The Inca Pachacutec, the builder of Machu Picchu
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The Inca Pachacutec, the builder of Machu Picchu

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The Inca Pachacutec, the builder of Machu Picchu

Perhaps the Incas would not have achieved their great conquests and architectural monuments without the existence of their emperor Pachacutec. During the 15th century, this Inca ruler managed to defeat his Chanca enemies. He then expanded the borders of his kingdom transforming it into the largest empire in South America. Under his power, he reformed the state, built roads, cities, temples and monuments as incredible as Machu Picchu. All the chroniclers agree that he was the greatest emperor that existed in the Inca period.


Who was the Inca Pachacútec?

According to Andean history, the Inca Pachacútec was born in the city of Cusco. The son of the Inca Huiracocha and the coya Mama Runtu. Pachacútec Inca Yupanqui was the ninth ruler of the Inca State and responsible for converting a simple curacazgo or reign into a great empire known as the Tahuantinsuyo.


From a very young age, Pachacútec showed aptitudes for the government and the conquests, endowed with a great military talent with which he came to expand the great Inca empire. This Inca imposed his dominion among more than 500 tribes located on the borders of present-day Peru, Quito and the Nazca Valley; however, he was unjustly relegated to the benefit of Urco, a prince of insufficient merit.


During his government, Pachacútec was dedicated to directing the construction of roads, cities, temples and monuments that today we can witness to be able to appreciate his work.




What does the word Pachacútec mean?

Pachacútec means "The one who changes the earth." According to the English historian Clement Markham, he was "the greatest man the aboriginal race of America has ever produced." Since he was a child, Pachacútec was educated in the Yachaywasi (Houses of Knowledge) in history, laws, language and the art of war. Since he was a teenager he was already admired by the upper classes for his bravery and intelligence.


He is considered the best ruler in the Inca. Pachacútec was one of the most important figures in the history of Peru.


History of Pachacutec

The Inca Huiracocha named his brother Inca Urco as his successor to the throne. He did not have the skills and intelligence of his brother Pachacutec. Approximately in 1430, the Chanca ethnic group, main adversaries of the Incas for the control of the territory, sent their emissaries to Cusco requesting surrender in the event of a possible invasion.


The Inca Huiracocha, along with his son and his successor Inca Urco, fled the city of Cusco in the direction of his residence in Caquia Xaquixahuana. Then the young Pachacutec took the leadership of the defense receiving the support of the Inca generals and the nobility.


Pachacutec asked for the return of his father Huiracocha but was unable to convince him. He then convinced the neighboring ethnic groups to support him to expel the Chancas. Once he defeated his rivals, he had to face his brother Inca Urco for control of power.


Pachacutec finally won and in 1438 he took on the "Mascaipacha" (symbol of Inca power). During his rise to power, he asked that his father Huiracocha be forgiven for leaving Cusco and that he be the one to hand over power to her. In this way, a new stage of the Inca government began: the imperial stage.


Inca Pachacutec


The war against the chancas

For many years, the Chancas were the neighbors and greatest enemies of the Incas for control of the southern Andean region. Around 1430, the Chancas threatened to invade Cusco, which led to the flight of the Inca Huiracocha and the providential appearance of his son, the Inca Pachacutec.


After Pachacutec's victory near the city of Cusco, the Chancas fled and took refuge in ‘Ichupampa’, from where they reorganized. Then the Incas go on the offensive, unleashing the epic and mythical battle of ‘Yahuar pampa’ (Blood Pampa).


According to the chronicles, the Inca victory in Yahuar Pampa would mark the beginning of later conquests under the command of Pachacutec. For the Inca worldview, this victory was the decision of the gods who appointed Pachacutec as their leader. From then on, the curacazgo of Cusco would become an empire and Pachacutec would be the first emperor.


The empire of Tahuantinsuyo

After the Inca victory in ‘Yahuar pampa’, the Inca Pachacutec led the expansionist process through the conquests and alliance with the subjugated peoples. Then, the empire grew so rapidly that he had to create the new ‘Tahuantinsuyo’ (empire of the Incas divided into 4 regions) to better manage the new limits of his territory.


Pachacutec Peru


Together with the creation of the empire, Pachacutec ordered the construction of hundreds of kilometers of roads that communicated each city in the new territory. This is how the famous Inca road network known as ‘Qhapac’ was born, which exceeded 30 thousand kilometers of roads.


Pachacutec was not only the leader of the great Inca expansion, but he was also the reorganizer of the political and social system of the new empire. He ordered the construction of citadels, platforms, temples, streets and squares throughout the entire empire but mainly in the city of Cusco.


The builder of Machu Picchu

According to the investigations carried out with carbon 14, the citadel of Machu Picchu was built in 1450 when the empire of the famous Inca Pachacutec ruled. To build it, he brought from distant lands to groups of thousands of men belonging to the recently conquered peoples.


Pachacutec Inca


The construction of Machu Picchu had several reasons. The first is that it served as a provisional residence for the Inca Pachacutec and his family. It is also believed that it served as a lookout post over the eastern kingdoms. Finally, it was used as a temple and a place of residence for approximately a thousand people.


According to some chroniclers, the true name of Machu Picchu is ‘Patallaqta’, the place that Pachacutec would have chosen to be buried. Some researchers suggest that the Inca mummy is found there. Others believe that it is located in the San Blas neighborhood in the city of Cusco. Some even point out that he is buried under the San Andrés hospital in Lima. The truth is that no one has found these remains.


Other works by Pachacutec

  • Reconstruction of the Coricancha temple in the city of Cusco.
  • Beautification of the city of Cusco, with squares, neighborhoods and palaces.
  • Reconstruction of the Coricancha fortress.
  • Construction of the citadel of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.
  • Construction of hundreds of kilometers of the 'Qhapac' road network.
  • Establishment of the Wawa Inti Raymi festival.
  • Obligation of labor for the benefit of the Inca state.
  • Establishment of the sun as the supreme god of the empire.

Death of Pachacutec

Pachacutec died naturally in approximately 1471. When his death happened, the Inca empire was experiencing a great organization and expansion of its territory. His successor was his son Túpac Inca Yupanqui who already assumed a leading role conquering new territories for his father.


After his death, Pachacutec (as was customary) was mummified and received a sumptuous tribute in the Plaza de Aucaypata (current Plaza de Armas of Cusco), dressed in gold, silver as well as feather ornaments and more.


His mummy was transferred to the temple of Tococache (current church of San Blas in Cusco), a building ordered to be built by Pachacutec himself to be the temple of the god of lightning (Illapa).


History exalts Pachacutec as one of the great governors of pre-Columbian times. According to the Peruvian historian María Rostworowski, the Inca Pachacutec: “with his measurements he gave geographic and idiomatic unity; initiating the uniformity that later allowed the formation of present-day Peru”.


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