ConquistadorsThe Conquest of the Incas



Cabeza de Vaca
Riches in TawantinsuyoConquistadors in TumbesSmallpox and Civil War
To Discover and ConquerPizarro Enters TawantinsuyoEncounter at Cajamarca
Arrest of AtahuallpaRansom of AtahuallpaExecution of Atahuallpa
More on Pizarro in the Learning Adventure
Francisco PizarroCieza de LeónGlorious Thirteen
November 1524-27
A Land of Wonders

Francisco Pizarro made his first voyage to the New World in November 1524. After much hardship and skirmishes with natives in Panama, he returned to Spain with empty hands. Pizarro's second voyage (November 1526 to late 1527) was much larger, with 160 men and several horses carried in two ships. After some initial probing, Pizarro's expedition split with Bartolomé Ruiz, the pilot, taking half the command.

While sailing off the coast of what is now Ecuador, Ruiz made first contact with the Incas. Aboard a balsa trading raft with a huge triangular cotton sail were 20 Inca crew and passengers. The Spanish boarded the vessel and, to their delight, saw many pieces of silver and gold, precious stones and intricately woven fabrics. Ruiz kept three of the Inca to be trained as interpreters. Through sign language, the captives told him that their gold came from a land far to the south, a land of wonders. Meanwhile unaware of Ruiz's auspicious encounter, Pizarro and his men camped on an uninhabited island just off the steamy mangrove coast of Colombia. Mutiny was in the air. Pizarro's men had grown sick of the promises of their craggy leader.

Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno
(Letter to a King)

Frustrated by the Spanish mistreatment of the Inca people in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, Don Felipe Wamán Poma de Ayala — himself of both Inca and Spanish descent — sent an illustrated letter to King Phillip III of Spain that documented Inca culture and history. A facsimile edition of his letter was published by the Institute of Ethnology in Paris in 1936. These reproductions of his drawings appear throughout this section of the site.

Pizarro and Almagro Arrive in New World
Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro arriving in the New World on their ship.
Credit: Wamán Poma, Insititute of Ethnology, Paris, 1936
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