Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

The Breaking Up of the Incariate

The Incariate War.—Huayna Capac died in Quito in 1525, and thus was furnished the opportunity for which the Charas of Quito had been looking to reassert their independence. According to some accounts Huayna Capac disposed of the two grand divisions of the Incariate according to his own ideas of how things should be. The northern portion he gave to Atahualpa, a son born to him by the daughter of the chief who had been defeated and slain in the final capture of the northern tribe. To Huascar, a son by a legitimate Cuzcan wife, he bequeathed the southerly portion of the Incariate, but without any intention of disrupting the Incariate, proposing that the paramount authority should reside in the Cuzcan Inca. It is in accordance with such an understanding of the events following upon the death of Huayna Capac, that the subsequent history of the Incariate is usually written. Yet it would have been utterly at variance with Indian social customs for Huayna Capac thus to dispose of tribal offices or territorial government; it seems far more likely that Atahualpa was elected chief of the Quitus by the tribal council, and that the tribal council in Cuzco elected Huascar (or, as he is also called, Inti-Cusi-Hualpa) Inca; and that with the election the Quitus expressed a decided determination to take advantage of the death of Huayna Capac and reopen the war with the Cuzcans. Thus is explained the war which broke out almost immediately. It was a war to determine where lay the balance of power. Undoubtedly this question would have been settled in favor of the Quitus, had it not been for the advent of the Europeans and the subjugation of both Quitus and Cuzcans to the crown of Spain.

The struggle is alleged to have been at first for the predominance in the Incariate. It is said that Atahualpa made overtures to Huascar to have his authority recognized within a limited jurisdiction, and that these overtures were answered to the effect that Huascar could demand no less than immediate and unconditional obedience on the part of the northern tribes. In the first campaign the northern territory was made the seat of war and the Cuzcans assumed the aggressive. Both sides suffered severely, but the final advantage lay with the Quitus, and the Cuzcans were forced to retire in the direction of Caxamarca. In a subsequent campaign the Quitus under Chalcauchima and Quizquiz, noted war-chiefs, took the aggressive, poured into the northern coast regions of the Incariate, ascended the mountains, defeated the Cuzcans in a battle near Caxamarca, and followed them as they retreated south of the Cerro de Pasco. A decisive battle took place at Cuzco in which the Cuzcans were defeated and scattered and Huascar was made a prisoner.

Atahualpa was at Tumibamba, near the site of the present city of Cuenca, when he received the news that his warriors had not only gained a decisive victory over the Cuzcans, but had also the person of the Inca in their hands. He started at once for Caxamarca, the first place of importance on the great plateau south of the southern boundary of what is now the South American state of Ecuador. He was accompanied by a small body of warriors. It was while he was waiting near Caxamarca that he heard the wonderful news that two hundred bearded white men had landed on the coast at Tumbez, on the southern side of the Gulf of Guayaquil. They wore garments and bore arms different from those of the Indians, and they were carried over the ground at a terrific speed upon the backs of beasts much larger than the llama or the alpaca.

Some years previously, that is to say, in the year 1527, a ship carrying some of these strangers had landed at various points along the Pacific coast, to beg provisions and to ask questions regarding the character of the land. Two of the strangers had been left behind when the ship finally departed, and were taken to the interior of the country. What otherwise became of them no one knows. They must, however, have given to the Quitan leaders much information regarding the character and purposes of the white men. At all events, Atahualpa appears by his actions to have realized that the power and importance of the Europeans was greater than was indicated by their meager numbers. He sent one of his brothers, (according to the usual accounts), to the white men to assure them of his goodwill and to inquire as to their wishes and intentions. He received in reply a message from the white men to the effect that their leader appreciated Atahualpa's kind assurances of regard and that the white men would proceed at once to Caxamarca and pay their respects to him in person. And thus began the series of events which resulted in the subjugation of the Peruvians to the Spaniards.