The ‘Tupac Amaru’ Name Is a Symbol of Rebellion


For young American music fans, the hostage crisis in Peru may have evoked a familiar-sounding name--that of Tupac Amaru Shakur, 25, a chart-topping rap star who was fatally shot in Las Vegas in September.

Shakur was named by his mother, Afeni Shakur--a Black Panther party member who was carrying him while imprisoned--for Tupac Amaru, a 16th century Incan chief, according to published biographical material on the late rapper.

Tupac Amaru, whose name means “Shining Serpent,” was the leader of what became the last Incan holdouts against Spanish rule, history texts show. He was finally captured and executed in 1572 as Spain completed its conquest of the Americas.


Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, an 18th century Peruvian, was so inspired by the Incan rebel that he claimed to be his descendant and named his peasant group after him. Condorcanqui led the peasants in 1780 in an unsuccessful uprising against Peru’s Spanish occupation. He was executed in 1781.

In Peru, however, the mythology surrounding Tupac Amaru persisted, and his name again became a rallying point in 1984 when a leftist group, then led by Victor Polay Campos, assumed it and declared its fervent opposition to the government.

Polay Campos has since been arrested. The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement is apparently being led in the current crisis in Lima by Nestor Cerpa Cartolini.