Inca Garcilaso, Father of Peruvian Letters

In memory of the day April 23rd, 1616 we celebrate, on that same date, the International Book Day. Contrary to those dictated by tradition, the truth is that Miguel de Cervantes died a day earlier and on the 23rd his funeral was celebrated. For his part William Shakespeare died on April 23, but the Julian calendar used in the British Isles at that time, which in our current count would be May 3. There was however a prominent author who did perish this day, the Peruvian Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.

Born of a Spanish conquistador of the Extremaduran nobility and an Inca princess of the family of Huayna Cápac and Túpac Yupanqui, he was baptized as Gómez Suárez de Figueroa. His name change was also related to his ancestors.

Not only descended from families of rulers and warriors, but also from great writers such as Jorge Manrique, the Marquis of Santillana and Garcilaso de la Vega. From the union of his famous predecessor and his American conscience came his signature: Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.

The youth of the Inca Garcilaso

Despite his illustrious origins, the era in which he was born was against him. His father accompanied famous men such as Alvarado, Cortés or the Pizarro brothers and was one of the first Spaniards in America.

At this time, marriages with the people of the New World were not yet regulated and this condemned the Inca Garcilaso to illegitimacy, at least temporarily. In spite of everything, he received the most careful education in Cuzco, along with other illegitimate children of great families. Probably at this time his love for letters was born.

Already in 1560, at 21 years old, he undertook the reverse journey of his father. Following the military career, he fought in Italy as captain and helped to quell some Moorish revolts in Granada. His time in Italy allowed him to meet the Neo-Platonic philosopher Leon Hebreo, from whom he translated his Dialogues of love.

Maybe it was this first contact with writing, or the disappointment of the difficulty that was found to rise in the military career being a mestizo, which led him to start a new life.

Inca Garcilaso

After surviving his military adventures he settled in Montilla, Córdoba. It is at this time that he became one of the most peculiar chroniclers of those who practiced Spanish. On the part of his father, and by his own experience, he knew many of the events that occurred in the early conquest of the Inca Empire.

During his stay in Europe he also heard about the first adventures of the men of Hernando de Soto in Florida. In these matters nothing differentiated him from his colleagues, but he had an added advantage, he was a mestizo.

From his mother, the Inca Garcilaso also learned the glorious history of Peru before its conquest. The same condition that had caused so many obstacles is ironically the one that made us remember it.

Few authors have been able to pick up the romantic heroism, bordering on madness, which led the companies of the Castilian explorers. There is no doubt that the good epic must have a good dose of tragedy, and tragic is the vision of the pre-Columbian America of the Inca Garcilaso. Tragic, but no less memorable.

Father of Latin America

Luck made Inca Garcilaso a pioneer. He was not the first of the American mestizos, but he was the first that we can recognize as a cultural mestizo.

In his historical work, he understands the past of the two peoples in conflict as his own past, as he was in large part. He does not show himself as the son of winners or losers, but as the proud scion of both.

The contradictory, but at the same time compatible, soul of his work is the soul of the people that was being born in all the territories of the Spains, especially in the overseas one, it is the soul of the Hispanidad.

The work of the Inca Garcilaso

To reduce his work to his novel approach would be to treat it as a mere curiosity. Inca Garcilaso cultivated a prose worthy of being compared with the best ones of the Golden Age. Not in vain, he met Góngora and Cervantes personally, which surely increased his love to his peninsular roots and received a careful training.

The advanced age with which he began his main works also conditioned his conservative and retrospective style. His taste for philosophy gives his writings a transcendental dimension.

His mestizo being, dramatic throughouthis life, was in his old age a pride, as he described it. Certainly his life is an excellent metaphor of Hispanic America, as it was able to enjoy before his death the noble recognition he deserved by right. The Castilian celebrates two of his heroes on April 23rd.