The Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro (Pizarro) once argued, “There lies Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian.” Reports of Peru's riches and the heroic stories of other conquistador’s success against the Aztec Empire in Mexico tantalized all of Spain. This influenced Pizarro to plead with the Spanish king, Charles V, for permission to undertake an expedition to claim Peru, the home of the Inca Empire, in the name of the Spain in 1528. The Inca Empire, with its 12 million in population, was currently undergoing civil unrest. After their father’s death, two brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa, were battling for the thrown. Pizarro was intelligent and took this time to study his enemy. Immediately following the defeat of his brother Huascar, Atahualpa turned his attention to the Spaniards. By then, Pizarro had educated himself on the Inca’s war strategies and learned to counter them. Experts believe the Spaniards advanced weaponry, and war tactics lead to the conquest of the Inca Empire; however, perhaps the Inca Civil War of 1529, prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, crippled the Inca Empire and caused its ultimate downfall. Pizarro was a conquistador in the truest sense of the word. He conquered the largest empire in the Western Hemisphere with only a few hundred men and established a Spanish foothold in South America that would last for several centuries to come. Pizarro was the son of a Spanish soldier, and like the famous Hernan Cortes, was not of royal descent. He was, however, driven by the desire for fame, fortune, and adventure. Like many Spaniards of his day, he sought to make these dreams come true in the New World. Pizarro left Spain in 1513 on an expedition to Panama (Cieza 30-34). This expedition is believed to be the first time any European saw the Pacific Ocean. While in Panama, Pizarro heard many rumors about a rich empire to the south. The Inca Empire had wealth even greater than that of the Aztec Empire of Mexico (Betanzos 143). In 1528, Pizarro sailed to Spain to get support from King Charles V for a full-scale expedition to find and conquer the huge empire he had heard about. He took several natives, a llama, and New World golden treasures and showed them to the Spanish monarch. Charles V agreed to finance the expedition, and named Pizarro, Governor, and Captain General of the territories he would soon conquer (Cieza 89). Pizarro knew the conquest of the Incas would not be easy. He had the benefit, however, of knowing the strategies and tactics that Cortes used against the Aztecs, and Pizarro used many of them quite successfully against the Incas. Cortes went against the Aztecs less than 30 years after the arrival of Columbus, when Spain still barely had a foothold in the New World. Pizarro had a much larger body of knowledge to draw on when he set out from Panama in 1530 to conquer the Incas. Pizarro also had the benefit of having other seasoned conquistadors along with him. Among these were Pizarro’s brothers, and in 1532, Hernando de Soto (the conquistador who explored Florida a few years later) joined the expedition (Burkholder 149-151). From 1530 to 1532, Pizarro and his expedition probed the outskirts of the Inca Empire, conquering and recruiting allies along the way. He also discovered that the Incas were already fighting a civil war (Burkholder 155). This was a huge advantage to Pizarro. It slowed communication among the Incas, and it helped with the recruitment of allies that were hostile toward the central government of the Incas. Atahualpa was the son of the Inca Emperor Huayna, and the Quito princess, from Ecuador. The union was a politically expedient one, as the southern Ecuadorian Andes had been conquered by Huayna’s father. Atahualpa had two brothers, the Emperor’s successor, Ninan Cuyochi, who died of small pox, and Huascar. After the death of Ninan Cuyochi, Huyana was ask to name a second choice as successor (Vega...
Cited: Betanzos, Juan De, Roland Hamilton, and Dana Buchanan. Narrative of the Incas. Austin:
University of Texas, 1996
Burkholder, Mark A., and Lyman L. Johnson. Colonial Latin America. New
York: Oxford UP, 1990
Encounter. Durham: Duke UP, 1998. Print.
New Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. Print.
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