This was the fourth book about the Inca civilisation that I have read in preparation for a trip to Peru. It was by far the most engaging. It was hard to put down. It describes a clash of cultures that was tragic. The Inca empire had expanded in 100 years to the size of the Roman Empire, but without iron and steel, a written language, horses or the wheel. It took the Romans 500 years to conquer just the Italian peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia. How did the Incas do it in 100 years? The Incas built on a tradition of reciprocity, or gift giving, that developed into an exchange of labour and land. It was conquest through a kind of diplomacy, backed up by military strength if that did not work. The Incas created a system of surplus food production with storehouses throughout the empire. The system provided a redistribution of wealth. The Spanish found a people that was well fed and clothed despite living in a region of harsh climate. The tragedy was the Incas rapid collapse in the face of their encounter with a new civilisation which brought disease and values of greed, treachery, brutality as well as superior military equipment.
In The Last Days of the Incas, Emmy-winning film maker and author Kim MacQuarrie offers a balanced and engaging account of the Incas, who ruled a 2500-mile-long stretch of western South America at the time the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in 1526. MacQuarrie examines Spanish correspondence that depicts their encounters with the Incas, and he traces the explorations of 20th-century archaeologists, including Hiram Bingham and Gene Savoy. His riveting narration brings to life the Incas' civilization, their fatal clashes with the Conquistadors, and the dramatic discoveries of the ruins of Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba. History and Current Events January 2015 newsletter.
In the US, we were taught that with 168 men and 70 horses, Pizarro conquered the Incas and destroyed their culture. Of course, that story is quite untrue. Pizarro at best performed a kidnapping and assassination.
Atahualpa didn't get to be the most high Inca for long, but his brother who ruled after him Manco Inca, who we never talk about in the US, is the real hero of the story.
This book informs the reader a great deal about the world of Manco Inca, and how he decided to organize resistance to the Spanish, and perhaps helped explain why the later Spanish immigrants, who came with visions of gold in their eyes, managed to introduce some of their culture to a pre-formed civilization that in most ways is still actually intact to this day.
I read this book twice. By reading it a second time I think I was hoping the ending would be different. Alas, I knew it wouldn't be.
The other reason for reading it a second time is that the author puts you inside a unique, very different, and amazing culture at the time that it is being ripped apart by goldthirsty Spanish conquistadors (aka mobsters). The portrait of the Inca is objective--no moralizing is done--but warts and all you can't help but wish their culture wasn't wiped out for a few thousand pounds of metal.
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