The Last Days of the Incas
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The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.
In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.
But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
wonder at small but deadly holes that had miraculously appeared, the lead balls having pierced their armor, expanding, then splattering and ripping up soft organs and flesh. [The battle then began] and Captain General Rodrigo Orgóñez, seeing that the enemy harquebusiers were gashing his troops, said to one of his captains who commanded fifty cavalrymen “Charge, sir, with your squadron . . . and break up those harquebusiers!” He [the captain] answered . . . “Do you mean for me to be butchered?”
1538, he brought with him those of his retinue who had escaped the recent Spanish invasion and sacking of Vitcos. With his sister-queen, Cura Ocllo, and with what was left of his harem, his temple priests, masons, architects, servants, carpenters, healers, royal guards, diviners, farmers, and herders, Manco soon began transforming the rugged frontier town into a makeshift royal city, the capital of a self-sufficient state. True, he had been forced to abandon the highlands, but Manco was
mills beside Lima’s Rimac River, important business meetings and papers sometimes had to be transported along with a notary to the site of the mills, “in whose construction he [Pizarro] spent all his leisure time, urging on the workmen who were building them.” Similarly, when the time came for the casting of the first bronze bell of Lima’s cathedral, which Pizarro had dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, once again the governor could be found not in his residence relaxing but
course, was that Lizarraga had staked his claim of discovery with a bit of charcoal and had no access to national or international publications. At least three other people had told Bingham where to look for the ruins, although none of them had actually visited them, and one of them, Albert Giesecke, even told Bingham to contact a farmer who lived there named Melchor Arteaga, who could lead him to the ruins. Clearly, then, a number of people in the region knew about the ruins at Machu Picchu and
supplies and would join Pizarro at a later date. Pizarro could only hope that Almagro would arrive soon, before Atahualpa divined his true intent: that he and his men were here to stay and had no intention whatsoever of leaving. Weeks passed before finally a slow trickle of gold and silver objects began to arrive, which each day continued to grow larger. Wrote the notary Francisco de Xerez: And thus, [on some days] twenty thousand, on others thirty thousand, fifty, or sixty thousand pesos de