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This brief but eloquent article reports on the ceremony in which General Juan Velasco Alvarado, the president of the military junta in power from 1968 to 1975, unveils the portrait of Túpac Amaru II, the indigenous forefather of Peruvian independence, in the main hall of the Palacio de Gobierno. The name of the hall was changed from Pizarro, for the Spanish conqueror, to Túpac Amaru II, in honor of the curaca (chief) of Cuzco, and the portrait of the former replaced with the portrait of the latter. The ceremony was attended by the members of the cabinet, all of whom were military officers, and other major government officials. The creator of the painting, Néstor Quiroz López—mistakenly called Núñez—was also in attendance. It was not clarified that the one who “had managed to express the convergence of history and the vigor of the second emancipation, which had begun with the Peruvian Revolution” was a police officer assigned to the seat of the executive branch.


This article focuses on the political instead of the artistic significance of the official ceremony at which Francisco Pizarro was replaced by Túpac Amaru II as the namesake and presiding figure of the main hall in the Palacio de Gobierno.


The first period of the so-called Gobierno Revolucionario de las Fuerzas Armadas (1968–75) was characterized by social reform and by an interest in symbolic representation. Its emblem was the figure of Túpac Amaru II (José Gabriel Condorcanqui, 1738–81), a curaca or chief of Incan descent who, in 1780, led the most important Andean uprising against the Spanish empire, an event largely ignored in traditional Spanish-American historiography.


The symbolic act of replacing the image of the Spanish conqueror with the image of the indigenous forefather of independence was less controversial than the fact that the work chosen was by Néstor Quiroz López, a humble policeman with a taste for painting. The work replaced a portrait by Daniel Hernández (1856–1932), a recognized academic painter who had even served as the director of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes from the time of its founding in 1919 through 1932. This indifference to “the specifically artistic” was met with protest from painter de Szyszlo, whose statements were what motivated this response, and from writer Néstor Espinoza (b. 1938), among others [on that subject, see in the ICAA digital archive by Espinoza “Machu Picchu y Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 1139229)]. In 1974, the painting by Quiroz López was replaced by another image of the same hero created by Mario Salazar Eyzaguirre, an army captain who would later become major general. In 2003, that second version was replaced by a work by artist Armando Villegas (1926–2013). 


This controversy can be seen as a precedent to the one that ensued in 2004 in response to the removal of the monument to Pizarro by North American sculptor Charles Cary Rumsey (1879–1922) placed in the Plaza Mayor in Lima in 1935. The intensity of both debates illustrates the ongoing importance to Peruvians of the trauma of conquest and its subsequent political uses.


[For further reading on Túpac Amaru II, see the following articles in the archive: by General EP Felipe de la Barra “¿Cómo fue Túpac Amaru?” (doc. no. 865441); (unsigned) “Convocan a concurso: monumento a Túpac Amaru se levantará en el Cuzco” (doc. no. 1053438); by Alfredo Arrisueño Cornejo “Convocan a concurso de pintura para perpetuar la imagen plástica del mártir José Gabriel Condorcanqui” (doc. no. 865422), and “Declaran desierto el Concurso de Pintura ‘Túpac Amaru II’” (doc. no. 865498); (unsigned) “En busca de la imagen arquetípica de Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 865702); by Daniel Valcárcel “El retrato de Túpac Amaru” (doc. no. 1052165); and by A. O. Z. “Túpac Amaru: ¿verdadero retrato?” (doc. no. 865460)].

Daniel Contreras Medina
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru
Hemeroteca de la Biblioteca Nacional del Peru. Lima, Perú