Juan Santos Atahualpa

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Juan Santos Atahualpa in a painting preserved in the Centro de Estudios Histórico Militares.

Juan Santos Atahualpa (also Atahualpa Apu-Inca) was a leader of an indigenous rebellion in the Andean jungle provinces of Tarma and Jauja, near what was then Spanish Peru in the mid 18th century.

What little that is known about Juan Santos is that he was from Cusco and had been given a Christian education by the Jesuits. Juan Santos himself claimed to be descended from the Inca royal family. The name Atahualpa comes from the line of kings who ruled the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu) up until the Spanish Conquest of 1532.

Guide lines of the projected rebellion[edit]

Juan Santos Atahualpa's ideas and ideology remain mysterious, with information concerning him coming from usually hostile accounts by Franciscan missionaries. He was heavily influenced by nativist and messianic ideology. By revolting against Spanish rule, he sought to balance the cosmic order, which he felt was disrupted by the Spanish Conquest of 1532. Juan Santos promised his revolt would bring peace and prosperity to all the Andes, beginning in the jungle and spreading to the highlands and the coast. The culmination of his rebellion, Juan Santos claimed, would be his coronation as Sapa Inca (supreme ruler of Tawantinsuyu) in the capital city of Lima. He was also very influenced by Christianity: Jesuit and Franciscan visitors to his camp remarked on how everybody prayed daily in not only indigenous tongues but also in Spanish (Castilian) and Latin.

The rebellion 1742-1755/6 with expulsions and reconquests[edit]

Atahualpa's rebellion began in the jungle settlement of Quisopango in 1742. His first act was to expel all hostile Spaniards, blacks and mestizos from the area. As Atahualpa's rebellion began to grow in both numbers and support Spanish authorities in the Tarma and Jauja provinces attempted unsuccessfully to pacify the rebellion. Emboldened, Atahualpa ordered the eviction of all Franciscan missionaries from the land he controlled. This in turn led to the viceroy of Lima sending out General Jose de Llamas, a seasoned veteran, to crush the revolt. This too was unsuccessful and the general and his men suffered constant defeats at the hands of the rebels. In 1752 Atahualpa and his men left the lowlands and seized the mountain city of Andamarca in the highlands of Jauja province. Although he and his men retreated back to the lowlands three days later, it seemed to have frightened the Viceroy. The assault on the highlands forced the viceroy of Lima to place Tarma and Jauja into the hands of military governors, who built a defensive string of fortresses to keep Atahualpa's rebellion from spreading beyond the region.

Juan Santos Atahualpa died sometime between 1755 and 1756 of unknown causes. Following his death his rebellion remained contained to Tarma and Jauja. Spanish authorities were not able to re-exert control over the region until the 1780s when merchants and missionaries didnt returned


  • Andean Worlds: Indigenous History, Culture, and Consciousness Under Spanish Rule, 1532-1825. Kenneth J. Andrien. 2001. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-2359-6