Skip to main content

Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca (1539–1616)

Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca (1539–1616)

El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (b. 12 April 1539; d. 22/23 April 1616), Peruvian author and historian. Born in Cuzco, son of Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega and Inca princess Chimpu Oello, his original name was Gómez Suárez de Figueroa. He studied, along with other mestizo children, under the cathedral canon Juan de Cuellar. About 1552 his father married a wealthy Spaniard, and Garcilaso's Inca mother and siblings were forced to leave the household. His father died in 1559, and the following year the young Garcilaso set sail for Spain, planning to live and study with the support of a small stipend provided by his father's will. He would never return to Peru.

After settling in Montilla, in southern Spain, under the patronage of his uncle, Alonso de Vargas, Garcilaso fought briefly (1570–1571) in Granada during the uprising of the Moriscos of Alpujarras. About 1591 he moved to nearby Córdoba and devoted much of the remainder of his life to writing. His first literary effort was the translation of the Diálogos de amor (Dialogues of Love) of Leon Hebreo (Madrid, 1590), which served as a model of stylistic accomplishment. His first history, La Florida del Inca (1605), tells the story of the famous Hernando de Soto expedition to what became the southeastern part of the United States. Based on published sources and the oral account of soldier Gonzalo Silvestre, Garcilaso was able to weave a detailed and compelling picture of the trials and tribulations of the Spanish exploration of Florida. When facts were lacking, he created with vivid ingenuity. His next history, the First Part of the Royal Commentaries of the Incas, appeared in Lisbon in 1609. Based on recollections of what he learned as a youth in Peru and on written sources, including the chronicle of Blas Valera, this is an articulate and compelling, if not always accurate, account of Inca civilization. With a brilliant prose style, and with the authority of speaking in the native American voice, he attempted to bring Inca institutions and history to the Europeans.

Continued reliance on Garcilaso as a primary source clouds and blurs an authentic vision of Tahuantinsuyu (The Land of the Four Quarters), even in the twentieth century. Indeed, Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, in his Historia de la poesía hispano-americana, wrote that the Royal Commentaries was not really history but might best be classified as a utopian novel. The second part of Garcilaso's commentaries, published one year after his death under the title of Historia general del Perú (1617), outlines the Spanish conquest of the Incas to the execution of Túpac Amaru I during the administration of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo (1567–1581). That Garcilaso was the first native American writer to be widely read in Europe, and continues to be read with pleasure and profit in spite of lapses into historical fantasy, is a lasting testament to his superb literary skills.

See alsoIncas, The; Indigenous Peoples.


John Grier Varner, El Inca: The Life and Times of Garcilaso de la Vega (1968).

Donald G. Castanien, El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1969).

Margarita Zamora, Language, Authority, and Indigenous History in the "Comentarios reales de los Incas" (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Fernández, Christian. Inca Garcilaso, imaginación, memoria e identidad. Lima: Fondo Editorial, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 2004.

Flores Quelopana, Gustavo. La metafísica de la luz: Claves del primer filósofo mestizo Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Lima: Instituto de Investigación para la Paz Cultura e Integración de América Latina, Fondo Editorial, 2005.

Ortega, Esperanza. Garcilaso de la Vega. Barcelona: Ediciones Omega, 2003.

Valcárcel, Carlos Daniel. Garcilaso: El inca humanista. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1995.

                                     Noble David Cook

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca (1539–1616)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 19 Jul. 2019 <>.

"Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca (1539–1616)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (July 19, 2019).

"Garcilaso de la Vega, El Inca (1539–1616)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved July 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.