one of Tupac Amaru's main objectives was the abolition of the mita (forced labor in spanish benefit) system. Four months after the events at Tinta, and after successive victories, the rebels were able to lay siege to La Paz, although simultaneously Tupac Amaru was captured at Tinta and speedily executed.
That is when one of Peruvian history's most shameful events took place: the rebel leader was publicly executed and, in order to serve as a warning to the population and put out the remaining flames of freedom, he was subjected to terrible tortures in Cusco square.
An attempt at quartering him by tying his limbs to four horses failed, at which José Gabriel Condorcanqui was decapitated. But previously he had been forced to witness the death under torture of his wife, Micaela Bastidas and his four sons.