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Micaela Bastidas Puyucahua

Other names/titles:
Gender: F
Ethnic origin: Mestizo/a

Biographical details

She was from Pampamarca, living at Urcos, Quispocanchis, in 1780. A mestiza, aged over 25 years in 1781. (O'Phelan, 300)

Maronese claims she was from a comparatively wealthy family, her mother was mestiza and her father Spanish She refutes suggestions that she had black blood. (Ramb, 29)

She married José Gabriel Condorcanqui (Túpac Amaru) in 1760. Together they led the revolt in 1780. On 6 December 1780 she wrote to her husband warning him not to dally in Yauri villages: “Thus we will lose all the people I have gathered and prepared for the descent on Cuzco. […] I gave you plenty of warnings to march on Cuzco immediately, but you took them all lightly, allowing the enemy sufficient time to prepare. as they have done, placing a cannon on Picchu mountain, plus other trickery so dangerous that you are no longer in a position to attack them.” (Hahner, 35-37.) The assault on Cuzco failed, she, Túpac and their sons were captured. On 18 May 1781, in front of Túpac Amaru, their son, Hipolito was executed, Micaela’s tongue was cut out before she, too, was killed; finally Túpac was killed. Fernando (then aged 10) was spared due to his age, but exiled and imprisoned for life.

José de Austria, probably writing in 1854, described the rebellion as led by Micaela Bastidas, her sons Hipólito and Fernando and her brother-in-law, Antonio Bastidas (de Austria, 55).

Knaster describes her as a heroine of Peruvian independence, wife and collaborator of José Gabriel Condorcanqui. (Knaster, 468.)

Cornejo Bouroncle gives her date of birth as 1745, and claims she married Joseph Thupa Amaro on 25 May 1760. He quotes a letter dated 22 December 1780 from Visitador General José Antonio Areche saying that Micaela Bastidas was heading the troops. He also reproduces letters from Bastidas to "Mi hijo Pepo", 23 November 1780, and "Chepe mío" on 24 November 1780. On 22 January 1791 she wrote to "Señor Gobernador Don José Gabriel Tupac Amaru", from "su amante compañera Dona Micaela". He quotes from/ reproduces letters from Bastidas to "Chepe Mío" of 25, 26 and 27, November 1780; 6, 7, 10, and 16 December 1780. February 1781 to Chepe from "Tu Mica", two undated and 7 and 23 March 1781. She also addresses him "hijo de mi corazon". Letters from José Gabriel are to "Hija mía" and are signed "Tu Chepe". On 26 November 1780, he wrote "recibí tu escuela". There are several other letters (27, 28 and 30 November 1780 and 1 December 1780). The court case against Bastidas is reproduced. (Cornejo Bouroncle, 33-78)

García y García describes her as the "confidante" of the movement, playing a passive role passing on information. She went barefoot through the towns and villages drumming up support for the cause. She was captured and taken to Cuzco. She could have escaped, but opted for martyrdom beside Túpac Amaru instead. (García y García, 166-167)

O'Phelan points out that during her trial, Bastidas stated, "Mariano Manda wrote out my orders, and I did not examine them, since I could neither read nor write". (O'Phelan, 236) In a letter she warned Túpac Amaru "that the soldiers did not have enough food, and although they were receiving a salary, that money would only last for a short time after which they would desert… because as you have noticed they act mainly out of self-interest, and they are more frightened now that Bargas and Orué have spread the rumour that the troops from Lampa and Arequipa have united and will soon surround you". (O'Phelan, 240)

Flores Galindo quotes from the Archivo General de Indias, Cuzco, leg. 33. Not only was Bastidas sentenced to death, but "que sea sacada de este cuartel donde se halla presa arrastrada con una soga de esparto al cuello, atados pies y manos, con voz de pregoneroque publique su delito, siendo llevada en esta forma al lugar del suplico donde se halla un tabladillo en que por su sexo y con su lugar a la decencia de la sentencia, y ajustará el garrote, cortándose allí la lengua, e inmediatamente se hará morir con el instrumento, lo que verificado se la colgará en la horca sin que allí la quite hasta que se mande persona alguna. Y luego será descuartizado su cuerpo llevando la cabeza al cerro de Piccho que será fijada en una picota con una hoja en la que se lea su delito; un brazo a Tungasuca, otro a Arequipa y una de las piernas a Carabaya conduciéndose lo restante del cuerpo al mismo cerro de Piccho donde será quemado con el de su marido en el brasero." (Flores Galindo, 306-307)

She was a "pragmatic realist", commander of a rebel stronghold, supplied the troops with ammunition and looked at the finances. In Túpac Amaru's absence she was war commissioner and paymaster general and was known as Señora Gobernadora. (Socolow, 160-161)

Lillian Fisher describes the important role played by Bastidas in recruiting soldiers, issuing passports, gaining and transmitting information and gathering supplies for the rebels. She became cacique in her husband's absence and in November 1780 gave orders that those sympathetic to their cause, such as Francisco Torres and Antonio José Centeno should be given safe conduct in the region. She controlled roads and bridges, giving orders to Tomás Parvina to cut off the roads to Cuzco. She sent news to Túpac Amaru to destroy the bridge at Pachachaca, offering to do so herself if necessary and she ordered the rope bridge at Yanaoca to be kept open and guarded to ensure that supplies reached the rebels. She organised the transport of supplies of copper, cloth, food, coca, money, guns and ammunition. In issuing news about the rebels' activities, Bastidas exaggerated the size of the army and the support for their movement. She promised to protect governors and free the population from taxation. Those who failed to follow her orders were threatened with death. Fisher also claims that she issued orders to protect the clergy and that the rebels should wear crosses on their hats as a sign of their faith. This was, Fisher suggests, because Bastidas realised the high esteem given by the indigenous to the church. On 27 November 1780 she wrote to Tupac Amaru to warn him that rebels in Tungasuca objected to the closure of their church and were on the point of defecting. Túpac Amaru then re-opened the church and a mass was performed. Priests such as Domingo de Escalante appealed to Bastidas to spare his brother Julían from an indigenous plot; others asked for her protection. She also acted as judge to those accused of crimes such as stealing cattle and appointed judges in Tinta. Fisher quotes a Spaniard, Francisco Molina, who claimed that Bastidas's orders were more vigorous than those of Túpac Amaru. Molina claimed that Bastidas could not write and her orders were written by 5 scribes who worked for Túpac Amaru. Molina testified that those who refused to join the rebel cause were terrorised, imprisoned or killed on Bastidas's orders. She also travelled with the troops, responding to calls for backup by joining Túpac Amaru on foot. She reputedly said "I will die where my husband dies". Fisher claims that when Bastidas rebuked Túpac Amaru at Yauri, she did not know that he had gone into the towns to ascertain the level of support and had climbed towers to find a suitable fortress. Fisher maintains that Túpac Amaru trusted and respected Bastidas and was concerned for her safety. (Fisher, 1966, 192-211)

During her trial Fisher claims her defence lawyer claimed she had been forced to carry out her husband's orders and asked that she be sent into exile overseas and not executed. He claimed that she had depended on others as she could not write, and has not been in the army. She was questioned so intensely that she confessed her guilt, yet refused to admit anything she did not want to be made known. (Fisher, 1966, 224-237)

Life Events

Born 1745She was born in 1745, Pampamarca, Cuzco.
Married 1760She married Joseph Thupa Amaro, 25 May 1760.
Died 1781She was executed on 18 May 1781.


Hahner, June, (1980), Women in Latin American History

Pallis, Michael (trans.), (1980), Slaves of Slaves: The Challenge of Latin American Women

de Austria, José, (1960), Bosquejo de la historia militar de Venezuela

Knaster, Meri, (1977), Women in Spanish America: An Annotated Bibliography from Pre-Conquest to Contemporary Times

Cornejo Bouroncle, Jorge, (1949), Sangre Andina, Diéz mujeres cuzqueñas

Ramb, Ana María, (1999), Pasión y coraje: Mujeres que hicieron historia

García y García, Elvira, (1924), La mujer peruana a través de los siglos

Guardia, Sara Beatriz, (1985), Mujeres peruanas: El otro lado de la historia

O'Phelan Godoy, Scarlett, (1985), Rebellions and Revolts in Eighteenth Century Peru and Upper Peru

Flores Galindo, Alberto, (1976), Túpac Amaru II, 1780, Antologia

Monsalve, José D, (1926), Mujeres de la independencia

Socolow, Susan Migden, (1999), The Women of Colonial Latin America

Fisher, Lillian Estelle, (1966), The Last Inca Revolt

Davies, Catherine, Brewster, Claire and Owen, Hilary, (2006), South American Independence. Gender, Politics, Text


Letter: Chepe mío


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