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Pizarro, the conqueror who defeated 40,000 Inca soldiers

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Pizarro, the conqueror who defeated 40,000 Inca soldiers

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 sword and morion, led several exploration parties to Peru and came to defeat, along with 200 other Spaniards, an army of almost 40,000 Incas.



Pizarro was a bastard son, a pig farmer, and without culture. He was born in Trujillo (Cá ceres) 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 about 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 Gonzá lez.


Since he was little, Francisco never stood out for his interest in culture, something that undoubtedly helped his father decide 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 on Italy to fight in the Tercios.


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


Those 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 to take 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 his leg and had to be evacuated on a ship. It was at that moment that Pizarro, an anonymous soldier up to 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 available to him. 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 for 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 could not 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. 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 set course for 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.

 francisco Pizarro liberator

Statue of Francisco Pizarro in his native town, Trujillo (Cáceres)

Although this exodus began in a somewhat more prolific way than the previous one, as they managed to capture an Indian merchant barge loaded with all kinds of precious pearls, it did not end pleasantly. Specifically, the difficulties came after the Spanish column entered the jungle, where the soldiers, hungry, thirsty, and eaten by disease, also had to face some groups of indigenous people.


Such was the situation for the soldiers that, when they reached a safe island, many decided that enough calamities had already passed to move on. The majority stated that it was time to hoist the anchor and return to Spanish territory.


At that moment, Pizarro made a speech of great emotion trying to convince his men to hold out a little longer, since riches were at hand.


It seems that the decision was advantageous to them because, after exploring a large area of western South America, they managed to get hold of all kinds of wealth delivered by some local caudillos and returned to Panama as heroes in 1529. However, after this last trip, now it was time to plan the armed invasion of the territory, which would raise Pizarro as a great military strategist.


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, if the Incas were hostile, he trusted that his soldiers would be up to the task. of the circumstances. 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 in terror.


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 the suspicion that some officers of the column advised the Spanish not to eat or drink anything sent by the enemy king.

 Francisco Pizarro catches atahualpa

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, having only two entrances between the buildings.


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


After selecting a very small 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 for 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 it was already late that day, 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 begin preparations for the capture.


However, Atahualpa had his 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 garments 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 Incas, 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 Atahualpa, with his proper translator. 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. Shortly after trying to find out how that strange contraption worked, he threw it to the ground with hatred and later accused the Spaniards of having robbed and plundered their cities. This was too much for the clergyman, who cried out, according to Lavallé for 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 small troop pierced through and tore apart the Inca's 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 Atahualpa in a room, who, in an attempt to be released, promised the Spanish to fill that same room with gold and two similar ones with silver if they set 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 Spanish managed to get a loot of close to 1,200,000 pesos, an enormous amount that had never before been obtained in any of Pizarro's trips. The soldiers did not fit in with joy during the distribution, because at last, they had 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 interesting 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 gathered 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, as the decision had been made to burn him alive as an idolater," the writer highlights.


Atahualpa before his death received baptism Instead, events took a turn after the Spanish cleric 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 in the text Lavallé. Because of this, he was finally baptized and, instead of being burned alive, he drowned.


Pizarro's death

Pizarro's death

After the feat was 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 in 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 even though he defended himself to the end, the old Spanish conqueror fell dead from a stab in the very city he had founded only six years earlier.


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