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
PachacamacRansom Room
Winter 1533-4
Prisoner King

The Spanish visited the traumatized Atahuallpa in his cell, gave him food, and allowed his women to come to him. It was then that Atahuallpa — now understanding that the Spanish wanted gold — came up with his plan to ransom himself for it.

Atahuallpa's motive says Waman Poma "was to free himself by paying them gold." If he paid up, he believed they would go away. It never seems to have occurred to him that these few — fewer than 200 — might be the precursors of thousands, who would come to settle permanently in his land, and that one payment of gold would not be enough.

Nueva Corónica y Buen Gobierno
(Letter to a King)

For the Incas, the Spanish desire for gold was both curious and fascinating. For them, gold had an aesthetic rather than a monetary value. They used it for decorating their shrines, for the images of their gods, but not for bartering. They found the Spanish obsession with gold as a commodity uncouth and even uncivilized. Waman Poma included a cartoon in his book of the Inca asking the Spaniard (in Quechua): "Do you actually eat this gold, then?" and the Spaniard replying, "Yes, we certainly do!"

Imprisoned Atahuallpa With Pizarro
Atahuallpa became friendly with his captors, especially Hernando Pizarro.
Credit: Wamán Poma, Insititute of Ethnology, Paris, 1936
Arrest of Atahuallpa Execution of Atahuallpa

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