Tuesday, August 28, 2012

By the Cathedral, Cuzco, 2012

MANCO INCA:  "If by chance they make you worship what they worship, which are some painted sheets... do not obey. Instead... when you cannot resist any longer, go through the motions when you are before them, but on the side don't forget our ceremonies. And if they tell you to destroy your huacas, and force you to do so, show them what you must and hide the rest - for that will give me great pleasure."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL, "Cuzco, part 10":  And so Manco, when he heard the news that his best general, Quizo Yupanqui had been killed and the forces routed, was probably looking toward Cuzco, 30 miles away, where Inca armies still maintained a blockade around fewer than 200 Spaniards, including two of Pizarro's brothers. Secure in Ollantaytambo, he must still have been looking toward Cuzco when the messenger arrived to tell him that Pizarro's partner, Almagro and his men, had just returned from chasing wild geese in Chile and were heading his way. And then came two more messengers, the first from Almagro seeking an alliance with Manco against Pizarro, and then one from Pizarro seeking an alliance against Almagro, and Manco had learned and rejected them both before the two Spanish armies clashed in Cuzco.

From the safety of Ollantaytambo, where he had already once defeated the Spanish cavalry by flooding the lowlands and ambushing their mired horses, Manco gathered an assembly of chiefs. A transcript of what he told them, by his son Tito Cusi exists. By then he was probably looking beyond Cuzco, as he sent them back to their villages and their farms, said he would be in touch, and hoped they would obey Tito Cusi.

And then Manco Inka, son of Inti, the sun, turned his back on Cuzco, his childhood home, inherited home of his ancestors, center of his empire now abdicated, turned his back on the ranges of snow capped peaks and fertile valleys and the subjects and gods that inhabited them.  

The hastily assembled, royal entourage included thousands attendants and guards and an elite contingent of Antis archers. There were pack-trains of llamas with provisions, porters carrying a succession of canopied litters in which rode Manco and his wives and concubines, and other nobility and the sacred mummified bodies of each of his ancestors back to his great grandfather, Pachacuti, founder of the empire. And the litters of each of the nobles and wives and mummies were accompanied by attendants whose job it was to fan the air and keep away flies.

And the caravan faced east toward the interior of the Amazon Jungle, to Antisuyo, land of the bow-wielding Antis, the one quarter of his empire where the Spanish would not follow, an unfamiliar place of thick and endless vegetation and vine-swinging monkeys, where, we are told, Manco conceived the basic principles of guerrilla warfare.  The year was 1537.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Polleria, Cuzco, 2012

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL, "Cuzco, part 9": So, three days after the start of the siege of Cuzco, after the Spanish had built rude ladders and mounted a secret, bloody, night-time assault on Saqsayhuayman, catching the Inca army asleep and successfully battling to the top of the highest terraces, there finally dislodging Manco's fighters from the strategic fortress, the siege of Cuzco attained a stalemate.  Manco withdrew himself to Ollantaytambo where defenses were even stronger than at Saqsayhuayman, commanding his generals to continue the assault on Cuzco, and he sent his best general, Quizo Yupanqui, to watch the valleys between Lima and Cuzco to intercept and destropy any reinforcements that might try to get through. 

Quizo understood that the only way to win against the Spanish was to trap them from above.  Three times Francisco Pizarro sent battalions to help in Cuzco, and three times they were demolished by boulders hurled from steep cliffs in carefully planned traps, crushing men, horses, armor and all, until there were no battalions for Pizarro to send. All might have yet gone well for the Incas had Manco not ordered Quizo to wipe out the tiny new settlement of Lima in the flatlands. In the surviving accounts, Quizo charged hard riding in a litter carried by soldiers at the head of his army, and he was one of the first to die.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Above Cuzco

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL, "Cuzco, part 8": Cuzco sits at 11,000 feet in a highland plain surrounded by mountains. If one controls the mountains, one can control all access to the plain and the city.   Manco's siege caught the Spanish divided with Francisco Pizarro and half the forces far away in Lima establishing a new city. Pizarro's brothers were in charge in Cuzco with diminished forces. Saqsayhuayman was not only important because of its proximity to the city, but because prevented the Spaniards in Cuzco from slipping a messenger through to Lima to call for reinforcements.

The Incas might control Cuzco today if it hadn't been their custom when sunset came to stop fighting. The year was 1536. Machiavelli had been dead just nine years in Europe.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Siege of Saqsayhuayman

Sancho de la Hoz (quoted from Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie):  
"On the side of Saqsayhuayman that is less steep are three walls, one above the other. The most beautiful thing that can be seen among the buildings of that land are these walls, because they are of stones so large that no one who sees them would say that they have been placed there by human hands, for they are as large as chunks of mountains, and they have a height of thirty palms [twenty-one feet) and a length of as many more. These walls twist in such a way that if they are bombarded with cannons it is impossible to do so from directly in front, but only obliquely.  The whole fortress was a warehouse of weapons, clubs, lances, bows, axes, shields, vests thickly padded with cotton, and other weapons of various sort gathered from every corner of the realm that was subject to the Inca lords."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL, "Cuzco," part 7:  The siege of Cuzco was directed from Saqsayhuaman, high above the burning city. Its strategic location was critical for the noose that Manco was drawing around the Spanish forces. As Manco's armies closed in on the city, they pushed the Spanish toward the plaza beneath Saqsayhuaman. From above Manco launched punishing raids down the hillside which gave his forces the advantage of height.

So long as Manco remained in control of Saqsayhuayman, the foreigners were doomed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Inca Stone No.2

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - "Cuzco," part 6: And it was in Cuzco in 1536, that Manco Inca, brother of Atahualpa, finally angered over the way he and his people were treated, turned the tables on Pizarro by secretly gathering an army of warriors from throughout his kingdom and converging his regiments in a four way clamp onto Cuzco where the Spanish numbered fewer than 170 plus black slaves. There, through the sheer force of numbers, Manco's infantry with slings and arrows and bolos, and yipping and howling and blowing loudly on conch shells, bottled up the Spanish cavalry, attacking in tight areas where horses and their armor were cumbersome, until the whole of the Spanish force that had ruled Cuzco, grazing on its treasures and on the wives and courtesans of Inca noblemen whose best houses they had claimed as their own; were confined into two smokey, stone buildings on the edge of the plaza, while the Incas burned Cuzco,  their own capital, a city of stone walls and thatched roofs.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Inca Stone No.1

Kim MacQuarrie (from The Last of the Incas): The capital of the New World's greatest empire was a clean, well-engineered, and obviously well-organized place. If the hallmark of civilization is the intensification of production of food and other goods and the corresponding increase of population and the stratification of society, then nowhere was this more apparent than in Cuzco, which in the Inca's language means navel. It was in this very valley - where the four suyus met and formed their epicenter that the Incas had begun their rise to power. . Now the rest of the empire was connected to it via a webwork of umbilical-like roads - roads that, all combined, stretched for more than 25,000 miles from the Inca capital to the farthest frontiers.

Here in the polyglot navel, the ruling emperor normally lived, and also the lesser lords. It was here, too, that even chiefs from distant provinces had their homes. A sort of gated community for the elites, Cuzco was the royal hub of the empire, a city that was purposely meant to display the ostentation of state power. To serve the elites, peasants - the workhorses of the empire from which all the nation's power derived - visited the capital daily and kept it supplied with every conceivable kind of product the elites might require. Everywhere the Spaniards traded in the city, in fact, they found warehouses stuffed to the ceiling with goods that millions of industrious citizens were constantly churning out, and that were then collected, tabulated by an army of accountants, and stored in massive, state-owned warehouses.

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - "Cuzco," Part 5: Much of the gold flowed out of Cuzco, to fill the room at Cajamarca, and the treasures were melted into ingots and shared among the victors and sent in boatloads to the King in Spain - 8 tons in 4 months. ...and after four months when the ransom was paid, Atahualpa saw that the Spaniards were still not leaving, and he began to gather his commanders. When the Conquistadors saw he was of no further use, they took him to the central plaza. There, they tied him to a stake, and threatened to burn him if he did not accept their god. He agreed, whether he understood or not, and they garroted him. Then they burned his body anyway and left the remains for the people to see, and Pizarro installed Atahualpa's seventeen-year-old brother and rival, Manco Inca, as new puppet king, and the year was 1533.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cuzco Morning

PEDRO PIZARRO (as quoted in The Last of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie) remembering how Atahualpa was waited upon by beautiful women, his concubines: "The ladies.... brought him his meal on delicate, green rushes.... They placed all the dishes of gold, silver, and earthenware [on these rushes] and he pointed at whatever appealed to him. It was brought over, one of the ladies taking it and holding it in her hand while he ate. One day, while I was present and he was eating in this manner, a slice of food was being lifted to his mouth when a drop fell onto the clothing he was wearing.  Giving his hand to the Indian lady, he rose and went to his chamber to change his clothes, then returned wearing a tunic and a dark brown cloak. I approached him and felt the cloak, which was softer than silk, and said to him, "Inca, what is the robe made of that it is so soft?" He replied that it was from the skins of vampire bats that fly by night in the Puerto Viejo and Tumbez and that bite the natives. When asked how it had been possible to collect so many bats, Atahualpa paused and said that it was done by, 'those [native] dogs from Tumbez and Puerto Viejo - what else did they have to do other than catch bats and make clothes for my father.'

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - "Cuzco," part 4:  From Cuzco, Atahualpa ruled as a puppet Inca. He ordered the silver and golden treasures of the empire to be brought for his ransom while he grew chummy playing chess with the Pizarro clan, as the jewelry and dinnerware of the ruling families and the sacred encrustations of the holiest of shrines were gathered up and brought to the room in the Temple of the Sun in Cajamarca that Atahualpa had marked with a chalk line to indicate how much gold and silver was needed to ransom an Inca.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cuzco Fruit Seller

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - "Cuzco," Part 3:  It was to Cuzco in 1532 that Pizarro and a small band of Conquistadors, the only Europeans in South America at the time, took the captured Emperor Atahualpa, Pachacuti's great grandson, after they lured him and 30,000 of his best troops to a meeting in the plaza of Cajamarca, then incited a panic by discharging three hidden canons (devices unknown to Atahaulpa's people) while unleashing a cavalry (horses and riders were similarly unknown) of 100 armored lancers and men firing harquebuses (ditto) into the crowd, filling the plaza with smoke and capturing Atahualpa while slaughtering vast numbers of Incas and paralyzing the empire.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

La Catedral, Cuzco, begun, 1559

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Twenty years after Pachacuti's death Columbus would set foot on an island he would call, "Hispanola." It took another 34 years for Pizarro to reach Pachacuti's empiire ruled by Pachacuti's grandson, Huayna Capac. The year was 1526, the emperor was young, his empire was thriving. Three years later when Pizarro returned to begin the process of claiming Huayna Capac's land and subjects for Spain, he found Huayna Capac dead, killed by smallpox, a disease unknown here before Columbus. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cuzco Morning, 2012

Thucydides: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: He called himself, "Pachacuti," earthshaker.  He was the ninth Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco, and the founder of an empire. He called his new empire, "Tawantunsuyo,"  the four parts united., and he divided Tawantunsuyo into four regions, Chinchaysuyo, Collasuyo, Cuntisuyo and Antisuyo and where the four regions met was his capital, Cuzco. He laid out highways to the expanding corners of his growing nation and established a system of administration. They tell us he sought control not plunder - a productive nation profits all. To those who submitted he brought peace and trade. Those who resisted he destroyed.  He enforced the peace and levied taxes in labor. He and his son, Topac Inca, and his grandson Huayna Capac enlarged Tawantunsuyu until it spread from the great ocean in the west up over the Andes 20,000 foot peaks and down into the Amazon jungle in the east, and it stretched from the middle of present day Chile in the south into Columbia in the north; it was the nation that Pizarro would name, "Inca," and Cuzco was its center.

Some historians think the place we call, "Machu Picchu," was built for Pachacuti.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Inca Night

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL ("Why Here?" concluded):   Final whispers.... one more "sandcastle" shot, this one in the shadowed hush after the sun has passed beyond the ruins, the tourists have nearly all gone home, and the empty city sleeps. My camera is helpless before my obsession. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


JAMES TYBERONN: "The 'double vortex' is two concentric energy rings that act as templates for the both the magnetic and electrical vortexes around Machu Picchu. In this concentric circular template an outer energetic ring of clockwise motion draws energy into the perimeter of Machu Picchu. This magnetic vortex has a diameter of approximately 7-10 kilometers. The inner electrical vortex has a diameter of approximately 2 kilometers. It circulates counter-clockwise and is fed by an outpouring of vertical columns of light from locations within the inner circle. The opposite directions of clockwise magnetic (inward) and counter-clockwise electric (outward) telluric flows are unique."

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL ("Why Here?" part 17):  Why here? Looking for the Incas behind Machu Picchu is nibbling at the precipice beside a cloud forest of science, pseudo-science and prehistory. The more we stare into the empty mist the more fantastic the shifting, shadowy shapes become, but the city is innocent of all that.  Is that the final truth of Machu Picchu?  I rub my eyes from staring too fixedly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Parapet View

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL ("Why Here?" part 16): What led the Inca's to one of the most inaccessible places on the planet?  One answer is that it's hard to imagine them not coming here. Their science had calculated the position of the equator, their spiritual life followed the rhythms of the sun and moon. One goes to the highest spot, the top of the mountain to learn more about such things. 

When they first came here, did they already understand the profound connections that bind parts to the whole, the interconnectedness of all things, of all planes of being; or did they gain that knowledge by coming here? Had they already precisely regulated their farming to astronomical events? Had they already developed the systems of conservation that regularly produced surplus goods, the terraced farming methods that made idle land productive, the ingenious systems of irrigation? Where did they learn those tricks for accurately dividing stones and for seamlessly binding them into interlocking walls that resist the shaking of the earth? Where did the principles of their intricate statecraft come from that set the relationship of the individual to the community and the community to the divine monarch? Were the roots of the state only in the evolution of familial and tribal institutions, or were some of them learned here first? 

Of course people have always, gone to the mountaintops to receive "truth." What is to be learned there? The higher we keep going, the lonelier we seem. Did the Incas feel that too? They went to mountaintops to tether the sun to keep it from abandoning them. There's also power, energy that many of us feel there, whatever its source. What do we take from that energy? What wisdom can we learn there to take back home?

Sunday, August 5, 2012


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL ("Why Here?" part 15): Photographing at Machu Picchu was not what I expected it would be. I went there for the sandcastle magic that had thrilled me the first time I saw a postcard picture of the city. The reality of the place was much different. One can't help but be awed by the grandeur of the valley and the mountains and the architecture, but it's more than the immensity. Immensity made tangible? It's like no other heights I've stood upon. I lack the words and struggle to capture it in images. 

It was hard to imagine people living here in the cold stone huts, hard to imagine the walls hung with Inca rugs, mats on the floor, hard to imagine living beings inhabiting there, no matter how much I felt the Inca presence.

Also, I hadn't anticipated the shutter-triggering frisson and energy from the clash of careful Inca stonework against the raw, mountain monoliths arrayed everywhere as far as I could see.

Best of all, however, was the light show as the sun set. It was a short window of light while I was there, but it was enough to know that Machu Picchu is a funhouse of light for photographers, and I want to go back.