Chronicles of America 

Pizarro Marches to Cuzco

For the march to Cuzco all at last was clear. A start was set for early in September, and when the day arrived loud did the Spanish bugles shout from their golden throats. No more uncertainty ! No more delay! Ho now for El Dorado! Ho for regal Cuzco and the Temple of the Sun! The way along the Quito-Cuzco road was precipitous, and owing to the cliffs and stairways, chasms and raging torrents — the latter spanned only by swaying bridges of osier — the Spanish force of nearly five hundred men had much ado to keep a footing. Nor was this all. On the march the Conqueror was much harassed by Indian attacks, and, suspecting these to be instigated by one of Atahualpa's captains, Challcuchima by name, whom he had with him as a hostage, he ruthlessly destroyed that worthy by burning him at the stake.

Pizarro entered Cuzco two hours before sunset on November 15, 1533, a year to a day from the time when he had entered Caxamarca. How did this capital of the Incas look to him? Situated a hundred and fifty miles northwest of Titicaca, it lay in a valley dominated by steep hills and distant mountains. On one of the hills reposed a huge Cyclopean fortress, Sacsahuaman, accentuated by towers square and round, a relic of that Megalithic or Great Stone Age which preceded the Inca period. But what presumably attracted Pizarro most were the structures of the town itself, the palaces and temples wherein lay the treasure. Grouped in the main about a plaza, with heavy inward-sloping stone walls pierced by doorways broader at bottom than top, they made a picture that was curiously Egyptian. These buildings were numerous, too, for not only was the town large — over a hundred thousand souls, perhaps — but when any great Cuzcan died, Inca or nobleman, his abode passed to no successor but was maintained in all respects as though he were yet alive.

Far more than Mexico-Tenochtitlan was Cuzco a holy city. The supremacy there of one religious cult, Sun worship, fostered monotheism, and monotheism demanded a supreme temple. Hence that shrine of the Sun, noblest edifice in America since the days of splendor in Yucatán, a sight of which the Spaniards had so ardently craved. There now it lay in a court of flowers, one end rounded into an apse, its outer wall embellished by a golden cornice three feet in depth. Pizarro must soon have visited the interior — that interior whence largely had come the seven hundred golden plates, and where now was to be seen the Sun himself in the guise of a resplendent golden disc flanked by mummies of Incas, his departed children, posed on golden thrones, sustained by golden pedestals.

But in Cuzco religion did not exhaust itself with one temple, even though that temple was supreme. The whole city reflected religion — indeed was based upon it. So true was this, that the Center, the " Polaris " of the Empire, as distinguished from the "Four Quarters," was the center of the plaza of Cuzco. Here, in the form of a golden vase, was a fountain; and about this, before dawn on the day of the summer solstice, Peruvians were wont to gather by tribes to worship. And to worship what? Not an image of the Sun, but the Sun himself, if perchance he should appear. That he would appear was not taken for granted. He might not. Would he show his face on this great day? Anxiety reigned, dread even. Then "over the mountains the silent herald Dawn, and — following — the Sun!" All very splendid, but not anything that Pizarro saw or would have rejoiced in had he seen it. To him, no less than to Father Valverde, the whole ceremony would have been utter infidelity, rank idolatry, a celebration to be straightway suppressed, as in fact it was.

With regard to the treasure actually uncovered at Cuzco or on the way thither — slabs of silver twenty feet long by one foot broad, gold-enwrapped mummies of Inca queens, and other precious objects — the quantity was vast, but not so vast, not by half, as the quantity already divided. Almagro's men, by waiting for their harvest until Cuzco was reached, did not fare as well as they would have fared at Caxamarca. Certain it is, though, that they fared too well to show signs of discontent. Discontent on their part, when it came, as come it inevitably did, was from a cause quite different.

Three definite stages of the Peruvian conquest there were: that of preparation, that of active hostilities, and that of accomplishment. It is, however, a peculiarity of this conquest that the last stage, that of amassing treasure and of seizing dominion, instead of following upon the state of active hostilities, largely preceded it and gave rise to it. Now, therefore, for a glance at the stage of active hostilities. Here Pizarro does not shine as he did in the preparatory stage of patience and endurance. A new man dominates the scene, Pizarro's brother, Hernando.

Hernando Pizarro is ever a figure knightly and romantic. Unlike the rest of his family, he was neither illegitimate nor ignorant, though like them he was poor and had his way to make. That he could be chivalrous appears from his attitude toward Atahualpa, an attitude shared by an associate, Hernando de Soto. In these of our pages devoted to Mexico and Peru, three figures stand out as representatives of that chivalry illustrated in the Amadis of Gaul and satirized in Don Quixote: not so much Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, Hernan Cortés, and Francisco Pizarro as, rather, Juan de Grijalva, Hernando de Soto, and Hernando Pizarro, men whom we instinctively associate with scenes of the tourney, with "splintered spear-shafts," and "shivered brands," but hardly less with "perfume and flowers that lightly rain from ladies' hands."

Hernando Pizarro it was, to cite an incident romantic as well as practical, who, on the expedition which he led to Pachacamac, gave the memorable order that the Spanish horses were to be shod with silver in lieu of iron. Hernando Pizarro, too, it was who, as Pizarro's emissary to Spain, performed with courtliness the duty of laying at the royal feet the incomparable riches of the Incas. A further duty in Spain he discharged, and one surely not lacking in chivalry : he assented to and even promoted the interests of Almagro, whom he did not like, by joining with the latter's agent in procuring for him, along with the title of Mariscal or Marshal, a grant of two hundred leagues beginning where Pizarro's grant left off. But where did Pizarro's grant leave off? To this question the answer involves much: the story of Peru to the death of Almagro; then to the imprisonment of Hernando Pizarro for that death; and finally to the death of the Conqueror himself.

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