History Francisco Pizarro Meets the Incas Part 2 Alternate View

About the alternate view of explorer Francisco Pizarro's first encounter with the Incas.


The Coming of Pizarro As Seen by the Incas

The Other Side: In many ways Inca civilization was more advanced than that of Western Europe. Inca physicians were performing successful brain surgery while their European counterparts still prescribed leeches. Inca architecture, agriculture, and astronomy had progressed amazingly, too, but perhaps the most remarkable Inca achievement concerned social order. In their society there were no poor people. Widows, orphans, and invalids were cared for by the state, and workers retired at age 50 on pensions of food and clothing. There was little crime because every basic need was met. At the head of this benevolent system was the ruler, or Inca, who demanded in exchange the obedience of his subjects.

When Pizarro landed in Peru in 1532, all he knew of the Incas was that, according to legend, they possessed fabulous wealth. His twin objectives were to loot the empire and to subjugate its people to not only Christianity but Spanish rule. The conquistadores had arrived at a most opportune time. Both Atahualpa and his half-brother Huascar had claimed the throne after their father, Huayna Capac, died in 1525 without formally naming his successor. Although Huayna Capac's priest designated Huascar the ruler, a civil war erupted between the two brothers and lasted until 1532, when Atahualpa's forces captured and imprisoned Huascar. Huascar was forced to witness the slaughter of the royal family; hundreds of men, women, and children were killed so Atahualpa could reign without further challenge. Atahualpa's bloody power play disrupted the ordered Inca society, and the native hailed Pizarro as a son of their white-skinned god Viracocha, who they believed had been sent to avenge Huascar and his family. The Spaniard did not abuse them. The sound of his cannon added credence to this false identity, since Viracocha controlled the thunder. As the conquistadores plundered their way cross-country, they met with no resistance from the thoroughly intimidated and demoralized Incas.

However, when word of the Spaniards' conduct during their trek to Cajamarca reached Atahualpa, he demanded that the thieves return the goods they had stolen. Instead, they sent him a priest, Brother Vicente, who proceeded to instruct Atahualpa in Western religion. The catechism lesson ended abruptly when Atahualpa hurled a Bible on the ground. At this, the offended Spaniard--who the night before had been whipped into a religious frenzy by Pizarro--attacked and slaughtered the unarmed natives. The Inca warriors stationed outside the city scattered before the onslaught of the Spanish artillery. Atahualpa was taken captive and held for ransom. When he learned that Huascar was promising the Spanish more gold for his own release, the ruthless Atahualpa secretly ordered his brother's death. During the next nine months, a roomful of gold and silver was delivered to Pizarro to secure Atahualpa's safe return to the throne, but the Spaniard had no intention of releasing his prisoner. Pizarro knew that in order to disrupt and conquer this well-run society, he must kill the Inca leader. After a mock trial at which Atahualpa was found guilty of trumped-up charges, Pizarro offered him a choice: He could elect to be burned alive as a heathen or to be strangled as a Christian. When the Inca ruler chose the latter, he was baptized Juan de Atahualpa in honor of St. John the Baptist. Then he was tied to a stake and garroted. Pizarro and his men gave the Inca a full-scale Catholic funeral.

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