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Pizarro, the conqueror who defeated 40,000 Inca soldiers with 200 Spaniards

Home / Travel Blog / Pizarro, the conqueror who defeated 40,000 Inca soldiers with 200 Spaniards
Pizarro, the conqueror who defeated 40,000 Inca soldiers with 200 Spaniards

In the years when all the corners of the planet were not yet known, few dared to venture into the unknown and unexplored jungles of the so-called New World. However, among them was Francisco Pizarro, a Spaniard who, by means of sword and sword, led several exploration parties to Peru and came to defeat, along with 200 other Spaniards, an army of almost 40,000 Incas.

 

And it is that the sixteenth century was one of the most prolific for the Crown, which through Pizarro took possession of a large part of western South America. However, this task was carried out thanks to the sacrifice of hundreds of Spaniards who, with the promise of a better future, entered inhospitable and unexplored territories knowing in advance that death could come at any moment.

 

Pizarro was a bastard son, a pig farmer and without culture. He was born in Trujillo (Cáceres) Although to this day the exact date on which Francisco Pizarro was born is not yet known, the possibility that it was between 1476 and 1478 has been established. However, what is known for sure is that the place where her mother gave birth was the town of Trujillo, in the heart of Extremadura. In turn, there is consensus in relation to his parents. Specifically, he was the bastard son of Don Gonzalo Pizarro (a war hero who fought under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, the "Great Captain") and Francisca González.

 

Since he was little, Francisco never stood out for his interest in culture, something that undoubtedly helped his father make the decision to force him to take care of pigs. However, and according to legend, within a few years the animals in his care contracted a serious illness and Francisco, for fear of being blamed for it, fled to Seville when he was only 15 years old. From there he began his military life, as he decided to embark for Italy to fight in the Tercios.

 

Pizarro would begin his journey through the lands of the New World at the age of 24. Apparently, he traveled to America, like many, seduced by adventure and the possibility of making money. After his arrival he participated as a soldier in various expeditions knowing in advance that, because he was a bastard son and lacked culture, it would be very difficult for him to ascend.

 

They were difficult years in which the Spaniards tried, at the cost of many lives, to settle in the territory fighting against the natives of the place: the indigenous people. The Indians were exotic. They walked naked, slept in wooden shacks and slept in hammocks. They were hairless, shorter than Spaniards, but well proportioned (…) As for the women, they were half-length uncovered up (…) The virgins showed their bodies entirely naked, ”determines the writer and law graduate Roberto Barletta Villarán in her book «Brief history of Francisco Pizarro».

 

Everything changed radically for Pizarro during one of the expeditions led by the conqueror Alonso de Ojeda with the intention of taking the Gulf of Urabá (located near Panama). The task, which at first did not seem difficult, was complicated when the local natives, armed with bows and arrows smeared with poison, besieged the Spanish settlement built in the territory: the fort of San Sebastián.

 

His first military command happened because he seemed immune to plagues. After rough combats in which the Spaniards lost many men, everything got complicated when Ojeda was shot in the leg and had to be evacuated on a ship. At that moment it was when Pizarro, an anonymous soldier for all until now, received, almost by obligation, the first command from him at 32 years of age.

 

Before leaving, Ojeda ordered Pizarro to resist for 50 days in the fort with the few soldiers that he had. In turn, he determined that, if after that period he did not receive reinforcements, he had the power to flee together with his men in two brigs that he left at his disposal. The Spanish did not hesitate and he prepared to defend the place during that long time.

 

An epic and deadly defense

As was to be expected, the next two months were an ordeal, as the fighting with the Indians was compounded by food shortages. Such was the despair of the soldiers that they were forced to kill and eat their horses, something unimaginable at that time. To make matters worse, as the days passed, the possibility of receiving reinforcements was reduced.

 

Finally, once the 50 days were up and no one had come to his aid, Pizarro decided it was time to go. However, a new difficulty arose: the two moored ships did not have the capacity to transport the 70 surviving soldiers. Therefore, he was forced to make a difficult decision.

 

From that moment on, his tenacity earned him the reputation of a courageous and regal man. In fact, he soon became mayor of Panama, a territory that became the spearhead for the Spanish conquest of Peru.

 

In 1522 Pizarro decided that it was time to leave for unexplored lands. However, it seems that Panama ended up becoming too small for him, because in 1522 Pizarro decided that it was time to leave for unexplored lands. For this reason, at the age of 32 he decided to associate with two other adventure seekers and head towards Peru, a place where all kinds of stories related to riches circulated that were waiting to be captured by the first conqueror who found them.

 

The promises of wealth thus captivated the bearded Spanish conqueror, who in 1524 organized a first expedition consisting of two rickety ships, 110 men, 4 horses and even a war dog. However, despite the money invested, this first adventure was not very successful. Despite everything, Pizarro did not give up, and just two years later he planned a new trip in which, with similar resources, he set out again in search of Peru.

 

A new and curious expedition

This armed trip was planned barely two years later. «The expedition left the port of Panama on January 20, 1531. It carried more than 180 men and a good thirty horses. (…) Knowing the military importance that these animals had then in the fighting against the Indians, it is clear proof that this time the objective was no longer to explore Peru, but rather to conquer it militarily », says Lavallé.

 

At the command of this contingent, Pizarro stood out, who named his brother Hernando as one of his most prominent officers. It was not long until the Spanish column, which in this case had arquebuses -a weapon much feared by indigenous people-, decided to finally set foot on Peruvian soil. In fact, they planned to invade the Inca civilization taking advantage of the fact that it was mired in a civil war that faced two of its leaders (Atahualpa and Huáscar) for power.

 

The Spanish conquerors were unaware of the intentions of the Inca leader Atahualpa. In a short time, the Spanish contingent traveled southward a wide stretch of the west coast of South America without finding a mere ounce of gold. To this was added the fact that, when despair began to spread among the soldiers -avid for wealth-, reports arrived that Atahualpa had placed himself in command of a contingent made up of thousands of Incas in the north. Although it is true that the conquerors were unaware of the South American leader's attitude towards them, they could not run the risk that this immense army had been formed to hunt them down.

 

In search of Atahualpa

Today it is still unknown why the decision was made, but whether it was due to pride, to discover the true intentions of Atahualpa, or to seek luck in the north, Pizarro decided that he would leave with his soldiers to meet the Inca.

 

Again, and making use of his oratory, he gave a speech to the soldiers in which, according to the chroniclers, he pointed out that, in the event that the Incas were hostile, he trusted that his soldiers would be up to the task. of the circumstances. He would have let his men know that they should be ready for any eventuality. Their small number mattered little in front of the "multitude of people" that surrounded the Inca. Pizarro expected that everyone would show “displays of courage as they were in the habit of being the good Spaniards that they were,” says the author.

 

The die was cast. The Spanish contingent formed determined to advance towards the city of Cajamarca (located in the northern highlands of Peru), to meet the powerful Inca leader. They did not know if he would fight or not, but they were determined to face any eventuality and they trusted their cannons, their faithful arquebuses -whose noise distressed the Indians- and their horses -animals that the natives believed to be infernal and before whom they fled terrified.

 

During the long journey, however, all kinds of emissaries from Atahualpa came to meet Pizarro's small army, offering them a multitude of gifts and informing them that his chief intended to meet them in Cajamarca. However, this did not relax the Spanish officers, whose eyes went to the hilt of the sword with each step they took. Such was suspicion that some officers of the column advised the Spanish not to eat or drink anything sent by the enemy king.

 

Arrival to Cajamarca

On November 15, 1532, the column finally saw the entrance to Cajamarca, a beautiful stone city at 2,700 meters above sea level. «The Spaniards were speechless by the great horror they felt when they saw the extension of the enemy camp. In it there would be about 50,000 people, more than half warriors ", explains, in this case Barletta.

 

In an attempt to gain confidence and disconcert would-be assailants waiting in hiding in the city, Pizarro ordered his horsemen to gallop into Cajamarca. On the other hand, it was not necessary to use the terror that the Spanish mounts instilled in the Indians, since that part of the city was deserted. Taking advantage of this small advantage, the Spanish military then decided to settle in the central square of the place, which could act as a fortress since it only had two entrances between the buildings.

 

Cajamarca was a beautiful stone city of about 50,000 people. Curiously, an Inca emissary soon came to meet Pizarro to inform the Spanish that his boss, Atahualpa, was quartered with his men in a nearby complex. There was nothing more to talk about: Pizarro entrusted his brother to go to the place and meet with the South American leader.

 

However, he also ordered Hernando to execute a curious plan that he had devised in order to defeat the immense Inca army.

 

After selecting a tiny escort, Hernando appeared before Atahualpa. This, according to Lavallé, was a strong, attractive man in his thirties. Haughty, the Inca leader did not address the Spanish representative directly at any time, but made his words pass first through a nobleman. For their part, the Spaniards did not dismount from the saddle throughout the interview in fear of being attacked.

 

After drinking a local liquor - not without suspicion on the part of the Spaniards, who continued to maintain the idea that the presents they were given could be poisoned - Hernando asked the Inca leader, as planned, to come to dinner at the makeshift Spanish barracks. After a few seconds, Atahualpa decided not to disappoint the visitors and, although he explained that that day was already late, he would come the next day to eat. The plan was in motion. Quickly, the horsemen returned to tell the news to their leader to start the preparations for the capture.

 

However, Atahualpa had his own strategy. His plan was simple: he would go before the Spaniards apparently without ill intention, but very determined to take them by surprise, to kill them along with their mounts, and to reduce to slavery those who were saved. For this ambush, he ordered his soldiers to cover their clothing made of palm leaves with wide woolen dresses, "Lavalle points out from his side.

 

An incredible victory

The next day the Spaniards prepared their ambush. Specifically, Pizarro established that the abduction of Atahualpa would take place in the center of the plaza. In turn, he ordered all of his horsemen to remain motionless until he gave the order to attack. They all entrusted themselves to God, because they knew that their only way to survive in that city was to capture the Inca, otherwise, they would be crushed by the immense enemy army.

 

Atahualpa arrived at the camp almost at dusk, after multiple insistence. Along with him, he brought an immense entourage and a huge amount of wealth that further enlivened Spanish illusions. On the other hand, thousands and thousands of fighters eager to destroy the conquering Spanish also stood out in his ranks.

 

Still in apparent peace, the priest of the company was the first to address, with his due translator, Atahulpa. As planned, the religious approached the Inca king to ask him to convert to Christianity and accept the word of God. In fact, and as a symbol of his words, he gave a Bible to the powerful leader, who was sitting on a throne carried by several porters.

 

Atahualpa, who had never seen a book before, was offered a Bible and threw it on the ground. Atahualpa, who had never seen a book, could not even open it. In fact, shortly after trying to find out how that strange device worked, he threw it to the ground with hatred and later accused the Spanish of having robbed and looted their cities. Apparently, this was too much for the clergyman, who cried out, according to Lavallé, revenge.

 

Christian patience ran out. Pizarro, armed with his sword, then pounced on Atahualpa with a small entourage to then give the signal to attack. At that moment, the almost fifty Spanish horsemen threw themselves on the enemy soldiers and the crowd that, trying to flee, caused an incredible human avalanche in which hundreds and hundreds of Incas perished.

 

On his side, while the cannons and arquebuses gave a good account of the enemy troops, Pizarro pounced on the throne of Atahualpa accompanied by a score of soldiers. Almost in a trance, the few troops pierced through and tore apart the Inca's personal guard with their swords, who were finally captured.

 

Half an hour later the square was in chaos. Most of the enemy troops had fled the city in fear. On the other hand, almost three thousand bodies, an immense part of Atahualpa's soldiers, dotted the ground. It had been a massacre, and it had been perpetrated by only two hundred Spaniards who had put an army of some 40,000 men to flight.

 

The failed rescue of Atahualpa

The plan had come to a flawless end. After the capture, Pizarro imprisoned Atahulpa in a room, who, in an attempt to be freed, promised the Spaniards to fill that same room with gold and two similar ones with silver if they let him free. Pizarro accepted without delay and, thus, tons and tons of wealth began to arrive in the city for the conquerors.

 

After several months, the Spaniards managed to get a loot close to 1,200,000 pesos, an enormous amount that had never before been obtained in any of Pizarro's trips. The soldiers were overjoyed during the cast, for they had finally obtained what they had been looking for for years.

 

Instead, Pizarro retracted his promise and decided to end Atahualpa's life after receiving false and interested opinions from those close to him. Finally, on July 26, 1533, the Spanish officials met and decided to execute the king for, among other things, his betrayal of the Christians.

 

That same afternoon, the Spanish troops met in the town square to end the life of the president. "The Inca was tied to a tree trunk and bundles of firewood were placed at his feet, since the decision had been made to burn him alive as an idolater," the writer highlights.

 

Atahualpa received baptism before his death Instead, events took a turn after the Spanish clergyman urged Atahualpa to receive the holy sacraments before dying so as not to perish in sin. “Atahualpa would have asked where the Christians went after his death. Faced with the answer that they were buried in a church, the Inca would then have declared his will to be a Christian. Add Lavallé to the text. Because of this, he was finally baptized and, instead of being burned alive, he drowned.

 

Pizarro's death

After the feat carried out with his 200 men, luck stopped smiling at Pizarro, who ended up at odds with another of the Spanish conquerors, Diego de Almagro. The confrontation reached such a level that both fought a decisive battle in which the Pizarro troops won.

 

After the death of Almagro - who was executed after being tried by the Pizarro brothers - a dozen of his supporters attacked Francisco by surprise at his home in Lima on June 26, 1541. Finally, and despite the fact that he defended himself to the end, the old Spanish conqueror fell dead from a stab in the same city he had founded only six years before.

 

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