Spanish Conquest of Ecuador | Galapagos Unbound

Cannons and Conquistadors 

Francisco Pizarro had actually been to the coasts of South America before on a reconnaissance mission that he began in 1524. After hearing tales of the wealth to be found in the continent’s interior, Pizarro returned to Spain for royal sanction of his expedition, ships, and soldiers—many of whom were trained as undercover spies. When Pizarro returned to the region in 1532, he advanced quickly through the terrain and its peoples. With his armor-wearing, horseback-riding, firearm-firing conquistadors in tow, the indigenous people found themselves in awe of these god-like people. Atahualpa had only recently gained control of the unstable empire, and Pizarro quickly took advantage of the situation and ambushed the emperor.

Pizarro arranged a summit meeting to negotiate with the Incan ruler in 1532 in Peru. However, when the Spaniards met with the Incan party the conquistadors preceded to apprehend Atahualpa and exterminate the Incan guards. Once Pizarro had captured and held Atahualpa for an immense ransom, which records indicate the Incas were prepared to pay, the Spaniards executed the ruler anyway.


Rebellion and Resistance 

These actions served as a catalyst for further Incan resistance spear-headed by war-general Rumiñahui. Legend also says that in retribution to the Spaniard’s deceit and false-promises, Rumiñahui took the Treasure of the Llanganatis, which had been gathered for ransom, to be hidden somewhere in the unnavigable mountains of today’s Parque Nacional Llanganates. The treasure has never been found.

Rumiñahui led the resistance against the Spaniards for more than two years after his emperor’s death. The Incan war-general was famed for his brutal tactics and fierce methods, some of which have become mythologized to suggest he created drums from the boneless bodies of his prey. Upon the encroaching of the Spanish army led by Sebastián de Benalcázar, Rumiñahui even chose to lay waste to Quito in late 1534 rather than see it inhabited by the conquistadors. Despite Rumiñahui’s efforts, Quito was re-founded at the very end of 1534, and the new year of 1535 saw to Rumiñahui’s capture, torture, and subsequent execution only a month later.