The Ransom Room (El Cuarto del Rescate) is a small building located in Cajamarca, Peru. It is considered to be the place where the Inca Empire came to an end with the capture and eventual execution of the Inca Emperor Atahualpa.
Capture of Emperor Atahualpa (1532)
When Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca in November 1532, he sent a messenger to Atahualpa, proposing they meet outside the main plaza. Pizarro decided to send a friar, Vicente de Valverde, along with an interpreter (Felipillo) to speak with Atahualpa. Friar Valverde presented himself to Atahualpa and explained through the interpreter the mysteries of Catholic religion, and that, on account of their heathenism, the pope had granted Atahualpa's kingdom to the Spaniards. Atahualpa professed not to understand the tenor of this discourse, and would not resign his kingdom, saying he would "be no man's tributary."
Upon hearing this, the friar gave a Bible to Atahualpa, who, after merely observing it and turning a few pages, threw the book on the floor. Atahualpa then demanded a full account of the presence of the Spaniards in his land.
Friar Valverde picked up the Bible and left to inform Pizarro of the incident, calling Atahualpa a "dog" and full of pride. He also told Pizarro he suspected the fields around the plaza where the Spaniards were hiding were soon to be invaded by Atahualpa's army. At this point Pizarro and his forces decided to come out on horseback with firearms, causing many of Atahualpa's army to flee upon hearing the sounds of artillery and muskets.
Many natives died as they tried to fight against the better-armed Spaniards. Thereafter, Pizarro went on to look for Atahualpa himself, who was shielded by his faithful nobles who, in the end, were also captured by the Spaniards.
It was during this time that Atahualpa gave orders for the execution of his half-brother, Huascar, who he believed was an obstacle to his ruling of the empire. Atahualpa gave these orders thinking the Spaniards would soon leave after further concessions, leaving him to rule alone once again.
Trial and execution of Atahualpa (1533)
Pizarro decided to charge Atahualpa with 12 crimes, the most important being attempting to revolt against the Spanish, practicing idolatry and murdering Huascar. Atahualpa was found guilty of all 12 charges and was sentenced to execution by burning. Atahualpa offered Pizarro to buy his liberty by filling the room where he was kept prisoner with gold and the two following rooms with silver, up to the level of the reach of his arm.
After being led to the place of his execution, Atahualpa begged for his life. Friar Valverde, who had earlier offered the Bible to Atahualpa, intervened again, telling Atahualpa that if he agreed to convert to Christianity he would persuade the rest to commute his sentence.
Atahualpa agreed to be baptized into the Christian faith and, in the end, was strangled instead of being burned, or rather was strangled just before being burned: this was the mercy the Inquisition granted to heretics that repented of their heresy. Atahualpa died in August of 1533.
Various sources claim the so-called "ransom room" alleged to have been filled with gold was only where Atahualpa was held prisoner, and the real room filled with gold was located at an unconfirmed location.
After Atahualpa was executed, the "Tahuantinsuyo" (Inca Empire) is considered to have reached its end, giving way to the further Spanish conquest of Peru. During 2004, approximately 60,000 tourists visited the site of the ransom room in Cajamarca, Peru.
- Prescott, William H.. The Discovery and Conquest of Peru
- Hemming, John, 1973. Conquest of the Incas.
- Visiting Peru - Cajamarca, Embassy of Peru (Washington DC)
- Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pizarro
- History of the Conquest of Peru by William H. Prescott - Online Version from Gutenberg.org
- Capture of an Inca King
- Atahulpa's Cuarto de Rescape, a Ransom fit for an Emperor