Searching Atahualpa

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro, and a small group of Spanish conquistadors, entered Peru after having established a small outpost in Tumbez, just South of the border of current Ecuador. Back then, the Inca empire was at its peak, covering more than 2,500 miles from Chile to Ecuador. The Inca civilization was very advanced, they mastered sciences and some of their constructions are still viewed as extremely innovative today. When the Spanish started exploring Peru, the Empire wass still torn by the consequences of a bloody civil war between the two heirs, Huascar (from the North) and Atahualpa (from the South). Atahualpa was victorious but a greater danger was about to bring the Empire on his knees.

When they reached Cajamarca, the Spanish realized that the Incas were venerated a real cult to gold. However, with less than 200 soldiers against a tens of thousands army strong, the chances to become victorious or even to survive the first assault was close to zero. To reverse the situation and gain advantage, Pizarro had to set up a trap and hit quickly. He asked to meet with Atahualpa in Cajamarca. When Atahualpa arrived to the main plaza of the city, carried and surrounded by thousands of unarmed servants, he was presented a bible by a priest named Valverde, and was asked to recognize a god he never heard about. Atahualpa threw the Bible to the floor, which was the signal for the conquistadors to attack. Atahualpa fell from his throne, and Pizarro managed to pulled him away from the melee while the Spanish troops were decimating thousands of Incas.

Now a captive, Atahualpa offered as ransom storage rooms full of gold and silver, and sent word to neighboring cities to collect the precious materials. But after four months, with the ransom only partly collected, the Spaniards murdered Atahualpa. When word of Atahualpa’s death reached the ends of the empire, the stream of gold heading for Cajamarca suddenly stopped.

One of Atahualpa’s generals, Ruminahui, fled into the mountains North of Quito with 15,000 soldiers, taking along what historical accounts estimate as “70,000 man-loads” of gold. A small group of Incas was also able to retrieve Athualpa’s body that was buried by the Spaniards as a Christian, and regrouped with Ruminahui’s troops. Although the pursuing Spaniards tortured and burned alive many Incas, the gold and Atahulpa’s mummy location was never revealed.