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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > B > Juan de Betanzos

Juan de Betanzos

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Unfortunately very little is known as yet of this official, who has left such valuable works on the Indian traditions and language of Peru. He was a Spaniards by birth and came to Peru at an early day. Whether or not he was still on the Island of Santo Domingo in 1539, as notary or scribe, is uncertain. He was at Cuzco in 1542 and officiated as quasi-interpreter at the investigation of Indian historical traditions ordered by Vaca de Castro. (See PERU.) Even then he had acquired a solid acquaintance with the Quichua idiom. He married an Indian girl of the Inca tribe and composed the first catechism known to us in the Quichua language. The manuscript is now in the National Archives at Lima. In 1551 he finished his book entitled "Suma y Narración de los Incas etc." (dedicating it to the viceroy Antonio de Mendoza), one of the most important sources for ancient Peruvian history. Unfortunately only a part of this work is still known to exist. It embodies the earliest accounts of Indian traditions from Bolivia and extreme southern Peru, and as they were gathered by Betanzos within less than fifteen years after the landing of Pizarro, they can hardly be much tainted by contact with Europeans. Of the life of Betanzos, after 1551, practically nothing is known.


Betanzos, Suma y Narracion de los Incas que los Indios Llamaron Capaccuna (1551, published by Jimenez de la Espada, Madrid, 1880); Espada, Tres Relaciones de Antiguedades peruanas (Madrid, 1878, Introduction); Garcia, El Origen de los Indios (Father Garcia owned the complete manuscript of Betanzos as late as 1607); Espada, Una Antigualla peruana (Madrid, 192). The report on the Incas bears the title Discurso sobre la Descendencia y Gobierno de los Ingas, and is dated 1542; Bandelier, Aboriginal Myths and Traditions concerning the Island of Titicaca (1904. Am. Anthropologist, VI, No. 2); Idem, The Cross of Carabuco (ibid., VI, No. 5); Mendiburu, Diccionario, etc. (Lima, 1876), II.

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APA citation. Bandelier, A.F. (1907). Juan de Betanzos. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Bandelier, Adolph Francis. "Juan de Betanzos." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Susan Birkenseer.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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