Atahualpa vs Pizarro

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
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Trip End Nov 15, 2009


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

It was time to walk in the foot steps of the Incas and try to get a feeling for what it must have been like in that time.  The first stop was Cerro de Santa Apolonia -  a hill overlooking the city where it is said that Atahualpa sat on a carved rock to review his troops below.  A staircase lined with flowers and souvenir shops leads up the hill and from the beautifully landscaped top you have a panoramic view of the city.  And indeed there is a throne-like rock from which you have a perfect view.  I imagined the revered Inca leader sitting here observing the tens of thousands troops under his command.  What a sight it must have been! When Pizarro marched into Cajamarca in November of 1532, the city was quiet because most of the 2000 inhabitants were at the nearby hot springs.  The Spaniards spent an anxious  night knowing that their band of 160 might be met by up to 80,000 Inca warriors.  The Spanish invited Atahualpa to meet with them at the plaza and the Inca King arrived with 6000 warriors armed with slings and axes.  He was met by Friar Valverde who presented the Inca with a bible.  According to the story, the Inca threw the book to the ground which was plenty of justification for the friar to call the attack. (So much for turning the other cheek...) Naturally, the slings and axes were no contest against Spanish weaponry and before long 7000 Incas were slaughtered and Atahualpa was captured.  Atahualpa soon realized the Spanish lust for gold and offered to fill a room once with gold and twice with silver in exchange for his release.  Of course the Spanish agreed and it took almost a year to complete the ransom - 6000Kg of gold and 12,000Kg of silver. Now here comes the great shock:  Atahualpa was not released.  He was sentenced to death by burning at the stake which was reduced to death by strangulation because he accepted baptism before he died.  Those merciful Spanish!
El Cuarto de Rescate (the Ransom Room) is the only Inca structure left in Cajamarca.  Actually, it is not the ransom room but the room where Atahualpa was imprisoned. 

I can't say that visiting these sites improved my understanding of what happened.  I still cannot understand why the conquering Europeans were so violent and hateful towards a culture that was so advanced and beautiful in its way.  Okay, not Christian.  I guess I'll never be able to understand the inability of people to be open to people who believe differently than they do, and the need to subjugate others for it.  And for greed, of course.  And I can't think of anything uglier than cloaking ones greed behind the name of god. 

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the city and admiring the colonial architecture (Damn those Spanish for their beautiful buildings!) The buildings here are known for their doors surrounded by stone archways.


In the center of the plaza is a fountain dating from 1692 - marking the 200 year anniversary of the discovery of America.  Flanking the plaza are the cathedral and the Iglesia de San Francisco.  You'll notice that the cathedral has no bell towers.  Built in the late 1600's, the bell towers were never finished because the Spanish Crown levied a tax against finished churches!  In fact, the Iglesia de San Francisco only finished its towers in the 20th century and so avoided paying taxes.
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