The Inca Empire: Religion, Culture and Philanthropy

sduncan post on January 28th, 2013
Posted in Central America Tags: , ,

by Priscilla M. Madrigal Saballos

The Incas are the Indian people of Peru, who in the two centuries before the Spanish discovery of America, conquered an area stretching from the Southern border of present day Colombia to central Chile centering on the city of Cuzco in the Peruvian Andes. The Incas made their appearance in South America in the XI century (Loprete, 2001). They began by enlarging their territory beyond the immediate valley of Cuzco. By 1492, the Inca Empire is established and ruling over approximately 10 million people and the population is composed primarily of soldiers and farmers (National Geographic Television, 2002). In brief, the paper will be focusing on the philanthropic practices of the Incas within the history of their society.

The tribe demonstrates the act of giving through uniting other Indians and together living a better life where all the basic necessities are guaranteed. The Incas were very advanced in their way of thinking, such as creating irrigation methods to cultivate and preserve food, quality textiles and a system of roads and communication that extended throughout the entire empire. “At the base of the social pyramid was the allyu, a clan of families living together in a restricted area and sharing land, animals and crops that was owned by the state” (Halsey & Friedman, 1980 pp. 575). Everyone that was able to work would work and some women were considered “chosen” and given the opportunity to climb up the latter of success, where they were taken to Cusco to be taught weaving, cooking and the rituals of the sun (Loprete, 2001).

Furthermore, everyone who is able to work pays tax to the state, except for state and religious officials. Another way to pay tax is through working on various projects, such as road and bridge building, mining and creating temples. The Incas wanted to make sure the empire would continue to grow and if a man was not married by twenty, they would select an eligible candidate for them (National Geographic Television, 2002). Based on what the Incas provided for the people, it appears to be that they kept them physical active, safe and sick free so they could be productive. Thus, they are able to provide a social safety net for their empire through these acts of giving and the people immediately adopt the Incas cultural values and beliefs in return.

The expression of philanthropy is founded by the Inca concept: religion and the state are one. “Viracocha is the creator god, the one source of power; he is aided in his divine administration by servant gods, the most important of which was the sun god, Inti” (Halsey & Friedman, 1980, pp.576). The sun god became the symbol for the Incas; his name was always invoked and his image was the motif of the official religion farmers (National Geographic Television, 2002). In addition, there were also gods for all natural phenomena. They believed religion is practical and life is religion. For this reason, the ability for crop production is considered a holy action and anything connected to it, also became scared.

In contrast to the North American culture, the sense of community and working collectively is dominant for the Incas. They did not have a voluntary network like the western tradition has formed.
According to the Incas beliefs, it is not an option to give, but an obligation to convert people to their religion in obedience to the sun God. Unlike in the western civilization, the act of philanthropy is considered a noble act, yet for the Incas it is a more selfish of act due to the absolute control over their people.

Comparatively, the Incas and the Western culture believed in taxation whether it is provided through money or work. They are both founded on religion to give to others in return to comply with the gods or secure a spot in heaven. The Incas and the western culture believe that a philanthropic exchange with power is necessary. Lastly, in both civilizations the feeling of self-satisfaction or happiness is the driving force in giving to others.

In summary, the Incas are very giving to those who pertain to their empire. However, there are ethical issues associated with their type of giving. The Incas took people in as slaves by manipulation or force, which is now considered an illegal act. Consequently, this form of philanthropy is successful in the times of the Incas, yet in today’s world it would certainly be unacceptable. Therefore, the term philanthropy has evolved and progressed to be what is today and is still under modifications to make sure that is a more controlled process where those involved benefit and treated respectfully.

Works Cited

Halsey, W., & Friedman, E. (Ed.). (1980). Collier’s encyclopedia (Vol. 12). New York: Macmillan Educational Corporation.
Loprete, Carlos. (2001). Iberoamérica: Historia de su civilización y cultura [Latin America: History of its civilization and cultura]. Las principales culturas (pp. 31-36). Quito, Ecuador: Prentice Hall.
National Geographic Television (Producer). (2002). Inca mummies: secrets of a lost world [Motion picture]. Washington: Warner Home Video.


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