September 5th commemorates the International Day of Indigenous Women. The day honors the legacy of Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara leader who was executed in 1782 for organizing a sweeping rebellion against Spanish colonial rule.
Sisa was born in 1750 in Q’ara Qhatu, an indigenous community near Lake Titicaca. Her parents were traders, and she travelled with them throughout the Bolivian altiplano and Yungas forest to sell their products. From an early age, she witnessed discrimination and violence against indigenous peoples under colonial rule. As a young woman in her twenties, she became involved in the fight against colonial oppression, working with her husband, Tupac Katari, and sister-in-law, Gregoria Apaza, to set up military camps throughout the altiplano. In 1781, Sisa and Katari raised an army of 20,000 (which later swelled to 80,000) that lay siege to the city of La Paz for 184 days. During this time, Sisa was proclaimed “Queen of the Inca” and ruled together with her husband.
modern day La Paz, Bolivia
The siege was eventually broken with the arrival of Spanish reinforcements from Lima and Buenos Aires. Sisa was captured, tortured, and executed by the Spanish. Her death was meant to intimidate and weaken the indigenous movement. Instead, Bartolina Sisa serves as an enduring inspiration for those who continue her fight against discrimination and injustice.
Check out this short video honoringBartolina Sisa’s incredible life.