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Spain against the Incan Empire

Like the Aztecs, the Inca had been conquerors a couple of centuries before the Spanish had arrived. They had built an empire in the highlands of what today is Peru.

Like others, the Inca saw themselves as favored by their gods. They saw themselves as less lustful and less foolish than other peoples. They believed that the gods had put them into the world to teach the morally weak: people who had turned to sodomy and away from the hard work of growing food.

Their chief god, Viracocha, was creator of the earth, humans and other creatures. If something went wrong someone had failed to observe the proper ceremony, and confessions had to be made and penitences accomplished. On the first day of every lunar month, llamas were slaughtered as sacrifices, as gifts to the gods. Humans, including children, were sacrificed on special occasions.

In 1493, the year after Columbus had reached the Hispaniola, the Inca king, Túpac Inca Yupanqui, died. The Inca fell to the troubles of succession that had disturbed so many other kingdoms. Their empire was divided between the king's two sons, and a quarrel between them led to civil war. There was also a measles epidemic, a disease from Europe that had spread to Inca territory. In 1532, one of the brothers, Atahualpa, was consolidating his victory when a Spaniard in his mid-fifties, Francisco Pizarro, arrived in Inca territory with 102 men, 62 horses and some interpreters.

Atahualpa was warned of Pizarro's arrival. He was unafraid of Pizarro's force of only 102 men and agreed to meet Pizarro at a central plaza in the town of Cajamarca. Atahualpa was accompanied by five to six thousand armed men, with an army of around 35,000 nearby. He arrived carried aloft in a chair on the shoulders of his servants. Pizarro's chaplain greeted the king, announcing that King Charles V of Spain was the only true king and that the Christian god was the only true god. Atahualpa was handed a copy of the Bible, and he demonstrated an unwillingness to take instruction. He looked at the Bible and threw it to the ground. A prearranged signal by the Spanish was given, and Spaniards who had been hiding from view of the Incas fired weapons: arquebuses (predecessor of the musket) and two light cannons. Then Pizarro's cavalry charged. The Inca warriors around Atahualpa were shocked by the strangeness of it and they ran, and the sight of men running frightened Atahuallpa's main force, and they also ran. Pizarro tactic was a lesson learned from Cortes's experience against the Aztecs. The Inca were not illiterate and had not learned of Cortes's methods.

A few Spaniards were superficially wounded, at this, the Battle of Cajamarca, while at least 1,500 Inca were killed. (Some say 7,000.) Pizarro took Atahualpa prisoner, and for months he used him as a hostage while Atahualpa's generals feared that attacking Pizarro and the Spaniards would leave their king dead.

Atahualpa offered Pizarro gold and silver in exchange for his freedom, believing that with this Pizarro and his men would go away. Pizarro agreed, and Atahuallpa ordered agents to collect the treasure — mainly from areas that had supported his brother. Pizarro and his men have been described as receiving 13,420 pounds of 22-karat gold and 26,000 pounds of pure silver.

For Pizzaro, reinforcements arrived — 150 in number. The Spaniards charged Atahualpa with treason, plotting the murder of his brother, worshipping false gods and polygamy. Condemned to be burned at the stake, he was told that if he accepted Christianity he would only be strangled to death. Atahualpa converted, submitted stoically, was strangled in the Plaza of Cajamarca and given a Christian burial.

Pizarro took a younger brother of Atahualpa, Túpac Huallpa, and made him a puppet king of the Inca, having him crowned in a ceremony to convince the Inca people that they were still being ruled by an Inca. Pizarro's puppet king died in October 1533, just a couple of months after Atahualpa had been executed, and he was replaced by another brother, Manco Inca.

In November, Pizarro and an army of Spaniards moved to conquer what had been the Inca capital, Cuzco. Pizarro continued to benefit from gunpowder and the gun as a weapon, while the Inca opposition had slingshots, or short wooden spears. ( According to Wikipedia, the Inca also tried "casting spells before and during battle.")

As the Spanish army approached Cuzco, Pizarro sent his brother Juan Pizarro and Hernando de Soto ahead with forty men, and the advance guard fought a pitched battle with Incan troops in front of the city, securing victory. An Incan army withdrew during the night. The Spanish plundered Cuzco, where they found much gold and silver.

In January, 1535, Pizarro founded the City of the Kings (Ciudad de los Reyes) to be be known as Lima. It had been incorporated into the Inca Empire in the 1400s. In 1536, Manco Inca rebelled and besieged the city, but Spanish and their native allies defeataed them, and Manco Inca led his followers into the mountains, where an Inca rule-in-exile would remain hidden for generations. Pizarro had the wife that Manco Inca had left behind stripped, beaten, shot with arrows and her body floated down the Yucay River for Manco Inca's forces to find.

Francisco Pizarro and his son Hernando had a falling out with a fellow conquistador of considerable wealth, Diego de Almagro. Diego de Almagro begged for his life and Hernando is described as holding that "since God had given [Almagro] the grace to be a Christian, he should employ his remaining moments in making up his account with Heaven!" Almagro was executed in 1538." Three years later, Almargro's son, Diego, and his followers attacked and managed to break into Pizarro's palace. Francisco Pizarro died bleeding on the floor, where, according to reports, he painted a cross with his own blood and cried out for Jesus Christ.

The following year, after losing the battle of Chupas, near Cuzco, (September 1542), Diego, was caught and executed. Around 1200 Spaniards fought and killed about 200 on the side of Diego de Almagro.

Also 1542, the Spanish created the Viceroyalty of Peru, an administrative district for most of Spanish-ruled South America, governed from Lima.

CONTINUE READING: Portugal, Africa and Slavery

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