It’s May 13, 1536. Two Inca nobels, who believe there still are opportunities in cooperation with the Spaniards, have provided important information on Saqsaywamans layout, so that the Spaniards can now better plan the siege and their attacks.
The war can become asymmetric. The Spaniards are met by stones and arrows from the top of the cyclopic walls. They know that despite their Indian auxiliaries, they are too few and that the Incas are overwhelming many, but they also know that the confined Incas neither can fetch supplies or get reinforcements. The battle is not just a matter of census but especially of time. For when can reinforcements come to the rescue the Incas?
The Incas attack from the three levels of the fortress. Juan Pizarros page is hit by a heavy stone and dies; two African slaves also lose their lives, probably because they did not have an armour. Many Spaniards and horses are injured. Juan Pizarro is among the wounded. Due to lesions in the face he cannot use his helmet, but directing the attack he can.
Knowing that the Inca warriors are not fighting in the dark, he postpones the main attack, even though he recognizes the risk of delaying the attack for too long, as it will allow the Incas to get reinforcements who will be able to attack the Spaniards from behind. The darkness must be exploited. It is the most important ally of the Spaniards. The darkness!
Without helmet, Juan Pizarro is more vulnerable, and the most terrible happens. He is hit by a stone and unconscious he must be carried away; in his last hours – again by consciousness, more or less at least – he dictates a comprehensive testament on how he will be buried, that the woman who has given him certain services and who has given birth to a girl, which he doesn’t recognize as his daughter, must have 2,000 ducats for this child, the rest must his brother Gonzalo inherit, as well as how often and how to remembered with a Requiem Mass. As if it is a matter of course that any Spaniard at all will survive Juan Pizarro and be able to remind him as desired.
May 18, the Spaniards await in the dark. In the new moons weakest light, armour dressed Spaniards creep under the command of Hernándo Pizarro over the flat parade area, get in almost silence set storm ladders up the stone walls and pull upwards.
Then is heard ALARM! The climbers on the ladders have been detected and are met with a rain of stones and shouts. The Incas are biting.
The armoured Spaniards continue the attack. With a sword in one hand and a shield in the other, they climb upwards while they have to hold on to the ladder.
Don’t ask me how this impossibility can be done!
The Spaniard Hernán Sánchez Badajoz is at the top and reaches as the first the third level of the plant. There he gets hold of a rope hanging from a tower, defying a rain of stone and almost throwing himself through a window opening, screaming he is fighting with the Incas who have merged, alone he pushes them back without sensing the pain and reaches up in the top of the tower. Several Spaniards follow and occupy the fortress. Incas are reaped; they have clubs and axes, but the Spaniards have swords and rapiers. Indians also climb the Saqsaywamans towers – these towers were masterpieces, the tallest hollow constructions throughout the Inca Empire – and then fling from the height in an attempt to fly or seek death. Other Incas try to escape but are killed on the run by a senior Inca. The penalty for deserting.
At dawn, the accounts can be settled. The battle has cost about 3,000 Incas, 5 Spaniards, two African slaves and an unknown number of Indian auxiliaries. The citys vultures find plenty to eat.
The Spaniards are thinking about the future and they are asking how it is in other parts of the country. They have lost men. Horses. Arms. It’s difficult to get supplies. First and foremost, they have lost overview and fighting morale.
The Incas, on the other hand, know their country.
3,000 dead Incas, but Manco Inca is alive! Sapa Inca has retreated into the Sacred Valley, where he feels safe. When the Incas defeat at Saqsaywaman is obvious, the high priest and the generals decide to leave the fortress.
The leading Incas meet with Manco Inca in Ollantaytambo. The Inca takes a look over his beaten forces, but he knows that other of his soldiers in the northern and central parts of the country have defeated Spaniards.
According to the son Titu Cusi, disappointed Manco Inca states:
You were so numerous and they were but few.
It’s a commanders comment, spoken from a safe and secure position. But it is true, and indeed it is true that Manco Inca has lost some of his divine aura. According to the son, the big ears speak openly, but they start humbly:
We are thrown into such consternation that we hardly dare to look you in the face but take some consolation in being able to put some of the blame on you.
Then follow the blame, yes the accusation explodes:
When we had thoroughly surrounded the enemy and deprived them of all hope for help, we asked you what to do with them and you send us word that we should let them suffer like they had made you suffer, that you would come and destroy them yourself. In order not to disobey you, we let them be for one day and one night while we were waiting for you.
Manco Inca has not fulfilled his promise! It is he who has failed! He hasn’t kept words! Still, he still has power so the big ears once again bend and obey.
He sends warriors to Lima to destroy Francisco Pizarro, who in his new capital is protected by one hundred Spaniards and eighty horses. Other warriors he sends to Cusco, where Hernándo Pizarro and his Spaniards shall be destroyed. Afterwards, Manco Inca will restore the burned-out capital to its former magnificence and begin restoring power and glory of the Inca, so it will again radiate as before.
At the same time, Indian spies report to Hernándo Pizarro where Manco Inca has established headquarters. Hernándo is convinced that only he can get the Inca – alive or dead – then the Inca rebellion must break down.
In January 1537, three years after Manco Incas coronation as the Spaniards puppet-Inca, Hernándo lets 40 soldiers guard Cusco and 50 control Saqsaywaman. Heading 100 soldiers – seventy on horses – and 30,000 loyal Indian auxiliaries he moves through the Sacred Valley toward Ollantaytambo. The horses have trampled thousands of Incas to death and the Spanish soldiers have wounded many with their lances. With the Indian auxiliaries, the Spaniards feel safe as they enter the protective valley.
But there they discover their vulnerability. The narrowest places of the valley, where they have to cross the river, are controlled by more than 30,000 Inca warriors. On platforms on the mountain sides, they are waiting silently but ready to push large stones down. Here, both horses and lances are useless, and neither the Indian auxiliaries can stop the heavy boulders when they crash down the mountainside. The Spaniards must let the horses jump to save the horsemans life. They are caught in a trap. Nevertheless, the Spaniards continue into the valley. Eventually, finally, they spot what is designated as the terrific temple at the top of the cliff in Ollantaytambo.
Is it a bait, some must have asked.
A short stop in front of a gate, but the area is dangerous for several heavy rocks drum against them from multiple platforms, and on the mountainside archers, warriors from the rainforest, from Antis as the Spanish-loyal auxiliaries call the rainforest, with face painting, feathers and tight bows, shouts and screams. As the Spaniards continue, they are hit by the arrows of the rainforest Indians, many of the Spaniards Indian auxiliaries fall, while the Spanish soldiers are protected by their armour. A couple of Spaniards and a single horse are injured.
While the Spaniards attention is concentrated on the heights, on the mountainsides, in order to all the time to be able to jump to escape attacks, they suddenly notice that the ground where they stand is wet, yes, they are in a puddle and that the water mysteriously rises, rises and rises, running like a river. The Inca has deployed his secret weapon at the right moment: A tributary that usually flows with Vilcanota has been dammed up, for at the right moment to be released over the flat area in front of the gate where the Spaniards are tripping. The horses dredge the soil into mud that limits their movements. The riders find it difficult quickly to escape arrow attacks and cause the horses to advance all the while the water is still rising and rising, so it now reaches the belly of the horses. Hernándo Pizarro orders his soldiers back.
With his secret weapon Manco Inca has forced the Spaniards back, but he cannot reuse this weapon. The moment of surprise and the water are gone. While Hernándo Pizarro, his Spanish soldiers and loyal Indian auxiliaries are confused and wet retreat towards Cusco, Inca Manco begins his retreat into the rainforest.
With a few thousand survivors, Manco Inca establishes his mini-Inca-state in the rainforest with Vilcabamba as a fast erected capital, from which he with needle-sting operations fights the Spaniards and their Indian allies.
Manco Inca never returns to Cusco, but is murdered by Spaniards in the forest in 1544.
(pp. 371-375 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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