The World Upside Down: Cross-Cultural Contact and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Peru

By Susan Elizabeth Ramírez | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Huaca Looting on the Peruvian North Coast A TALE FROM TWO PERSPECTIVES

And they [the natives] say that when that place [Yomayoguan] is opened, they will all perish.

--AGI/J 404, 277 - 77v


God, Gold, and Glory; or, Gold, God, and Glory

Spanish motivations for the invasion and conquest of America are sometimes summarized as God, gold, and glory. Proselytizing became the driving force for the select few robed friars who first came to the New World. They braved largely uncharted seas and unimagined dangers to zealously preach their gospel to peoples who for years could not understand Spanish and who, even in their own language, could not fully grasp concepts such as the Trinity.

From the start, adventurers, some of whom survived to become "conquerors and first settlers," outnumbered these visionary, enthusiastic prelates. The conquerors definitely put gold ahead of God and glory, dreaming of riches and, to a lesser extent, the glory that gold could buy. For their daring and audacity, the crown rewarded these men with booty confiscated from the native elite they subjugated. Atahualpa, the Inca ruler that Francisco Pizarro first encountered in Cajamarca, had rooms filled with silver and gold. This treasure was hurriedly melted down and distributed to Pizarro's followers. Once such booty was exhausted, some of these same men and a few who arrived shortly thereafter were rewarded with encomiendas so they could direct the natives to mine gold and silver for them. Latecomers aspired to the same rewards, but often faced a lengthy petitioning process and then had to settle for pensions and sinecures.1

Spanish gold fever prompted encomenderos and others to prospect and mine. The native charges of Melchor Verdugo, the notoriously

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