Hello and good day!
Back by popular demand, I’m going to continue on today with the Columbus to Fortunato series I’ve been working on.
I stopped for a while at the request of several readers, but then I got many messages from people wanting me to continue on. We do our best here at Fortunato Chocolate to please our friends and customers, and I do what I can to make as many people happy as possible.
As a reminder, the goal of this series is to track back the historical events that made it possible for three Americans from San Diego, CA to discover a thought to be extinct variety of cacao growing in the northern Peruvian jungle.
It seemed to me that only way to do it right was to start with the ascension of the Catholic monarchs Isabelle and Ferdinand to the Spanish crown. That happened roughly 550 years ago.
In parts 1, 2, and 3, we got all the way from Isabelle and Ferdinand to the first confrontation between the Incas and Spanish conquistadores led by Francisco Pizarro. The previous parts of this series are on the blog section of our website if you’d like to catch up.
When we left off, about 200 Spaniards had hiked up into the Andes mountains looking for the Incan emperor Atahualpa. They found him camping with an army of tens of thousands of soldiers, outside the city of Cajamarca, in what is now northern Peru.
Out of curiosity, and spurred on by an air of invincibility, the Incan emperor agreed to meet the Spaniards. He came into the city with a thousand soldiers.
Most of the Spanish soldiers were in hiding, waiting for the signal to spring an ambush. Pizarro walked out with a priest to meet the emperor. He announced that he had come in the name of Spain and the one true religion, the holy Catholic church in Rome.
He said all of this through translators that the Spanish had previously kidnapped and trained under the threat of death. The priest handed Atahualpa a bible.
Atahualpa looked at the bible and never having seen a book before, threw it on the ground angrily. The emperor was furious that these strangers had the audacity to speak or hand him anything without requesting and receiving permission.
He turned to walk back to his troops.
Pizarro assumed that Atahualpa was about to order his soldiers to attack, but Pizarro beat him to the punch.He yelled out that the heretic had sullied the holy scriptures and that in the name of the lord and the crown, his men were to come out of hiding and attack.
The conquistadores came charging out on horseback, firing guns in the air. The guns weren’t efficient for fighting, but they made a lot of noise and were a novelty to the Incas. They’d never seen fire coming out of sticks or heard such a thundering noise.
Nor had they ever seen the swift and powerful beasts the foreigners were mounted on. All this commotion served to throw the Incas into a frenzy. The Inca soldiers were seasoned, brave, skilled fighting soldiers, but they had no idea how to defend themselves against soldiers on horseback.
Nor did they have any weapons that could pierce the strong metal armor the conquistadores were covered in. Arrayed against the strong, sharp, steel swords of the Spanish, the Incas had sharpened wooden sticks, clubs, and rocks. With the frightening sound of the guns and the galloping beasts causing confusion, and the superior weaponry of the Spanish, a massacre ensued.
The Spanish didn’t suffer a single casualty and they killed a thousand brave, seasoned, Inca soldiers in a matter of hours.
Amid the fighting, Pizarro grabbed Atahualpa and put a knife to his neck and took him away to a house to hold the emperor hostage.
There were tens of thousands of additional soldiers up in the hills watching the slaughter, but they didn’t come down because they were trained not to act without orders from Atahualpa. The Incas had a very top-down governmental structure and this was a big part of what led to their ultimate downfall.
The numerical superiority of tens of thousands of Inca soldiers charging would likely have been enough to overwhelm the weaponry advantage of the Spanish.
But that isn’t what happened.
The soldiers stayed in their positions in the hills while the emperor was taken hostage. In the room, Atahualpa begged for his life. He asked what the Spanish wanted.
He promised to give them anything they asked for as long as they would let him live. Pizarro told the emperor that they had come for gold.
Gold? They wanted gold? Was that it?
Atahualpa stood up and walked over to a wall. Atahualpa was a tall man, and he stuck his hand up as high as he could against the wall. He called for one of the Spaniards to come over and scratch a line over the tip of his middle finger. Atahualpa promised to fill two rooms to the height of that line with gold if Pizarro would let him live.
Pizarro agreed. Atahualpa sent out the orders to his generals. Shortly thereafter gold started flowing in from all over the kingdom.
Pizarro and his men couldn’t believe their eyes. If that much gold could be collected so quickly, they figured they must have stumbled onto one of the richest countries on earth. In a matter of weeks, both rooms were filled up with golden artifacts, jewelry, statues, art, religious relics, and more.
Atahualpa asked to be let go according to the agreement he had with the Spanish.
But the Spanish had other plans. They didn’t want just these two rooms. They wanted the whole empire. They believed that if they were to execute Atahualpa, the unity of the empire would fall apart.
With nobody to give orders from the top, chaos and inaction would prevail. Previously conquered tribes would rebel against the Incas. The small contingent of Spaniards could bunker down in Cajamarca, using their superior weapons to defend themselves.
They would attempt to form alliances with rebel tribes and wait to receive reinforcements from the motherland. And so, the Spanish broke their promise to Atahualpa and executed him.
Over the next several years, Pizarro’s plan unfolded just about how he planned it would. It took a lot of fighting. The Incas didn’t go down easily. Many generals led fighting troops against the Spanish and were successful.
But in the long run, the Incas never could figure out how to successfully defend themselves against soldiers on horseback with swords. The diseases brought over by the Spanish, against which the Incas had no immunity, decimated the population.
More and more Spaniards flooded into the land, helping to consolidate military victories and establish governmental functions. The rebel tribes who had been conquered by the Incas soon found out that they had traded one master for another.
With the fall of the Aztecs and the Incas, the Spanish began to establish European style feudalism throughout the Americas. Conquistadores and favorites of the Spanish court received ownership claims over every square foot of land.
Along with the land, they were granted dominion over the people who lived on the land. The natives were converted into serfs, given enough food and shelter to stay alive and work, but with no ownership whatsoever in the produce of their labor.
If the conquistadores and nobles, and their descendants, continued to pledge allegiance to the crown and send the legally proscribed patronage, this system of feudalism could continue on.
It lasted for about three hundred years. But then, as often happens in history, the inheritors of the system forgot how it all got set up in the first place and decided they didn’t like it anymore.
This led to a revolution in the early 1800’s.
I’m out of space for now. More to come tomorrow.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!