The sun is setting on July 26, 1533 while Spanish soldiers led Sapa Inca Atahualpa with iron around the neck into the square where he had been captured eight months earlier. A blast on a trumpet opens the show trial with Pizarro and Almagro as judges, Sancho de Cuellar as clerk and Filipillo as interpreter.
12 questions are asked to Atahualpa about his kinship, Huáscars death and whether he had ordered troops to be assembled to make war on the Spaniards. Ten witnesses were examined, one of them is suspicious to the interpreter and will only answer yes or no to avoid translation distortion. The two judges sentence Atahualpa to death. Among the Spaniards are twelve opponents of the death sentence; they do not believe that Pizarro has the jurisdiction over a foreign King for that is a right of Emperor Carlos. But they are overruled.
Atahualpa is tied to a stake surrounded by some subjects and Spaniards. It’s now that Atahualpa is going to die. He claims that not a single Inca soldier will move without his command, and with him as a prisoner, what can they fear? And if they want, they can get twice as much gold, just he can keep alive, he offers.
The Spaniards cling to the hope that his death will be their rescue.
The Incas do not understand that their ruler must be executed. And in that way. Burnt, so everything disappears. The mummy! Away!
Spanish soldiers begin stacking wood for the fire around the feet of Atahualpa, while the monk Valverde preaches to Atahualpa that God had wished him to die for the sins that he had committed in the world and that he should repent of them, and that God would pardon him if he did.
Does Atahualpa think that the God of Christians will save him – so the will not kill him – if he decides to worship the God of Christians, who was killed? Can he choose between two ways to die? Has he done all that these long-bearded have demanded? Why does Valverde threaten him in his black robe, this man who from the beginning came up with his ridiculous book that could not say anything, in his incomprehensible language to burn him?
Atahualpa does not fear death as such, but that his body will physically be destroyed, will disappear if the Christians destroy it. He knows that access to the afterlife depends on the bodys existence, so the descendants can treat it with care and ask their ancestors for advice. He thinks of his two sons, who he has left in Quito, for in Cusco to take over the throne from his half-brother.
Valverde urges Atahualpa to stop thinking on his sons and instead concentrate on accepting the true God, the Christian God. Now the rulers soul is at stake, Valverde insists and breathes while his words are translated. Valverde predicts that Atahualpa will burn forever if he doesn’t abandon his false gods and turns to the only true God. Atahualpa must accept the sacred baptism if he wants to escape the eternal fire. Eternal fire!
Eventually, Atahualpa bows and accepts to be baptized as a Christian – whether it is for his childrens sake or for avoiding to burn forever, we will never get to know – but the sacred sacrament, the christianizing, baptism, is arranged by Vicente de Valverde, who already eight months earlier commanded Atahualpa to submit to the God of Christians or incur the anger of the Spaniards.
After Valverde has baptized Atahualpa, a rope is laid around Atahualpas neck, the rope is tightened with a stick which is twisted around like a wheel. It is the garotte, a Spanish specialty.
While Valverde promises though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, the stick is twisted so the rope still tightens, the brain of the victim gets no blood with oxygen, the eyes began to bulge and the solitary vein on his forehead rose distended.
Pizarros secretary Xeres wrote down Pizarros – the Governors – view that should come out as the truth:
They brought out Atahualpa to execution. When he came into the square, he said he would become a Christian. The Governor was informed, and ordered him to be baptized. The ceremony was performed by the very reverend Father Friar Vicente de Valverde. The Governor then ordered that he should not be burnt, but that he should be fastened to a pole in the open space and strangled. This was done, and the body was left until the morning of the next day, when the monks and the Governor with the other Spaniards conveyed it into the church, where it was interred with much solemnity, and with all the honours that could be shown it.
Xeres English editor and translator, Markham, comments in a footnote:
The pretext for murdering Atahualpa was false, and Xeres, the murderers secretary, knew that it was false when he wrote his narrative. It was pretended that an Indian army was assembled at Huamachuco, and Hernándo de Soto, who was a lord and no murderer, was sent, with a small force, ostensibly to ascertain the truth of the report, but really to get him out of the way.
The Jesuit monk Blas Valera wrote two generations after the execution that Atahualpa underwent a sincere conversion to Christianity, and upon his death, he was transported directly to heaven as a saint.
Two days after Atahualpa has been executed, Hernándo de Soto rides into the Spanish camp. He hasn’t found any Indian army nearby. No sign of rebellion. No need to execute Atahualpa!
In front of Soto Pizarro makes the excuse that he has been deceived by Valverde, Riquelme and Almagro. Pizarro wants to appear innocent, perhaps he regrets.
The playoff is approaching, the big bloodbath is waiting.
(pp. 344-347 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
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