100 Refutations: Rise

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On the night of May 17th, 1781, Túpac Amaru II sat in a cell in Cuzco, staring at a pale inspector from the pale Spanish court, as he awaited his execution.

In the morning, Amaru would be led to the town square and be made to watch colonizing soldiers cut tongues like writhing rose buds from the mouths of his closest allies as punishment for their failed rebellion.

First, his uncle. Lifeless, painless, and lightless, a mass of confused cells and royal Incan blood spilling back into black Incan soil. Then it would be his nephew’s turn, then his son’s, and finally his wife’s. These were the closest allies of Túpac Amaru II—son of the last Incan Sapa, leader of La Gran Rebelión—who knew exactly what awaited him when the sun rose over the former Empire of the Four Regions.

Metal plyers plucking tongues like strings, blades sliding over them like bows, and two soldiers placing ropes around Amaru’s wife’s neck before pulling, as hard as they could, in opposite directions. A rose stem in a vice, a snake in a bear trap, a woman caught between the fanged peaks of two opposing crowns as she collapsed on the ground. And Túpac Amaru would watch soldiers lift their knees and drive their heels into her stomach, into her chest, as they beat life out of her as if it were nothing more than dust on their boots.

The exact details may have been unclear to him as the dawn cast shadows across his cell walls, but there was no doubt that the sun would rise and, whatever shadows were cast, they would be darkest when they fell upon Amaru and those he had led in rebellion. So perhaps he wrapped his fist around the gold cross hanging over his bare chest. Perhaps he searched the walls for Mary’s pious countenance, the scribble of her mystic rose for comfort. Perhaps he was tempted to confess as the pale man from Castile pressed him to reveal the names of other conspirators, “Lest you plant the seed of eternal rot” in the world to come. Amaru knew what the rising sun would bring—there was only one question left. “Confess!” The inspector demanded, “Who helped you? Who else is guilty? Who!” But this was not the question. “Tell me!”

By all accounts Amaru appeared calm, and he had only one response for the man from Castile. “Only you and I are truly guilty.” Long black hair, dark brown eyes, sitting before a pale man while a pale horse galloped furiously toward him. “You for oppressing my people, I for trying to free them.” Only one question left. “And it is both of us who deserve to die.” Would the rebellion outlive the rebel?

The Spaniards, at least, hoped it would not. Their efforts only intensified after the executions and included a special mandate to control forbidden books—Rousseau and Voltaire in particular, “which could foment skepticism and rebellion,” as well as the works of the native writer known as Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Because a book written by an Incan could inspire “a dangerous feeling of pride and respect for the precolonial past.”

And they were right.

And it was, already, too late to stop it.

Fiction suffered, but poetry emerged like serpentine weeds from between the cracks in the walls, between the cobblestone cathedral steps, and under the blood-soaked soles of soldiers’ boots.

Even as Amaru’s body was being pulled in four directions by four foreign horses, anonymous poetry was already being written. “In Cuzco, at this moment,” as his tongue-less mouth filled with blood, and Spaniards snapped their whips, broadsides were being printed and snuck into cities. “With resolve, it has begun,” as his body refused to split, Incan flesh like tightly woven mesh, already a man halfway made metaphor and poetry politic. “[It is time to] shake off the law/and off the yoke of foreign kings,” as the Spaniards yelled at their horses, yelled at Amaru’s royal body to rip, and tear, and come apart so they could send it in parts to every corner of the viceroyship. “[It is time] to crown true rulers.” But he was already circulating through the former Incan empire; already sneaked in breast pockets, bundles, and between the pages of a bible. Already, as an incandescent Andean sun shone down on Túpac Amaru’s dark skin, he was becoming rebel verses in clandestine poems nailed to doors and adobe walls with green thorns and long fangs. Already, he was calling out, “Rise, Americanos!” With the dawn, “Rise!”

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Sources:

  1. Historia de la poesía hispanoamericana. T. 2. Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo; edición preparada por Enrique Sánchez Reyes. Alicante: Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, 2008.
  2. Revolución en los Andes: La era de Túpac Amaru. Penguin Random House, 2012.
  3. Historia de la literatura hispanoamericana. Jean Franco. Editorial Ariel, 1997.
  4. Los mitos de la historia Argentina. Barcelona: Belacqua, 2007.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

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To help more directly, please visit:

Hispanic Federation: http://hispanicfederation.org

Hope for Haiti: https://hopeforhaiti.com

Salvadoran American Humanitarian Foundation: https://www.sahf.org

Bios

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

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Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. (100 Refutations translator and editor) earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.****** ************************************************************************** Amanda Dambrink (100 Refutations co-editor) works as an editor for the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning program in Madison, Wisconsin. She also holds an MA in creative nonfiction from Ohio University, and her previous work has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Normal School, among others.

Copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.