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Quizquiz (left), while leading Huáscar prisoner
Died 1535
Nationality Inca
Occupation General

Quizquiz or Quisquis was, along with Chalkuchimac and Rumiñahui, one of Atahualpa's leading generals. In April 1532, along with his companions, Quizquiz led the armies of Atahualpa to victory in the battles of Mullihambato, Chimborazo and Quipaipan, where he, along with Chalkuchimac defeated and captured Huáscar and promptly killed his family, seizing capital Cuzco. Quizquiz later commanded Atahualpa's troops in the battles of Vilcaconga, Cuzco (both 1533) and Maraycalla (1534), ultimately being bested by the Spanish forces in both accounts.

After the ensuing battles, Quizquiz fled further into the safety of the Andean mountains, but his forces soon demanded that he accept the Spanish demands, and, it being planting season, that they be able to return to their families. Quizquiz refused, and his war-weary troops eventually killed him in 1534.

Origin of the name[edit | edit source]

Quizquiz is a Quechua term, which stands for leader or Little Bird par excellence. According to some authors instead, the surname means barber and derives from his duty to shave the King Huayna Capac that the General had exercised, both for dexterity, both for total confidence that it would not have liked to offer his throat to anyone else.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Military triumphs[edit | edit source]

His first military experience was gained in the army of Huayna Capac, in campaigns in North, where he distinguished himself for his outstanding military skills.

On the death of the eleventh Sapa Inca, Quizquiz remained in the wake of his son Atahuallpa, assuming the chief command of the armies of Quito, contrasted with those of Cuzco devoted to Huáscar. Juan de Betanzos reports in his "Narrative of the Incas" that during the civil war Quizquiz led troops of 60,000 and later 100,000 men against Huáscar's troops. The fact that Quizquiz and not Atahualpa was in charge of the army has led some historians to see a late disintegration of the Incan Empire, where Athualpa was not sufficiently confident to leave control of administration in the hands of someone else.

As supreme commander he organized, together with another prestigious general Chalcuchimac, war against Cuzco. Quizquiz was responsible for the significant defeat and capture of Huáscar, where Huáscar planned to use a decoy advance guard that was to be later joined by the body of the army, however this decoy was destroyed before the rest of the army could join it. Defeating in several battles the armies of Huáscar, they achieved the final victory with the storming of the Inca Empire capital. As he was proceeding to the consolidation of power Atahuallpa in the region of Cuzco, the news came of the tragedy of Cajamarca and the capture of his master.

Quizquiz decided to stay in the capital to complete the work undertaken and sent the experimented Chalcochima with a large army to rescue the Inca prisoner, with a recommendation not to make hasty moves that could jeopardize the safety of Atahuallpa.

Meeting with the Spanish[edit | edit source]

Quizquiz was in Cusco at the time of the Spaniards' arrival. Contrary to the belief of many Natives, especially in Mexico, Quizquiz recognised that the Spanish were not gods because they did not speak the Incan language and asked too many questions about the location of gold. To find the ransom gold Atahuallpa had convinced Francisco Pizarro to send three soldiers in the capital to personally check the collection of gold. The three, Martín Bueno, Pedro Martin de Moguer and Pedro de Zárate, were received personally by Quizquiz that treated them honorably, despite their far from blameless behavior.

The rude soldiers ventured to desecrate the temples and undermine the priestesses, but the state of hostage of Atahuallpa did not allowed to take appropriate measures against them and the three were let go. Quizquiz had to be content with an ominous warning: ordered them to report to the leaders remained in Cajamarca that if they had not released the Inca prisoner, he was going to free himself.

Fight against invaders[edit | edit source]

Inca commander Quizquiz fighting the Spaniards, possibly in the battle of Cuzco

After the death of his master, Quizquiz realized that the empire needed a centralized point of reference in the person of an Inca chief. Pizarro, who had felt the same necessity, had to elect a candidate of Cuzco, Prince Túpac Huallpa and the general tried to oppose him with its own candidate of Quito, Prince Paullu Inca, also son of Huayna Capac.

We do not know if the election had taken place, but events were now falling. The Spaniards were on the outskirts of Cuzco and the army of the North had to think for his own salvation first and it was decided to recover the trusted region of Quito, leaving the possession of the imperial capital.

The Spaniards occupied only three locations in Peru when the armies moved from Cuzco to Quito. One was the city of Cuzco itself, the second was the town of Jauja, entrusted to the treasurer Riquelme, and the third was the recent settlement of San Miguel which ensured the flow of reinforcements by sea.

Quizquiz decided to attack the garrison of Jauja who was on the road to Quito. The rainy season had swelled rivers and was sufficient to demolish the bridges on the most tumultuous rivers to secure the rear from the arrival of Cuzco followers.

The clash ensued between the army of Quito and fifty Spanish Juaja backed by thousands of indigenous friends. Quizquiz had developed strategies that worked against the Spanish, but he still had to learn to deal with the cavalry. His men carried out a pincer movement, but the impetus of the horses swept their ranks. The day, however, was not an easy one for the Spanish troops. Riquelme was himself wounded in the head and fell into the river, where he was rescued by a group of archers. One Spaniard was killed and almost all other reported injuries as their auxiliary natives were decimated by the troops of Quito.

Northern troops still managed to pass Jauja, while regretting that it could not conquer the city defended by a small garrison. Quizquiz had learnt from the experience and venturing in a ravine he fortified the slopes of the passage so that horses could not work, then he remained on hold.

Reinforcements from Cuzco came upon a few weeks later, under the command of Hernando de Soto and Diego de Almagro, accompanied by many Indians, sent by Manco Inca Yupanqui, elected meanwhile supreme Inca.

Learned that Quizquiz was close, the Spaniards threw themselves boldly forward, but this time the shrewd general was not waiting for them unprepared. The defenses worked fine and their charges shattered against the properly prepared fortifications.

While worryingly studying what to do, the conquistador learned that the armies had abandoned their positions and headed north. Quizquiz, obviously, wanted to regain the region of Quito. The Spanish moved in pursuit, but proceeding with great caution and fighting only limited clashes with the marching rearguard, then, when it became clear that the enemy abandoned the region, desisted from following them.

Quizquiz had solved the immediate problem of the pursuers, but his difficulties were not over. He had to open a way through districts infested by hostile populations, related to the deceased Huáscar and hoping for a comeback thanks to the arrival of "white men" who, unwisely, were seen as liberators.

Nevertheless, by means of an impressive march led by overcoming difficulties of all kinds, not only strategic, but also and mainly logistical, Quizquiz led the several thousand men who composed his army beyond the boundaries of the ancient kingdom of Quito, where he planned to find support and allies.

Last Battle[edit | edit source]

Arriving in the land of Quito to organize a brave resistance, and possibly a war of Reconquista, he had a bitter surprise to find the Spanish contingent that had preceded him, coming from San Miguel, under the leadership of Benalcazar. They were then followed by other armies commanded by Almagro and Pedro de Alvarado.

It was precisely the troops of Alvarado, who travelled the country looking for Rumiñahui and other opponents, to encounter the army of Quizquiz randomly. A detachment of them collided with a patrol of Quizquiz and their leader, Sotaurco, put to torture, was forced to reveal its location.

Convinced of holding the enemy, the Spaniards moved with incredible quickness. By forced march, travelling at night by the light of torches and stopping only for shoeing horses, they came unexpectedly in view of the marching army.

Quizquiz was obviously surprised, but as consummate strategist acted with surprising speed. Before the enemy came in contact, he had already divided his army into two parts. One, with all the warriors, was launched on the slopes of a hill and stood in defence. The other, conducted by him personally, with most provisions and women, trying to pull in another direction.

How the prudent general had foreseen, the Spaniards launched the assault of enemy warriors, but those under the command of an Atahuallpa brother named Huaypalcon, kept them at bay without effort by rolling an avalanche of stones from the top.

During the night, the two Inca armies merged and the Spaniards were forced to the pursuit, but were stopped at the crossing of a river that separated the contenders. The natives even attacked by setting up a bridgehead on the bank defended by the Spanish and inflicted casualties on the enemy.

As the news came that a nearby indigenous detachment killed and beheaded fourteen Spaniards who tried to rejoin their compatriots, they decided to retire.

Quizquiz had won, but this would have been his last battle.

Death[edit | edit source]

After meeting with the men of Almagro and Alavarado, Quizquiz still took part in many fights, but soon realized that the circle of the enemy was closing in on him. Events had shown that, even if it was possible to defend themselves in some way, it was unthinkable to be able to finally defeat the powerful invader.

It requires a change in strategy and Quizquiz thought to transform the war in guerrilla. To do this they should hide in the forest and from there to make quick raids, never facing a confrontation.

The area where he wanted to lead troops, however, was wild and unexplored, and although they were guaranteed some security in case of attack, involving the certainty of suffering hunger, given the large number of men who would have been involved. Quizquiz helpers were all opposed to this decision, but the stubborn general, stressed and angry for their resistance, charged them of cowardice.

Huaypalcon who acted as second in command, as angered, then asked to face the Spaniards in the open to die with honour rather than reduced to eating grass on barren mountains. Quizquiz would not hear of it and threatened to consider him a traitor if he had obeyed orders. Huaypalcon then, out of anger, took his mace and hit his head. The other captains imitated him and Quizquiz fell riddled with hits.

Findings on Quizquiz[edit | edit source]

Quizquiz was the only Inca general not to be captured or killed by the Spaniards. During his lifetime, he won for his Lord, all the wars in which he participated, earning a reputation for invincibility.

Facing the European weapons, he could not get the success he had used with his compatriots, but had shown undoubted strategist talents, quickly assimilating the features of European cavalry and learning, just as quickly how to oppose it.

On several occasions, he proved his unparalleled strategic vision combined with absolute and unyielding determination. Until the end of his life, he tried to instil it in his armies.

Beyond its undoubted warrior qualities, the his most striking moral dowry is the persistence and the will to always oppose with all his might the hated invader, without hesitation or withdrawals of sort.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Eyewitnesses of early wins[edit | edit source]

  • Estete (Miguel de)
    • Relación the viaje ... desde el pueblo de Caxmalca a Pachacamac. (1533) In Ramusio Einaudi, Torino 1988
    • Noticia del Perú (1540) In COL. LIBR. DOC. HIST. PERU (2 nd series Volume 8 °, Lima 1920)
  • Jerez (Francisco de) Verdadera relación de la conquista del Perú (1534) In Ramusio Einaudi, Torino 1988
  • Pizarro (Pedro) Relación del descubrimiento y conquista de los Reynos del Perú. (1571) in BIBL. AUT. ESP. (Volume CLVIII, Madrid 1968)
  • Sancho de Hoz (Pedro) Relatione di quel che nel conquisto & pacificatione di queste provincie & successo...& la prigione del cacique Atabalipa. (1534)In Ramusio Einaudi, Torino 1988

Other historians[edit | edit source]

  • Cieza de Leon (Pedro de)
    • Segunda parte de la crónica del Perú (1551) In COL. CRONICA DE AMERICA (Dastin V. 6°. Madrid 2000)
    • Descubrimiento y conquista del Perú (1551) in COL. CRONICA DE AMERICA (Dastin V. 18°. Madrid 2001)
  • Cobo (Bernabe) Historia del Nuevo Mundo (1653) In BIBL. AUT. ESP. Tomi XCI, XCII, Madrid 1956
  • Garcilaso (Inca de la Vega)
    • Commentarios reales (1609) Rusconi, Milano 1977
    • La conquista del Peru (1617) BUR, Milano 2001
  • Gómara (Francisco López de) Historia general de las Indias (1552) In BIBL. AUT. ESP. (tomo LXII, Madrid 1946)
  • Oviedo y Valdes (Gonzalo Fernandez de) Historia General y natural de las Indias 5 Vol. in IBL. AUT. ESP. (tomi CXLVI - CLI), Madrid 1991)
  • Herrera y Tordesillas (Antonio de) Historia general ... (1601–1615) COL. Classicos Tavera (su CD)
  • Titu Cusi Yupanqui Relación de la conquista del Perú y echos del Inca Manco II (1570) In ATLAS, Madrid 1988

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