Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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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.