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Inca Son Music And Dance of the Andes

The Inca

About six hundred years ago, the Inca people built an empire that stretched twenty-five hundred miles down the coast of South America. At its height, the empire included most of Peru, much of Chile, and parts of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Inca Empire was made up of coasts, desert areas, rain forests, and parts of the Andes, the second highest mountain range in the world. Over 12 million people lived in this kingdom ruled by an emperor believed to be the son of the sun. How did the Inca built this great empire without having horses, the wheel, or a written language?


The Rulers

The first of the great Inca rulers was Pachacuti (Pah-chah-KOO-tee). In the early 1400’s, he conquered the area around Cuzco, and then continued to take over the land to the north. Pachacuti was a great ruler. In addition to expanding the empire, he required that all the conquered people speak a single language, Quechua. This language is still spoken by natives of the Andes. Pachacuti’s son, Tupa Inca, continued to expand the area of the empire into present-day Chile and Argentina. Tupa Inca’s son, Huayna (WHY-nah) Capac, added millions more subjects to the empire from Ecuador and Colombia. One of his sons, Atahualpa, was the last Inca Emperor, defeated by the Spanish conquistadores (conquerors) in 1534.


Children of the Sun

Living high in the Andes Mountains, the Inca depended on the sun for their survival. Without it, their crops would not grow. The giver of light and heat was Inti, the Sun God. He was the father of the Emperor and protector of the people. There were other Inca gods that ruled over the moon and thunder, but Inti was the most important. Every year in Cuzco, capital of the Inca Empire, a great festival honoring Inti was celebrated. It was presided over by the Emperor, and featured songs, feasting, and offerings to the great sun god. The festival, called “Inti Raymi,” is still celebrated in Cuzco, and attended by thousands of people.


Silent Brothers

The Inca called the llama their silent brother, because this animal was not only a great companion, but helped them in every way. It could carry loads of up to 80 pounds, and it like the camel, its distant cousin, could survive for days with no food or water. The llama also gave the Inca warm wool for cloth, and at special feasts it was sacrificed to the gods. This animal continues to be a valued friend and helper to modern-day Andean people.


Symbol of the Inca Empire

These are the majestic remains of Machu Picchu (Old Mountain, in Quechua), the best-preserved Inca site. Located about 44 miles northwest of Cuzco and rising 7,710 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu was probably a royal estate built by the Emperor Pachacuti. We can only imagine the original appearance of this site, composed of 140 buildings, including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences. How the Inca moved the enormous stones making up the structures into place, not having knowledge of the wheel, is a mystery. The stones themselves are a marvel. They fit together so perfectly that not even a knife fits between them. It is said that the silhouette, or outline of the mountain range behind Machu Picchu represents the face of the Inca looking upwards to the sky.

Be part of the making of history! Vote for Machu Picchu as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World: http://www.new7wonders.com/index.php?id=2


Daily Life in the Inca Empire

The Inca were master builders, and people can still travel along the many roads and bridges they built. Their society was organized like a pyramid. At the top was the emperor and family. Below them came the royal family, then two classes of nobles. At the bottom were the peasants or farmers who grew crops and provided labor for the empire’s beautiful monuments and buildings. Whether of humble or noble birth, all Inca people had to spend part of the year working for the state. Hard work was a virtue, and laziness was a crime, equal to treason! Although the Spanish may have conquered the Inca, reminders of the Inca way of life are everywhere. Many villagers still speak Quechua, the Inca language. They prepare and eat many of the same foods eaten by the Inca, such as potatoes and chicha, or corn beer. And they wear beautiful woven ponchos, such as those worn by the musicians of Inca Son, while making music on the same type of siku, or panflutes used by their ancestors.


End of the Empire

The Inca Empire fell to the armies of the Spanish treasure hunter Francisco Pizarro in 1532. The Spanish had heard of a wonderfully rich Indian empire in the Andes, with an abundance of what they most craved – GOLD! The Spanish easily defeated the Inca, who were no match for soldiers on horseback firing guns. They took the emperor Atahualpa as a prisoner, and demanded a ransom of gold or silver for his release. Although enough silver and gold poured in to fill two rooms of the palace, Pizarro had Atahualpa killed, and seized the ransom. The Empire fell to these conquerors, who sought to rob the Inca of their religion and way of life. During the first century of Spanish rule, the Indian population of Peru fell by 80 percent. Eight out of every 10 died, killed by overwork, lack of food, and disease brought by the Europeans.

Find out more about the Inca civilization. Here are some good links of kids where you can:


Discover the secrets of the Inca Universe: