So, on to what we are learning this week with SWA’s blog…we always have to remember that before the “great European explorers” there were other people living in Ecuador. Before Humboldt, Orellana or Pizarro set foot in what is now called Ecuador, there were vibrant and varied Indigenous cultures.
Here I’m going to talk a little bit about the Incas near Quito whom Pizzaro defeated in order to stake his claim to this part of South America.
Due to superior technology and malicious intent (the Incas could have perhaps fought back better had they been anticipating a battle with these new comers) the Spanish overtook the Incas living in what is now Ecuador fairly quickly. Pizzaro was leading the Spanish through this region, and his success and advance was hardly slowed at all as he came through Northern Peru, up through modern-day Ecuador on his approach to Quito.
(Sam enjoying “quintessential” jungle scenery–complete with crystal clear water and blue skies–on the Upper Jondachi. Wait a second, does it say “Paddle Like a Girl” on your paddle?)
In 1532 Pizzaro’s troops arranged a meeting with Atahualpa–the last independent leader of the Incan Empire. Atahualpa was born in what is now Cuzco, Peru and became the Incan Emperor after defeating his older half-brother–Huascar–in a civil war which ignited after their father died from a strange disease (historians today think it was probably Small Pox). Unfortunately for the Incas, Atahualpa walked peacefully into the trap Pizzaro had set for him, and upon his arrival, Atahualpa’s guards were promptly killed and Atahualpa taken prisoner.
The Spainards held Atahualpa ransom for “a room filled with gold;” but when Ruminahui–an Inca Warrior who was very close to Atahualpa–brought them what they demanded, the Spanish didn’t hold up their end of the bargain–damn those Spaniards were bastards!
Instead of releasing Atahualpa, the Spanish put him through a trial (subjecting him to Spanish Crown law, not that of his own society), found him guilty of polygamy, worshiping false deities, and crimes against the king. Atahualpa was, consequently, sentenced to death; and the Spaniards were victorious in both getting their greed on (in the form of gold and silver) and of eliminating one of the last, powerful Inca leaders.
But, there was 1 more Inca to contend with–Ruminahui. He lead the final resistance against the Spanish in the Northern part of the Incan Empire–what is today Ecuador’s highlands.
After Ruminahui brought the Spanish the gold and silver they demanded for Atahualpa’s release, and after the Spanish broke their word and executed Atahualpa, Ruminahui is rumored to have ordered the “Treasure of Llanganatis” thrown into a lake so that the Spaniards wouldn’t be able to steal anymore of the riches of the Inca Empire.
In response to Ruminahui’s defiance of Spanish power, Pizzaro ordered his troops to immediately take Quito; but anticipating this plan, Ruminahui had already ordered the city evacuated and burned to the ground. He figured if the Spanish were going to get the city, they should get a pile a rubble rather than a thriving cultural center.
Finally, Ruminahui and Pizzaro’s lieutenant Sebastian de Benalcazar met at the “Battle of Mount Chimborazo” and Ruminahui was defeated. But, he is still remembered today by his nick name “eye of stone” for his brave resistance to the Spanish. He is honored each year on December 1st in Ecuador.