Chile: La Tirana

September 19th, 2006

La Tirana is a town of dusty streets and adobe houses with a church and a piece of history as its only attractions.

La Tirana is named after an Inca princess Huillac Ñusca. In 1535 Diego de Almagro, a Spanish conquistador, marched south from Cusco to conquer Chile. Only 500 Spaniards where willing to go with him to conquer these lands that they thought would be poor. So Diego de Almagro took with him ten thousand conquered Incas including the Inca princess and an Inca Prince. The party included, unknown to Almagro, a number of highly trained Wilkas (Inca Warriors) from the Inca Royal Army.

The group reached the Atacama where the princess slipped away to freedom with the prince and 100 Wilka warriors. The princess organised the group into a sophisticated army and over the next four years waged war on the occupying Spaniards. She declared her mission was “Death to all Spaniards and to all Amerindians baptised by them”. Her brutality earned her the name “La Tirana” or The Tyrant.

Some years later La Tirana’s army attacked their enemy and captured a prisoner, Don Vasco de Almeyda, a Portuguese miner. As the legend goes, simply to look at him was to fall in love with him, and La Tirana did. However, according to everything she stood for, this foreigner had to die, so she devised a plan, an excuse, to keep the prisoner alive and not loose the faith of her army. She consulted the stars and the gods and claimed they had ordered her to keep the prisoner alive until four moons had passed. The ruse worked and her army followed her command. For the next four months, La Tirana and Don Vasco spent every day together, and she began to neglect her people and duties, this caused suspicion among the Wilkas who kept a secret watch on her.

When the fourth month ended, La Tirana asked her loved one if they would be reunited in heaven for eternity if she too were a Christian. Don Vasco replied they would and she begged to be baptised. Don Vasco agreed and began to baptise her, but before he could finish, the Wilkas burst through the door and showered the couple with arrows.

As La Tirana lay dieing she cried, “I am dying happy, as I am sure that after my death my soul will ascend to God’s throne. All that I ask is that my after my death, you will bury me next to my lover and place a cross over our grave”.

Ten years later Padre Antonio Rondon arrived in the area to evangelise the local Amerindians, and to his surprise he discovered a simple cross over a grave at the spot where La Tirana had died. The priest built a simple chapel on the site, which was later replaced by the building you see in my photos.

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