Sacsayhuaman: Where the Inca Empire was lost

Top view
Sacsayhuaman, on the wall looking down at the parade ground

Cusco, Peru, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 — In 1536, there were 190 Spaniards in Cusco, eighty who had horses. Juan Pizarro, half brother to Francisco, had freed Manco Inca, made ruler by Francisco Pizarro after he executed Atapaulpa. The newest Inca leader made haste to the hills to raise as many as 200,000 troops to get rid of the Europeans.

The Inca force returned, burnt the city and holed up in Sacsayhuaman where they could sweep down on the besieged Spaniards.

“Thus ended the Inca capital: stripped for Atahualpa’s ransom, ransacked by Spanish looters, and now burned by its own people,” says John Hemming in “The Conquest of the Incas.”

Peter Frost’s book, “Exploring Cusco,” called the “bitter struggle for these heights became the decisive military action of the conquest. Manco’s failure to hold Sacsayhuaman cost him the war, and the empire.”

Spaniards, protected by steel helmets and bucklers, killed thousands of Manco’s forces by wielding steel swords and using their horses to charge into the Incas armed mostly with slings and stones. An example: The Spaniards wiped out about 1,500 Inca holdouts in the last battle for Sacsayhuaman. And not all 190 went up there. One who surely didn’t go was Juan Pizarro, killed previously by a stone dropped from one of the towers at Sacsayhuaman, the first of the Pizarros to go.

Frost tallies the rest of the Pizarro clan: Gonzalo executed in 1548 for rebelling against the Spanish crown; Francisco was assassinated in Lima in 1541 by rivals; Hernando spent 20 years in a Spanish prison for either provoking Manco’s rebellion, killing a Spanish nobleman or both. He died an old man whose wills and other efforts to control his vast fortune all ended in naught.

Big stones
See that rock behind us? Could you drag it three or four miles?

Our guide, Yakelin, said it probably took 20,000 people working for 60 years to complete the Sacsayhuaman. The stone quarry was three to four miles away from the site, and if you look at the size of the stones you can see what a struggle it must have been to drag them to Sacsayhuaman. They had no horses and did not know about the wheel. So they pulled the stones themselves by rolling them over logs. (It seems that someone might have thought, “These logs could be cut into segments, hitched behind a llama and we could open a John Llama dealership.”)

Cut stones.jpg
And once you got it here, could you carve it to make it fit?

The three towers on top of Sacsayhuaman were torn down, and the Spaniards forced the Incas to drag the stones into the city to build cathedrals.

That tickled a question in my mind that I had had since finishing Hemming’s book: Why did anyone in Peru allow anyone to speak Spanish? After independence, why didn’t they put every European they could find on a boat and head them back home – or drown them?

My effort to get those questions answered never worked. But Ramsey, a doctor on our tour who would make a good reporter, got it right when he asked Yakelin about her heritage: Given that she is mestizo (mix of European and Indian blood), what side of the family do you lean toward?

“I don’t worry about Spaniards or Inca,” she said. “No one separates things that way.

“The Incas incorporated others into their Empire, some asked, some forced.”

She learned basic information about Incas in school — some of it wrong. She grew up in Cusco and said they were taught that the Incas only lasted 100 years. Actually, they had been around for at least 400 before the conquest. This short-lived story of the Incas was also used as a justification by the Spaniards for the conquest: The Incas had only ruled for a few generations, and the Europeans “supplanted other equally unwelcome conquerors.” Maybe.

Yakelin explained that Quechua, the native language, is being reintroduced with medical professions and educators required to learn it. The CIA Factbook notes that the Peruvian population is 60 percent mestizo, Amerindian 25 percent, white 6 percent, African descent 3.6 percent and others (Chinese, Japanese, etc.)

It’s a mixed bag in Peru, native religion mixed with Catholicism, Quechua and Aymara languages mixed with Spanish. And no one is being led down to the boats for a journey to somewhere that would no longer feel like home.

Leaving Cuzco
A baby goat, a woman in native dress — who could resist?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a required religion took hold in Peru

 

In Lima square
Standing in the main square in Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru, Sunday, September 23, 2018 — Francisco Pizarro probably never worried about whether he had a right to conquest Peru or how the Catholic religion would fit into what he did there. But before he garroted Atahualpa, the Inca leader, in 1533, the debate had been waged for 20 years in Spain.

According to John Hemming’s book, “The Conquest of the Incas,” Pope Alexander had divided the lands new to the Europeans by giving Spain most of South America and Portugal got Africa and Brazil. Some interpreted that as where the Europeans could spread their faith. Others argued that invasion for wealth was just fine. So proselytizing and profits entered these lands together along with something called the Requirement, the result of the decades-old debate.

This document was to be read to those about to die unless they agreed to acknowledge the Catholic church and the Pope, accept the king of Spain as their ruler and allow the Christian faith to be preached there. If not, the Spaniards could “‘do all the harm and damage that we can,’ including the enslavement of wives and children, and robbery of possessions.” And, get this, “And we protest that the deaths and losses which shall result from this are your fault.”

 

Courtyard
Courtyard in the Museo del Convento Santo Domingo

Which brings us to the Museo del Convento Santo Domingo off the main square in Lima, Peru. Our Alexander + Roberts guide, Sheila, told us that 500 monks once lived there. Now, there are 12.

“These numbers are dropping all over the world,” she said.

Probably true given some of the problems facing the church today, but this forced-down religion took hold here with 80 percent of the population identifying themselves as Catholic.

KT covering
Kathy covering up like ladies did in the 16th Century

Sheila says that the Catholic church succeeds in Peru by mixing itself with nature (later evidence of that in a later blog post). Yakelin, who will be our A + R guide in Cusco and Machu Picchu, high in the Andean region, says that about 50 percent of the people there practice both some Inca religion along with their Catholicism. Given that the Inca empire mostly occupied the highland area, it’s probably not surprising that the native religion remains in some part.

The Convent of Santo Domingo has a library I want, mosaics for my walls and a courtyard to match. If not, I will do all the harm and damage that I can. Losses which shall result from this are your fault.

Library
The library at the Museo del Convento Santo Domingo
Mosaics
Mosaics at the convent.
Moorish
Lots of Moorish influence from Spain in this building
Floor
Entry floor