The history of Peru likens a prodigious, baffling puzzle; just like any other fairly complex mystery of the past, several crucial pieces have been nibbled away bit by bit by binding political affairs over the course of history. Personally, school teachers’ crummy clarifications only rendered me befuddled, gawking at the derelict baneful ruins of “what used to be” without any logical explanations for its sudden, screeching halt.
After addressing the historical facts, skimming through perennial books, watching movies and educational videos, and participating in a couple of debates, I have come up with a firm opinion on “what would have happened if the Spanish never conquered Peru.” This post aims to share my thoughts and beliefs with anyone interested in the matter.
In the ancient times there was an Empire governed by the Son of the Sun, who emerged from the Lake Titicaca with the mission of making the hazardous and unrelenting mountains of the Andes thrive. The Inti god, the Inca’s father, gave him a golden rod and told him to walk north towards a brighter future in search of a land where it was possible to plant the rod without difficulty. When he discovered the promised land, he settled down to build the center of what would soon become the Inca Empire, the “navel" of the world; just as the Sun had entrusted him, he founded Cuzco.
In the year 1492, the Catholic Kings of the Spanish Monarchy authorized Christopher Columbus to sail an audacious expedition to the west with the promise of discovering new routes to the Indias, and precious metals galore. They also bestowed upon him the status of Admiral, Governor and Viceroy of all the territories he discovered, as well as 10% of all of the riches he could find.
Ultimately, he failed to find the expected riches… instead discovering an amazing part of the world that had been hidden for thousands of years to the eyes of the Old World: The Americas.
Columbus’s bold initiative enticingly drew people of all ages, especially from Spain, with the aim of exploring pristine regions and finding gold. Having heard about Cortés’s success in Mexico and the fascinating story of the Lost City of Gold, Eldorado, a group of Spanish men gathered and embarked on a journey to South America with Francisco Pizarro as the leader. Defying infinite warnings from Panama’s Governor, unknown endemic diseases and a volley of adversities, Pizarro led three expeditions of varying success.
The first one was a total failure. Pizarro had heard stories about a gold-rich land to the south called “Pirú;” however, after being restrained by a lack of supplies, terrible weather, and clashes with uninviting warrior tribes, he feared the imminent attacks could completely destroy his minute army, hence taking the decision to return to the Spanish quarters in Panama; ultimately, he did not reach any territories remoter than Colombia.
Although the outcome of his first expedition wasn’t at all auspicious, unperturbed, Pizarro resolved to arrange a second one. While the conquistador stayed in Colombia to explore inner territories, the main pilot of the caravel, Ruiz, continued on his way south. After crossing the Equator, he found and captured a couple of natives from Tumbes (northern Peru) who carried pieces of gold, silver, emeralds, textiles and ceramic objects on a raft; these natives would later become his interpreters.
He sailed back north to pick up Pizarro and his men before he continued. Finally, they found a great number of natives on the Ecuadorian coast; all of whom were under the rule of the Inca Empire. However, frightened by the ferocious and intrepid faces and expressions of the natives, the Spanish did not enter the land.
Pizarro decided it was better to stay in the “Isla de Gallo”; only thirteen men bravely acquiesced to his decision, whilst most of the crew returned to Panama for more provisions. This time, the prospect of the expedition was different. They had news of a restive accretion of gold that yearned in their hands, and a tangible proof of it: their little Incan souvenirs.
Back in Panama, the new governor, Pedro de los Ríos, accepted Almagro’s petitions and gave him a new caravel. Although the presence of a gold-affluent civilization seemed apparent, the governor placed them under the condition of bringing Pizarro back to Panama within 6 months and to conclude the expedition once and for all. They hurriedly left Panama behind; this time with no new recruits.
Almagro, Luque and Ruiz met with Pizarro and “The Famous Thirteen” in “La Isla Gorgona”. Following the directions of Ruiz’s interpreters to the letter, the conquistadors set sail south for the land of the promised rewards, ignited by an afresh desire and will to conquer Peru.
Eventually, in 1528, they arrived at Tumbes: the northern Peruvian city where the interpreters were born. The Tumpis, the natives of Tumbes, recognized the Spaniards as the “Children of the Sun” and respectively treated them as such, with the hospitality and submissiveness the monarch and ruler of their land deserved. They even assigned one or two natives to learn the Spanish language; one of them was baptized as Felipillo: the translator that would later accomplice the Spaniards in the conquest of the Inca Empire. As soon as the greetings finished, Pizarro sent two explorers to find out about the mysteries he believed laid behind the dunes of Tumbes that probably concealed burgeoning treasures: treasures that could only stoke their desire for a third and definite expedition to conquer the appealing empire. Both of the adventurers made public the existence of gold and silver decorations in the city, especially in the chief’s house. I can imagine the reflection in Pizarro’s eyes depicting what must have been a prominent shiny relic to the Incas, but just an amount of free money to the Spaniards.
Pizarro went back to Panama to make the necessary arrangements in order to begin the invasion; nevertheless, the hesitant governor refused to assist him. Pizarro was so furious and convinced of success that he travelled to Spain and directly appealed to King Charles I. The monarch was amazed by the stories and contretemps the conquistador had endured, and promised to support him in his quest to conquer Peru. In fact, the King even gave Pizarro legal authority over a significant portion of the lands he conquered. However, it wasn’t exactly he who signed the “Capitulación de Toledo,” the document which legally authorized Pizarro to proceed with the conquest of Peru. Guess who it was: Queen Isabel.
He was ready
Pizarro prepared his final expedition with almost 300 new recruits, the most brazen and fearless of their kind, several horses, and enough provisions for the entire journey. After travelling along the coasts of Ecuador, the conquistadors finally docked at Tumbes again; however, the colorful horizon that once enlightened the glory of the Incas had disappeared: the Tumpis were dead; and the city, destroyed.
By that time, the Spaniards were already conscious of the Inca civil war that was striking Peru.
As the old legend says, the Inca Emperor had to get married with his sister. Only the eldest of the pure Inca blood offspring that emerged from this marriage could aspire to become the next Sapa Inca.
Atahualpa and Huáscar were both sons of the Inca Emperor, Huayna Cápac. Before dying, Huayna Cápac told them to share the domains of the empire. Nevertheless, the only one who was born from a marriage between the Sapa Inca and another member of the Inca Royal Family was the latter. So, regardless of his father’s wishes, Huáscar rightfully claimed power.
That was alright for Atahualpa. In fact, he sent his messengers and most trusted captains to Cuzco with the mission of giving gold and silver presents to Huáscar as a symbol of allegiance and bond between brothers. Huáscar, disrespectful and scornful as he used to be, cast an aspersion on his brother: he accused Atahualpa of being rebellious, ordered the murder of his messengers, and sent his captains back dressed like women. Atahualpa considered it an outrage and declared war against Huáscar. He sent his troops to Cuzco and ordered them to abduct him; he later gave them the task of chasing every descendant from Huáscar’s lineage, and killing all of whom were found.
Not everyone regarded these actions as beneficial for the Empire as Atahualpa did: he was sure he’d be a better governor than his brother. Therefore, the Incan community sank into a relentless bout characterized by teeming maligns and offenses that effectively divided the Empire into two advocator groups, and prompted the crumbling of the pillars that used to cushion it.
The Spaniards arrived immediately after the effects of this acrimonious situation had unraveled and percolated through the entire empire. Pizarro took advantage of it; he attained Huáscar advocators’ loyalty by flattering their leader and condemning Atahualpa for his misdeeds. He soon gained access to insider information: he got apprised of the location of Atahualpa, who had stopped his marching southward from Quito to Cuzco at the Baths of the Inca, Cajamarca.
There was no reason to await; Pizarro left for Cajamarca with 108 soldiers, 62 of them on horses. They travelled across the majestic Inca trail: a system of roads created to unite the whole Inca Empire. On their journey, they received several gifts (llamas and food) sent by Atahualpa in order to convey his willingness to be their friend and awaiting their arrival. It took Pizarro around 2 months to get there.
When they arrived, Hernando de Soto spoke with Atahualpa and told him they were emissaries of King Charles I, and that they, indeed, wanted to help him in his fight against Huáscar. The Inca Emperor knew that what was coming out of his mouth wasn’t anything more than hot air. He had heard stories about “white bearded men” that were unscrupulously stepping on Incas and treating them with contempt, even as slaves, who lived in floating houses and rode big unknown animals. That couldn’t be the behavior of respectful emissaries, nor representatives of any kingdom. However, Atahualpa agreed to meet Pizarro the next day. He gave them a place to sleep, food to eat, and chicha to drink.
The next day, Atahualpa arranged an “entrance show” in which he and over 7,000 unarmed Incas marched towards the city’s main square while modelling exotic attire that ranged from rustic war axes (only for exhibition) and ceremonial garments to gold and silver discs over their heads; even Atahualpa was sitting on a colorful parrot feather pillow whilst being carried on a litter. I think he wanted to show the Spaniards how majestic, culturally extensive and interesting the Inca Empire was.
Atahualpa wasn’t expecting an ambush. In fact, he left several thousand warriors miles away from Cajamarca city because he didn’t feel threatened by the minuscule group of less than 200 Spaniards. Nonetheless, it wasn’t his decision; he had no say. The Spaniards were already strategically positioned: two groups led by Pizarro and Hernando de Soto were hidden within the buildings that surrounded the main square; they then waited for a racket that would signal their entrance, whether it’s friar Vicente de Valverde shouting “¡Santiago!” or a shot in the air accompanied by trumpets.
There are a myriad of stories attempting to justify what the Spanish did. One of them, perhaps the most famous one, states friar de Valverde arranged a meeting with Atahualpa and took his cross and bible with him. After fruitlessly trying to explain to him the concepts of Catholicism through an unexperienced translator, Felipillo, he gave him the bible and invited him to read it. Atahualpa, not knowing how to proceed, took the book, ingenuously brought it to his ear and shook it as expecting sounds to come out of it. “Why doesn’t it speak to me?” he asked. Since nothing happened, he threw it away carelessly. This reaction gave the Spaniards enough reasons to attack.
Another one suggests that the friar, after noticing Atahualpa didn’t know how to read, came closer to the Inca Emperor (too closer for him) and barely touched him. Feeling accosted, Atahualpa gave him a blow on the arm. The Spaniards came to his rescue, and killed thousands of Incas.
Although there are several other interesting stories, according to Hammond Innes (The Conquistadors, 1969), the battle began with a shot from a cannon and the outcry “¡Santiago!” What we do know is that after the first shots penetrated the minds of the Incas through the air, they broke down into a stage of bewilderment and desperation. Just imagine it: it’s the very first time you hear those deafeningly atrocious blasts, you’re unarmed, and there’s those huge frightening animals the Spaniards are riding that you had never seen before that are chasing you in the middle of a raid. They were scared; a few hours later, murdered.
Atahualpa was very close to death during the battle. Although most of the Incas were running for their lives, the bravest kept protecting him by bearing the poles of his litter over their shoulders. Despite the endeavor of some Spaniards to wound the Inca, they couldn’t succeed because there were dozens of extra Incas ready to take the place of each bearer who perished under the litter of Atahualpa, awaiting the precise moment to get into the mob and keep the Son of the Sun higher than his foe could go. And even when one Spaniard almost attained his death, Pizarro shouted “¡Nadie hiera al indio so pena de la vida!” Which translated to English is “No one hurt the Indian under penalty of death!” However, after a lot of resistance, the Inca Emperor finally fell. The Spaniards executed his men of honor, and took him captive at the Ransom Room.
After having some time watching and studying the Spanish demeanor, Atahualpa realized they had a different approach to gold and silver. In the Inca Empire, precious metals had a lofty ceremonial and cultural meaning, but no monetary value at all. Therefore, Atahualpa offered to fill the Ransom Room once with gold and twice with silver within two months in exchange of his freedom; that room is 11.8 meters long, 7.3 meters wide and 3.1 meters high.
Pizarro told Atahualpa to bring Huáscar, his brother, to Cajamarca, so he could decide who of the two brothers would continue to be the Inca Emperor. Since Atahualpa was fearful that his brother could be chosen to be the Sapa Inca if he offered a larger amount of the riches the Spaniards could “eventually pine for," he ordered his troops to kill Huáscar on their way to Cajamarca by drowning.
Pizarro charged Atahualpa with 12 crimes (including idolatry, killing Huáscar and attempting to revolt against the Spanish), and staged a mock trial. The Inca was found guilty for all charges and sentenced to execution by burning.
Atahualpa was shocked, because he believed the soul would not transcend to the afterlife if the body were burned. Friar de Valverde decided to help him: he told Atahualpa that if he converted to Catholicism, he would intercede and convince Pizarro to commute the sentence; Atahualpa accepted. He was baptized and given the name Francisco Atahualpa. Later that year, 1533, he was strangled with a garrote by Pizarro’s men.
That was just the beginning of the conquest.
Before letting my imagination fly, let me share with you a little bit about how the Inca Empire used to be
The Inca Empire was the largest of all pre-Columbian civilizations. Stretching almost the entire length of the Andes, its extent included Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile, Argentina and a small portion of southern Colombia.
However, it wasn’t always like that. The expansion only began when Sapa Inca Manco Cápac, at about the beginning of the 13th century, decided to convene wandering ethnic groups adjacent to the Cuzco area and synthesize them all into one mega ethnic group: “The Kingdom of Cuzco,” the ancestors of the Inca Empire.
According to the legend, the Inti god, the sun god, felt dismal after noticing uncivilized people living under precarious conditions, almost like animals: they lived naked in caves, collected wild plants, ate raw meat, and did not have a god. So, he sent his son, Manco Cápac, and his daughter, Mama Ocllo, to teach them agriculture techniques, raising cattle, and religion.
“The Kingdom of Cuzco” easily amassed the little communities, mainly due to the effectiveness of all the techniques that Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo imparted. He demonstrated to men how to farm, cultivate crops and how to construct houses, while her sister taught women how to make clothes by weaving the wool llamas provided.
Nevertheless, everything wasn’t as rosy as it seems. As years passed, the little Kingdom of Cuzco was constantly threatened by the efforts of a particular bloodthirsty ethnic group to conquer it: the Chanka people. The first step to be made by the pre-Incas in order to commence the exponential expansion of their culture was to defeat them. This wasn’t achieved until Inca Pachacútec took over the reins of the Kingdom of Cuzco.
After this victory, Pachacútec’s expansion of the kingdom transcended into the creation of the “Inca Empire.”
Pachacútec used to dream about a political system based on equality and reciprocity. However, he recognized that couldn’t happen unless his empire possessed huge storehouses all over its domains that served as the prime source of supplies to meet any unexpected requirements. That wouldn’t be feasible as long as his paucity of labor force persisted, so he decided to consolidate key political relationships with his neighboring leaders (curacas).
Pachacútec invited these curacas to Cuzco, delighted them with abounding feasts and chicha at the main square, offered them to exchange women in order to establish a bond of trust and kinship, flooded them with gifts, and filled them with joy through pleasing songs and music. Only after all of these phases were completed did Pachacútec ask the sacred question: Could you please tell you’re your men to help us build a few collqas? Since the curacas had already verified Pachacútec’s generosity, they acceded to his request and provided him with the men he needed to construct the storehouses. After they finished, Pachacútec went further and made a second petition. He asked the curacas if their men could help him fill up those collqas with food and manufactured products. They accepted again, and indirectly became part of the Inca Empire. After the harvests and collections were made, Pachacútec gave them more presents in exchange of lands.
As Pachacútec’s conquests kept rising, the curacas that became allies of the Inca Empire through its reciprocity policy led to an amazing state of affluence. The acme of the Inca Empire expansion was reached during Pachacútec’s regime that lasted from 1438 to 1471.
Just visualize it; in less than 50 years, the Inca Empire extended from this
and kept expanding...
After locating which lands he wanted to annex to the Inca Empire, Pachacútec sent secret spies in order to gain access to information about their political and military structure, wealth, and facilities. Pachacútec then dispatched an Inca army with sumptuous presents and messages for the curacas of these regions describing the benefits of joining his empire, and inviting them to become part of it. The leaders had the freedom to decide whether they wanted to join them or not. Most of them agreed amicably, thus the sons of the leaders were immediately included in the nobility and sent to the capital to be taught about the Inca administration systems. When they were ready, they returned to their native lands and governed according to the Inca Empire’s rules. However, if any leader denied the invitation, a battle would unravel. Whoever won (usually the Incas) would claim possession of the lands.
At the beginning of the implementation of the reciprocity policy, Pachacútec might had praised the curacas and sent them plentiful gifts in order to keep them happy. Otherwise, they could had revolted against the Empire and caused a disaster. Fortunately, he allayed the immediate effects of his lack of supplies by conquering more and more territories. The next Inca anecdote will pretty much explain why it was so crucial:
“The Inca Huayna Cápac, son of Túpac Yupanqui, urgently needed reinforcements after losing an essential battle to an Ecuadorian ethnic group called “cayambis.” Luckily for them, some Inca troops arrived from Cuzco. The military move was so critical that Huayna Cápac skipped the 'fawning phase' and directly ordered the armies to join him on the battle field. The curacas, feeling offended, dourly turned around and launched their trek back to Cuzco. Huayna Cápac recognized his error, and sent them great amounts of clothes and presents. Feeling satisfied and invigorated, the curacas ordered their people to return. They routed the Ecuadorians in combat.”
The Inca Emperor found himself under the constant pressure of a conflict of interest: he had to accrue his collqa reserves while maintaining healthy relationships with the curacas he borrowed input from (I’ll later call it “paying the interests”). Robust surplus reserves of agricultural and manufactured products spread all over the country supported the economic and political potential of the Inca Empire. These storehouses evinced the possibility to feed all of the Inca members under any circumstances. In fact, the Incas had no poverty at all.
Pachacútec understood that a hungry belly can cause serious troubles. Have you ever heard the aphorism “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach,” or “Good cooks never lack friends?” If leaders don’t feed their people properly, they will do whatever it takes to do it themselves; they will steal, swindle, invade other domains, start wars and kill until they shatter their own society. If we just take a minute and apply this same reasoning to our century, we could probably explain why there are so many pickpockets, prostitutes, drug traffickers and dealers, etc.: people who directly or indirectly hurt others (even themselves) for money. Although I believe most of them do it for necessity, there’s a bunch of people out there who do it because they’re too lazy to get off of the couch and find a job. The Incas “fixed” (at least momentarily) these problems through the common desire for the well-being of the community.
“We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there law suits respecting it… the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free from the committal of crimes or excesses, as well men as women, that the Indian who had 100,000 pesos worth of gold or silver in his house, left it open merely placing a small stick against the door, as a sign that its master was out. With that, according to their custom, no one could enter or take anything that was there. When they saw that we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed that it was from fear of them, that they might not kill us, but not because they believed that anyone would steal the property of another. So that when they found that we had thieves among us, and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they despised us.” 
"The Incas of Peru"
The Inca Empire had a socialist state-directed economy in some way. The means of production (lands for agriculture and cattle) were owned by the state apparatus. Every Inca was required to provide his or her labor as if paying taxes. In return, they were given everything they needed to live. For instance, the Inca Emperor basically borrowed the curacas’ men and called them Incas, paid the “interests” with ample presents, and effectively took care of the subsistence of the community.
As long as individuals worked for the overall benefit of their community, they would never lack food, clothes, shelter or medicine. Since there was no such thing as “money” and the private property was extremely restricted, the only way of measuring wealth was through the community welfare. In contrast to what sometimes happen now, there was no room for dawdling people there; laziness was a severe crime.
“With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing. With no shops or markets, there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.” 
The Incas: New Perspectives
Gordon Francis McEwan
Gordon Francis McEwan
Most of the energy of the Incas was applied to the construction of terraces, irrigation systems and roads.
Farmers plowed the lands of the Empire of the Sun with a festive mood: they sang, played music and ate plenty food at the expenses of the Inca Emperor. Thousands of fishermen drank chicha and danced joyfully until their turn to get into the ocean arrived. Inca women weaved textiles and took care of the preparation of drinks for especial ceremonies and rites of reciprocity.
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Cattle breeding in the highlands played an important role in the development of the economy. They domesticated llamas and alpacas, mainly for their silky wool. This wool was used to make textiles characterized by geometrical designs called tocapus, as well as for manufacturing the now famous ponchos. Two other species they raised were vicuñas and guanacos; the latter were highly appraised for their meat. Cattle was also used for religious purposes, especially for augurs.
Although they did not have a writing system, the Incas were shrewd statisticians. They developed a counting system based on the quipu. Through knotted cords they stocked up centuries of historic data ranging from population censuses to collqa inventories. Likewise, some people allege quipus also had literary uses.
The Incas built and reconstructed thousands of miles of roads and rope bridges in order to interconnect their people and ensure supplies would reach every corner of the empire when needed. Whenever a tribe was attached to the Inca area, disregarding its size, roads and bridges were constructed between the new and the old to fully complete the process of syncretism.
Did you watch the video? If so, imagine that same trek one THOUSAND times.
The Inca road system linked together 40,000 kilometers of roadway.
The chasquis, the ones in charge of delivering the royal messages and objects to the nobility of the empire, traversed these incredible distances running faster than the wind. Terence N. D’Altroy, professor of anthropology at Columbia University, calculated they “ran as much as 240 kilometers per day.” 
Despite the huge amount of accumulated goods, the Inca Emperor knew he had to find a greater source of input if he wanted to continue bestowing all types of benefits upon his curaca friends. This is why the Inca Empire was constantly under the search of new lands. With every conquest made, they were getting more and more “indebted.” Hell, the interest was high.
Here’s another Inca anecdote that outlines the scope of this onerous reciprocity system:
“General Cápac Yupanqui, the brother of the Inca Emperor Pachacútec, once commanded an army foray to Chincha in order to establish reciprocal allegiances with its inhabitants. After noticing he over-hailed the wealth of the Inca Empire, the residents of these lands only offered a little quantity of farms; they thought the empire might not be straining to meet any of their monthly requirements. Nevertheless, just a few years later, an army led by Túpac Yupanqui, the son of Pachacútec, went to Chincha and demanded more lands. Years later, the son of Túpac Yupanqui, Huayna Cápac, also arrived at Chincha with new demands.”
I think one of the main characteristics of the Inca Empire as a socialist state was taking the wealth from the richest regions in order to distribute it “equally” between all people. This form of administration tends to work until there’s no one left to keep stealing from. When an economy based on this kind of systems runs out of supplies, the undermining fundamental problems emerge out of the shadows of fake wealth creation.
“The inborn inequality of the various individuals of the human species poses the most intricate problem for all interhuman[-]relations. In any social system the main issue is how to promote peaceful co-operation among people markedly different from one another not only in bodily characteristics but also in mental capacity, will power, and moral strength.
For thousands of years people knew only one method of dealing with inborn inequality: to make the superiority of the stronger over the weaker prevail throughout. The stronger beat the weaker into submission. A hierarchical order of hereditary castes was established under which the kings and aristocrats administered all affairs for their own benefit, while the lower strata of the population had no other function than that of toiling for their masters and of making life as agreeable as possible for them.
The modern system of the market economy, capitalism, radically differs from the status system of the ancien régime. On the market[,] the consumers, i.e., all of the people, are supreme. They determine by their buying or abstention from buying what should be produced, in what quantity, and of what quality. By the instrumentality of profit and loss, the entrepreneurs and the capitalists are forced to cater to the wishes of the consumers. There is only one method for the acquisition and preservation of wealth, viz., to supply the consumers in the best possible and cheapest way with those commodities and services which they ask for most urgently.
Thus, the more gifted members of society are induced to serve the concerns of everybody, including the hosts of less efficient and less gifted people. In the status society[,] private property served the owners exclusively. In the capitalistic society private ownership of the means of production virtually serves all those who consume the goods produced. On the market[,] a daily repeated plebiscite of the consumers determines who should own and run the plants and the farms. The captains of industry vie with one another in endeavors to supply the much talked-about common man with ever better and cheaper goods. An enterprise can grow into bigness only by serving the many. Capitalism is essentially mass production for the satisfaction of the wants of the masses.
In the political sphere[,] the corollary of the market economy is government by the people. Representative government assigns to the citizen the same role in the conduct of public affairs that capitalism assigns to him in the conduct of production affairs. The market economy and popular government are inseparably linked with one another. They are the products of the same intellectual and moral evolution, and they mutually condition each other. Capitalism can thrive only where there is political freedom, and political freedom can be preserved only where there is capitalism. Attempts to abolish capitalism work toward the abolition of democratic institutions, and vice versa.” .
A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru
Although there were many Inca tribes that yearned for their total freedom, the well-prepared and armed Inca troops were always ready to defuse any attempts of revolting against the empire. In fact, the Inca Emperor was so concerned about the possibility of multiple revolutions that he randomly dispersed most individuals of the tribes that posed risks of rebelling against his realm. He placed them into heterogeneous communities with different languages and cultures; there was no way they could revolt against his empire if they couldn’t communicate.
Some of the most belligerent groups were the Cañari, Chachapoyas and Huanca people. When the Spanish arrived, they grasped the opportunity to defeat the empire that had subjugated them, and became part of the conquest by providing supplies and men.
You may have heard stories about the “glorious victories” less than 200 Spaniards attained against thousands and thousands of Incas. Indeed, recent archeological findings have disclosed the truth the Spanish unsuccessfully tried to erase from the past.
The Spaniards did not thrust the Inca Empire out of history alone. Instead, they received assistance from the Incas who hated their own political and economic mechanism the most (perhaps capitalism and democracy advocators).
*In the case you don’t have enough time to watch the whole video, you can jump from the minute 1:47 to 39:40 and yet grasp the point perfectly.
It is evident an important but spotty share of the Incas did not approve of the government when the Spanish arrived. Since Peru was invaded before these insufficient groups had a chance to come together and grow into masses over time, we will never know with a hundred percent certainty if they would have eventually revolted against the empire and succeeded. However, I do believe that if a rewarding uprising didn’t happen, a natural shift from restraint and socialism to freedom and capitalism would have unfolded; it was just a matter of time.
I wrote all these details before sharing my personal opinions about “what would have happened if the Spanish never conquered Peru,” because I wanted you to realize the complexity of the question I’m about to answer. I may not meet anyone’s expectations, but what’s coming is my sincere personal point of view, and spree imagination.
Do you remember the Inca Emperors Atahualpa and Húascar? The step-brothers that were fighting against each other for the throne? If so, you may also remember Húascar was the only one who could legitimately apply for that position, because his mother did have the blood ties required by the tradition that Atahualpa’s did not. Nevertheless, Atahualpa seized power by force and therefore had the opportunity to decide whatever he wanted to do with Húascar. I believe he wouldn’t have killed him for a variety of reasons.
First of all, in pre-Columbian Peru “wealth” was one thing, but “honor” was another. Atahualpa didn’t want to kill his brother; he wasn’t prone to do so. You may be already thinking: “But, hey! You’re contradicting yourself. Atahualpa ordered his troops to drown his brother just to stay with the empire. He was a selfish little man. What honor are you talking about?” Dear reader, I’m so glad you paid attention; however, I consciously didn’t tell you that Atahualpa didn’t really care about being the sovereign of the empire at that moment: all he had in mind was extreme dread. Just look at the pictures below and answer: Wouldn’t you?
I hope they beat their chests strong enough back at church
Atahualpa didn’t want to die at all costs. However, the Spaniards had already threatened him with death. Moreover, he witnessed how his army generals were tortured for not revealing the origin of the metals brought to fill up the Ransom Room. Finally, he came to the conclusion that if his brother offered a bigger amount of riches and gained the sovereignty, Huáscar, as temperamental as you already know, would have him killed with the support of the Spaniards. Although we cannot be sure under what circumstances Atahualpa was kept captive, we do know the Spanish struggled to conceal the truths of the conquest from the protruding eyes of history; this intensifies the possibility that he was actually tortured as well.
Atahualpa was futilely trying to shun dying at the house of Death. In my opinion, if Death had stayed 9550 km away in Spain, Atahualpa wouldn’t have felt pressured to do such thing (I wouldn’t grant him amnesty though).
This is what I think would have happened first:
Atahualpa and Huáscar would have met at Cajamarca as planned. There, they would have talked and agreed to divide the empire into two pieces: the northern realm for Atahualpa, with Quito as its capital; and the southern realm for Huáscar, with Cuzco as its capital. After all, neither Huáscar’s leadership was perfect, nor Atahualpa’s lineage. I staunchly believe they would have come to this resolution; the main reason is Inca respect- based value system Peru used to have.
After this division, the geographical expansion phase would have become tougher or even come to an end. Having in mind previous clashes between the two parties, as well as the lengthy distance between one capital and the other, taking collective decisions about troops and supplies management would have been chaotic. For instance, if one borrowed the armed forces of the other, the lender would be left vulnerable to any unexpected situation. In fact, those non-existent extra forces were needed to conquest southern mega ethnic groups such as the Mapuche, as well as to explore unknown northern territories.
Considering that the political and economic Inca system was based on storehouses that used to be filled by the continuous inflow that conquering and invasion of adjacent regions provided, the impossibility to keep stealing from the richest would have posed a huge risk to the wellbeing of both realms.
From my perspective, after facing scarcity for a prolonged period of time, hidden flaws would have arisen…
The need for bigger output would have forced both realms into creating more advanced and innovative technologies that would make possible the development of more efficient and less time-consuming agricultural and manufacturing artifacts and processes. To attain this, a higher level of specialization would be essentially required. Over time, as the now specialists improve their very first tools and systems based on new scientific research, less and less workforce would be needed to perform each task.
Eventually, the production of goods would become so effective that meeting the targets would be easily achieved even under the strain of “El Niño” phenomenon. The enormous accumulation of high-quality excess reserves would usher in a new stage of prosperity and thereby the possibility of a new economic system: I think they would have started “trading.”
Whether it’s through sophisticated currencies or simple bartering (trueque, as we know it in Peru), the idea of “trading” starts looming whenever two or more people want or need something that can be provided by the other(s). Maybe, the first trades would have been executed between both brothers; it wouldn’t surprise me if Atahualpa bartered a “rustic container” of northern kiwicha and quinoa for another one full of southern oca. Colossal inventories’ surpluses would have created amazing markets all over the region.
It would be just a matter of time until Peruvian ayllus, the big “families” or communities that were led by curacas, noticed they had so much to choose from. Although they would continue to receive everything they needed to survive from the government under any predicament, they would realize they’re toiling for someone else’s interests. While the descendants of Atahualpa and Huáscar would hoard the best part of the payoff, the proletariat would continue to be rewarded with nothing else but smiles.
“Surviving” wouldn’t be the goal anymore. Indeed, I firmly believe the main reason why people gather in communities in the first place is to survive. As the main goal of “surviving” peters out, self-realization becomes the norm.
I strongly believe this kind of socialism abrogates the intrinsic right to freedom and individualism everybody possesses. If the government hadn’t abjured its socialist beliefs and converted to capitalism alone, an outrageous rioting mob would have forced it.
Why am I so sure?
Because Peruvians, albeit with the help of foreign libertarian movements, have already freed themselves from the yoke of an undesired “administration system” in the past: the Viceroyalty of Peru.
In summary, I believe a “natural rotation” from socialism to capitalism would have taken place at an earlier time in history thanks to technology.
Would it have been BETTER?
Would it have been WORSE?
I think it could have been somewhat similar.
The Inca Empire had its pros and cons. While 1 in 8 people in the world remained chronically undernourished in 2013, and at least 7.75 million Peruvians (more than 25% percent of the population) did not have enough money to afford the most basic needs in 2012, the Incas effectively eradicated hunger within their territories around 600 years ago. Nevertheless, in my opinion, their system was unsustainable and meant to fail sooner than later: if the cause wasn’t revolution, it would have been a natural process. Either way, their different approach to life and society deserves admiration. History does not provide an answer to the question raised here, however, whenever you want to, you can close your eyes for a moment and flashback in time to “what used to be,” and daydream about what could have happened, just as I did here.
 Markham, Clements. (1910). The Incas of Peru. New York: Dutton and Company.
 McEwan, Gordon. (2008). The Incas: New Perspectives. W. W. Norton & Company.
 D'altroy, Terence. (1992). Provincial Power in the Inka Empire. Smithsonian Institution.
 Baudin, Louis. (2011). A Socialist Empire: The Incas of Peru. Martino Fine Books.
 United Nations. (June, 2013). United Nations. Obtained from http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/report-2013/mdg-report-2013-english.pdf
 INEI. (May, 2013). Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. Obtained from http://www.inei.gob.pe/media/cifras_de_pobreza/pobreza_informetecnico2013_1.pdf