How did the great Inca Empire in Peru fall in the 16th century?
When Francisco Pizarro arrived on the land of the Incas on May 13, 1532, Atahualpa had just won control over the Empire after five years of battle with his brother, Huáscar, for the throne. The Spaniards took advantage of the inexperience of the new emperor to take over the land. Atahualpa had anticipated Pizarro’s arrival and planned to meet with him in the town of Cajamarca. He planned to lure the Spaniards into a trap, seize their horses and best men for his army, and execute the rest. Unfortunately for him the Spaniards were trickier. They ambushed and captured Atahualpa. Pizzarro’s priests demanded Atahualpa to give up his Incan religion and covert to Christianity, and acknowledge the King of Spain as his ruler. When Atahualpa refused, Pizarro took him prisoner in exchange for gold. In 1533, the Spaniards executed him instead of releasing him like they promised.
In the film Guns, Germs, and Steel based on the book by Jared Diamond, we learned that before the arrival of the Spanish, the Incas lived an unsophisticated life with agricultural as their main focus. The only farm animals they had were llamas which did not help speed up the rate of crop planting and harvesting. The Incas were illiterate and naive. Having never seen white men on horses, they feared the Spaniards as gods. Without horses or much weaponry, the Incas were captured by the Spaniards without much bloodshed. The Spaniards had the best weapons and the largest armies. They had gun power, steep swords, which the Incas had never seen before. The Incas easily fell under the rule of the Spaniards.
The empire was also weakened by the diseases small pox and measles, which were introduced by the Spaniards during their conquest. The Native Americans did not have the vaccines or the immune system to fight the diseases. The diseases wiped out the majority of the native population.
The remaining of the Incas were captured as slaves. Overworked and ill, native workers died rapidly. Women were taken away from their infants, increasing infant death rates. Malnutrition and hunger also lowered resistance to disease.
As Pizarro and his people conquered the empire, they established Christianity as the one and only religion and forced the natives to convert to Christianity. It did not take long for the entire Inca Empire to fall under Christian influence.