The Inca’s vast empire spanned from modern day Colombia and Ecuador in the north, to the city of Santiago in Chile. At the lowest level of the organisational hierarchy were the ayllus, units of people made up of large extended families. These were headed by lords called curacas, who in turn reported to more powerful regional curacas.
The Yanacón curacas were a special breed and very lucky to hold their powerful and prestigious positions. They were once servants of the Inca rulers who through loyal service and a good relationship were appointed as yanayacu.
Yana (to serve), ya (continually), cu (for me)
One of the curacas of Lima, the curaca of the precise location where Francisco Pizarro decided to found his city, was a Yana lord. He was servant to one of the wives of the late Huayna Capac before being granted his new title.
These thankful and loyal servants-turned-lords were a great asset to the Inca rulers who by installing them gained direct rule over an area rather than having to abide by regional customs, rules of succession and so on. The Inca ruler could threaten established curacas with replacement and so increasing their submissiveness and loyalty. But rewarding his favourite servants with the position he could increase the loyalty of the other servants who would also like to be rewarded this way, and gain an strong ally in a distant land, someone literally willing to continually serve him.