The drawing attached to the paper is a part of Guaman Poma’s “Letter to a King.” Guaman Poma had been writing his “Letter” for 50 years as he kept recording each and every aspect of the life of Incas. The full name of this historical document is El primer nueva coronica y buen gobierno (The First New Chronicle and Good Government [On the History of the World and the Incas up to the Present]) (Guaman Poma de Ayala & Hamilton xiii).
Guaman Poma was a chief of small Peruvian tribe that had once been conquered by Incas. He was born sometime around 1536 and died in Huamanga, Ayacucho, a year after he completed the work of his life. Guaman Poma was a descendant of the Incan nobility and his mother was a granddaughter of the tenth Cuzco emperor Tupac Inca Yupanqui. After the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, he realized that the world of the Inca’s empire would change. It is known that around 1570s, Guaman Poma learnt Spanish, become literate in this language, adopted, to some extent, Christian beliefs, started working as an interpreter for Catholic priests from Spain.
After Guaman Poma learnt Spanish, he started to write a lengthy chronicle about Inca’s life supplying it with numerous drawings. It was sent to the King Philip III of Spain around 1600s. At that time, the author of the chronicle was as old as ninety. However, historians tend to think that the king most likely never saw it (Guaman Poma de Ayala & Hamilton xiv).
The “Letter” was bought by the Danish Ambassador to Spain. He took the chronicle to Copenhagen around 1660s. It remains in the Royal Danish Library till today. The chronicle emerged from obscurity in 1908, when it was discovered by a German scholar Richard Pietschmann, who brought it to attention of all other scholars. The work was first published in 1936 as a facsimile, by Paul Rivet in Paris. Yet, that version was thought to have inconsistencies, so later editions followed. Notably, in 2001, the Danish Royal Library published a high-quality, digital facsimile based on the original document (edited by Rolena Adorno) (Guaman Poma de Ayala & Hamilton xiv).
The historical value of this document is immense. The “Letter” is the only surviving primary source from the colonial times that contains illustrations of Inca’s life before the Conquest. Besides, this document provides vivid accounts of the atrocities of the Spanish conquistadores who treated the native peoples of the Andes unnecessarily brutally. Guaman Poma de Ayala in great detail described all injustice, abuse of power, and exploitation that the newcomers inflicted on the Andeans.
Besides, the “Letter” describes the rich history and culture of the indigenous peoples. Importantly, this view is most accurate and un-biased as provided by the native Andean. In addition, the document provides unique detailed line drawings. They are made from the standpoint of an Andean man who used Western traditions of visual representation. Given all this, the document is of great interest as a source of remarkable information for historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists.
Further, the document is a combination of three languages, given the fact that Guaman Poma was a native speaker of native Quechua and Aymara languages, as well as used Andean Spanish. Thus, as a multilingual text, it may be of great interest to philologists and linguists.
Overall, The First New Chronicle and Good Government [On the History of the World and the Incas up to the Present] has made a great contribution into world history, anthropology, culture, archaeology, and linguistics. Not only did it provide valuable data about Incas, but it also directed the future research (in archaeology, for example) and made modern re-evaluate the essence of humanity given the history of highly advanced civilization of Incas.
- Guaman Poma de Ayala, Felipe and Roland Hamilton. The First New Chronicle and Good Government : On the History of the World and the Incas up to 1615 [eBook, 1st ed.]. University of Texas Press, 2009. Print.