The Spanish Antithesis
Our world has just discovered another world...no less great, full, and well-limbed than itself, yet so new and so infantile that it is still being taught its A B C; not fifty years ago it knew neither letters, nor weights and measures, nor clothes, nor wheat, nor vines. It was still quite naked at the breast, and lived only on what its nursing mother provided.... I am much afraid that we shall have very greatly hastened the decline and ruin of this new world by our contagion, and that we will have sold it our opinions and our arts very dear. It was an infant world....
-- Montaigne, Essays, Bk. III, ch. vi
While the two sons of Huayna Capac, Huascar and Atahualpa, were fighting against each other, Pizarro landed near Tumbez and, at the head of a handful of men, began the assault on the plateau. It was the formidable clash of two different civilizations: the individualistic Europeans, brutal and greedy, but full of initiative and a marvelous daring; and the Indians, whose spirit had been broken by the socialist regime. Fortune smiled upon boldness, and the empire fell; but the impact was to be as fatal for the victors as for the vanquished, for the Spaniards were to take back with them, along with the gold of America, the seeds of decay. The historic events are well known, and it is not our part to recount them anew; but it seems that the Spanish conquerors have often been misjudged.