Before Charcas: The Limits of European Authority in the Diego de Almagro Expedition

Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM
Madison Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Danielle Anthony, Ohio State University
Propelled by Inca rumors of gold spread by female operatives, in June 1536 Diego de Almagro and Francisco Pizarro, fresh from destroying the northern Inca army based around Quito, drew up a new contract that sent Almagro south to Collasuyu (the southern quarter of Tawatinsuyu, the Inca Empire). A few Spaniards accompanied a vanguard which included the Sapa Inca (Inca emperor) Manco Inca’s brother, Paullo, and his war chief and high priest Vilaoma. Following them were over 10,000 Andeans, Spaniards, and servants. This invasion force, though mighty, was no match for the hardship of the southern cordillera, especially when Vilaoma slipped away accompanied by a large contingent of Andean porters, leaving the remaining group to starve and freeze.

Inca information wars propelled Diego de Almagro’s disastrous expedition into Collasuyu. While internecine squabbles between the conquistador and his partner Francisco Pizarro pushed Almagro to explore the south, Manco Inca also had his own motivations to send Almagro into Collasuyu. These centered around his need, as Sapa Inca, to control both Andeans and Europeans in his lands, even as the Pizarros were under the influence of his enemies through Inca concubines acting as informants and diplomats. As events in Cuzco reached crisis, with the Pizarros imprisoning Manco Inca, the situation for the Collasuyu invasion force also became critical. Though imprisoned, Manco was able to command followers to end the Inca-European alliance. He sent word for the Incas to abandon Almagro and leave his forces to die in the south. Meanwhile, his operatives focused their attentions on staging uprisings and rebellion among other Andean groups along the southern cordillera in order to wage war against the Pizarros. Almagro’s expedition was doomed because of Inca politics in Cuzco.

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