from “Sum and Narration of the Incas, which the Indians called Capaccuna, who were lords of the city of Cuzco, and everything on the subject”

From Suma y narracion de los Incas, que los indios llamaron Capaccuna, que fueron señores de la ciudad del Cuzco y de todo lo á ella subjeto

[Sum and Narration of the Incas, which the Indians called Capaccuna, who were lords of the city of Cuzco, and everything on the subject]


Juan de Betanzos (c.1550s)

Translated by Jared Aragona (2021)

[Juan de Betanzos was a Spanish official who lived in Peru within ten years of Spanish conquest in 1532. Little is known about him other than that he served as an interpreter and married an Inca woman, potentially a previous wife of the deceased Inca king; also that he wrote this book based on interviews with local Incas. Only certain portions of the book survive.]

CHAPTER 1 —Which is about Con Ticci Viracocha, whom they believe was the Creator, and of how he made heaven and earth and the Indian peoples of the provinces of Peru.

In ancient times, they claim the land and province of Peru was dark. This land was all night.  Then, out of a lagoon in the province of Collasuyo [Lake Titicaca], where today it is a town that they call Tiaguanaco, a Lord they called Con Ticci Viracocha arose. He took with him a certain number of people, the number of which no one remembers; and there they say that he made the sun and the day, and he commanded the sun to follow a course through the sky; and then they say he made the stars and the moon. This first time he came out, he made heaven and earth. He then made those giant people who were in that time, and these people did some bad service to this Viracocha, and to those first people, in punishment of the anger they gave him, Viracocha turned them to stone afterwards.

Then, in that seat of Tiaguanaco, Viracocha started creating people again. Out of stone, he carved a certain number of people and a principal who ruled and lorded over them.  He also created many pregnant women and other men and women who already had young children to care for, all carved out of stone; and he then made another province there in Tiaguanaco, placing all the stone people in their proper place, in the caves and rivers and hills of the region. And as he finished doing this, he commanded all his people who had emerged from the lagoon with him to look at those carved stone people and the names he had given to each gender.  Pointing to them, he said, “These shall be called the people, and they shall come out of such a source in such a province, and shall populate in it, and there they shall be increased; and they shall come out of such a cave, and they shall be named, and shall populate in such part; and I carved them and painted them to look as they should. They long to leave the fountains and rivers, and caves and hills, in the provinces that I have created and named.” Pointing out to where the sun rises, he said to his helpers, “All of you are going to play a part in teaching them. Divide up the land and go about pointing out to them their right to bear more children and live in the place where they live.”


CHAPTER 2 —In which it is addressed how the people came out of this land by command of Viracocha and the other viracochas that he sent for this purpose; and how Con Ticci Viracocha stayed to finish his work and then went out to the sea, where they never saw him again.


All of the viracochas went through the provinces that Viracocha had told them about, calling in each province, eagerly as they arrived. Each viracocha said aloud: “Come out populate this land that is deserted, as commanded by Con Tici Viracocha, who made the world.” Then the people he created out of stone came to life and came out of those parts and places where they were placed by Viracocha. The people of the caves, rivers and fountains, and high mountains.

After this, Viracocha traveled the royal road that would someday lead to Cuzco, the royal road that goes down the Sierra Hácia Caxamalca. As he went, he called and talked to the people about his creation and how to live in it.  Then, as he came to a province called Cacha, which is of Canas Indians, which is eighteen leagues from the city of Cusco, the people came out armed, and as they saw Viracocha, not knowing him, were determined to kill him.  He saw them coming, and understanding what they intended to do, caused fire to fall from the sky and to come burning a mountain range where the Indians were. And as the Indians saw the fire, they were afraid of being burned and threw their weapons down.  They went right to Viracocha, and as they came to him, they all lay down. Viracocha then went to where the fire was, and used the staff he carried to extinguish it. All this done, he said to the Indians how he was their Creator.

Then the Canas Indians, in the place where the fire had been, constructed a guaca, which means adoring idol, where they and their descendants would offer a lot of gold and silver.  It is a lump of stone sculpted on a large stone of almost five rods long and a rod wide, in memory of this Viracocha and all that had taken place there. The guaca that is there now they claim to be the same guaca from antiquity to this day.— And I have seen the burnt hill and the stones, and the burn is more than a quarter of a league; and seeing this, I called in this village of Cacha the oldest Indians and chiefs, and asked them what that burned hill was, and they told me this that you heard. And the guaca of this Viracocha is a stone’s throw away from there. Many people have passed this stream and seen this guaca, because they have heard what the Indians have already said, and they have seen this stone.  In asking the Indians what figure this Viracocha had when they carved him back then, according to which they had news, they told me that he was a tall man of body and that he had a white garment that went down to his feet. He had short hair and a crown on his head in the manner of a priest; and that he brought in his hands a certain thing that seems to them today as these books that priests brought in their hands.  And I asked them what the name was of that person in whose place that stone was laid, and they told me that it is called Con Ticci Viracocha Pachayachachic, which means in their tongue, “God making the world.”

Going back to our history, they say that after having done in this province of Cacha this miracle, Viracocha continued onward, always understanding in his work of teaching people how to live, as you have already heard.  He then came to a place called Tambo de Urcos, which is six leagues from the city of Cusco. He climbed a high hill there and sat at the top of it, from where they say he commanded the natural Indians residing there to produce their livelihoods in that spot where they live to this day. And because Viracocha sat in this place, they made a very rich and sumptuous guaca of fine gold there, worth between sixteen and eighteen million pesos.

From there Viracocha continued on teaching people, as you have already heard, until he came to where Cusco now is.  There they say he made a Lord, whom he named Alcaviza, and named the place Cuzco. He also established order, as he knew it would be needed after what he’d witnessed on his journey.

From there, he continued onward, teaching as he went, until he reached the province of Puerto Viejo, where he gathered with his own, the other viracochas, who had also traveled the land in the way he had. Together they went out onto the sea. They say he and his own were walking out upon the water as if they were on land.

There are many other things I could write about this Viracocha, according to what these Indians have informed me, but, for avoiding profligacy and great idolatry and bestiality, I did not put them.



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World Mythology, Volume 1: Gods and Creation Copyright © by Jared Aragona is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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