The Aborigines of Peru

March towards Cuzzo

Pizarro now declared the sovereignty of Peru to be vested in a brother of Atahuallpa named Toparco, and the ceremony of coronation was duly performed. Further stay at Caxamalca was deemed inadvisable, and, with the new Inca in company, the Spanish army pushed on towards the ancient capital of Peru, over the magnificent road of the Incas. The ascent of the mountain ridges was, indeed, arduous and perilous, as the road was intended only for foot passengers and the agile Peruvian sheep or “camel,” as the animal was designated by early writers. As in former progresses, the granaries and halting-places prepared for the royal armies supplied abundant food and shelter.

The first attempt upon the part of the natives to arrest the progress of the cavalcade was at Xauxa, where they collected to oppose the passage of a considerable stream. Resistance proved unavailing: the cavalry dashed through the river, and dispersed the crowd. Pizarro encamped at Xauxa, and commissioned De Soto, with sixty mounted men, to go forward, and see that all was safe for a further advance. As that cavalier approached Cuzco, after crossing the Apurimac, a tributary of the Amazon, his command was beset by a hostile force of Indians among the dangerous passes of the mountain, which he must cross to reach the capital. By superhuman efforts, the little party managed to force a way against the enemy until an elevated plateau was gained, where there was room for the movements of the horses. The natives, becoming more familiar with the arms and mode of fighting adopted by the Spaniards, fought with their natural courage and resolution, but could accomplish little after the cavalry had attained an advantageous position.

Death of Toparca, and Murder of Challcuchima

During the night, De Soto and his men were gladdened by the arrival of Almagro upon the field, with most of the cavalry left at Xauxa. Pizarro had received advices of the danger to which his advance was exposed, and promptly forwarded assistance. The whole Spanish force finally assembled at Xaquixaguana, but a few miles from Cuzco. In this delightful valley, a favorite resort of the Inca nobility, whose country seats were everywhere scattered over its surface, the army encamped for rest and refreshment. At this place various charges were brought up against the noble old warrior, Challcuchima. The new Inca, Toparca, had died during the halt at Xauxa, and it was thought convenient to attribute his death, as well as the recent hostile movements, to the machinations of this dangerous prisoner. He was tried, condemned, and burned alive the usual method of execution adopted by the Spaniards in the case of an Indian victim. It is to be trusted that another generation will look upon the barbarities still persisted in among the most enlightened nations of the present age, with the same sensations that are now aroused by the remembrance of the cruelties so universal in former times.

Manco Capac

A new claimant to the throne of the Incas had now arisen in the person of Manco Capac, a brother of the ill-fated Huascar. The young prince, splendidly attended, came boldly to the Spanish camp, explained the grounds of his claim, and requested the aid of Pizarro in establishing his rights. The general received him kindly, and seemed to accede to the proposal. In company with this new ally, after one more unimportant skirmish, the Spaniards entered Cuzco, on or about the 15th of November 1533. They were delighted with the extent and magnificence of the city, and the liveliness and gayety of its inhabitants.

Entry Into The Capital

Temples, public edifices, royal palaces, and places of sepulture, were everywhere ransacked in search of gold, but orders had been given by Pizarro Ail private property should be respected. The rapacious plunderers were dissatisfied with the amount of treasure discovered, although no conquest in the history of the world was ever rewarded by such acquisitions of the precious metals, and proceeded to subject some of the natives to the torture, to compel a disclosure of their secret places of deposit

“In a cavern near the city,” says Prescott, “they found a number of vases of pure gold, richly embossed with the figures of serpents, locusts, and other animals. Among the spoil were four golden llamas, and ten or twelve statues of women, some of gold, others of silver, “which merely to see, says one of the conquerors, with some naivete, was truly a great satisfaction. Upon the march, no small amount of booty had been secured: “In one place, for example, they met with ten planks or bars of solid silver, each piece being twenty feet in length, one foot in breadth, and two or three inches thick.”

Further Hostilities Of Manco Capac

Manco Capac was solemnly crowned at Cuzco, by Pizarro, who, with his own hand, presented the imperial badge, the borla “or red scarf for the forehead. The conqueror arranged a system of government for the city, giving his brothers Gonzalo and Juan the principal authority. The natives seemed to acquiesce readily in the new regulations, and joined hilariously in the festivities of the time.

Pizarro now bethought himself of establishing a capital for the new country in a more convenient location than either Cuzco or Quito, and in January 1535, the foundations of the city of Lima were laid. Hernando Pizarro had been previously sent to Spain, with substantial specimens of the newly acquired treasures. His appearance at court, and his details of strange adventure, excited an unprecedented enthusiasm and astonishment. Large addition emoluments and authorities were conferred upon the principal actors in the conquest; and Hernando returned to America, accompanied by numerous adventurers eager for fame and fortune in the new world. Almagro received, by royal grant, authority to conquer and possess an immense district, southward of Peru; and thither he took up his march, after a long series of bickering and quarrels with Juan and Gonzalo, respecting conflicting claims at Cuzco.

The conquerors of the empire of the Incas became care less and secure: they little dreamed that there yet existed a warlike and determined spirit among the down-trodden natives, fated soon to raise a storm on every side, which not even Spanish valor and dogged determination could readily allay.

The young Inca, Manco Capac, indignant at the conduct of the rulers at Cuzco, and disgusted with the shadow of authority which he was himself allowed to exercise, made his escape from the surveillance of the Pizarros, and, rousing the whole country to arms, entrenched himself beyond the Yucay. Juan. Pizarro in vain undertook his recapture. With a small body of cavalry, he did, indeed, gain a temporary advantage, but the effect of superstitious fears no longer operated to dismay the Indian warriors, and it was only by virtue of hard knocks, and by actual superiority in skill, weapons, and endurance, that they could be conquered. The numbers of the enemy were so great, and so fast increasing, that Juan was obliged, in a few days, to return to Cuzco, which, as he was informed by a messenger, was now besieged by the Indians in still more overwhelming force.

In the elegant language of Mr. Prescott: “The extensive environ, as far as the eye could reach, were occupied by a mighty host, which an indefinite computation swelled to the number of two hundred thousand warriors. The dusky lines of the Indian battalions stretched out to the very verge of the mountains; while, all around, the eye saw only the crests and waving banners of chieftains, mingled with rich panoplies of feather-work, which re minded some few who had served under Cortez of the military costume of the Aztecs. Above all rose a forest of long lances and battle-axes edged with copper, which, tossed to and fro in wild confusion, glistened in the rays of the setting sun, like light playing on the surface of a dark and troubled ocean. It was the first time that the Spaniards had beheld an Indian army in all its terrors; such an army as the Incas led to battle, when the banner of the Sun was borne triumphant over the land.”

It is almost inconceivable that such a handful of men as were gathered within the city-walls, should have been able to repel the force now gathered about them, and to maintain their position until the enemy, wearied with hopeless encounters, and suffering from want of provision, should be obliged to draw off.

The buildings of Cuzco were nearly all covered with a neatly arranged thatch, and this the assailants easily ignited by means of burning arrows. The whole city was wrapped in flames, and the Spaniards, encamped in the great plaza, nearly perished from the heat and smoke. “When the flames subsided, after several days of terrible conflagration, one half of the proud capital was a heap of ruins.

Fierce battles and desperate hand-to-hand encounters succeeded: the Spaniards, with their accustomed bravery, again and again charged the enemy in the field, but their numbers were so great, that success in these skirmishes was eventually useless. The sallies from the city were met and resisted with the most determined valor. As at the siege of Mexico, the Indians seemed to be careless of their own loss, so long as they could lessen the numbers of the whites, in however inferior degrees. They no longer fled in terror at the approach of the horse. They had even availed themselves of such of these useful animals as fell into their hands. Several of them were seen mounted, and the Inca himself, “accoutred in the European fashion, rode a war-horse which he managed with consider able address, and, with a long lance in his hand, led on his followers to the attack.” There are bounds to the physical endurance of man and beast, and the Spaniards were obliged to submit to the siege, and to wait until assistance should arrive from without, or until the enemy should be weary of keeping watch upon them. The greatest annoyance was in the possession, by the Indians, of the great fortress, from the high towers of which their missiles were hurled with deadly effect upon all within reach.

It was determined to storm this entrenchment, and the service was most gallantly performed. Juan Pizarro, a cavalier spoken of as superior to either of his brothers in humanity, lost his life in its accomplishment. The Peruvian commander, after defending his post in person, with the most desperate valor, scorning to be taken prisoner, threw himself headlong from the highest tower, and perished.

The siege, which had commenced in the spring, continued until August, when, after months of anxiety and suffering, the little band of Spaniards were rejoiced to see the Inca s forces taking their departure. They had been dismissed by their leader to go home and attend to the necessary duties of husbandry. Manco entrenched himself at Tambo, south of the Yucay.

The rising among the Peruvians was very extensive and well concerted. Great numbers of detached plantations and settlements were destroyed, and their Spanish occupants slain. Pizarro made several ineffectual attempts to send relief to the garrison at Cuzco, which only resulted in heavy loss to his own people. A general feeling of gloom, apprehension, and discontent prevailed, and not a few of the settlers, at Lima and elsewhere, were anxious to abandon the country.

Upon the return of Almagro from his disastrous expedition to Chili, and his seizure of Cuzco, he succeeded in driving the Inca from Tambo into the mountains, where he sought out a solitary place of concealment until opportunity should offer for again arousing his people to resistance.

Cruel Treatment Of The Natives

In the desolating civil wars, which ensued among the rival Spanish claimants of the country, the rights and prosperity of the native inhabitants were utterly disregarded. They were unscrupulously enslaved and maltreated wherever the power of the Spaniards extended. In the distracted state of the country, the young Inca again renewed his efforts at resistance to his subjects oppressors. Sallying from time to time from an encampment among the mountains, between Cuzco and the seacoast, he did no little injury to the Spanish settlements, and rendered traveling unsafe, except in large and well-armed companies. Although frequently defeated by Pizarro s troops, he would only retire to meditate fresh attacks, and the Spanish commander finally thought it advisable to open a negotiation with him. A meeting was accordingly appointed in the valley of the Yucay, but the attempts at pacification were rendered abortive by mutual outrages. A Negro messenger, sent by Pizarro to the Inca with a propitiatory offering, was robbed and murdered by some of the natives. The Spanish commander chose to attribute the act to Manco’s orders, and proceeded to retaliate by the dastardly and cruel murder of a young and beautiful wife of the Inca, who was a prisoner in his power. She was stripped naked, beaten, and afterwards shot with arrows. This cruelty was endured, on the part of the victim, with true Indian fortitude. What a strange contradiction it appears, that a man like this, with his dying lips (he was assassinated in 1541) should have pronounced the name of Him whose whole teaching and example breathed the spirit of gentleness and mercy, and that his last effort should have been to kiss the figure of the cross, drawn by his finger, in his own blood, upon the floor.

As the Spanish population of the country increased, the condition of the Indians became more and more wretched and deplorable. The old scenes at the West India Islands were reenacted, and the brutal populace seemed to make cruelty and wanton outrage a matter of emulation. It was not enough to enslave the helpless natives, and to compel them upon insufficient nourishment, and scantily clothed, to undergo the killing labors of the mines and plantations; but the most capricious outrages were everywhere committed. They were hunted with dogs, for the sake of sport; all that they esteemed sacred was desecrated; their women were violated in the most shame less manner; and cruel tortures and death awaited him who should resist the oppressor, or invade his rights of property!

One of the most notorious abuses in the system of Spanish government, and which was maintained until after the insurrection of 1781, was called the “Repartimiento.” This was a compulsory distribution of European goods, which the natives were compelled to purchase at enormous prices. “The law was doubtless intended,” it is said by Tschudi, “in its origin, for the advantage and convenience of the native Indians, by supplying them with necessaries at a reasonable price. But subsequently the Repartimiento became a source of oppression and fraud, in the hands of the provincial authorities.”

The system which regulated the services of laborers in the mines or on the plantations went by the name of the “Mita.” Those Indians who were placed, by the operation of this species of conscription, under the power of the proprietors of the soil, were in a far more miserable condition than slaves in whom the master has a property, and whose health and lives he has an interest in preserving. Such a miserable pittance as was doled out for their support, and so severe and unceasing was the labor required at their hands, that an almost incredible number perished. “Some writers estimate at nine millions the number of Indians sacrificed in the mines in the course of three centuries.”

When, by the intervention of Las Casas, the wrongs of the Indians received attention from the Spanish court, and extensive provisions were made for their freedom and protection, all Peru was in a state of tumultuous excitement. It was the general determination not to submit to such an infringement of the luxuries and profits of life in the New World, as that of placing the serfs under the care of the laws. In the midst of this turmoil, in 1544, the brave and patriotic Inca was slain by a party of Spaniards, who had fled to his camp during the factious disturbances by which the European settlements were convulsed. They paid the forfeit for this act with their lives.

The first effectual steps taken in behalf of the wasted and oppressed Peruvians were under the viceroyalty of Pedro de la Gasca, between 1547 and 1550. By his efforts, a careful inquiry was instituted into the condition of the slaves; their arbitrary removal from their native districts was prohibited; and, above all, strict regulations were made, and not without strong opposition enforced, by which the kind and amount of their labor was precisely laid down.

Tupac Amaru

Tupac Amaru, a son of Manco Capac, who had resided among the remote mountain districts of the interior since his father s death, was taken prisoner and put to death during the period that Francisco de Toledo was viceroy of Peru. One of his descendants, Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, known as Tupac Amaru the Second, in after-times fearfully revenged the injuries of his family and country men. The insurrection which he headed broke out in 1781. The lapse of two centuries of oppression had thinned the teeming population of Peru in a ratio scarcely precedented, but, on the other hand, European weapons, and military skill, both of which they had, to a certain extent, adopted, rendered them dangerous enemies, and enough of the old patriotic spirit and tradition of former glory remained to afford material for a fearful outbreak.

The long depressed and humiliated natives rallied around the descendant of their ancient line of Incas with the greatest enthusiasm, and, in their successful attacks upon various provinces where Spanish authority had been established, proved as merciless as their former oppressors. Great numbers of Spaniards perished during this rebellion, but it was finally crushed; and the Inca, with a number of his family, falling into the hands of the Spanish authorities, was barbarously put to death. “They were all quartered,” says Bonnycastle, “in the city of Cuzco, excepting Diego, (a brother of Tupac,) who had escaped. So great was the veneration of the Peruvians for Tupac Amaru, that when he was led to execution, they prostrated themselves in the streets, though surrounded by soldiers, and uttered piercing cries and exclamations as they beheld the last of the Children of the Sun torn to pieces.”

Diego also perished by the hands of the executioner, twenty years afterwards, upon the accusation of having instigated a revolt, which occurred in Quito. It is said that the insurrection of the Indians under Tupac Amaru the last important effort made by them to reestablish their ancient independence cost more than one hundred thou sand lives.

Since the great revolutions in South America, and the establishment of the independence of the Republics, the Indian population of Peru have made no trifling advance. According to the account of Dr. Tschudi, a late traveler in the country, they “have made immense progress. During the civil war, which was kept up uninterruptedly for the space of twenty years, they were taught military maneuvers and the use of firearms. After every lost battle, the retreating Indians carried with them, in their flight, their muskets, which they still keep carefully concealed. They are also acquainted with the manufacture of gun powder, of which, in all their festivals, they use great quantities for squibs and rockets.”

Present Condition Of The Peruvian Indians

The same writer describes the present character of the race as gloomy and distrustful. The Christian religion has been, at least in name, almost universally diffused, but the observance of its rites is mingled with many relics of the ancient superstitions of the country, while the bigotry, errors, and evil example of too many of those who have acted as its ministers could hardly result in the inculcation of the true spirit of their faith. During the whole period of Spanish authority, from the time of the first landing, the Catholic ecclesiastics were unwearied in endeavors to promulgate their religion. Their success in effecting at least an outward acceptation of its doctrines has been nowhere more signal than in South America.


Peru South America,

Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864.

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