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Francisco Pizarro
February 21, 2009
by Loren Mayshark
“We Spaniards are troubled by a disease of the heart for which the specific remedy is gold.”  -Hernan Cortes. 

Francisco Pizarro was a pig herder from a small town in the countryside of Spain, the bastard son of a Spanish soldier.  In his youth he would go to the sea and gaze out at the mighty ships returning from exotic destinations with riches that led the young boy’s imagination to dance at night with possibility.  As Pizarro grew, so grew the idea of this “ New World ” in the young man’s consciousness, a place where dazzling rooms filled with golden treasure, were a reality.  At the age of 23, he jumped aboard one of those great ships and headed off to the Americas . 

He stepped off the boat onto new soil, with his heart beating a desire for fame and fortune a goal for which he would readily spill blood.  In 1513 he signed on to an expedition with Vasco de Balboa and was among the first Europeans ever to set eyes on the Pacific coast of the New World.  Pizarro would later betray Balboa and ultimately play a vital role in his execution in order to curry favor with the regional governor.  Pizarro then settled in what is now present day Panama and from there embarked on numerous expeditions in the name of the Spanish crown.  On one such expedition he made close friends with a similar soldier of fortune by the name of Diego de Almargo.  Side by side the two men made names for themselves as Conquistadors as they drew weapons to slay the natives in pursuit of vast fortunes.  At this time “he [Pizarro] was like any young soldier, with the license to do anything they wanted, and for young soldiers at the time, they could kill, rape, did any other atrocity; that was part of war.”  (Luis Rebaza Soruluz Dr. of Latin American Studies Kings College , London) 

Almargo and Pizarro soon built legendary reputations as tormenters by tracking down slaves for riches and melting the eyes of tribal leaders with metal irons until they would give up the whereabouts of the all important treasure.  Over the course of a few years Pizarro had created for himself a position of authority in present day Panama and with it came the spoils of wealth.  Yet he was unsatisfied, so when the word came from other explorers of a native empire to the south with unparalleled riches, Pizarro began to plot an expedition in search of the valley of the Incas.  He and Almargo gathered the hungriest, bravest men; those without the fetters of love, who will die for treasure, to make a journey to the heart of the Inca Empire. 
In 1524 they set sail for their first venture south, but, the trip turned out to be a complete disaster with many crew members falling victim to disease and starvation.  They were forced to return to Panama .  In 1526 Pizarro and Almargo again left Panama in search of present day Peru and due to extreme conditions Pizarro and Almargo were separated.  Almargo was forced to return to Panama for supplies.  Upon Almargo’s return the party was reunited and the duo was able to find enough treasure to count the trip a success, but not without their share of brutal encounters with native warriors.  Pizarro’s heavy hand and his drive to continue even with death looming, resulted in a mutiny.  The combination of insubordination and rough seas made it imperative they return to Panama to Pizarro’s disgust. 

In Panama Pizarro pleaded with the governor to finance a third voyage in search of the land of the Incas.  When Pizarro was shut down by the governor he decided to take matters into his own hands by sailing to Spain to hold an audience with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (a.k.a. Charles I of Spain ). 

Charles V saw this ambitious young soldier as an opportunity to expand his empire and fatten his pockets.  The King told Pizarro that he would help finance another trip to the territories south of Panama and even allow Pizarro to rule any land he conquered in the name of the Spanish crown as long as the crown was given its due share.  Pizarro then gathered a couple hundred soldiers including a few of his relatives and once again set sail for the New World and after a brief stop in Panama he headed south with one goal in mind:  conquering the golden empire.  This time Pizarro landed on the shores of Peru where he and his crew began to carve their way into the interior of the mountainous countryside.

Just outside of Cajamarca , Peru Pizarro, 106 foot soldiers, 62 men mounted on horses and a holy man by the name of Vicente de Valverde spent the night huddled close to their smoldering fires as they looked out on the sea of 40,000 plus campfires representing an arm of the resting Inca Empire.  Pizarro’s men spent the night wetting themselves in fear as their obsessive commander contemplated their plan for attack the following day. 

The hot sun broke the day on November 16, 1532, and the course of human history would be changed forever.  The absolute monarch of the Inca’s, Atahuallpa, aware of the Spanish presence, sent word to Pizarro’s camp by messenger, “Tell your lord to come when and how he pleases, and that, in what way soever he may come I will receive him as a friend and brother.  I pray that he may come quickly, for I desire to see him.  No harm or insult will befall him.”  Pizarro proceeded with caution to meet with the Inca leader and strategically placed his troops around the main square of Cajamarca , poised for an attack.  At midday Atahuallpa and his procession reached the square to meet these strange men with woolen faces.  Spanish accounts of this meeting tell that the Incas marched forth with the sun reflecting off of their golden armor so radiantly that it nearly blinded the Spanish onlookers.  The ranks parted and the first to gain access to Atahuallpa, seated upon his great litter held faithfully by his subjects, was the Friar Valverde.  The Friar spoke sternly to the Emperor about the word of God and how he was there to help the infidels and handed to the confused leader a bible, the first book Atahuallpa had ever seen.  He took the book and upon scrutinizing it cast it down from his royal bed.  This action gave Pizarro the pretense he was looking for to attack and he gave the Spanish battle cry of “ Santiago !” and his men rushed from their hiding places and converged upon the natives firing guns and brandishing steel swords.  The Incas, many of whom had never seen a horse before were stunned and became easy targets for the slaughter to follow.  The Inca bodies piled up but the swift Spanish aided by superior military technology and horse power were virtually untouched and when all was through the victorious Pizarro was riding off with Atahuallpa as his captive.  (See Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond)

After a few moons Pizarro spoke to a messenger of the worried Inca people who longed for their leader, whom they considered to be the son of god.  Pizarro reached up on his tip toes and pointed to the highest part of the ceiling his body could stretch to touch and requested that three rooms be filled with riches to that mark: two of silver and one of gold in exchange for Atahuallpa’s life.  Gold was significant in the Inca culture as a symbol of the sun god and silver the god of the moon, but the ubiquitous metals were a small price to pay for the head of their empire.  Therefore, Incas quickly agreed delivering the Conquistador roughly 30,000 pounds of gold and 26,000 tons of silver.  In Atahuallpa’s captivity Pizarro went out of his way to befriend the man, thus softening the naïve native king so he was easier to exploit.  He convinced Atahuallpa to put out the death call on the head of his rival half brother thus significantly weakening the stability of the empire.  Additionally, Pizarro was able to get him to divulge the location of more riches.  When the Incas paid the ransom, Pizarro took in the precious metals, but rather than return the fallen king to his people Pizarro broke his promise and opted for beheading Atahuallpa instead. 

Following the death of Atahuallpa, Pizarro sent one fifth of the entire booty to Spain with his brother Hernando for Charles V.  Pizarro remained in Peru and with the aid of reinforcements, went on to conquer more of the disintegrating Inca Empire.  The crumbling of the Inca Empire culminated in the sacking of the city of Cuzco (which is literally translated as “Navel of the Earth”) the center of the Inca Empire.  Pizarro installed a puppet ruler by the name of Manco Capac to pacify the masses.  After which he headed to the coast and founded the present day port-capital of Lima .  As Pizarro was building his palace and tidying up his work in Peru he sent Almargo south to Chile telling his partner that he could rule any desirable land that he could find.  Unfortunately for Almargo, he would run into the vast Atacama Desert and find little desirable land to acquire.

Just as Pizarro believed he could settle into a life of ease, something unexpected happened.  His puppet, Manco Capac, lead an uprising in Cuzco that threatened to destroy everything that Pizarro had worked so hard for.  At the darkest moment for the Spanish in the revolt, Almargo returned from his mission to the south and with great difficulty his forces were able to subdue the natives.  In the wake of this triumph, there began a land dispute between the two old friends; Pizarro and Almargo.  In 1538, the two and their followers eventually squared off in The Battle of Las Salinas and Almargo was defeated.  Pizarro had his ally Almargo put to death.  Pizarro then shamefully stripped Almargo’s son Diego of the entirety of his holdings, leaving the young man a forsaken drifter.

In 1541 Pizarro was holding court in his palace when he heard a loud disturbance out in the streets of Lima .  Moments later a couple dozen followers of Diego Almargo burst through the heavy palace door brandishing weapons.  The stunned court stood in paralysis as the men savagely pursued Pizarro.  The battle tested Pizarro was swift with his sword and held off a couple of the attackers but he was soon overwhelmed.  He was run through repeatedly until he collapsed onto the floor.  In the blood seeping out from his wounds Pizarro raised a trembling hand and drew a cross.  The great conqueror spent his final moments screaming like an abandoned child for the Christ whose name he used in his conquests of treachery.  Then all was black. Another man driven by greed had left this world for the abused to shoulder the burden of his avarice.            

Pizarro, unlike the Dick Cheneys of today had his own style. On one hand, Cheney cheats behind the scenes, sending off other people’s children to war so he can line his pockets through the military industrial complex.  Pizarro, on the other hand, was one who had to get dirty.  Like Cheney he betrayed his fellow man and convinced others to take part in his killings only to further his own agenda.  However, Pizarro would still go out and look the people in the eyes as he ran them through with the sword or raped the daughter as a speechless father was forced to watch.  Technology has changed the nature of usury so as to remove those who to unleash the dehumanizing destruction from getting soil on their Wingtips.  What Pizarro did is lay the bloody foundation for the modern day Man to grow fat by benefiting from the annihilation of the basic human rights of countless innocent individuals. 

The story of Francisco Pizarro is just an early chapter in the life of a pestilence that plagues this planet.  For centuries this disease has flourished and now it threatens the future of the very existence of both man and beast.  The deeds of men like him have set us on the precipice of the ultimate catastrophe.  Through all means of understanding, education and conversation we must squelch out this tumor that takes and takes from our earth leaving the masses sick and feeble.  The names and faces may change but the parasite continues draining prosperity from our people.  Pizarro was a bridge back from the Old World from which the dominant Western Europeans, those who drew nourishment from the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and acquired a taste for conquest.  These individuals may have benefited from their heartiness in the face of disease and the might of their guns and strength of their steeds, but, they did not have to be the ruthless dehumanizing beings exemplified by Conquistador Francisco Pizarro.  Our failure to learn from history has bound us to a cycle of repetition, but the dawn of a new era is upon us, one where we must shout from the streets, “Nunca Mas!” (“Never Again!”) to those who have taken what is not rightfully theirs.
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