When Professor O’Toole began her series of lectures with the Incan Empire, I immediately had interest in the topic, especially since about a year and a half ago, my grandparents traveled to Cuzco and Machu Picchu on a vacation. I was excited to learn more about the Inca history and culture, especially because of my grandparents travels. And while I heard a little about Peru from my grandparents and their retelling of the trip, I realized that I never really knew much about the Incas…and I began to wonder why.
All throughout elementary and high school, our schools focused more on the Mayan or Aztec empires and only briefly touched upon the Incan empire. I had no idea that the Incas could easily outlast any of their enemies and made sure that no one in their empire would starve. So why does the Incas history get pushed aside in favor for the Aztec or Mayans? I took an International Studies class last quarter and my Professor focused heavily on the Aztecs, and ended up only mentioning the Incas. In fact through his brief talk about the Incas, the only thing he really highlighted was that they were conquered by the Spanish Empire.
I think part of the reason teachers choose to focus more on the Mayans or Aztecs is because their is more mysteries or myths about them. In my International Studies class, we read a book called “The Broken Spears,” which heavily focused on eight omens that predicted that the “gods” or Spanish would come and destroy their empire. I also remember learning in school that it is still a mystery as to why the Mayan Empire fell. So while the Incas may lack these mysteries, that does not mean that their history should only be brushed upon and I am glad that Professor O’Toole is diving more into the history and culture of the Incas.
Another reason for the lack of education on the Incas in America may be that the United State’s education system heavily focuses on their history and Europe’s history. Now while focusing on the history of the United States makes total sense since that is the place we live in, I have noticed that in all my World History classes in middle school and high school mostly surrounded Europe’s history. I never got to learn much about the Incas and Andeans or about the Chinese, Indians, Africans, and Australians that make up the rest of the world. As Edward Said in last quarter’s Humanities Core, we as Americans tend to have a Orientalist view of the countries and people in the Eastern Hemisphere. The little things that we do know about these people and cultures we tend to stereotype people of those cultures as only being those things, like the concept of all Asians are smart. Instead we should get an equal opportunity to learn about cultures all over the world so that we as the American population have more knowledge about the world we live in and try to diminish the concept that America is superior to all other countries.