Cuarto del Rescate – The Ransom Room

It was in Cajamarca that the Inca empire started down its path to swift destruction. The newly arrived group of Spanish lead by Francisco Pizarro, aiming to conquer the Inca empire, arrived in Cajamarca to be met by Emperor Atahualpa and his army. After tricking him into entering the city with only a light guard they captured him, ransomed him and killed him.

Atahualpa offers the Spanish a room full of gold, and two more full of silver, for his release
Atahualpa offers the Spanish a room full of gold, and two more full of silver, for his release

Atahualpa had been informed of the Spanish arrival via messengers. The Spanish had landed in Tumbes many weeks before and were marching south through the mountains in search of gold and any Inca capital city it might happen to reside in. Atahualpa felt little threat from this small band of strange visitors and made no effort to confront them, instead allowing them to approach Cajamarca where he was camped in the surrounding hills with his huge army. He had recently won the civil war fought against his half-brother Huascar and was travelling home to Q’osco with his battle-hardened troops.

The Spanish arrived in Cajamarca on the 15th of November in 1532 and it is said Atahualpa was disturbed from bathing in the local hot springs to make a decision on what to do with the Spaniards, who in the time it took to get word to him had killed the Inca contingent in the city and any civilians found who had not fled. Perhaps Atahualpa would kill then, expel them from Inca lands, or fold them into the Inca army. (It is not true that the Incas feared the Spanish or thought of them as Gods in any way. The Incas are thought to have been well aware of strange peoples across the oceans.)

On capturing the city, Pizarro and his army had to decide what to do next. Attacking the huge army in the hills would be suicide, even with guns and horses. Retreating would not be possible as the Incas would realise the Spaniard’s weak position and pursue them. The Inca’s huge stone fortresses would be manned and any escape blocked. Doing nothing would only give the Incas time to understand and lose their fear of the Spanish weapons and armor.

Pizarro held a meeting on the evening of the 15th to devise a plan of action. The Spaniards needed to find a way to capture Atahualpa so that they could bring down the Incas as they did the Aztecs in Mexico. This would be impossible in the open field, so Pizarro decided that Atahualpa must be lured into Cajamarca and a surprise attack sprung. An Invitation was sent to Atahualpa.

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This article was originally published by …en Perú. Continue reading here.

...en Perú

Stuart Starrs is an American living in Peru. His popular blog En Peru features unique stories about life in Lima and his travels throughout Peru.

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