Pizzaro’s Expeditions to the New World
Francisco Pizzaro Gonzales, born in Trujillo the illegitimate son of an infantry colonel, sailed for the New World in 1509 in search of his fortune. He served on several expeditions and was rewarded by being made magistrate of Panama City, a post he held until 1523. The following year he made a pact, with a priest Hernando da Luque and a soldier Diego da Amalgro, to conquer the lands to the south. Da Luque was apparently acting as agent for the group’s financial backer, Licenciate[i] Gaspar de Espinosa.The first expedition was a failure and a formal agreement was entered into between the three in March 1526. Eight months later an expedition set sail. This expedition was to encounter a trading vessel of the Inca Empire and also resulted in failure. But an expeditionary force headed by Pizzaro sailed down the western coast of South America.
Excited by the prospects of wealth Pizzaro returned to Spain to win approval from the king of Spain[ii] and raise more money and men. Pizzaro’s presence in Spain coincided with that of Cortes, back from conquering Mexico. Cortes encouraged the young adventurer and 26th July 1529 the queen signed a Capitulacion[iii] making Pizzaro Governor and Captain General of Peru. Da Luque was made Protector of the Indians and promised a bishopric.
Pizzaro returned to the New World in January 1529, with three of his half-brothers and a host of Conquistadores. Pizzaro’s third expedition set sail on 27th December 1530. Landing on the Ecuador coast the explorers had many months of marching along a seemingly endless tropical coast line. They had a number of minor tussles with natives, but the promised wealth was not evident. Pizzaro and his men were in the border lands of a far-flung empire, that was in the throes of civil war; a fact that was crucial in their conquest.The Inca
By the time the Spanish made their incursions into south Americas the Inca ruled almost half the western seaboard of South America, from north of Ecuador to the southern end of Chile. The ruler of this extended empire was the Sapa Inca[iv]. The Sapa Inca claimed descent from the sun and was believed to be in constant communication with his ancestor.
Huayna Capac and his father Tupac Inca had extended the Inca Empire for thousands of miles. Tupac built the fortress at Cuzco; while Huayna in the course of his conquests increased the road network throughout the empire and built storehouses alongside the roads, for storage of grain[v]. Much of the road network was built for military purposes, whilst others were constructed for religious reasons.The Inca also had military fortifications built across their empire. All males between the age of 25 to 50 were subject to compulsory military service. The soldiers’ principal weapons were slings, clubs and lances.
The Inca Empire was a sophisticated construct, albeit without horses and the latest weapons from Europe. The Inca displayed a preference for highland settlements and tended to occupy the living sites of groups that they displaced, only building new settlements for controlling conquered peoples where necessary.
The conquered populations owed labour service to the Inca in addition to goods and crops produced locally. The Inca used mass resettlement to achieve their aims of integration of conquered populations. Following subjection of a region the governor might transfer 6-7,000 families to a more settled area and replacing the inhabitants with ‘foreigners’, less likely to rise up against their overlords in a strange land.
‘The Inca induced this change of residence in order to keep his domain quiet and safe.’[vi]
The Inca controlled the output of gold, and mining of precious metals was widespread throughout the empire. Wealth was also found in the large herds of llama, vicuna and alpaca, prized for their wool. The Sapa Inca rarely wore a garment more than once, changing clothing several times a day. The llamas were used as sacrificial offerings, many of the herds owned by the imperial authorities.Huayna and his official wife and sister had no male children; but he did have fifty plus children with other women. Huayna’s death in his early sixties from smallpox[vii],, without leaving a child of his marriage to his sister, resulted in the eruption of a civil war amongst his children.
The Inca had not evolved precise rules to cover the succession to the throne. Allegedly on his deathbed Huayna proposed that his son Ninan Cuyochi take the throne, but his omens were unpropitious[viii] and instead Huascar[ix] was pronounced the twelfth Sapa Inca by the Inca hierarchy. At Huascar’s enthronement in Cuzco he was escorted by about forty of his brothers.Born on 20 March 1497 Atahualpa[x], another of Huayna’s sons, was a rival of Huascar’s. He remained in Tumebamba; but a number of men believed to be his supporters were killed on Huascar’s orders. Atahualpa sent further supporters to Huascar, requesting that his governorship of Quito be confirmed. Huascar had these men killed too. Huascar was persuaded that Atahualpa intended to usurp his throne and ordered Atahualpa to present himself in Cuzco; in the event of his non-appearance an army would be sent for him.
Huascar’s general Atoco was initially successful when he took his army into the field, occupying Tumebamba and capturing Atahualpa, who managed to escape, allegedly by digging through a wall with a silver bar. Once free; Atahualpa gathered a large force which defeated Atoco at Ambato[xi]. Atoco died in the battle. The victorious army, led by two of Atahualpa’s generals, engaged with forces commanded by another of Huascar’s brothers. As Atahualpa’s armies approached Cuzco Huascar took to the field. Initially victorious Huascar was taken captive by Atahualpa’s generals.
One contemporary chronicler claims that Huascar was an alcoholic and cruel;‘Huascar had the skins of most of his brother’s envoys made into drums but sent a few back to Tumebamba with insulting messages to their master.’[xii]
He also claimed that Atahualpa also committed atrocities to match those of his brother. Eighty of Huascar’s children were killed in front of him and his supporters throughout the empire were slaughtered. Huascar was fed urine and faecal matter whilst imprisoned according to one chronicler.Bibliography
The Incas – Nigel Davies, Folio Society 2001The Conquest of the Incas – John Hemming, Book Club Associates 1974
[i] Judge[ii] And Holy Roman Emperor
[iv] Unique Inca
[v] This grain appears to have been used for the use of local and visiting officials and for the military
[vi] The Incas – Nigel Davies
[vii] Possibly sometime between 1525 & 1527 Atahualpa told Pizzaro that his father died in 1524, but different sources indicate either 1525 or 1527.
[viii] He died of smallpox shortly after
[ix] Huayna’s second choice
[x] Out of favour with his failure with his father as the result of the failure of an expedition force he led.
[xi] South of Quito
[xii] The Incas – Nigel Davies