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” (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?” (865441); (unsigned) “Convocan a concurso: monumento a Túpac Amaru se levantará en el Cuzco” (1053438); by Alfredo Arrisueño Cornejo “Convocan a concurso de pintura para perpetuar la imagen plástica del mártir José Gabriel Condorcanqui” (865422), and “Declaran desierto el Concurso de Pintura ‘Túpac Amaru II’” (865498); (unsigned) “En busca de la imagen arquetípica de Túpac Amaru” (865702); by Daniel Valcárcel “El retrato de Túpac Amaru” (1052165); and by A. O. Z. “Túpac Amaru: ¿verdadero retrato?” (865460)].