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Inca war chief (d. 1633)

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Atahuallpa, properly ATAU-HUALLPA (etymology usually given as from huallpa, the name of some indigenous bird), son of the Inca war chief Huayna Capac and an Indian woman from Quito hence (descent being in the female line) not an Inca, but an Indian of Ecuador. The protracted wars, during which the Incas overpowered the Ecuadorian tribes, having brought about the permanent lodgment of Inca war parties in Ecuador, led to intermarriages with women of that country, and the formation of a new tribe composed of Inca men with women and children from Quito. Collisions ensued between this tribe and the descendants of Inca women, and in the strife, Atan-huallpa figured as the leader of the former, whilst the latter recognized Huascar, duly elected war chief at Cuzco. Atauhuallpa acted with great cruelty, nearly exterminating such Ecuadorian tribes as resisted. He finally prevailed, and sent his warriors southward along the backbone of the mountains, against Cuzco. When Pizarro landed at Tumbez (northern Peruvian coast) in 1532, the Quito people had already overthrown the Inca tribe at Cuzco, taken the settlement, and committed the most horrible cruelties, chiefly against the keepers of ancient traditions whom they attempted to exterminate, so as to wipe out the remembrance of the past of Cuzco and begin a new era. Atauhuallpa himself remained with a numerous war party at Caxamarca. There he awaited the whites, whom he despised. The Spaniards found Caxamarca deserted, and the warriors of Atau-huallpa camping three miles from the place. Pizarro recognized that a trap had been set for him, and prepared for the worst.

On the evening of the 16th of November, 1532, Atau-huallpa entered the square of Caxamarca with a great retinue of men carrying their weapons concealed. They packed the court densely. Pizarro had placed on the roof of the building his artillery (two pedereros) that could not be pointed except horizontally. When the Indians thronged into the square, a Dominican friar, Fray Vicente Valverde, was sent by Pizarro to inform Atau-huallpa, through an interpreter, of the motives of the Spaniards’ appearance in the country. This embassy was received with scorn, and the friar, seeing the Indians ready to begin hostilities, warned Pizarro. His action has been unjustly criticized; Valverde did what was his imperative duty under the circumstances. Then, not waiting for the Indians to attack, the Spaniards took the offensive. The sound of cannon and musketry, and the sight of the horses frightened the Indians so that they fled in dismay, leaving Atau-huallpa a prisoner in the hands of Pizarro, who treated him with proper regard. The stories of a terrible slaughter of the Indians are inordinate exaggerations. While a prisoner, Atau-huallpa caused the greater portion of the gold and silver at Cuzco to be turned over to the Spaniards, at the same time he had Huascar murdered, and laid plans for surprising the Spaniards and having them massacred.

When this was discovered Pizarro had him executed, on the 29th of August, 1633. The execution was not unjustifiable. Atau-huallpa, at the time of his death, was about thirty years of age.


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