The conquest of Peru was the period during which the Spanish Empire took control of the current Peruvian territory. Although there had already been some expeditions to these lands, it is considered that the authentic conquest began on November 16, 1532, when the Spanish and the Incas met in Cajamarca.
After the conquest of Panama, the Spanish conquerors began to receive news about the existence of an empire very rich in gold. Rumors claimed that the seat of the empire was Birú or Pirú. Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Almagro and Hernando de Luque began preparations to reach that place.
En esos momentos, el pueblo indígena más importante en la zona era el inca. Este se había convertido en un gran imperio, controlando las mesetas andinas de las actuales Perú y Bolivia. La capital se encontraba en Cuzco.
La victoria de los conquistadores españoles sobre el inca significó el fin de ese imperio. A partir de entonces, fue la corona española quien controló el territorio. Después de una serie de guerras civiles entre los propios conquistadores, se creó el Virreinato del Perú, que duraría hasta el siglo XIX.
La primera zona que los españoles ocuparon en América después de los viajes de Cristóbal Colón fueron las islas de las Antillas. Desde allí, procedieron a explorar las costas del continente, a las que llamaron Tierra Firme. Esta fue dividida en 1508 por la corona española en dos partes diferentes, con el propósito de su futura colonización.
Una de esas circunscripciones fue la de Nueva Andalucía. Esta se extendía desde el este del golfo de Urabá hasta el Cabo de la Vela, en la Guajira colombiana. Esta zona fue concedida a Alonso de Ojeda.
Ojeda desembarcó en la actual Cartagena de Indias, fundando el fuerte de San Sebastían. Al haber sido herido combatiendo con los indígenas, tuvo que regresar a La Española, mientras que el fuerte quedó al mando de un soldado llamado Francisco Pizarro.
Desde La Española, Ojeda envió a Martín Fernández de Enciso para reforzar el fuerte. Entre sus miembros se encontraba Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. Antes de llegar a su destino, Enciso se encontró con un barco en el que iban Pizarro, quien, junto con otros miembros de la primera expedición de Ojeda, habían abandonado San Sebastián.
Pizarro se unió a Enciso, volviendo al continente. Cuando alcanzaron la costa, fundaron Santa María la Antigua del Darién.
El descubrimiento del Mar del Sur
Aunque Enciso se proclamó alcalde de la recién creada localidad, una serie de maniobras desembocaron en que Balboa acabara haciéndose con el mando Con esto, se convirtió en el jefe de los colonos de Tierra Firme.
Balboa empezó a recibir noticias sobre un imperio situado más al sur. El conquistador se tomó en serio esos rumores y organizó una expedición para encontrarlo. El 25 de septiembre de 1513, tras cruzar el istmo, los marinos encontraron un gran mar, al que bautizaron como Mar del Sur. Se trataba, en realidad, del Océano Pacífico.
A partir de ese momento, una de los objetivos de los españoles fue avanzar hacia el sur, buscando ese imperio rico en oro del que habían escuchado noticias.
Primeros intentos de llegar al Perú
Balboa recibió el título de Adelantado del Mar del Sur y comenzó a preparar una gran expedición. Sin embargo, no pudo concluir ese proyecto, ya que sus enemigos en España conspiraron contra él.
El primero fue Enciso, al que Balboa había depuesto como alcalde de La Antigua. La corona hizo caso a la denuncia y nombró a Pedro Arias Dávila como gobernador de los territorios conquistados. Este, conocido como Pedrarias, se las arregló para eliminar totalmente a Balboa, quien, acusado de conspiración, fue ejecutado.
Algo más tarde, en 1522, Pascual de Andagoya también trató de organizar la búsqueda de Birú. Sin embargo, su expedición terminó en un fracaso absoluto.
Primer viaje de Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro había establecido su residencia en Panamá. Desde allí, en 1523, comenzó a preparar su primera expedición en busca de Birú y su oro. Para ello, contó con Diego de Almagro y con el sacerdote Hernando de Luque, quien debía aportar la financiación necesaria.
Una vez tuvieron todo listo, Pizarro partió hacia el sur de América el 13 de septiembre de 1524. Almagro se había quedado buscando más tripulación y debía partir más adelante para reunirse con su compañero.
Los problemas no tardaron en aparecer, demostrando la dificultad de la empresa. Así, en las costas colombianas, se quedaron se provisiones, lo que, unido al clima, provocó que los expedicionarios se debilitaran.
Esperando más provisiones, tuvieron que permanecer allí durante 47 días. El lugar recibió el nombre de Puerto de Hambre. Treinta tripulantes fallecieron por ese motivo.
Meses después, algo recuperados, consiguieron alcanzar Perú. Sin embargo, no pudieron, tan siquiera, desembarcar, ya que un grupo de indígenas lo impidió al atacarlos con flechas y piedras. Pizarro decidió regresar a Panamá.
El segundo viaje de Pizarro
En 1526, Pizarro emprendió la segunda de sus expediciones. Tras un año de navegación, alcanzaron la bahía de San Mateo, desde donde penetraron en el río Santiago. Los hombres desembarcaron y dos navíos fueron enviados de vuelta a Panamá para buscar más provisiones.
Sin embargo, la travesía había sido muy dura y uno de los expedicionarios aprovechó para enviar una petición de ayuda al gobernador.
Fue en esa parte del viaje, cuando se encontraban en la Isla del Gallo, cuando Pizarro tuvo que enfrentarse a la desesperación de sus hombres. El conquistador, ante las quejas, trazó una línea en la arena y pidió a los que deseasen continuar el viaje que la cruzaran y se pusieran a su lado. Tan solo 13 tripulantes lo hicieron.
With them, called the thirteen of the rooster, Pizarro headed for the Island of Gorgona, where they waited for six months for new reinforcements to arrive.
The new group managed to advance to Santa Clara Island, to a settlement called Tumbes, in northwestern Peru. There, the Spanish saw, for the first time, constructions erected by the Inca Empire.
The walls and remains found seemed to confirm the idea of the wealth of that Empire. Pizarro ordered a return to Panama to seek more resources.
The capitulation of Toledo (1529)
In Panama, Pizarro encountered the governor’s refusal to help him embark on a new journey. Given this, the conqueror requested an audience with Carlos V, in Spain.
The monarch and Pizarra met in Toledo. Pizarro recounted his previous trips and gave the king gold, silver and textiles from Peru.
Carlos V not only authorized Pizarro to carry out a new, and greater, expedition, but also appointed him bailiff, governor and captain general of the territory that covered 200 leagues south of Ecuador. In return, the Spanish crown would obtain 20% of the wealth found
The conquest proper began with the third voyage of Francisco Pizarro. This was eminently terrestrial and ended its confrontation with the Inca Empire.
Situation of the Inca Empire
Before the Spanish conqueror left for Peru, the Incas were experiencing a period of great political instability. In 1527, the Inca Huayna Cápac and his heir had died of a strange disease, which unleashed the struggle to occupy power.
After the death of the Inca, Huáscar assumed the government when he was appointed by the orejones of Cuzco. These, a kind of nobility, considered that his experience as vice-ruler made him more valid than his brother Atahualpa. This had become strong in the Quito region.
Huáscar ordered Atahualpa to render him vassalage, receiving a refusal on his part. Both leaders organized their armies and began a civil war that lasted three years. The winner was Atahualpa.
Pizarro’s third trip
Pizarro and his men set out from San Mateo Bay in January 1531. When they reached Puná Island, the Spanish learned of the civil war that had faced the Incas and decided to take advantage of the situation.
After leaving the island, the conquerors reached Tumbes and, from there, set course for the Chira Valley. In that place, Pizarro, who was accompanied by 176 men, founded the first city: San Miguel.
March to Cajamarca
Pizarro’s next destination, once he reinforced his rear, was Cajamarca. According to the conqueror, the Inca already knew that he had left San Miguel and had even sent him messages to meet.
On November 8, 1532, the expedition began to ascend the mountain range. Pizarro divided his army into two groups: one, the vanguard, led by himself and another under the command of his brother Hernando, who had to cover the rear. However, after just one day of marching, both groups were reunited.
On November 9, Pizarro received some envoys from Atahualpa. They carried llamas as a gift and warned the Spanish that the Inca was five days from Cajamarca.
Two days later, when the conquerors were in Pallaques, a new Inca embassy ratified Atahualpa’s intention to meet with them in peace.
Finally, on November 15, the Spanish reached Cajamarca. When they entered the city, they found that Atahualpa had camped half a league from there.
The capture of Atahualpa
Both sides agreed that the meeting would take place on November 16. Atahualpa, once the date had been arranged, ordered that Cajamarca be surrounded by twenty thousand soldiers.
On the chosen day, the Inca of Tahuantinsuyo entered the central square of Cajamarca, escorted by 7000 soldiers. Upon arrival, a Spanish friar approached to give him a Bible, but Atahualpa did not accept it. Likewise, he accused the conquerors of having occupied his territory.
At that moment the capture of the Inca began. In just half an hour, 2,200 deaths were produced, especially by the avalanches that were caused when many of those present tried to flee. Others, especially Inca nobles, were killed by the Spanish.
According to some chroniclers, Pizarro himself received a knife wound when he prevented his men from assassinating Atahualpa. This, defeated, was locked in a building in the city.
The rescue and death of Atahualpa
After the capture, Atahualpa offered Pizarro a large loot in exchange for his release. The conqueror accepted and soon large quantities of gold and silver arrived in Cajamarca, although insufficient for the Spanish.
Given this, the Inca gave the Spanish permission to enter the temple of Pachacamac and the capital, Cuzco, so that they could take whatever riches they wanted.
Despite the agreement, Atahualpa was not released. Taking advantage of the absence of Hernando Pizarro and Hernando Soto, Francisco put the Inca on trial. According to the few chronicles of the time, the trial lasted a whole day and resulted in a sentence to be burned to death.
Before the sentence was served, Atahualpa converted to Christianity to avoid being burned at the stake. Instead, he was executed with the vile club on July 26, 1533.
While Pizarro was in Cajamarca, six ships arrived at the port of Manta, in present-day Ecuador. Three of them had left Panama, under the command of Diego de Almagro. Pizarro received news of this arrival in January 1533.
The other three ships were coming from Nicaragua. In total, among all the ships, 150 men arrived to reinforce the Spanish.
With this began a new stage in the conquest, although, after the defeat of the Inca, it was a period of consolidation of the triumph and distribution of the spoils of war.
End of the conquest of Peru
Despite the fact that the north of what had been the Inca Empire was under Spanish hands, there were still some pockets of resistance. Pizarro, to put an end to these groups, began a march towards Cuzco.
During their journey, indigenous troops tried to stop the conquerors, often using guerilla tactics.
Shortly after starting the march, Pizarro reunited with Manco Inca, a brother of Huáscar and therefore a relative of the Inca. Their purpose was to enlist their help to enter Cuzco safely. Thanks to this service, Manco Inca was named Inca, although he had to declare himself a vassal of the King of Spain.
On March 23, 1534, Pizarro founded the Spanish city of Cuzco. Later, he dedicated his forces to pacify the entire area. Despite their efforts, until the end of the seventeenth century there were indigenous uprisings against the Spanish.
The capital was transferred from Cuzco to Lima, since the first was unsafe for the Spanish. Lima had the advantage of allowing communication with other Spanish dominions, since it was located on the Pacific coast.
Civil war between the conquerors
The taking of Cuzco in 1534 marked the end of the Spanish conquest of Peru. After this, Spanish rule began in the ancient Inca territory.
However, this did not bring peace to the area. Very soon a civil war broke out between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro for the dominion of the new territories.
At first, it was Pizarro’s men who took the victory. Almagro was executed in 1538, without this implying the end of the war.
Diego de Almagro, el Mozo, took over from his father and, in 1541, his supporters assassinated Francisco Pizarro. He immediately proclaimed himself Governor of Peru and rebelled against the authorities appointed by the King of Spain.
Finally, Diego de Almagro el Mozo was defeated in the battle of Chupas. After being tried for treason, he was sentenced to death.
This conflict, which lasted even more in time, was the main cause of the creation of the Viceroyalty. The king, among other things, wanted to put an end to power disputes in the area.
Viceroyalty of Peru
By means of a Royal Certificate, issued in 1534, the Spanish Crown established a Viceroyalty. In addition to trying to consolidate his authority in the area, Carlos I wanted to end the frequent abuses to which the indigenous people were subjected. For this reason, it promulgated the New Laws, with which it created the Royal Court to administer civil and criminal justice.
These laws prohibited the forced labor of the natives, in addition to abolishing hereditary encomiendas.
The capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru was established in Lima and its first Viceroy was Blasco Núñez de Vela.
In its moment of greatest extension, the Viceroyalty of Peru occupied the current Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and part of Argentina and Chile. The Bourbon Reforms caused him to lose part of those territories in favor of new viceroyalties.
Before that, the Viceroyalty of Peru was the main possession of the Spanish Empire. Its riches, especially the mined minerals, were one of the main sources of profit for the Spanish crown.
At the beginning of the XIX century the rebellions against the metropolis began. These led to a war of independence and, after some years of conflict, the various territories of the Viceroyalty became new countries.
One of the characteristics of the Viceroyalty of Peru was the establishment of two Republics: that of the Spanish and that of the Indians. Both were created by the New Laws of 1542.
As in the rest of the Spanish colonies in America, the society of Peru was totally estamental. At the top were the Spanish whites and, a step below, the whites born in the colony. Indigenous people and mestizos made up the lower class.
- History of the New World. The Conquest of Peru (I): The End of an Empire. Obtained from historiadelnuevomundo.com
- EducaRed. The Conquest of Peru. Obtained from educared.fundaciontelefonica.com.pe
- Icarito. Conquest of Peru. Obtained from icarito.cl
- Spanish Wars. The Conquest of the Inca Empire. Retrieved from spanishwars.net
- Heritage History. Spanish Conquest of Peru. Retrieved from heritage-history.com
- Ballesteros-Gaibrois, Manuel. Francisco Pizarro. Retrieved from britannica.com
- Cartwright, Mark. Pizarro & the Fall of the Inca Empire. Retrieved from ancient.eu