The Story of Tupac Amaru II — the Indigenous Leader Tupac Was Named After
Know Tupac’s “California Love” and “Hit Em Up” like the back of your hand? Well, you may not know one very important detail about the late rapper.
Tupac Amaru Shakur was named after 18th century Peruvian indigenous rebellion leader Tupac Amaru II, and the story behind it is fascinating.
The story of Tupac’s mother
It all started with Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, who was a proud member of the Black Panther party. As per Los Angeles Times, the rapper’s mother was pregnant with him while imprisoned. In fact, University of California history professor Chuck Walker explains that the Black Panther member was once charged with conspiracy.
Some sources cite that Shakur faced a 300-year sentence, which she allegedly fought herself in court. Acquitted in 1971, Afeni gave birth to her son on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, New York. First naming the future rapper Lesane Parish Crooks, she changed his name to Tupac Amaru Shakur one year later.
Afeni Shakur reportedly once explained, “I wanted him to have the name of revolutionary, indigenous people in the world.” She continued, “I wanted him to know he was part of a world culture and not just from a neighborhood.”
As a member of the revolutionary, black power political organization Black Panther party, it makes sense that the rapper’s mother would give him that name. As Afeni Shakur surely found inspiration from Peru’s Tupac Amaru II who was a rebellion leader who fought to uplift suppressed people of color.
The inspiration behind Tupac’s name was Peruvian revolutionary Tupac Amaru II
Tupac Amaru II was born in 1738 and spent much of his life defending indigenous rights against the Spanish in Peru. Speaking both Quechua and Spanish, Amaru II descended from Tupac Amaru, the last Inca ruler who the Spanish executed in 1572. Similar to the rapper Tupac, Amaru II was actually born with another name — José Gabriel Condorcanqui — and changed his name later in life.
As fate would have it, Amaru II took after his forefather in more ways than one. The revolutionary was actually a kuraka or Cacique of three towns, making him a leader. This made him serve as an intermediary between the indigenous and the Spanish. However, his eventual fight for justice would lead to his own execution.
By 1780, Amaru II executed the corregidor and governor Antonio Arriaga, amid rising tension linked to the mistreatment of indigenous peoples. The Tupac Amaru rebellion was born, which sought to improve conditions for indigenous Peruvians, and overthrow Spanish rule in Peru.
Amaru II led an army of thousands
The revolt became the largest rebellion against the Spanish in the Americas, and was nearly impossible to bring down. Amaru II assembled an army of thousands, which began to occupy provinces, gaining ground.
Unfortunately, as a bloody battle went on, the Spanish captured Amaru II and his family in 1781. They forced him to watch the vicious executions of his wife, eldest son, and other family members. And vicious they were — executioners cut off both his wife and eldest son’s tongues before killing them.
Amaru II’s murder is just as infamous. The Spanish tied the revolutionary’s limbs to four horses to dismember him.
However, that didn’t work, so they quartered and beheaded him instead. Meanwhile, Amaru II’s youngest 10-year-old son was sent to life imprisonment in Spain.
It’s notable that both the rapper Tupac and Tupac Amaru II died as martyrs. Both were destined to be remembered, referenced, and made into symbols to stand the test of time. Even more, both were society-altering revolutionaries who fought to uplift underserved, oppressed communities.
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