(SPAIN EXPANDS, to 1600 – continued)
Spain took seriously its power in the Americas. The Spanish were concerned about competition from the monarchies of England and France, and in 1526 Lucas Vásques de Ayllón tried to establish a colony in what today is South Carolina, a colony that failed.
Another expansion took place in 1529 when Spanish soldiers looking for fame and wealth pushed from Mexico City 300 miles northwest to what they called Nueva Galicia. They pillaged, burned villages and enslaved people who got in their way. Wanting slaves and needing an excuse for slave taking, they goaded friendly Indians into rebellion. And in 1531 they established the town of Guadalajara, named after their leader's birthplace in Spain.
The Inca empire became more vulnerable following the death of its ruler, Huayna Capac, in 1527. The empire was divided between his two sons, and a quarrel between led to civil war. Then a measles epidemic began in both Mexico and Inca territory.
The brother who won the civil war was Atahuallpa. Atahuallpa held his brother prisoner and was consolidating his victory by warring against members of the royal family and some nobles who had sided with his brother, when, in 1532, a Spaniard in his mid-fifties, Francisco Pizarro, arrived in Inca territory with 102 men, 62 horses and some interpreters.
Atahuallpa had been warned of Pizarro's arrival. He knew of the Spanish and their horses and was unafraid of a force of 102 men. He agreed to meet Pizarro at the central plaza of Cajamarca, a town in the northern half of the empire. He was accompanied by five to six thousand armed men, and his army of around 35,000 was nearby. He arrived carried aloft in a chair on the shoulders of his servants. Pizarro's chaplain greeted the king with the announcement that King Charles V of Spain was the only true king and that the Christian god was the only true god. Atahuallpa was handed a copy of the Bible. The Inca king was not about to take instruction, believing as the Inca did that their gods had put them on the world to teach others and that their great god of the sky, Virechocha, controlled all things. Atahuallpa 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 that had the advantage of range: harquebusiers (predecessor of the musket) and two light cannon. Then Pizarro's cavalry charged. The Inca warriors around Atahuallpa ran, and the sight of men running in fear frightened Atahuallpa's main force, and they also ran.
A few Spaniards were superficially wounded, while at least 1,500 Inca were killed. Pizarro took Atahuallpa prisoner, and for months he used him as a hostage and pawn with which to govern, while Atahuallpa's generals feared that attacking the Spaniards would leave their king dead.
Atahuallpa 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 received their treasure: 13,420 pounds of 22 carat gold and 26,000 pounds of pure silver. Spaniard reinforcements arrived – 150 in number. Atahuallpa was accused of organizing an attack against the Spanish. He was charged 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. Atahuallpa converted, submitted stoically, was strangled in the Plaza of Cajamarca and given a Christian burial.
Pizarro accepted another son of Huayna Capac as his puppet king for the Inca, and Inca obedience to the god-king helped Pizarro continue his rule, while Spanish soldiers and colonists were flocking to South America in great number.
Pizarro's puppet king died within the year, and he was replaced by another brother, Manco Inca. Pizarro had as allies some who had been dominated by the Inca, while some who had been dominated by the Inca remained at least passive toward the Spanish. Helping in this passivity was the continuing belief among local peoples that the Spaniards were agents of the gods, fulfilling a prophecy about times of trouble.
Pizarro conquered the Inca capital, Cuzco. Remnants of Atahuallpa's once proud army fled north to Quito. Then in 1536, Pizarro's puppet, Manco Inca, broke his strings and led a rebellion. He and his followers were driven into the mountains, where an Inca rule-in-exile would remain hidden for generations. Pizarro 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.
Pizarro defeated a Spaniard's attempt to grab power away from him. But Pizarro didn't have much time to enjoy his power and new wealth. In 1551, while in his mid-sixties, followers of his defeated rival enemy took revenge and assassinated him.
More native South Americans meanwhile were dying from a typhus epidemic that had arrived in 1545. Then from Europe came a virulent form of influenza, carried like the typhus by the Indians themselves, ahead of the Spanish.
Copyright © 2000-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.