Historical Notes: Conquest of Peru Was No Religious Crusade
Stirling, Stuart, The Independent (London, England)
THE RECENT discovery at Cuzco, in Peru, of a number of royal Inca mummies, buried within the precincts of what had once been its great pre- Colombian stone fortress of Sacsahuaman, confirms the existence of its dual role as a temple shrine: something which reiterates the importance of modern archaeology in the understanding of history. The discovery not only proves the dominance of religion in Inca society, but, because of its location, highlights the evangelical and military conception of its Andean empire.
In like manner, the written archaeology of eye-witness accounts of the Conquest, discovered in recent years in archives in Peru and in Spain, many of them in the form of testimonials, are themselves of equal importance in portraying the psychology of its Spanish conquerors.
One such eye-witness account was dictated by the Conquistador Mansio Serra de Leguizamon, the last of the conquistadors to die in Peru, and who at the capture of Cuzco is recorded to have gambled and lost the gold Inca image of the sun from its temple of Coricancha. His testimonial of his service to the crown, addressed to King Philip II, has now been transcribed and forms the backcloth to a biography of his life and of the Conquest:
There are many who were never witnesses to our deeds, who are now our chroniclers, each recording his impressions, often in prejudice of the actions of those who had taken part in the Conquest . . . and when they are read by those of us who were the discovers and conquistadors of these realms, of whom they write, it is at times impossible to believe that they are the same accounts and of the same personages they portend to portray.
What his words reveal is that the Conquest of Peru was not one of a religious crusade, as is often depicted, but of explorers and would- be mercenaries.
Not once in the 154 folio pages of his testimony and of his witnesses is the religious purpose of Francisco Pizarro's expedition referred to. "In all, we were no more than one hundred and twenty ," the foot-soldier Bernabe Picon, one of his witnesses, recalled of the capture of Cuzco. …