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Arrival of the Spanish Dynastic war

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Arrival of the Spanish

Dynastic war

When Francisco Pizzaro first reached the domains of the Inca in 1532, he came across an empire divided by civil war. The succession to Wayna Qhapaq's throne suffered conflicting claims between Waskhar and Atawallpa, two royal sons by different mothers. Wayna Qhapaq had named the order of succession to be Ninan Cuyuchi, Atawallpa and Waskhar, but Ninan Cuyuchi's untimely death to the same pestilence that claimed his father's life and Atawallpa's initial refusal to bear the fringe of leadership spun the empire into a dynastic war that fractured the empire and made the Spanish conquest much simpler.

Atawallpa retired to Ecuador and remained there, along with the Incas' most seasoned army. Although he declared obeisance to his brother at first, these pledges of loyalty were not received well in Cuzco and various messengers were maimed, tortured and killed. When he heard of Waskhar's suspicions of treason, Atawallpa reacted by erecting palaces in Tumipampa, and dressed in his father's vestments to visit Quito. Waskhar decided Atawallpa's actions indicated a claim of legitimacy to the throne, and soon began a military offensive against his brother in the north.

The dynastic war between Waskhar and Atawallpa was fought along the length of the northern half of the empire, with many battles taking place between Cuzco and Quito. Eventually, Atawallpa and his allies were triumphant. Challcochima and Quizquiz, Atawallpa's two principal generals, entered Cuzco and took Waskhar and his family prisoner. Some time later, Cusi Yupanki, Atawallpa's highest-ranking military officer and High Priest of the Sun, arrived in Cuzco. Under his supervision, Waskhar's wives and children were executed and the mummy of Thupa Inka Yupanki was burned. While Atawallpa travelled south towards Cuzco, he received word of a party of strange, bearded men on the coast at Tumbes, who were pillaging and killing. Dispatching Ruminawi "Stone Eye" at the head of 20,000 men to meet the Spaniards, the emperor waited at Cajamarca for both the Spaniards and the defeated Waskhar.

The Spanish Conquest

Vasco Nunez de Balboa first sighted the Pacific in 1513, and over the next fifteen years the Spanish pushed the limits of European exploration south from Panama, through Columbia and down the Ecuadorian coast. In 1528, Bartolome Ruiz captured a treasure-laden raft on the Ecuadorian coast that promised a rich land somewhere nearby. News of Ruiz's success aided Francisco Pizarro in obtaining a royal concession as governor of this unknown land, as well as attracting financial support and men back in Spain to carry out the conquest. Many of the 168 men Pizarro led into the Andes were veterans of the conquest of Mexico, and were dedicated to their quest for great wealth in the New World.

At Tumbes, on Peru's north coast, the Spanish first found evidence of a major civilization: roads, storehouses and state installations. They founded a new settlement at San Miguel (modern day Piura) about 100km south of Tumbes, and by November of 1532 Pizarro had gathered enough resources and men to ascend the Andes and meet the Inca prince Atawallpa. The first day of contact, on November 15th, was inconclusive. A brief speech offering friendship by Captain Hernando de Soto was not answered by Atawallpa, though the Spaniards were invited to dine with the royal assembly.

After a short period of indecision, the Spanish decided to feign friendship then execute a surprise attack by hiding artillery, men and horses inside the buildings around the main plaza at Cajamarca. Atawallpa had apparently decided on a similar course of action, explaining to the Spaniards later that he had planned to torture and kill a number of them then castrate the remainder for the service of the women's institutions. When Atawallpa entered the plaza the next day, accompanied by some of the highest ranking lords of the land and several thousand of his personal guard, he was approached by the Dominican friar Vicente de Valverde. After explaining how he had been sent to reveal the word of God to the people of the land, Atawallpa threw a breviary the friar had handed him to the ground and stood to ready his men for an attack. Valverde rushed back to the hidden Spaniards, crying for them to avenge the affront to the holy word, and on Pizzaro's signal the attack began to the battlecry "Santiago".

Thus began the Spanish conquest of the Incas in earnest. With their superior arms and mounted on horses previously unseen in South America, the Spanish won a crushing victory over the Inca, killing as many as 7,000 Andeans without the loss of a single Spaniard. Atawallpa was taken prisoner, and as the Spanish passion for gold and silver became apparent, he offered an immense ransom in an attempt to secure his own freedom. Xerez, Pizarro's secretary, wrote that the Inca promised the Spanish a room about 6.2m by 4.8m to be filled up to 2.5m high with gold objects, and twice the room's volume in silver.

By July, the accumulated hoard of gold and silver was melted down and the royal fifth taken out. Each horseman in Pizarro's company received 41kg, around half a million dollars in modern currency, and Pizzaro took seven times that amount. Despite receiving their ransom, the Spanish decided Atawallpa was a liability to them, and executed the Inca prince in July 1533. Spared from being burned at the stake after he agreed to be baptized, Atawallpa was garotted after a hastily convoked trial in which he was convicted of treason.

Bereft of a legitimate sovereign through which to rule, Pizarro quickly remedied the situation by installing one of the defeated and executed Waskhar's younger brothers, Thupa Wallpa, as a puppet ruler for the Spanish. Meeting their first military resistance on the march to Cuzco, the engagement near Hatun Xauxa in the Mantaro Valley graphically illustrated the continuing divisions between the empire due to the previous dynastic war and the resentment of local tribes subdued during the Inca expansion. While Atawallpa's occupying army tried to burn the town and resisted the Spanish on the far side of the river, the native Xauxa and Wanka populace welcomed the Spaniards as liberators and supplied them from the royal storehouses. This was to be a continuing theme as the conquest of the fractured empire continued. In November 1533, the demoralized imperial army abandoned Cuzco and Pizarro's men marched unopposed into the navel of the universe a year to the day after entering the Inca camp at Cajamarca.

Sacking the city, the Spanish looted the Qorikancha temple complex and stripped the imperial capital of its wealth. Many Inca artefacts made from precious metals were melted down, and ceremonial and religious sites were torn down so the stone could be used to erect Spanish forts and churches. As Thupa Wallpa had died earlier in the year, Manqo Inka, another of Wayna Qhapaq's sons, was installed as the Inca ruler in December.

Despite fierce resistance from Ruminawi and Quizquiz in Ecuador, the Spaniards maintained their hold on the empire after Quizquiz's men rebelled against the continuation of the resistance and killed him, and the Spaniard Benalcazar captured and executed Ruminawi. Manqo Inka finally realized he would never achieve equal status with the Spaniards, and orchestrated an escape from Cuzco. Assembling an army of 200,000 soldiers intended to liberate the imperial capital from the Europeans, Manqo Inka laid siege to Cuzco in 1536. The Spanish, vastly outnumbered, barely survived the siege due to the gradual disbanding of the Inca soldier-farmers as the agricultural cycle led them to return home to tend their fields. The next year, another siege failed to take the capital, and parallel campaigns against Ciudad de Los Reyes (modern day Lima) also failed.

The early successes of the Spanish against the Inca can be attributed to a number of factors, both historical, technological and cultural. Historically, the Spanish arrived at a highly opportune time, with the empire divided by the bitter dynastic war between Atawallpa and Waskhar. Native peoples, only recently subjugated by the Inca empire, were often eager to aid the Spaniards, seeing them as liberators. The conquistadores also had a considerable technological advantage with their armor and firearms, as well as the massive tactical advantage gained by having cavalry. Finally, the deified Inca leadership meant with their ruler held hostage, Inca forces were severely handicapped in their ability to undertake military initiatives. Seasonal mobilization of soldier-farmers also meant the resistance would stall against ensconced Spanish forces.

Vilcabamba: last refuge of the Inca

Early defeats did not end Inca aspirations to drive the invaders from their lands, and for decades under Manqo Inka and his kin they maintained an independent state at Vilcabamba, about 200km down the Urubamba River from Cuzco. Vilcabamba was a safe haven for the Incas to preserve their heritage and form new plans to regain their lost lands.

Manqo Inka, Titu Cusi and Thupa Amaru mounted many campaigns against the Spaniards, and led punitive raids against their Andean collaborators. Despite many diplomatic and military expeditions sent to stamp out the last enclave of the Inca ruling class, the raids continued, until finally in 1572 an offensive led by the Viceroy Toledo succeeded and the last Inca, Thupa Amaru, was carried back to Cuzco and put to death. Although a considerable number of Spaniards interceded on his behalf in an effort to save his life, Toledo was convinced the only definitive way to break the back of Inca rebelliousness was to execute the king. On September 1572, the last of the Inca kings was beheaded in the imperial capital, bringing to a permanent end the royal lineage of the people of the sun.

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