Americas,  Central America,  ER,  South America,  Spain,  Western Europe

Manco Inca Yupanqui

Photo- Manco Inca - Artist Unknown
Photo- Manco Inca – Artist Unknown

The Inca had a great empire in what is now Peru, parts of Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and Chile and a small part of southern Colombia.  They were the Roman Empires of the Americas.  However, they when the Spanish explorers first encountered them the Inca were coming off a debilitating civil war and in the middle of a smallpox epidemic.  160 Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Peru with Francisco Pizarro, and they took full advantage of the destabilizing political situation.

The civil war was between two brothers who both claimed the throne-  Atahuallpa and Huascar.  The war was only ended when Atahuallpa killed his brother, however, the kingdom was left weakened.  Pizarro appeared and Atahuallpa was carried to him on a golden throne lined with parakeet feathers wearing a necklace of large green emeralds and gold ornaments in his hair.  The wealth hungry Spanish were immediately interested.  The priests in Pizarro’s party tried to convert Atahuallpa to Christianity and the accept the King of Spain as the ruler of the Inca.  Atahuallpa refused.  He was the emperor of the Inca and had just fought his own brother to get there, now a bunch of strangers wanted him to give that up?  I imagine some choice Incan words were also shared.  The Spanish did not take kindly to this, and the Emperor was taken prisoner.  Realizing the Spanish were money hungry, Atahuallpa tried to bribe his way to freedom.  He promised them a room full of silver and gold.  They agreed, but when they got the goods Pizarro had Atahuallpa strangled.  So much for bribery.

After Atahuallpa’s murder, Pizarro had his younger brother , Tupac Huallpa, upon Atahualpa’s death, but he died shortly thereafter of smallpox.  They moved on to the next brother, Manco, and had him crowned as the Spanish’s puppet emperor and went about their business of making the Inca slaves and taking as much wealth as they could carry.  Manco was not treated well by his captors, who were rough men and did not respect any natives.  Pizarro’s brothers tortured him for the location of more wealth, and even kidnapped and raped both Manco’s wife and sister.  Manco tried to escape, but was captured and beaten, urinated on, and imprisoned in chains.  Really nice guys.  Knowing his captors hunger for gold, in 1536 Manco promised to show the Spanish where a solid gold statue of his father was located.  Manco got away and looked for ways to get back his empire.

In May of 1536, Manco led a massive army of 100,000 native warriors in a siege of Cuzco.  The Spanish only survived by occupying the nearby fortress of Sachsaywaman.  He did accomplish killing Juan Pizarro, one of the men who raped his wife and sister.  Pizarro sent reinforcements from Lima, but Manco had a plan for them.  Quizu Yupanqui, Manco’s general, ambushed the Spanish in a gorge and crushed them with rock slides.  Yupanqui was on a role and took out a second Spanish column a few weeks later and marched on Lima.  However, a surprise cavalry attack saved Lima before it could fall to the Inca.  Manco and his army were forced to fall back.

Manco set up an capital in exile in Vilcabamba in the Amazon jungle, and led guerilla attacks on the Spanish.  In 1539, Gonzalo Pizarro was sent to attack Vilcabamba, but sent two of Manco’s brothers ahead to negotiate.  Manco was having none of it, and sent his brothers’ heads back to the Spanish.  The Spanish attacked, and the Inca forces held them off with captured guns.  However, they were not proficient in using the guns and the Spanish got the upper hand.  Manco escaped Vilcabamba across a river, but his wife was left behind and was executed by the Spanish.  On the run and soaking wet, Manco Inca was still defiant and proud.  Surrounded by his warriors, he walked back to the river bank and shouted at the Spanish chasing him, “I am Manco Inca!  I am Manco Inca!”  Then he disappeared into the jungle.

The rebellions continued until Manco was assassinated by the Spanish in 1544.  He was succeeded by his son Sayri Tupaq.


Sources available on request