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Francisco Pizarro (ca. 1475–1541) arrived in present-day northern Peru late in 1531 with a small force of about 180 men and 30 horses. Taking advantage of a civil war, he and his compatriots toppled the ruler, Atahualpa, in 1532. Over the next several decades the Spanish suppressed several Inca rebellions, achieving complete control by 1572. Pizarro’s Spanish rivals assassinated him in 1541 in Lima, the city he had founded in 1535.

Chimú Vessel Flute

The Chimú culture dominated the north coast of Peru from the thirteenth century AD until the arrival of the Incas in 1465.  The Chimú peoples constructed sophisticated cities that included temples, reservoirs, and irrigation systems and created beautiful works in gold, silver, and copper, as well as distinctive pottery.  In 1470 the Incas conquered the Chimú and absorbed much of their culture.  This Chimú flute is part of the Library’s Dayton C. Miller Collection in the Music Division.

South American Indian avian whistle vessel. Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (077.00.00)

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The First European Chronicle of Peru

Pedro de Cieza de León left Spain at the age of thirteen for a life of uncertain adventure, first in Hispaniola and then as a soldier in Colombia and Peru.  He was also involved in the re-conquest of Peru from Spanish rebel forces. With government permission, Cieza de León began interviewing local officials, Inca lords, and high officials about the Inca realm and its past.  From these interviews and his own research, he produced the first European chronicle of Peru, which includes natural history, ethnography, and the history of pre-Inca and Inca civilizations.

Pedro de Cieza de León (1518?–1560). Parte Primera Dela Chronica Del Peru. [Seville : Impressa en Seuilla en casa de Martín de Montesdoca], 1553. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (070.02.00, 070.02.01)

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Pizarro’s Rejection of a Conquistador’s Petition

The person (encomendero) granted a charter called an encomienda by the Spanish crown could require tribute (repartimiento) from the Indians and was required to protect them and instruct them in the Christian faith.  Although encomiendas did not include land, in practice encomenderos took control of Indians’ lands and forced them into low or unpaid labor for a portion of each year. Because of  such abuses, the Spanish government attempted reform at various times.  In this petition to Francisco Pizarro, governor of Peru, encomendero Pedro del Barco requests inspections of encomiendas before institution of reforms regarding repartimientos. The document bears the extremely rare signature of Pizarro, "El Marques Pizarro."

Francisco Pizzaro. Response to a petition by conquistador Pedro del Barco. Cusco: April 14, 1539. Facsimile. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (071.01.00, 071.00.01)

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Chart of the Pacific Coast

This is a portion of a sixteenth-century portolan (or sailing) chart of the Pacific Coast of Central and South America, showing the region from Guatemala to northern Peru. The names of coastal towns on the map are written in two different hands, dating the chart to the middle of the sixteenth century. This chart may be the first to represent the Galapagos Islands, shown in red just off the coast of what is present-day Ecuador.

Chart of Pacific Coast of Central and South America. [Spanish?, mid-sixteenth century]. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (072.02.00)

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First Quechua-Spanish Dictionary and Grammar

This first dictionary and grammar of Quechua, the language of the Incas, and Spanish was published in Peru in 1586. Friar Domingo de Santo Tomás wrote the first study of the two languages, but that was published in Spain in 1560. This later work is of even greater importance because the Inca did not have written language prior to the Spanish Conquest. Scholars believe this work was part of a much larger group of printed materials about confessions, catechisms, and sermons no longer in existence.

Vocabulario en la lengua general del Peru llamada quichua, y en la lengua Española. El mas copioso y elegante que hasta agora se ha impresso (Vocabulary in the general language of Peru called Quechua, and in the Spanish language. . . .). Lima: 1586. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (073.00.00, 073.01.00, 073.00.03)

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Letter to Pizarro

The conqueror of Peru, Francisco Pizarro, had two children with Doña Inés Yupanqui Huaylas, an Inca woman.  These children were made legitimate, and, after Pizarro married their mother off to one of his retainers, cared for by Pizarro’s half brother Francisco Martín de Alcántara and his wife Doña Inés Muñoz, the first woman to be given permission to use the title “doña,” in Peru.  In the letter displayed, Doña Inés, now widowed, gives her rights to Hernando Pizarro and others to plead her case for the restoration of her wealth (Indian labor), taken away from her and Pizarro’s children by the enemy of the Pizarro family, Spanish Governor Vaca de Castro. Both she and Pizarro’s daughter, Doña Francisca, prevailed.

Dona Inés Múñoz. Power of attorney to Hernando Pizarro, Sebastián Rodríguez, and Juan de Cáceres to petition for restoration of Indians. Lima, May 5, 1543. Peru. Harkness Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (074.00.00, 074.00.02, 074.00.03)

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Peruvian Ruins

The Inca fortress of Sacsahuamán overlooks Cusco from a hill 755 feet above the city. The huge fortifications surrounding Cusco, built to protect and to solidify Inca control, are outstanding examples of the advanced engineering techniques of Andean peoples. Stones weighing several tons were precisely cut and placed in jigsaw-like fashion, without the aid of mortar, to form massive walls. These stone structures have withstood numerous earthquakes during the intervening centuries.

William E. Warne. Ruins of Sacsahuamán (Cusco City, Peru), 1950. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (075.00.00)

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Deeds of the Castilians in the New World

Unlike many who wrote histories of the Indies, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas was an accomplished historian. Herrera’s history of the Castilians in the New World is written in exacting detail. His lengthy account, organized by decades, depicts the Spanish as guided by Providence to bring Christianity to the peoples of the Indies.

Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (d. 1625). Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano (General history of the deeds of the Castilians in the islands. . . .). Madrid: Emplenta Real, 1601–1615. Jay I. Kislak Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (076.00.00, 076.00.02, 076.00.03)

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