1538: Diego de Almagro, explorer of Chile

Add comment July 8th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1538, Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro was executed* at Cuzco by his vengeful rivals, the Pizarro brothers.

Conquistadoring with the rapacious Pizarros was a good way to get rich, get dead, or possibly both.

Almagro, a soldier, got to the New World in 1514 and soon fell in with alpha male Pizarro Francisco.** He’d become an adjunct to the latter’s conquest of the Incan Empire in the 1520s and 1530s; sent to capture the Incan city of Quito, Almagro found it razed by its defenders, and he sycophantically re-founded it as San Francisco de Quito.†

Things weren’t buddy-buddy for long.

The Iberian mothership divided Spain’s putative New World possessions north and south, putting Almagro in command of the southern cone. Great news … now all he had to do was actually take control of it.

Personally financing an expedition on the expectation of fabulous riches to be seized, Almagro instead foundered in Chile’s northern valleys in a frustrating environment of natives equally hostile and impecunious. After a couple years, he gave up and returned to Peru, angrier and poorer for his trouble — and there found that he could exploit the Spanish preoccupation with intransigent Incan chief Manco Inca to nick the capital city of Cuzco for himself.

Almagro actually had the lesser Pizarros — Gonzalo and Hernando — prisoner for a while, but he bartered them away to Francisco for a hill of beans (that is, a promise not to attack), and the Pizarros took their city back by routing Almagro at the Battle of Las Salinas.

The sentence of death against as august a personage as the appointed ruler of Nueva Toledo shocked many, and it was carried out against Almagro’s own entreaties for an appeal to the crown.


Detail view of a print of Almagro’s capture and execution. (Click for the full image.)

Francisco Pizarro would redeem his want of clemency towards his former partner in his own blood: in 1541, Almagro’s son, Diego de Almagro II or el Mozo, murdered Pizarro in an attempted coup d’etat. (Almagro the Younger, too, would be executed for his trouble.)

Although he was an important conquistador who spent most of his time at points further north, Almagro is best remembered today not in Peru but in Chile — for his abortive and disappointing expedition made him that land’s first European “discoverer”.

* Either beheaded or garroted.

** Almagro also rubbed shoulders with Vasco Nunez de Balboa.

† He pulled a similar trick with Trujillo, naming it after Francisco Pizarro’s birthplace.

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1781: Tupac Amaru II, Incan insurgent

3 comments May 18th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1781, the last name in Incan rebellion met a horrible end in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco.

José Gabriel Condorcanqui — rechristened Tupac Amaru II, as he was a distant descendant of the last Incan king — was a member of the privileged indigenous population depended upon by the Spanish to administer the forced and extorted labor that made its New World empire worth having.

Condorcanqui evidently had an epiphany.

In November 1780, he launched a well-planned rebellion by engineering the public execution of a hated corregidor Antonio de Arriaga at the hands of his own servant.

“From this day, no longer shall the Spanish feast on your poverty!”

This attention-grabbing entry onto the political chessboard was followed with an exemplary victory over Spanish forces. His revolt rapidly metastasized into an ethno-religious crusade, with all the accumulated bitterness of the Indians’ two-plus centuries maltreatment ferociously visited upon the Spanish.

It was a heady moment — but only a moment; within a few months, the Spanish had rallied and Tupac Amaru was betrayed into their hands.

The rebel had seized Incan symbology for his own purposes — speaking at ancient shrines, for instance — and the Spanish sentence against him included not only the inevitably horrific execution (of both Tupac Amaru and his wife and family) but a comprehensive and explicit programme of cultural annihilation to consign the Incan identity to the past. This lengthy sentence is well worth the read. (Sourced here, a pdf file; the bolded sections are my highlights.)

I must and do condemn José G. Túpac Amaru to be taken out to the main public square of [Cuzco], dragged out to the place of execution, where he shall witness the execution of the sentences imposed on his wife, Micaela Bastidas [Spanish link]; his two sons, Hipólito and Fernando Túpac Amaru; his uncle, Francisco Túpac Amaru; and his brother-in-law, Antonio Bastidas, as well as some of the principal captains and aides in his iniquitous and perverse intent or project, all of whom must die on the same day.

And once these sentences have been carried out, the executioner will cut out his tongue, and he will then be tied or bound by strong cords on each one of his arms and feet in such a way that each rope can be easily tied or fastened to others hanging from t he saddle straps of four horses, so that, in this position, each one of these horses, facing opposite corners of the square, will pull toward his own direction; and let the horses be urged or jolted into motion at the same time so that his body be divided into as many parts and then, once it is done, the parts should be carried to the hill or high ground known as “Picchu,” which is where he came to intimidate, lay siege to, and demand the surrender of this city; and let there be lit a fire which shall be prepared in advance and then let ashes be thrown into the air and a stone tablet placed there detailing his main crimes and manner of his death as the only record and statement of his loathsome action.

His head will be sent to the town of Tinta where, after being three days on the gallows, it shall be placed on a stake at the most public entrance to the town, one of his arms will go to the town of Tungasuca, where he was chief, where it will be treated in like manner, and the other in the capital of the province of Carabaya; one of the legs shall likewise be sent for the same kind of demonstration to the town of Libitaca in the province of Chumbilcas, while the remaining one shall go to Santa Rosa in the province of Lampa along with the affidavit and order to the respective chief magistrates, or territorial judges that this sentence be proclaimed publicly with the greatest solemnity as soon as it arrives in their hands, and on the same day every year thereafter; and they will give notice in writing of this to their superiors in government who are familiar with the said territories.

Since this traitor managed to arm himself and form an army and forces against the royal arms by making use of or seducing and leading with his falsehood the chiefs who are the second in command in the villages, since these villages, being of Indians, are not governed by such chiefs but rather by mayors who are elected annually by the vote or nomination of the chiefs: let these same electoral communities and the chief magistrates that care to give preference to candidates who know Spanish, and who are of the best behavior, reputation, and customs so that they will treat their subjects well and lovingly, honoring only those who have demonstrated honestly their inclination and faithfulness, eagerness, respect, obedience, submission, and gratitude to the greater glory of our great Monarch through the sacrificed of their lives, properties, or ranches in deference of their country or religion, receiving with brave disdain the threats and offers of the aforesaid reel leader and his military chiefs, yet taking care that these elected leaders are the only ones with the right to the title of chief or governor of their ayllus [communities] or towns, and that they cannot transmit their position to their children or other family members.

To this same end, it is prohibited that the Indians wear heathen clothes, especially those who belong to the nobility, since it only serves to symbolize those worn by their Inca ancestors, reminding them of memories which serve no other end than to increase their hatred toward the dominant nation; not to mention that their appear is ridiculous and very little in accordance with the purity of our relics, since they place in different parts images of the sun, which was their primary deity; and this prohibition is to be extended to all the provinces of this southern America, in order to completely eliminate such clothing, especially those items which represent the bestialities of their heathen kings through emblems such and the unco, which is a kind of vest; yacollas, which are very rich blankets or shawls of black velvet or taffeta; the macapaycha, which is a circle in the shape of a crown from which they hand a certain emblem of ancient nobility signified by a tuft or tassel of red-colored alpaca wool, as well as many other things of this kind and symbolism. All of this shall be proclaimed in writing in each province, that they dispose of or surrender to the magistrates whatever clothing of this kind exists in the province, as well as all the paintings or likenesses of their Incas which are extremely abundant in the houses of the Indians who consider themselves to be nobles and who use them to prove their claim or boast of their lineage.

These latter shall be erased without fail since they do not merit the dignity of being painted in such places, and with the same end in mind there shall also be erased, so that no sign remains, any portraits that might be found on walls or other solid objects; in churches, monasteries, hospitals, holy places or private homes, such duties fall under the jurisdiction of the reverend archbishops or bishops of both viceroyalties in those areas pertaining to the churches; and in their place it would be best to replace such adornments with images of the King and our other Catholic sovereigns should that be necessary. Also, the ministers and chief magistrates should ensure that in no town of their respective provinces be performed plays or other public functions of the kind that the Indians are accustomed to put on to commemorate their former Incas; and having carried out the order, these ministers shall give a certified account to the secretaries of the respective governments. In like manner shall be prohibited and confiscated the trumpets or bugles that the Indians use for their ceremonies and which they call pututos, being seashells with a strange and mournful sound that celebrate the mourning and pitiful memorial they make for their antiquity; and there shall also be prohibited the custom of using or wearing black clothing as a sign of mourning, a custom that drags on in some provinces in memory of their deceased monarchs and also of the day or time of the conquest which they consider disastrous and we consider fortunate since it brought them into the company of the Catholic Church and the very loving and gentle domination of our Kings.

With the same goal it is absolutely forbidden that the Indians sign themselves as “Incas,” since it is a title that anyone can assume but which makes a lasting impression on those of their class; and it is ordered, as is required of all those who have genealogical trees or documents that prove in some way their descent, that they produce them or send them certified and without cost by mail to the respective secretaries of both viceroyalties so that the formalities may be observed by those persons responsible to their excellencies the viceroys, consulting His Majesty where necessary according to each case; and the chief magistrates are charged to oversee the fulfillment of such requirements, to seek out and discover anyone who does not observe them correctly, in order to have it done to collect the documents with the aim of sending them to the proper authorities after giving their owners a receipt.

And so that these Indians renounce the hatred that they have conceived against the Spaniards, and that they adhere to the dress which the laws indicate, adopting our Spanish customs and speaking Castilian [Spanish], we shall introduce more vigorously than we have done up to now the use of schools, imposing the most rigorous and fair penalties on those who do not attend once enough time has passed for them to have learned the language; the duties and responsibilities involved in this plan going to the very reverend ecclesiastical prelates so that, in the opposition between parishes and doctrinas, they take care that those candidates bring affidavits from the provincial judges as to the numbers of people who speak the Said Castilian in those provinces … it being left up to the sovereign discretion of His Majesty to reward and honor those towns whose inhabitants have rendered, under the present circumstances, their due loyalty and faithfulness.

Finally, the manufacture of cannons of all kinds shall be prohibited under the penalty that any noble found manufacturing such items will be sentenced to ten years of prison in one of the presidios in Africa and any commoner will receive two hundred lashes as well as the same penalty for the same time period; reserving for a future time a similar resolution with regards to the manufacture of powder. And since there cannons of almost every caliber in the many ore-crushing mills and timber yards in these provinces, they will be gathered up by the magistrates once of the pacification of this uprising has been completely terminated in order to give account of them to the respective captaincy general so that he may determine whatever use he deems proper for them. Thus have I visualized, ordered, and signed: this is my final judgment.

José Antonio de Areche.

Tupac Lives.

The Spanish campaign to eradicate his name and identity didn’t exactly have legs.

The savagery of the crackdown helped generate Incan support for the rebellions that would shake off Spanish authority in the generations to come. He entered the official iconography of the post-colonial state, and can be found on Peruvian currency.

The very name Tupac Amaru became pregnant with the spirit of resistance — both in Peru, where it was adopted by a 1990’s revolutionary movement, and abroad, where a New York City Black Panther activist (pdf) gave the name to a son: Tupac Amaru Shakur.

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1548: Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Carvajal

2 comments April 10th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1548, the Spanish crown cemented its authority over the territory of the former Incan Empire by beheading its rebellious conquistador authorities.

Gonzalo Pizarro (English Wikipedia entry | Spanish) had served in the force that late elder half-brother Francisco used to destroy the Incas. The poor bloke was always second banana in the conquistador game; when he wasn’t being one-upped by his flesh and blood, he was bailing on the expedition that “discovered” and navigated the Amazon River. (Francisco de Orellana earned those honors instead.)

No, Gonzalo had a more prosaic specialty: killing.

While big bro went off to pacify more territory, Gonzalo along with siblings Hernando and Juan, the Baldwin brothers of New World conquest, chilled in the former Incan capital Cusco and sparked a rebellion in the 1530’s with their iron-fisted rule.

Appointed Governor of Quito in 1541 — he forced the appointment with some exemplary hangings — Gonzalo was just the sort to get a burr in his saddle when the Emperor Charles V promulgated the New Laws requiring slightly less crappy treatment of the natives.

And that was a low bar to clear indeed.

Although the following passage is not particular to Gonzalo Pizarro, gadfly monk Bartolome de las Casas described (perhaps exaggeratedly, but still) the previous Spanish depredations in “Perusia”:

[T]he Spaniards, without the least provocation on their part, as soon as they entred [sic] upon these Territories, did burn at the Stake their most Potent Caciq Ataliba, Prince of the whole Country, after they had extorted from him above Two Millions of Gold, and possessed themselves of his Province, without the least Opposition … As also some few days after, the Ruler of the Province of Quitonia, who was burnt, without any Cause given, or Crime laid to his Charge … and in like manner, burnt the Feet of Alvidis, the greatest of all the Quitonian Lords, and rackt him with other Torments to Extract from him a discovery of Ataliba’s Treasure, whereof as appear’d after, he was totally ignorant …

[T]hese Eyes of mine the Spaniards for no other reason, but only to gratifie their bloody mindedness, cut off the Hands, Noses, and Ears, both of Indians and Indianesses, and that in so many places and parts, that it would be too prolix and tedious to relate them. Nay, I have seen the Spaniards let loose their Dogs upon the Indians to bait and tear them in pieces, and such a Number of Villages burnt by them as cannot well be discover’d: Farther this is a certain Truth, that they snatched Babes from the Mothers Embraces, and taking hold of their Arms threw them away as far as they would from them: (a pretty kind of barr-tossing Recreation.) They committed many other Cruelties, which shook me with Terror at the very sight of them, and would take up too much time in the Relation …

More urgent than “recreation,” Pizarro (and many of the New World’s new landholding elite) were miffed that meddlesome European bleeding hearts types were going to cut into their profit margins.

Pizarro revolted, enlisting the brilliant officer Francisco de Carvajal, a longtime fixture of the Old World battlefield. Now an octogenarian, he had lost neither vigor in command, nor cruelty in conquest. (He played bad cop to Gonzalo’s good cop.) The two killed the guy sent to impose the emperor’s decree.

This uprising forced the next Spanish viceroy to repeal the hated New Laws in order to win political support against Pizarro and Carvajal — a happy outcome for Pizarro’s base, but not for the conquistador himself.

Pedro de la Gasca’s adroit diplomacy caused the entire rebel force to desert before the fight at the “Battle” of Jaquijahuana in Sacsayhuaman.

The two principals were quickly arraigned. Carvajal, at his age, could be wry about being singled out for punishment: “very merciful is the Lord President; for, if the victory had been ours, there would have fallen on this spot nine hundred men.”

Carvajal was hanged and Pizarro beheaded, both of them winding up on pikestaffs at the gates of the city Francisco Pizarro had founded — Lima.

Their partnership — and the arc of Spanish exploits in the New World — is covered in this Google Books freebie.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Infamous,Nobility,Occupation and Colonialism,Peru,Power,Public Executions,Soldiers,Spain,Treason,Wartime Executions

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