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The Spanish Conquest

An invasion that launched Peru’s hybrid society.


On November 16, 1532, the Inca king Atahualpa and the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro met on the plaza in the Inca city of Cajamarca, where 168 Spaniards ambushed and seized the Inca and massacred his guards. This episode, though, was only one piece of the larger puzzle of the conquest, in which a small force of Europeans exploited superior technology, local alliances, the devastating effects of Old World diseases, and a civil war among the Incas to conquer the largest kingdom in the Americas. Narratives of the conquest, ranging from eyewitness accounts to legendary re-imaginings, were printed throughout the colonial period in both Spain and Peru.