Big Incas in Peru

Posted on 11. Feb, 2012 by in colombia, peru

I always associated Peru with being surrounded by little brown people. Some full grown chola women come up to my waist. In Colombia nothing changed. Women who don’t watch where they’re going may get hit with an elbow – in the head.

At 6’2, 210 lbs, I’m a large person anywhere. But it’s borderline freakish in South America.

Many Colombian tiendas have tables for four with fixed swivel seats. The space in these seats is so small I have to turn sideways and contort my body a little to get in. If I’m with a friend, they’ll have to sit on the opposite side (not just across) so our knees don’t hit each other. If we’re more than two, we may need another table.

On Bogota buses if a passenger has an aisle seat they usually don’t give it up. Instead they turn sideways to give you the window seat. There’s so little leg room I don’t fit in a window seat, so it’s the aisle or I have to stand. If someone’s sitting in the window seat, I can sit in the aisle but in most buses I still can’t fit my legs in front so I turn sideways into the aisle. It’s best when an entire two-person seat is vacant. That way I can sit in the aisle seat but spread my legs wide so I can face forward, taking up 1.5 seats. When new passengers get on the bus, they usually choose a different window seat to ask for before mine. But when there are none left, they sit next to me and I turn my legs into the aisle.

At tourist gift shops in Peru they sell these chessboards with Incas on one side and Spaniards on the other. The first one I saw had the Spaniards on horseback, wearing armor, and holding rifles. The Incas were on foot and holding spears. I got a kick out the Spaniards’ advantage in technology and size. I always assumed the Indians to be smaller because all the purest Indian-blooded people I saw – especially in Peru – were tiny. And the biggest players in my basketball league were mostly Spanish.

From these informal observations I assumed Indians to be smaller. So whenever I hit my head on low doorways or can’t fit in the seats at the tienda, I complain about the little Indians.

Politically-correct gringos may be thinking, “Oh my God! I can’t believe he said that.” Keep your gringo values in Gringolandia. Race isn’t sensitive here. I was recently in Bogota Beer Company (which just got 100% cooler for opening a location in La Candelaria). Their tables are tiny. The surface area is just a little larger than a proper American bar stool. So my friends and I pulled two of them together. When the waitress asked if we could use just one, I replied “No somos indiocitos.” We’re not little Indians. She laughed.

Peruvians often told me the Incas were big. I’d argue. Look at them, I’d say. If I go to the Southeastern section of downtown Arequipa right now, I can walk the crowded streets with my arms straight out and they’ll clear most everyone’s heads.

I’ve completely reversed my little Indians position. In October I went to Peru for the first time in almost three years. I was expecting what I remembered Peru for – constantly being surrounded by little brown people, even smaller than Colombians.

I was surprised after arriving in Lima. Every day I saw a Peruvian bigger than me.

In Bogota I’ll sometimes see a Colombian taller than me. And sometimes I’ll see one broader than me. But weeks or even months go by without seeing a Colombian both taller and broader than me. In Peru I saw one almost every day. How did I forget these big Peruvians?

One day at a gym I was looking at a musclebound Peruvian, a pure Indian. He had the stereotypical strong brow, square jaw, wide nose, and densely packed muscle. He had muscle coming out of his fingers. I thought, he’d be a phenomenal athlete if were just a foot taller. But at 5’3 …

Then it hit me. It hit me as I imagined this gym rat at 6’3. If this musclebound little Inca were 6’3, he would (A) conquer all the other Indian tribes of South America and (B) have sex with Spanish women.

The Incas were the largest pre-Columbus civilization in the Americas. They conquered tribes in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. And they never had gunpowder or horses, so they must’ve been big, strong warriors.

The second point answers why you don’t see them around any more. That big Inca would’ve had all the Spanish women creaming their knickers. Some big Incas may have social climbed by marrying white women. Some may have studded for married Spanish women bored with their delicate aristocrat husbands.

Whichever it is, my new theory is that the big Inca genes are virtually gone because they mixed with Spanish. That’s why I saw big Peruvians every day – all of whom were the Peruvian mix of Inca and Spanish – but see almost none in Colombia, which (aside from African genes) is one of Latin America’s most European bloodlines outside Argentina.

Colombia’s European bloodline is most evident in Medellin. It’s why everyone drools over paisa women – they’re white.

The average Colombian may be a little bigger than the average Peruvian, but Colombia doesn’t have extremes on the big end of the spectrum. That’s not only why I rarely see Colombians bigger than me, but also why I’ve never seen one of those pussy-ass Colombian tienda tables in Peru. Too many Peruvian customers wouldn’t fit in them.

I started thinking about the flaws in my original assumption that the Incas were small. Aside from banging white women and diluting the big Inca genes, big Incas were surely killed off in wars or when Spanish colonists felt threatened. The large male Incas were certainly the first to go.

Then I thought about my old basketball league. All the big players were white. But then I thought about it again and realized all the players were white. Outside the States basketball is a posh sport (maybe strange to learn for those in the States, where it’s the preferred urban ghetto sport). Basketball is a hip way to differentiate from the poor peasants playing soccer. Almost the whole league were white alumni of the finest private schools, so looking at the power forwards and centers doesn’t prove anything.

Then I remembered El Negro, who was on my team. I guarded every big player in that league during the year I was there, and El Negro was the most difficult. He consistently got the better of me. In fact I thought of him when I read Mario Vargas Llosa’s description in Time of the Hero (GREAT BOOK, La ciudad y los perros in Spanish) of Indians’ hair being like needles. It doesn’t matter what El Negro tries to do with that hair, it ain’t doing much. But he was a big strong Indian, one of the best players in the league. A rare artifact from a lost bloodline.

There’s obviously nothing scientific here. I’m just trying to explain why there are some huge dudes in Peru, the heart of the Inca civilization, the largest Indian civilization in the pre-Columbus Americas, if the Indians were a smaller race. And why things in Colombia are built for smaller people on average if it’s a more Spanish bloodline. I could be completely wrong about everything here, there’s no way to know.

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14 Responses to “Big Incas in Peru”

  1. Alex

    12. Feb, 2012

    Interesting! Heading to Japan, land of the small, they may have to compete with Colombia for the smaller peeps, well at least weight wise……..

  2. Jimmy

    12. Feb, 2012

    Great topic.

    When the Brits first explored Africa, they thought they were physically superior to the local africans. This was because so many africans were under nourished & suffering from tropical diseases like malaria.

    The Euros then figured out the physical toughness of the black africans. Sugar from the Caribbean was big business and the local Indian could not hold up working doing farm work in the tropical sun. Haiti, DR, Cuba all imported african slaves to do the hard work.

    As American Blacks recede into American Baseball History, players from the Dominican Republic fill the void.

  3. Jimmy

    12. Feb, 2012

    I remember being in Lima and seeing some guys with the Indian looks you describe who were very, very tough customers.

    Not unlike Mexicans with Indian blood they have large torsos and short legs. They are built for strength, not speed, but I am sure there are many exceptions.

    .

  4. darin

    13. Feb, 2012

    I think a lot has to do with nutrition. White people in latin america tend to be more middle and upper class, hence better access to nutrition: larger bodies. Whole indians are usually poorer and/or remote areas. But in the States or Europe those born to indigenous parents tend to be lf average height. A ton of anthropological studies have been done on the subject.

  5. Colin

    13. Feb, 2012

    Alex – I’ve never been to Japan, but I spent 6 weeks in Beijing. It’s a complete mis-perception that the Chinese are short. There are some big Chinese dudes in the North. Think Yao Ming.

    Jimmy – That is exactly why the Latin American countries that grow sugar have lots of blacks, mostly in the Caribbean. Still, there’s something different about them. Among the black people around the world I’ve met, none can compete physically with American blacks.

  6. Chuck

    15. Feb, 2012

    Alex: The Japanese aren’t as short as you think. You’ll be in some guy’s armpit when you’re in Tokyo’s subway.

    Jimmy and Colin: Black Africans were shipped to the colonies as slaves because they were resistant to disease, not because of physical prowess. Native American’s were primarily decimated by old world microorganisms, not by musket balls or the whip.

  7. Chris

    18. Feb, 2012

    Haha, I know what you mean about feeling like a giant. I’m only 5’11”, but I was abnormally large in South Korea. Broad shoulders aren’t common there either.

    But I encountered a group of Korean MMAers and body buildersonce. So incongruous, haha

  8. matthew b

    24. Feb, 2012

    I’m sure there are archives that can be found describing the original Incas that the spanish found when they first arrived in south america. There you would probably find descriptions about the incas’ size and appearance. A history professor at a university would probably be a big help in this research.

  9. Rawley

    23. Mar, 2012

    I have spent some time in Bolivia and they tend to be short and stocky they are all Incan people’s so their like cousins of Peru. Def tons of stamina and strength for their size. I have always kind of thought being shorter to the ground and having the boxy broad chest and subsequent lung capacity, had something to do with evolving for 1000’s of years in high elevation. I know Peru has peaks and valleys like Bolivia, but when generations of people have lived at 2 mile high elevation or some cases more , it has to effect gene expression.

    Also if you look at the globe on a Racial basis (since some of you guys are talking about athleticism, musculature etc) Whites are still the largest of all the races. Holland has on average the tallest people on Earth (of course there are Dutchmen who are 5’0 just like there is the rare 6’4 Japanese man) Whites always also fair very well in strength competitions (look at Olympic Lifters, wrestlers, strongman competitors) – I only point this out for the inaccurate stereotype of blacks being so “strong”. Blacks in general tend to excel in sprinting, jumping, and explosive types of movements (Western Blacks- Jamaica, USA) due to slavery and selective breeding.

    Of course before someone comes on here to attack me, I am not saying there aren’t super strong powerlifting blacks, or that there aren’t super fast white boys (look at the wide recievers who are white in the NFL now) just that on average that is how white and black break down if you look at it closer.

  10. Colin

    30. Mar, 2012

    I recently came across Bergmann’s Rule, which explains that across different species the large specimens come from the colder regions, smaller from warm regions. The Incas’ capital of Cusco and the highlands of Peru and Bolivia are the coldest climates in South America.

  11. Rawley

    05. Apr, 2012

    I see what you mean about Bergman’ss rule and the cold…but that elvation of the Ande’s is still nothing like the cold where Nordic white’s came from. Hell even in Northern Germany I was often wearing a stocking cap and sweater in July and that is near to sea level.

    I still think that high elevation = less oxygen = larger lung capacity hence the square chested boxier / shorter closer to the ground build of the Incan people. Could be a mix of somewhere in between domination / capture and elevation .. who knows.

    If you look at some of the Aztec people in Northern Mexico they tend to be a little taller and thinner/more wirey than their Mayan cousins to the South. Could also be elevation, could be that that Aztecs were always the more war like of the Northern Central American tribes and thus did more of the slaughter and selection come breeding time.

  12. Rawley

    05. Apr, 2012

    Colin here is a field test….your current girl is Peruana right? Is she very white or part Incan? If at least part Incan put her on a tread mill and see what happens.

    I am willing to bet she can run, run , run her ass off un-prepared, un-streched, un-trained …for a long time…much longer than your average latina, hell probably even out run you. Try it and get back to me.

    Insane lung capacity and built for the long haul. Of course there is always a trade off….with little legs comes little stride so it wont be a fast run, just a long slow run.

  13. Todd Peterson

    09. Jul, 2013

    My theory is some big Incas were never see too, disease killed them (smallpocs).
    I also believe a lot were killed off just because the tiny spanish were scared of them, genocide! Of coarse the last is war with the spanish guns, warriors fought and died not the little guys.
    My wife is half Inca she is small but 6inchs bigger then all other Peruvians at 5.7in
    She and her father talk about the big Inca a lot when we’re together, how they towered above the spanish at 6.6
    If you look you can still see some, I’m 6.0 and I can see some still there when we walk around.
    I’m in auuuh when I see one, massive always at least 6+ and easily 220lbs.
    If you go to the gyms you can find them.
    My othere theory is a lot of the big inca are mixed with the small jungle people now too. I forget their name, from the Amazon.
    In all I know the original Inca were huge, I’ve seen some, what a tragic loss
    Todd Peterson

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