Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

The Spanish Conquest

About Pizarro.—In order to give an intelligible account of the conquest of Peru, we must give our attention to the Europeans who now began to take the dominant position in affairs. It is necessary, furthermore, to go back, at least to that dramatic incident in the history of discovery and exploration in the new world, when Balboa stood upon a mountain peak on the Isthmus of Darien and looked out upon the great western ocean, and then took possession thereof in the name of the King of Spain.

Among the followers of Balboa on that occasion was Francisco Pizarro, a native of Trujillo in Estremadura, Spain. Trained to a soldier's life under "The Great Captain," Gonsalvo de Cordova, he became a colonist in the New World in 1509. He was among those who settled in Panama after Balboa's discovery, and there he heard the reports brought back in 1522 by Pascual de Andogoya of wealthy lands lying far to the south. Andogoya had entertained a scheme for the exploration and conquest of this rich southern country, but, being obliged by ill-health to abandon it, he turned it over to a tri-partnership consisting of Pizarro and Almagro (two daring adventurers), and a priest named Luque, who was the moneyed man of the concern.

A small vessel was purchased at Panama, and in 1524, Pizarro made a voyage down the coast which brought no results. In a second voyage, eighteen months later, he and his crew were about to turn back discouraged, when their pilot, who had been sent ahead, returned to them and reported that he had crossed the equator and had fallen in with a large sea-going raft from further south, laden with cloth and various articles of silver, all of intelligent workmanship, and managed by crews who wore clothing, in striking contrast to the naked savages whom they had seen elsewhere along the coast.

These Indians were reported to come from Tumbez, which was about two hundred miles further south. Almagro thereupon turned back with his ship to Panama to secure reinforcements, while Pizarro pushed on and landed his men upon the island of Gallo, where he waited for months for Almagro's return. Things reached a pretty low ebb on the island of Gallo, but no sooner did Almagro return with provisions, than Pizarro set out with his few men, and, twenty days later, arrived in Tumbez. Here he found the reports he had received fully confirmed. He explored the coast for two hundred miles further south, and in the autumn of 1527 returned to Panama, taking with him some of the natives of Tumbez and some other products of the country.

Borrowing in Panama what money he could, Pizarro went to Spain in 1528, and there reported to the Spanish king what he had discovered on the western coast of South America. At the court of the Spanish monarch he met Hernando Cortes, who had marvelous tales to tell of what had befallen him in Mexico but a few years before, and so Pizarro's tales of further wealth to be obtained in Peru were readily believed at the Spanish court. To Pizarro was granted the right of discovery and conquest in Peru, (or New Castile, as it was determined to call it), and to exercise therein functions little inferior to those of a viceroy. Thus commissioned, Pizarro hastened back to Panama, taking with him his brothers, Hernando, Juan and Gonzalo, and a small body of fighting men from Spain.

From Panama, in December, 1531, he sailed south upon the Pacific, upon his third, and, as it proved, his final voyage of discovery and conquest, leaving Almagro to follow later with reinforcements. The small army landed among the coast tribes of Ecuador, where Pizarro had the good fortune to find a store of gold and emeralds to be sent back to Almagro for the latter's encouragement. Down the Ecuadorean coast the little army of Spaniards advanced, until it reached the Gulf of Guayaquil. Upon the island of Puna the fierce inhabitants were overcome with great slaughter, and there the little army of Pizarro was joined by a reinforcement of men and horses under the command of Hernando de Soto.

Pizarro's Campaign of Conquest.—Thus reinforced Pizarro felt strong enough to cross over to Tumbez, and begin an actual campaign for the conquest of the rich country of Peru. From Tumbez he marched south to Paita, and that admirable strategic point he made the base of his military operations. He established a garrison there under the name of San Miguel, and formed the plan, which had undoubtedly been suggested to him by what he had learned from Hernando Cortes, of his method of procedure in the conquest of Mexico.

With one hundred and two foot soldiers, sixty-two horses, and two small cannon, he left San Miguel on the 24th of September, 1532, and marched south two hundred miles along the coast plain, to a point opposite Caxamarca; and then ascended the mountains by one of the Peruvian trails, being received in a friendly manner by the natives whom the army encountered. Already Pizarro had acquired information regarding Atahualpa and Huascar, and the victories won by the warriors of the former over those of the latter. He had received the message of Atahualpa and had replied as we have seen. He was now to receive Titu Atauchi (said to be Atahualpa's brother), with presents and a message to the effect that the Quitu chief desired friendship with the white men. Pizarro and his army were in fact being supplied with provisions by Atahualpa's orders. Under such happy circumstances the Spaniards advanced and entered Caxamarca on Friday, the 15th of November, 1532.

The Spaniards found at Caxamarca, according to the best accounts, a place capable of accommodating ten thousand inhabitants. The houses were built of sun-dried brick (adobe), with roofs of thatch or timber. There was a Sun temple and a house for the virgins of the Sun, who were charged with the care of the sacred fire. And in one quarter was a triangular court of immense size, surrounded by low buildings, consisting of capacious halls with wide doors or openings communicating with the court. These were supposed by the Spaniards to be the barracks of the garrison of the Incarial army. More likely they composed the communal residence of one of the kins or gentes of the tribe originally occupying Caxamarca. The entire place was deserted, and the Spaniards took possession by permission of Atahualpa, and made themselves at home in what they were pleased to call the barracks.

Imprisonment of Atahualpa.—Atahualpa and his warriors—several thousand "Indians in quilted cotton doublets, with bucklers of stiff hide, long bronze-pointed lances and copper-headed clubs (chumpis), as well as bows, slings and lassos (bolas), in the use of which these warriors were expert"—occupied a magnificent military position on rising ground some two miles distant across a mountain stream. The curiosity of these Indians in regard to the approaching Europeans must have triumphed over their fears. The image of Uira Cocha in the minds of the Peruvians was that of a bearded white man. Such was Pizarro and to that type conformed most of his followers. They might all be regarded as children of the Sun. The early hero-god of every Indian tribe was usually a white man with flowing beard. It is often argued that this is but a form of the dawn-myth—a veiled parable of the morning light, bringing joy to the world and then vanishing, to return from the east with the dawn. Horses were a novelty to the Peruvians, as we have seen. Their beasts of burden were never used for riding purposes. Fire arms and weapons of iron were also new to them.

A visit was made by a detachment of Spanish horsemen, under Hernando de Soto and Fernando Pizarro, to Atahualpa—a visit marked by the extreme of ceremonious politeness on both sides; and this served to increase the curiosity and superstitious dread of the Indians. The Spaniards on their part fully realized the perils in which they were placed, and Pizarro determined that there should be no delay in carrying out his scheme for getting possession of Atahualpa's person.

To those who have read of the Conquest of Mexico, the account of what Pizarro did in Peru must seem as though the whole drama of the conquest of the latter place was but a reiteration of what had gone on in Mexico about a decade before. There was this notable difference, however: Pizarro was a man of no education and was inferior in many ways to Hernando Cortes, the hero of the Mexican campaigns. There was a total lack of originality in the scheme of Pizarro for hastening the conquest of the country. Cortes had arrested the one whom he mistook for the Emperor of Mexico, hoping thereby to rule the country through him. Pizarro would arrest him whom he mistook for a claimant for the imperial throne of Peru. In carrying out his program, however, Pizarro was far less subtle and far more brutal than Cortes.

Atahualpa was invited to be the guest of the Spanish Captain on the morrow of the latter's arrival in Caxamarca. Curiosity prompted the Quitu to accept and he came followed by other Indians actuated by the same motive. Much fine writing has been expended upon descriptions of the gorgeousness of Atahualpa's apparel and his train. He may have assumed some personal finery on this occasion, but his most probable ornaments marking his rank, or that to which he aspired, were a head-dress of feathers and large ear pendants. The latter extended the lobes of his ears and thus entitled him and all Peruvian warriors of rank to the nickname given them by the Spaniards of origones  (big ears). The wand, or baton, which Indian war-chiefs held upon the battlefield, may well have been mistaken by the Spaniards, in the hands of Atahualpa, for an imperial scepter.

It was in accord with the spirit of the age that Pizarro should make an effort for the conversion to Christianity of the Indian chief. Once get him to accept the tenets of Christianity and the Indian would find that one of the obligations of Christianity on his part would be to accept the political theory that he belonged of right to the King of Spain. So a priest (and no Spanish army in those days was without its priest—which may not have seemed at all strange to Atahualpa, for medicine men usually accompanied the Indian warriors on their campaigns), approached the Indian war-chief, and, with the aid of an interpreter, delivered a long discourse, in which he sought to explain to Atahualpa the abstruse principles of the Christian religion. Atahualpa listened, but declined to make at once a change in the religion in which he and his people had been trained; and, as the story goes, when the book, to which the priest had frequently referred, was shown to him, finding nothing remarkable in it, after his first feelings of curiosity had been gratified, he threw it on the ground with contempt.

His action, and it may have been more particularly his general manner, furnished Pizarro with a pretext for setting his plans in motion, and he gave the signal for the onslaught. With guns and swords the Spaniards slew many of their guests, drove the remaining Indians from Caxamarca, and scattered all of Atahualpa's army. The number of the slain has been variously estimated at from two to ten thousand. Even the lesser number may have been an exaggeration. In the massacre Pizarro was copying Cortes at Cholula. Atahualpa was taken into custody and his life was spared that he might be made of further service to the Spaniards.

That his followers should have been defeated and slaughtered does not appear to have affected Atahualpa as seriously as that he should himself be deprived of his liberty. For the first few weeks Pizarro treated him with kindness. But he took every precaution to prevent the escape or the rescue of his prisoner. Any Indian would chafe under confinement. Supposing Atahualpa to have been a war-chief, his defeat and imprisonment were especially irksome because of the effect they must have upon his reputation with his tribe. To the Indian captive, taken in war, the lot of slavery was appointed.

The Offering of Gold.—Perhaps there were surviving traditions among the Quitus, of the offering of such captives in sacrifice, and there was no knowing what the white men might do. So Atahualpa made the astonishing offer for his freedom which is the most prominent feature of the conquest of Peru. He would, within two months, fill for Pizarro the room in which he was then standing, with silver and gold to the height to which he was able to reach when standing on tip-toe, if the Spaniards would release him from captivity. The room was said to be twenty-two feet long and seventeen feet wide, which would give a cubic measure of 2766 feet. The offer was accepted by Pizarro, though it was subsequently modified by allowing that the metals need not be reduced to ingot to fill the room, but would be accepted in the forms in which they appeared. We have already seen that the Indians treated gold and silver as stones and not as metals, and whatever shape they formed them into was by means of hammering.

From far and near came burdens of the precious metals, and the room began to fill up with the most curious pieces of gold and silver. But it came in more slowly than Atahualpa had expected, or than Pizarro had hoped, and in June, 1533, the stipulated amount had not been fully made up. The Peruvians may not have had clear ideas regarding individual property, but the priests had very distinct ideas as to what was due to the gods, and so they dismantled the temples and hid their treasures until the impending crisis should pass.

Meanwhile Hernando Pizarro and a body of men—twenty horsemen and half a dozen arquebusiers—made a trip to the famous temple of Pachacamac, four hundred miles distant, in order that they might despoil it. They found Pachamac of considerable population and of substantially built edifices. The temple was a vast stone building or pile of buildings, grouped around a conical hill, seeming more like a fortress than a religious establishment. The guardians of the sacred edifice at first refused admittance to the Spaniards, but the latter forced the entrance and wound their way along the passage-way leading to the summit of the mount, where was the sanctuary. Here their progress was again opposed by the Indian priests, when an earthquake shock was felt, and the natives fled in alarm. Pizarro tore open the door, entered the sacred place with his party, and found it a place of sacrifice. Standing in one corner was a grotesque looking wooden idol, which had been used as an oracle by the priests of the temple. This the Spaniards delayed not to demolish and in its place they erected a large cross.

The natives, seeing that the wrath of the gods, as manifested by the earthquake, was not visited upon the Spaniards, inclined to the belief that they must in some way be in the enjoyment of the special favor of the gods. So they came in to become better acquainted with the strangers, and to offer their allegiance. But Pizarro found that the wily priests, who had been advised in advance that his mission to Pachacamac was not so much for the purpose of converting the heathen as for securing the property of the gods, had sent most of the treasure away. The rest was found, after diligent search, buried in the ground. This proved considerable, however, amounting to nearly eighty thousand castellanos of gold and with that Hernando Pizarro had to be content. He was able to return to Caxamarca unmolested by the Indians.

Three soldiers were subsequently sent to Cuzco to hurry forward the treasure from that rich place. But they behaved with so little discretion that they endangered their own lives and the success of their mission. Hernando de Soto and another officer had to be sent to repair the mischief. On the 3rd of May, 1533, Pizarro determined to melt down and distribute the gold and silver that had already arrived. Another large installment arrived on the 14th of June. Altogether the officially recorded amount realized was 3,933,000 ducats of gold and 672,670 ducats of silver, or 4,500,000 sterling ($21,870,000) in modern money. One-fifth was sent to the royal treasury. The remainder was divided among the followers of Pizarro, giving to each man enough to make him rich for life.

At once the money market became glutted. What the soldiers did not spend in gambling they paid out lavishly for the necessities of life and, in a land where iron was unknown, the rough soldiers had their horses shod with silver and went to like foolish extravagances. The price and purchasing value of silver went down at once in Peru, and it was not long before the money markets of Europe were seriously affected by the influx of silver from the mines of the New World.

Whatever bonds had held together the government of the Quichua tribes was broken, and every chief and every subjected tribe acted independently. Huascar was murdered at the command of Atahualpa, as was generally supposed. Quizquiz tried to defend Cuzco, but with no apparent success. Manco Capac Yupanqui, apparently elected Inca in the place of Huascar, surrendered to the Spaniards, evidently seeking their protection.

Atahualpa Garroted.—Pizarro basely failed to keep his promise regarding the release of Atahualpa. The Indian spent the time of his captivity in learning the Spanish language and some of the Spanish gambling games. He learned also something about Spanish character, which must have increased his confidence in his own good judgment in rejecting the religion of the white men offered him before his arrest. After the payment of the ransom, it became a problem which the coarse, uneducated Pizarro was incapable of solving, what to do with him. Large bodies of troops were on their way from Cuzco, undoubtedly determined to expel the invaders, who had by this time shown that they were either very human, or else very unfriendly gods. Pizarro was afraid to release Atahualpa, lest he add to the strength of the rising forces of the enemy. But, if he kept him a prisoner, the gathering hosts of warriors, regarded by the Spaniards as Atahualpa's partisans, would fight for his release. The execution of the prisoner was proposed as a measure of good policy. It was determined upon by Pizarro, by Almagro (who had reinforced the Spaniards in Peru in April, 1533), and by the priest who had failed to convert Atahualpa the day of his arrest.

On the 29th of August, 1533, Atahualpa was subjected to the mockery of a trial and adjudged guilty of the murder of Huascar, of conspiring against the Spaniards, of polygamy and of idolatry, and was sentenced to death. He was promised, however, that this death should be by strangulation rather than by burning, if he would abjure his religion and be baptized into the Christian faith. He was thereupon baptized, taking the name of Juan. Then, in the great square of Caxamarca, he was garroted. His body was afterwards burned. This dark tragedy should not be related without noting that sixteen Spaniards protested against it. One of them, Hernando de Soto, was absent from Caxamarca at the time, but declared, when he learned what had been done, that if he had been present he would have prevented the execution. He soon afterwards withdrew from an enterprise which was stained with so much blood, sought adventure in the northern continent, explored Florida, and discovered the Mississippi river.

It is related that Pizarro put a younger brother of Atahualpa in his place, Toparca by name, and that the high-spirited youth refused to serve and died of humiliation within two months. We can readily understand that it was impossible for anyone to serve without the election of the tribal council, and that Toparca was placed in an embarrassing position by the ignorance of the Spanish leader. He would especially dread the punishment that would be meted out to him by his tribe for any assumption of authority on his part.

Pizarro's Continued Cruelty.—Soon after the execution of Atahualpa, Pizarro evacuated Caxamarca, resolving to strike at Cuzco, while the inter-tribal war was in progress. On his march thither he was attacked in the rear by Titu Atauchi, the brother of Atahualpa, who had been a messenger to Pizarro's camp, and eight Spaniards were taken prisoners and carried back to Caxamarca. The captors exercised a wise discrimination with these prisoners, treating with kindness two of them, who had been among those who had protested against the execution of Atahualpa, and strangling, upon the spot where Atahualpa had suffered death, one who had acted as clerk of the court which had adjudged him guilty. The greater part of the Spanish army under Pizarro and Almagro took up a position on the plain of Sacsahuamana, near Cuzco, and there another savage act was committed by Pizarro. Chalcachima, a war chief, was arrested and charged with having caused the attack of Titu Atauchi, and was burned alive in expiation of his alleged crime.

Pizarro was opposed by Quizquiz and his warriors, but the incredible speed of the Spanish cavalry gave him every advantage. The Spanish lost heavily in the neighborhood. But Quizquiz was in a hostile country, where the tribes had been partisans of Huascar, and were inclined to regard favorably the murderers of Atahualpa. Fancying that the inter-tribal war was for the purpose of settling a disputed succession, such as he was accustomed to in Europe, Pizarro favored Manco Capac Yupanqui, treated him as the legitimate Inca, and assured him that the sole object of the march of the Spaniards from Caxamarca was to crush the enemies of the Cuzcan Inca. Quizquiz was finally obliged to retire before the combined forces of Spaniards and Cuzcans, leaving the way open for the Spaniards.

Pizarro Enters Cuzco.—On the 15th of November, 1533, Pizarro entered Cuzco. Under his protection Manco Capac Yupanqui was formally installed as Inca, "with all the ancient rites." The new Inca set out with all the warriors he could raise, including some Spaniards, in pursuit of Quizquiz, overtook and defeated him some distance north of Cuzco. After another repulse, in an attempt to cut off Pizarro's communication with the sea, Quizquiz made his way back to the north. The tribes in the central portion of what had been the Incariate found that the Spaniards regarded their conquest of the country as complete and the land as their own.

A Spanish municipal government was established in Cuzco the following March; the Dominicans received the Temple of the Sun as a monastery; other buildings were taken to serve as churches, private dwellings and barracks, and the Indian pueblo was transformed into a Spanish city. Tombs, temples and private residences were carefully searched for gold. The natives were impressed into military service for the Spaniards, and it was not long before the Peruvians found themselves the slaves of those whom they had supposed were their allies and protectors.

Pizarro gave his attention to matters of administration in his conquered country. He established the city of Lima to be his capital; strengthened San Miguel, and built a city which he named after his own birthplace, Trujillo. These three cities were so located as to give him control of the entire country. But scarcely had this government of the Conqueror been established than civil war broke out among the Spaniards. Almagro had entertained no very cordial feelings toward Pizarro since his return from Spain with rank and assured fortune for himself, and with the Bishopric of Tumbez for Padre Luque, but with scanty provision for his other partner in the enterprise.

His feeling of bitterness was increased when he and his men were left out of the division of the spoils at Caxamarca, notwithstanding he had arrived before the ransom of Atahualpa was fully made up. And now that the conquest of the country was considered complete, he was coolly informed that he was to be governor of lands beginning two hundred and seventy leagues south of Tumbez! So he was forced to set out for the conquest of his province, and, after toilsome journeys, he reached the fertile valleys of Chile. But he found little gold there and so returned and tried to establish a claim to the city of Cuzco. It was before the war had begun between Almagro and the Pizarros for the possession of Cuzco, and the territories which naturally went with it, that the Peruvians, under Manco Capac Yupanqui, revolted, and, with the knowledge they had gained of Spanish war methods, attempted to throw off the yoke imposed upon them by the higher civilization.

Hernando, Juan, and Gonzalo Pizarro with two hundred Spaniards occupied Cuzco. The rest of the Spaniards were scattered. Francisco Pizarro was in Lima. Almagro was in Chile. Manco Capac Yupanqui gathered all the native warriors in the neighborhood and besieged the city in 1536 and maintained the siege for several months. During that time there were numbers of fights in which both sides lost heavily and in one of them Juan Pizarro lost his life. The advantage was mostly with the Spaniards. As the planting season approached (September), it became necessary for the Indians to raise the siege, and Manco Capac Yupanqui retired in the direction of Vilcabamba and encountered Almagro on his return from Chile to assert his claim to Cuzco. A battle ensued in which the Peruvians suffered another defeat and slaughter.

Manco Capac Yupanqui established himself in the mountain fastnesses of Vilcabamba. With stoical resignation, characteristic of the Indians, he and his followers, in these almost inaccessible defiles of the mountains north of Cuzco, made the best of their sad situation, and left the conquerors to fight among themselves over the division of the spoils which had, as though by a miracle, fallen into their hands.

Death of Pizarro.—In the bitter feuds among the Spaniards, Cuzco was seized by Almagro and subsequently recovered by the Pizarros. Almagro being then captured, was tried for sedition and summarily executed in July, 1538. In June, three years later, Francisco Pizarro, whom the King of Spain had created a Marquis, was assassinated by Almagro's half-breed son, who was proclaimed Governor of Peru. But his day was a short one, for the King of Spain sent out a judge, Vaca de Castro by name, to advise with Pizarro concerning the government. As he arrived subsequent to Pizarro's assassination, he assumed, as had been provided for, the government. In 1542 he defeated young Almagro and had him beheaded in the great square at Cuzco.

In the meantime the conquest had been extended into the Ecuadorean region. With the death of Atahualpa and the defeat of Quizquiz, the tribes of that region had been left without a leader, having already been drained of their able-bodied warriors. But the survivors of the various tribes fought among themselves. Some of them applied to the Spaniards, as Manco Capac Yupanqui had done, for protection and assistance, and with a similar result. Sebastian de Benalcazar led a force of two hundred Spaniards from Pizarro's garrison at San Miguel, and, being assisted by various Indian tribes, after a terrible fight at Tiocajas, took possession of Quito in December, 1533. Benalcazar was disappointed in his search for gold. He therefore divided the country, after the manner of the feudal system to which he had been accustomed in Europe, enslaved the Indians and compelled them to pay tribute; and then proceeded to other scenes of conquest beyond the territories in which we are at present interested. Quito subsequently became the scene of disorders similar to those which marked the history of Cuzco under the rule of the conquerors. With the conquest of the Chilean region under Pedro de Valdivia subsequent to 1540 we have little to do, as that conquest was of Araucanians rather than of the Peruvians.

Vaca de Castro was succeeded in 1544 by Blasco Nunez Vela, who was sent to Peru as governor, charged with the enforcement of the "New Laws" promulgated for the immediate abolishment of the slavery of the Indians. Against the arbitrary enforcement of these laws the Spaniards rose in rebellion, and the Viceroy was slain in battle near Quito in January, 1546. He was succeeded by Pedro de la Gasca, an ecclesiastic, an inquisitor and a shrewd politician. He repealed so much of the "New Laws" as required the immediate abolition of slavery. This for a while propitiated the Spaniards, but after a time a rebellion broke out, in which Gonzalo Pizarro ("the last of the Pizarros") was leader. It gathered strength for a while, but was eventually put down.

Gonzalo Pizarro was executed in 1548. Gasca returned to Spain in 1550. Peru was left in confusion and the governments ad interim  had rebellion after rebellion to encounter, until the arrival, in June, 1550, of Don Andres Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis of Canete, who will ever be known as the "good Viceroy" of Peru. His goodness consisted in his efforts to alleviate the lot of the natives. He dared not venture to give them all the rights guaranteed by the Spanish "New Laws", but he made the Spaniards understand that their more outrageous forms of oppressing the Indians must cease. The native chiefs were allowed to exercise jurisdiction as magistrates under a modification of the Spanish system.