Big Incas in 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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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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


  14. Hahaha interesting. But the indiecitos part I would have smacked you if i was the waitress. Peruvian speaking here. We are not so sensitive with races, we joke around calling our love ones negrito, cholito, chinito , etc but if a tourist say it not the same 😉


  15. The Peruvian boxing team in the Pan-Am games had a heavyweight AND a Super-Heavyweight and the Super Heavy was as cholo as fuck! A huge Indian, he missed out on the medal rounds but the heavyweight won a bronze which is good going for Peruvian boxing.

    On a personal note – there was this pretty girl working at Bembo’s at Plaza Salaverry and she was a six footer and definitely Indian – very striking young lady.


  16. My father is european (4’11) and my peruvian pure “indio” mother is a little over 5’8. There are multiple inaccuracies with your “observation”. The Incas were extremely tall people. Most sapa inkas were within 6’3-6’6, they would make you look like a dwarf. The reason you see the average peruvian as “small” has to do directly with poverty. When the inca empire fell and the spanish took over, they pushed the remaining “indians” on the outskirts and used them as slaves which in turn, they would only consume corn and potatoes with very little to no animal protein. Throughout those generations of malnourishment and disease (over 300+ years) , they shrunk in size significantly. The spanish were very short compared to incan warriors, francisco pizarro was barely 5’6. They had to use firearms because they knew that by straight up sword fighting, the spanish would get annihilated The same applies to the rest of the americas. Native american men were on average 6’3 and muscular (obvious you had to me tough to play lacrosse) but turned into short and pudgy men after europeans forced them into reservations and fed them government rations which had little to no animal protein (Flour, oil and grain diet devoid of buffalo, fish and fruits) . You can find all of this information in Guns, germs, and steel by jared diamond. Europeans (especially the spanish, english, Italians and Portuguese) are famous for rewriting history and making every other race look inferior. They have always manipulated history to make themselves feel and look better. Atahuallpa, the last inca emperor, promised the spanish that he will fill up a room with gold to give to them. When he put his arm up to show them where he would fill (standing reach) it was at just under 9 feet tall. That would have made him anywhere from 6’1-6’4. The spanish people you see now, as you spoke on in your “basketball” team, are multi-ethnic people. They are not the original spanish, remember, black african moors conquered those lands for a long time…


    1. Don’t think they were over 6ft, Jonathan, since they are reported to have averaged supposedly around 1.6 metres (5ft2”,) not 1.8 metres (6ft) tall. Height is comparative and what is tall today is quite a bit taller than in past generations, as you point out it is affected not only by genetics but by climate, diet and living conditions.


  17. I don’t know why no one is talking about how this whole article is very racist. Take your white Supremacy somewhere else.


    1. The inquiries of anthropologists, other social scientists, and many forensic investigators in a varied range of fields who investigate mummified bodies, are not white supremacy nor is racism their principle. You are evidently hypersensitive. The same persons investigate mummified or naturally preserved bodies found in Europe, the British Isles, and anywhere else that the bodies turn up. Physical characteristics are obviously part of such investigations because they are examining bodies. Without human curiosity and imagination we would not have as much knowledge as we do. Furthermore, your assumptions of supremacy being a ‘white’ notion is false. Worldwide, humanity has held opinions about supremacy throughout history. The Inca, for example, conquered others and held themselves to be superior – in many ways, they no doubt were so. The Romans in Britain were undoubtedly superior in civilisation to the Celts they encountered in Britain during the Ancient Roman empire, particularly in engineering. The Chinese considered themselves superior to any other people. Superior achievements are real. Until Christianity, there was no belief in the dignity of each person but the dignity of each person does not confer equality in talent, capacity, character, looks, abilities, intelligence, artistry, etc. among individuals. We are equal in the sight of God, not in the sight of man.


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