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Point of Divergence (Vicuña of the East)

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Please note: Romanization of the following language(s) is/are different in this article than in OTL: Quechua. For a comprehensive list of words that are romanized differently, see Dictionary, Biographical Dictionary or Gazeteer.

This is a description of the events of 21 March 1527 according to Francisco de Cuéllar, part of Francisco Pizarro's expedition, recounted to Pedro de los Ríos who in turn recounted them to Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés. The factual accuracy of his accounts are constantly under dispute, but as this is the only surviving record of the events, they are considered to be "historical fact."

Background

The second expedition of Francisco Pizarro to Peru left Panama with 160 men and two ships. The first expedition having been so unsuccessful, Pizarro knew that this was his only chance to make progress or face distrust . The only reason he was allowed to leave was because the recently appointed governor of Panama had given him permission. He left well equipped, and reached the San Juan River in present-day Colombia.

Colic

Before reaching the river, Pizarro and one of his expedition members, Diego de Almagro began wrestling on whether to return to Panama for reinforcements. At the same time, most of the horses began showing signs of sickness, continuously groaning, and showing other uncomfortable symptoms. Three had died during the course of the journey, and Pizarro managed to convince Almagro that sending for reinforcements would only cause the Panamanian government to lose trust in his expedition and cut off funding. In addition, Pizarro asserted that going back for horses might be a cause for the expedition to fail, because Almagro would require some horses of his own to make the expedition. In the end, Almagro agreed to continue the expedition unless further lack of supplies showed up.

By late February, Pizarro's horses began showing signs of convalescing. Two had died, but by the time they reached Tumpis, the expedition party had a renewed confidence. This confidence was sparked again with Bartolomé Ruiz' capturing of a raft of natives. To everyone's surprise, these carried a load of textiles, ceramic objects, and some much-desired pieces of gold, silver, and emeralds, making Ruiz's findings the central focus of this second expedition which only served to pique the conquistadors' interests for more gold and land. After this success, the expedition party turned back and headed for Panama.

On the return journey, the remaining members suffered difficult currents and weather. The weary crew began feeling exhaustion. In addition, the expedition's horses felt a relapse of colic. All but four died along the journey, some of which were slain by local natives. However, Pizarro continued to search for a harbour which would allow him to conquer Peru. Each time, horses and men were slain by local natives, consistently lowering morale each time.

Landing on the Equatorial Coast

In the evening of 20 March 1527, Bartolomé Ruiz, Pizarro's captain landed near the Peruvian city of Atakami. At sunrise, fifty-three men out of the remaining sixty left. Pizarro and Almagro each took a horse, and left the remaining two in one ship. Each ship was occupied by five people each. The purpose of the party was simply conquest, and if possible to gather food. Some maize was growing nearby, which some members picked up. Pizarro and his men headed on to the city in attempt to pillage it and conquer the inhabitants. He and his party, however, were stopped by about six thousand natives.

Battle of Atacames

The natives of Atakami (also called Atacames), having sighted the ships in the harbour the night before, had assembled a massive force including much of the male populace of the city. They immediately began attacking the Spaniards, cutting them off from their vessels. Although the Spaniards tried to escape, they found difficulty in piercing through the crowd of townspeople. Despite swords and arrows superior to the slings and spears of the natives, they were each finished off. Most took blows to with slung rocks to the head. Within eight hours, only five remained. As the Peruvians continued to close in, Diego de Almagro attempted to make an escape, but was caught up in a rush of the mob which caused his horse to panic and fall. Almagro, while still on the horse, broke his neck and died right there. Francisco Pizarro was nearby, and took a blow with a varaka (sling) on the side of his head. The flying rock was so powerful that it knocked him off his horse. Many of the natives believed that the man-horse (who they believed to be one creature) had divided in two. In the confusion that ensued, the remaining three men managed to escape. Among them was Francisco de Cuéllar, who became the sole witness of the massacre.

Flight

Francisco de Cuéllar and two other men made a beeline for the two ships. Closely followed by natives, they stole aboard one vessel and asked Bartolomé Ruiz, the captain, to make a quick escape. The anchor was cast off, and they began to sail into the bay under a sky of arrows and slung rocks. They attempted to signal to the other ship, but as it tried to make a getaway, a large mob of natives boarded the ship and took back many of the Spaniards' possessions as well as their remaining two horses. The five on that ship were slain, and the Peruvians set fire to the vessel. The eight remaining steered the weary expedition party back to Panama. Despite unfavourable weather, short food and water supply, and difficult currents, they managed to reach Panama on 28 April 1527.

Controversy

Critics of Cuéllar's account have claimed that descriptions of the death of Pizarro and Almagro were edited to protect the reputations of the two, and hopefully continue conquests of the area. Most scholars believe the advantage was more clearly in the hands of the Peruvians than was portrayed. In addition, some parts of the narrative that claimed giants inhabited the area are clearly under skepticism, as no trace of a giant race has been found in Peru. Finally, most analyses of his narratives suggest that the events were made more gruesome. Despite this, his narrative is considered one of the greater works of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés.

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