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The Invisible Caravan

The Forgotten Participants

of the Spanish Invasion

of Inka Peru (1533)

Jeremy M. Mikecz Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital Humanities University of Southern California

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1. Welcome to this experimental data visualization of the 'invisible caravan' of Indigenous allies, slaves, and women, as well as African slaves that accompanied Francisco Pizarro and his band of conquistadors on his famous 1533 march from Cajamarca to Cusco

2. Spanish accounts typically only mention the 300 - 500 Spaniards that participated in this journey. They only make oblique or vague references to the Indigenous guides, spies, messengers, armies, laborers, and porters that assisted them throughout the journey. They make no allusion whatsoever to the huge numbers of these allies, auxiliaries, and slaves that traveled with them.

3. Indigenous sources provide fragmentary evidence of this assistance. For example, petitions written by the Wankas to the King of Spain between 1558 and 1561 document in detail the assistance their predecessors provided the Spanish in 1533. However, they make no mention of the many other groups that traveled with the conquistadors.

4. Credit for the artwork must go to Guaman Poma, the Andean man who wrote a famous 1000+ page letter, full of hundreds of images, to the King of Spain in the early seventeenth century. Assisting me in tracing Guaman Poma's figures was my six-year-old daughter, Raeka.

5. Forgive any errors, bugs, typos, hastily written text, or sudden, violent movements. Turn away if you start feeling motion sickness :(. This is still a work of progress....

Approximately 300 to 500 Spaniards made the 1500km journey across the Andes in 1533....

but they were not alone. Traveling with them was...

Tupaq Wallpa, newly crowned Inka emperor

A half-brother of Atawallpa and a member of the rival Inka faction (the Cusco Inkas), Tupaq Wallpa snuck into the Spanish camp while they held Atawallpa captive in Cajamarca. After the Spanish executed Atawallpa, Tupaq Wallpa received the royal fringe (mascaypacha), became the new emperor, and then accompanied the Spanish on their journey south. As the newly crowned Sapa Inka, or 'peerless' ruler, he must have traveled with a large retinue and probably his own army as well. The Cusco Inkas had recently lost a civil war with Atawallpa's faction, the Quito Inkas. Thus, by allying with the Spanish invaders, they saw an opportunity to reverse a war lost.

Besides Tupaq Wallpa and his royal entourage accompanying the Spaniards, several groups traveled ahead of the Spanish.

Dogs (often mastiffs)

There is no documented evidence that dogs traveled with this particular expedition. However, participants in previous conquest expeditions in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica and later expeditions in Peru were notorious for setting vicious dogs on Indigenous people.

Chaskis running like 'sparrow-hawks'

For generations, Inka runner-messengers known as chaskis had been relaying messages for the Inkas across the difficult terrain of the Andes. These chaskis, whom Guaman Poma described as running like 'sparrow-hawks', quickly covered the distance between relay stations place at intervals of approximately one to eight kilometers across the Andes. Through this relay system, ethnohistorical sources indicate chaskis could transport messages up to 250 or 300km per day. Regarding the march toward Cusco, both Spanish and Indigenous sources describe the constant exchange of messages between various actors, Andean and Spanish, near and far.

Several other groups traveled days if not weeks ahead of the Spanish. They include....

Guacra Páucar, kuraka of the Hurin Wankas

Guacra Páucar, the kuraka (an Andean leader of an ethnic polity) of the Hurin Wankas, traveled ahead of the Spanish to gather supplies and people to support the conquistadors' advance, according to later petitions written by his son.

Why? The Wankas were currently being tormented by the still active armies of Atawallpa and sought to use the disruptive force the Spanish provided to reconquer their homeland.

Inka royal "repair[ing] the bridges and bad spots on the road"

Wari Tito, likely a member of the Cusco Inka royalty, traveled ahead of the caravan to "repair the bridges and bad spots in the road." (Sancho, An Account of the Conquest of Peru [1534], Ch. 3). Wari Tito was one of only a small number of Andean allies Sancho mentioned directly by name... and he only did so to relate Pizarro's reaction when he heard, soon after leaving Cajamarca, that Wari Tito had been assassinated by the (Quito) Inka opposition.

Tupaq Wallpa's spies

The newly crowned Inka emperor, Tupaq Wallpa, sent spies ahead to scout the position of the Quitan Inka armies.

This is still a work in progress. In the future, the viewer will be able to view additional information about other members of the conquest caravan. For now, however, you will just get a passing view of the caravan in its entirety

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In all, I estimate 10,000 or more allies and slaves (Andean, Central American, and African) traveled with the conquistadors. Although the slaves may have had no choice, many Andeans participated in the conquest expedition as allies to serve their own ends (such as the reconquest of their homelands).