The other civilization conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century were the Incas. Below is a description of the expedition and impressions of the civilization it encountered written in a letter by Hernando Pizarro, brother of the expedition's commander, Francisco Pizarro.
Hernando Pizarro on the Conquest of the Incas
["Letter from Hernando Pizarro to the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo, in Reports on the Discovery of Peru, Clements R. Markham, tr. and ed. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1872), pp. 113-127]
To the Magnificent Lords, the Judges of the Royal Audience of his Majesty, who reside in the city of Santo Domingo.
Magnificent Lords: I arrived in this port of Yaguana on my way to Spain, by order of the governor Francisco Pizarro, to inform his majesty of what has happened in that government of Peru, to give an account of the country and of its present condition; and, as I believe that those who come to this city give your worships inconsistent accounts, it has seemed well to me to write a summary of what has taken place, that you may be informed of the truth.
The Governor, in the name of his majesty, founded a town near the seacoast, which was called San Miguel. It is twenty-five leagues from that point of Tumbez. Having left citizens there, and assigned the Indians in the district to them, he set out, with sixty horse and ninety foot, in search of the town of Cajamarca, at which place he was informed that Atahualpa then was brother of him who is now lord of that land. Between the two brothers there had been a very fierce war, and this Atahualpa had conquered the land as far as he then was, which, from the point whence he started, was a hundred fifty leagues. After seven or eight marches, a captain of Atahualpa came to the Governor and said that his lord had heard of his arrival and rejoiced greatly at it, having a strong desire to see the Christians; and when he had been two days with the Governor he said that he wished to go forward and tell the news to his lord, and that another would soon be on the road with a present as a token of peace.
The Governor continued his march until he came to a town called La Ramada. Up to that point all the land was flat, while all beyond was very rugged and obstructed by very difficult passes. When he saw that the messenger from Atahualpa did not return, he wished to obtain intelligence from some Indians who had come from Cajamarca; so they were tortured, and they then said that they had heard that Atahualpa was waiting for the Governor in the mountains to give him battle. The governor then ordered the troops to advance, leaving the rear-guard in the plain. The rest ascended, and the road was so bad that, in truth, if they had been waiting for us, either in this pass or in another that we came to on the road to Cajamarca, they could very easily have stopped us; for, even by exerting all our skill, we could not have taken our horses by the roads; and neither horse nor foot can cross those mountains except by the roads. The distance across them to Cajamarca is full twenty leagues.
When we were half-way, messengers arrived from Atahualpa and brought provisions to the Governor. They said that Atahualpa was waiting for him at Cajamarca, wishing to be his friend; and that he wished the Governor to know that his captains had taken his brother prisoner, that they would reach Cajamarca within two days, and that all the territory of his father now belonged to him. The Governor sent back to say that he rejoiced greatly at this news, and that, if there was any lord who refused to submit, he would give assistance and subjugate him. Two days afterward the Governor came in sight of Cajamarca, and he met Indians with food. He put the troops in order and marched to the town. Atahualpa was not there, but was encamped on the plain, at a distance of a league, with all his people in tents. When the Governor saw that Atahualpa did not come, he sent a captain, with fifteen horsemen, to speak to Atahualpa, saying that he would not assign quarters to the Christians until he knew where it was the pleasure of Atahualpa that they should lodge, and he desired him to come that they might be friends. Just then I went to speak to the Governor, touching the orders in case the Indians made a night attack. He told me that he had sent men to seek an interview with Atahualpa. I told him that, out of the sixty cavalry we had, there might be some men who were not dexterous on horseback, and some unsound horses, and that it seemed a mistake to pick out fifteen of the best; for, if Atahualpa should attack them, their numbers were insufficient for defence, and any reverse might lead to a great disaster. He therefore ordered me to follow with other twenty horsemen, and to act according to circumstances.
When I arrived I found the other horsemen near the camp of Atahualpa, and that their officer had gone to speak with him. I left my men there also, and advanced with two horsemen to the lodging of Atahualpa, and the captain announced my approach and who I was. I then told Atahualpa that the Governor had sent me to visit him and to ask him to come, that they might be friends. He replied that a cacique of the town of San Miguel had sent to tell him that we were bad people and not good for war, and that he himself had killed some of us, both men and horses. I answered that those people of San Miguel were like women, and that one horse was enough for the whole of them; that, when he saw us fight, he would know what we were like; that the Governor had a great regard for him; that if he had any enemy he had only to say so, and that the Governor would send to conquer him. He said that, four marches from that spot, there were some very rebellious Indians who would not submit to him, and that the Christians might go there to help his troops. I said that the Governor would send ten horsemen, who would suffice for the whole country, and that his Indians were unnecessary, except to search for those who concealed themselves. He smiled like a man who did not think so much of us. The captain told me that, until I came, he had not been able to get him to speak, but that one of his chiefs had answered for him, while he always kept his head down. He was seated in all the majesty of command, surrounded by all his women, and with many chiefs near him. Before coming to his presence there was another group of chiefs, each standing according to his rank. At sunset I said that I wished to go, and asked him to tell me what to say to the Governor. He replied that he would come to see him on the following morning, that he would lodge in three great chambers in the courtyard, and that the centre one should be set apart for himself.
That night a good lookout was kept. In the morning he sent messengers to put off his visit until the afternoon; and these messengers, in conversing with some Indian girls in the service of the Christians, who were their relations, told them to run away because Atahualpa was coming that afternoon to attack the Christians and kill them. Among the messengers there came that captain who had already met the Governor on the road. He told the Governor that his lord Atahualpa said that, as the Christians had come armed to his camp, he also would come armed. The Governor replied that he might come as he liked. Atahualpa set out from his camp at noon, and when he came to a place which was about half a quarter of a league from Cajamarca he stopped until late in the afternoon. There he pitched his tents, and formed his men in three divisions. The whole road was full of men, and they had not yet left off marching out of the camp.
The Governor had ordered his troops to be distributed in the three halls which were in the open court-yard, in form of a triangle; and he ordered them to be mounted and armed until the intentions of Atahualpa were known. Having pitched his tents, Atahualpa sent a messenger to the Governor to say that as it was now late he wished to sleep where he was, and that he would come in the morning. The Governor sent back to beg him to come at once, because he was waiting for supper, and that he should not sup until Atahualpa should come. The messengers came back to ask the Governor to send a Christian to Atahualpa, that he intended to come at once, and that he would come unarmed. The Governor sent a Christian, and presently Atahualpa moved, leaving the armed men behind him. He took with him about five or six thousand Indians without arms, except that, under their shirts, they had small darts and slings with stones.
He came in a litter, and before him went three or four hundred Indians in liveries, cleaning the straws from the road and singing. Then came Atahualpa in the midst of his chiefs and principal men, the greatest among them being also borne on men's shoulders. When they entered the open space, twelve or fifteen Indians went up to the little fortress that was there and occupied it, taking possession with a banner fixed on a lance. When Atahualpa had advanced to the centre of an open space, he stopped, and a Dominican friar, who was with the Governor, came forward to tell him, on the part of the Governor, that he waited for him in his lodging, and that he was sent to speak with him. The friar then told Atahualpa that he was a priest, and that he was sent there to teach the things of the faith if they should desire to be Christians. He showed Atahualpa a book which he carried in his hands, and told him that that book contained the things of God. Atahualpa asked for the book, and threw it on the ground, saying: "I will not leave this place until you have restored all that you have taken in my land. I know well who you are and what you have come for." Then he rose up in his litter and addressed his men, and there were murmurs among them and calls to those who were armed. The friar went to the Governor and reported what was being done and that no time was to be lost. The Governor sent to me; and I had arranged with the captain of the artillery that, when a sign was given, he should discharge his pieces, and that, on hearing the reports, all the troops should come forth at once. This was done, and as the Indians were unarmed they were defeated without danger to any Christian. Those who carried the litter and the chiefs who surrounded Atahualpa were all killed, falling round him. The Governor came out and seized Atahualpa, and in protecting him he received a knife-cut from a Christian in the hand. The troops continued the pursuit as far as the place where the armed Indians were stationed, who made no resistance whatever, because it was now night. All were brought into the town where the Governor was quartered.
Next morning the Governor ordered us to go to the camp of Atahualpa, where we found forty thousand castellanos and four or five thousand marcos of silver. The camp was as full of people as if none were wanting. All the people were assembled, and the Governor desired them to go to their homes, and told them that he had not come to do them harm; that what he had done was by reason of the pride of Atahualpa, and that he himself ordered it. On asking Atahualpa why he had thrown away the book and shown so much pride, he answered that his captain, who had been sent to speak with the Governor, had told him that the Christians were not warriors, that the horses were unsaddled at night, and that with two hundred Indians he could defeat them all. He added that this captain and the chief of San Miguel had deceived him. The Governor then inquired concerning his brother the Cuzco, and he answered that he would arrive next day, that he was being brought as a prisoner, and that his captain remained with the troops in the town of Cuzco. It afterward turned out that in all this he had spoken the truth, except that he had sent orders for his brother to be killed, lest the Governor should restore him to his lordship. The Governor said that he had not come to make war on the Indians, but that our lord the Emperor, who was lord of the whole world, had ordered him to come that he might see the land, and let Atahualpa know the things of our faith, in case he should wish to become a Christian. The Governor also told him that that land and all other lands belonged to the Emperor, and that he must acknowledge him as his lord. He replied that he was content, and, observing that the Christians had collected some gold, Atahualpa said to the Governor that they need not take such care of it, as if there was so little; for that he could give them ten thousand plates, and that he could fill the room in which he was up to a white line, which was the height of a man and a half from the floor. The room was seventeen or eighteen feet wide and thirty-five feet long. He said that he could do this in two months.
Two months passed away the gold did not arrive, but the Governor received tidings that every day parties of men were advancing against him. In order both to ascertain the truth of these reports, and to hurry the arrival of the gold, the Governor ordered me to set out with twenty horsemen and ten or twelve foot-soldiers for a place called Guamachuco, which is twenty leagues from Cajamarca. This was the place where it was reported that armed men were collecting together. I advanced to that town, and found a quantity of gold and silver, which I sent thence to Cajamarca. Some Indians, who were tortured, told us that the captains and armed men were at a place six leagues from Guamachuco; and, though I had no instructions from the Governor to advance beyond that point, I resolved to push forward with fourteen horsemen and nine foot-soldiers, in order that the Indians might not take heart at the notion that we had retreated. The rest of my party were sent to guard the gold, because their horses were lame. Next morning I arrived at that town, and did not find any armed men there, and it turned out that the Indians had told lies, perhaps to frighten us and induce us to return.
At this village I received permission from the Governor to go to a mosque of which we had intelligence, which was a hundred leagues away on the sea-coast, in a town called Pachacamac. It took us twenty-two days to reach it. The road over the mountains is a thing worth seeing, because, though the ground is so rugged, such beautiful roads could not in truth be found throughout Christendom. The greater part of them is paved. There is a bridge of stone or wood over every stream. We found bridges of network over a very large and powerful river, which we crossed twice, which was a marvellous thing to see. The horses crossed over by them. At each passage they have two bridges, the one by which the common people go over, and the other for the lords of the land and their captains. The approaches are always kept closed, with Indians to guard them. These Indians exact transit dues from all passengers. The chiefs and people of the mountains are more intelligent than those of the coast. The country is populous. There are mines in many parts of it. It is a cold climate, it shows, and there is much rain. There are no swamps. Fuel is scarce. Atahualpa has placed governors in all the principal towns, and his predecessors had also appointed governors. In all these towns there were houses of imprisoned women, with guards at the doors, and these women preserve their virginity. If any Indian has any connection with them his punishment is death. Of these houses, some are for the worship of the sun, others for that of old Cuzco, the father of Atahualpa. Their sacrifices consist of sheep and chica, which they pour out on the ground. They have another house of women in each of the principal towns, also guarded. These women are assembled by the chiefs of the neighboring districts, and when the lord of the land passes by they select the best to present to him, and when they are taken others are chosen to fill up their places. These women also have the duty of making chica for the soldiers when they pass that way. They took Indian girls out of these houses and presented them to us. All the surrounding chiefs come to these towns on the roads to perform service when the army passes. They have stores of fuel and maize and of all other necessaries. They count by certain knots on cords, and so record what each chief has brought. When they had to bring us loads of fuel, maize, chica, or meat, they took off knots or made them on some other part; so that those who have charge of the stores keep an exact account. In all these towns they received us with great festivities, dancing, and rejoicing.
When we arrived on the plain of the sea-coast we met with a people who were less civilized, but the country was populous. They also have houses of women, and all the other arrangements as in the towns of the mountains. They never wished to speak to us of the mosque, for there was an order that all who should speak to us of it should be put to death. But as we had intelligence that it was on the coast, we followed the high road until we came to it. The road is very wide, with an earthen wall on either side, and houses for resting at intervals, which were prepared to receive the Cuzco when he travelled that way. There are very large villages, the houses of the Indians being built of canes, and those of the chiefs are of earth with roofs of branches of trees; for in that land it never rains. From the city of San Miguel to this mosque the distance is one hundred sixty or one hundred eighty leagues, the road passing near the sea-shore through a very populous country. The road, with a wall on each side, traverses the whole of this country; and, neither in that part nor in the part farther on, of which we had notice for two hundred leagues, does it ever rain.
They live by irrigation, for the rainfall is so great in the mountains that many rivers flow from them, so that throughout the land there is not three leagues without a river. The distance from the sea to the mountains is in some parts ten leagues, in others twelve. It is not cold. Throughout the whole of this coast-land, and beyond it, tribute is not paid to Cuzco, but to the mosque. The bishop of it was in Cajamarca with the Governor. He had ordered another room of gold, such as Atahualpa had ordered, and the Governor ordered me to go on this business, and to hurry those who were collecting it. When I arrived at the mosque I asked for the gold, and they denied it to me, saying that they had none. I made some search, but could not find it. The neighboring chiefs came to see me, and brought presents, and in the mosque there was found some gold-dust, which was left behind when the rest was concealed. Altogether I collected eighty-five thousand castellanos and three thousand marcos of silver.
This town of the mosque is very large, and contains grand edifices and courts. Outside, there is another great space surrounded by a wall, with a door opening on the mosque. In this space there are the houses of the women, who, they say, are the women of the devil. Here, also, are the storerooms, where the stores of gold are kept. There is no one in the place where these women are kept. Their sacrifices are the same as those to the sun, which I have already described. Before entering the first court of the mosque, a man must fast for twenty days; before ascending to the court above, he must fast for a year. In this upper court the bishop used to be. When messengers of the chiefs, who had fasted for a year, went up to pray to God that he would give them a good harvest, they found the bishop seated, with his head covered. There are other Indians whom they call pages of the sun. When these messengers of the chief delivered their messages to the bishop, the pages of the devil went into a chamber, where they said that he speaks to them; and that devil said that he was enraged with the chiefs, with the sacrifices they had to offer, and with the presents they wished to bring. I believe that they do not speak with the devil, but that these his servants deceive the chiefs. For I took pains to investigate the matter, and an old page, who was one of the chief and most confidential servants of their god, told a chief, who repeated it to me, that the devil said they were not to fear the horses, as they could do no harm. I caused the page to be tortured, and he was so stubborn in his evil creed that I could never gather anything from him, but that they really held their devil to be a god. This mosque is so feared by all the Indians that they believe that, if any of those servants of the devil asked them for anything and they refused it, they would presently die. It would seem that the Indians do not worship this devil from any feelings of devotion, but from fear. For the chiefs told me that, up to that time, they had served that mosque because they feared it, but that now they had no fear but of us; and that, therefore, they wished to serve us. The cave in which the devil was placed was very dark, so that one could not enter it without a light, and within it was very dirty. I made all the caciques, who came to see me, enter the place, that they might lose their fear; and, for want of a preacher, I made my sermon, explaining to them the errors in which they lived.
In this town I learned that the principal captain of Atahualpa was at a distance of twenty leagues from us, in a town called Jauja. I sent to tell him to come and see me, and he replied that I should take the road to Cajamarca, and that he would take another road and meet me. The Governor, on hearing that the captain was for peace and that he was ready to come with me, wrote to me to tell me to return; and he sent three Christians to Cuzco, which is fifty leagues beyond Jauja, to take possession and to see the country. I returned by the road of Cajamarca, and by another road, where the captain of Atahualpa was to join me. But he had not started; and I learned from certain chiefs that he had not moved, and that he had taken me in. So I went back to the place where he was, and the road was very rugged, and so obstructed with snow that it cost us much labor to get there. Having reached the royal road, and come to a place called Bombon, I met a captain of Atahualpa with five thousand armed Indians whom Atahualpa had sent on pretence of conquering a rebel chief; but, as it afterward appeared, they were assembled to kill the Christians. Here we found five hundred thousand pesos of gold that they were taking to Cajamarca. This captain told me that the captain-general remained in Jauja, that he knew of our approach, and was much afraid. I sent a messenger to him to tell him to remain where he was and o fear nothing. I also found a negro here who had gone with the Christians to Cuzco, and he told me that these fears were feigned; for that the captain-general had many well-armed men with him, that he counted them by his knots in presence of the Christians, and that they numbered thirty-five thousand Indians. So we went to Jauja, and, when we were half a league from the town, and found that the captain did not come out to receive us, a chief of Atahualpa, whom I had with me and whom I had treated well, advised me to advance in order of battle, because he believed that the captain intended to fight. We went up a small hill overlooking Jauja, and saw a large black mass in the plaza, which appeared to be something that had been burned. I asked what it was, and they told me it was a crowd of Indians. The plaza is large, and has a length of a quarter of a league. As no one came to receive us on reaching the town, our people advanced in the expectation of having to fight the Indians. But, at the entrance of the square, some principal men came out to meet us with offers of peace, and told us that the captain was not there, as he had gone to reduce certain chiefs to submission. It would seem that he had gone out of fear, with some of his troops, and had crossed a river near the town by a bridge of network. I sent to tell him to come to me peaceably or else the Christians would destroy him. Next morning the people came who were in the square. They were Indian servants, and it is true that they numbered over a hundred thousand souls. We remained here five days, and during all that time they did nothing but dance and sing and hold great drinking-feasts. The captain did not wish to come with me, but when he saw that I was determined to make him he came of his own accord. I left the chief who came with me as captain there. This town of Jauja is very fine and picturesque, with very good level approaches, and it has an excellent river-bank. In all my travels I did not see a better site for a Christian settlement, and I believe that the Governor intends to form one there, though some think that it would be more convenient to select a position near the sea, and are, therefore, of an opposite opinion. All the country, from Jauja to Cajamarca, by the road we returned, is like that of which I have already given a description.
After returning to Cajamarca and reporting my proceedings to the Governor, he ordered me to go to Spain and to give an account to his majesty of this and other things which appertain to his service. I took, from the heap of gold, one hundred thousand castellanos for his majesty, being the amount of his fifth. The day after I left Cajamarca, the Christians, who had gone to Cuzco, returned, and brought one million five hundred thousand of gold. After I arrived at Panama, another ship came in, with some knights. They say that a distribution of the gold was made; and that the share of his majesty, besides the one hundred thousand pesos and the five thousand marcos of silver that I bring, was another one hundred sixty-five thousand castellanos and seven thousand or eight thousand marcos of silver; while to all those of us who had gone, a further share of gold was sent.
After my departure, according to what the Governor writes to me, it became known that Atahualpa had assembled troops to make war on the Christians, and justice was done upon him. The Governor made his brother, who was an enemy, lord in his place. Molina comes to this city, and from him your worships may learn anything else that you may desire to know. The shares of the troops were, to the horsemen nine thousand castellanos, to the Governor six thousand, to me three thousand. The Governor has derived no other profit from that land, nor has there been deceit or fraud in the account. I say this to your worships because, if any other statement is made, this is the truth. May our lord long guard and prosper the magnificent persons of your worships.
Done in this city, November, 1533. At the service of your worships, Hernando Pizarro.