PIZARRO, FRANCISCO, Marqués, Conquistador of Peru. Document signed ("El Marques Pizarro," with neat rubric signature), ALSO SIGNED BY FRAY VICENTE DE VALVERDE, FIRST BISHOP OF CUZCO ("Fr[atrus] Ep[i]sco[pus] Cosconensis," with rubric), Cuzco, [Peru], 14 April 1539.
2 pages, folio, 315 x 210 mm. (12½ x 8¼ in.), written in a typical court hand in dark blue ink on verso of a petition submitted to Pizarro by Pedro del Barco, integral blank with contemporary docket on verso, very minor spotting and very light dampstains to margins, a minor ink stain on integral blank, otherwise in fine condition.
THE CONQUERERS OF THE INCA: FRANCISCO PIZARRO AND BISHOP VALVERDE ANSWER A CONQUISTADOR SEEKING TO PROTECT HIS RIGHT TO TRIBUTE FROM THE NATIVES
An extremely important early document, dated a scant eight years after Pizarro (1478?-1541) and his band of 180 conquistadores began the epic conquest of the Inca empire and only two years before the death of both Valverde (at the hands of Indians) and Pizarro (assassinated by followers of his chief rival, Diego de Almagro). Apparently unpublished, it sheds new light on Pizarro's administration of the vast lands seized in the name of the Spanish crown from the Incas. The document is the response of Pizarro and Valverd, couched in careful diplomatic terms, to a petition from del Barco (an early conquistador and a founder of Cuzco), requesting that they refrain from interference with the large encomienda or repartimiento granted to him. The document carries the dual weight of temporal and ecclesiastical authority, for it bears the imposing and very rare rubric signature of Pizarro as Marquis (his highest rank, a title which he received only three months before), as well as the rubric signature of Bishop Valverde, the Catholic Church's foremost representative in Peru and a man who played a prominent role in both the capture and later the execution of Atahualpa, the last Inca king.
The recipient, Pedro del Barco, a highly respected captain, was apparently from the same Spanish province, Extremadura, as Pizarro himself. In the petition, he styles himself "one of the first conquistadores and settlers of this city." Del Barco was one of the 80 signatories of the founding charter of Cuzco (on 23 March 1534) and was also one of eight men named by Pizarro to the first municipal council. As a reward for his services, del Barco had been granted a sizeable encomienda or repartimiento. This gave him the right to the tribute and labor of all the native inhabitants within its boundaries (and made him nominally responsible for their protection and religious welfare). While an encomienda did not confer ownership of the land itself, these grants, if exploited ruthlessly, were extremely profitable. Some embraced territories as large as several thousand square miles (cf. J. Lockhart, Spanish Peru, 1532-1560: a Social History, 1994, chapter II).
Valverde (1501?-1541), probably the best-educated individual in Pizarro's circle, joined the Dominican order in 1524 and accompanied Pizarro to the New World in 1530. The chief ecclesiastic in Peru, Valverde "understood the total implications of the Spanish presence in Peru better than any other member of the expedition," and "was regularly a part of Pizarro's high council...whether the matter was the founding of a city or the execution of the Inca emperor" (J. Lockhart, Men of Cajamarca, 1972, pp. 202-203). Valverde--often depicted at Pizarro's side in the early engravings of the Conquest--is best remembered for his key role in the fateful confrontation with Atahualpa in the great square in Cajamarca on 16 November 1532. Surrounded by a throng of mostly unarmed high Inca lords and nobles, Pizarro's band confronted Atahualpa, seated on a litter. Valverde approached him and exhorted the Inca to embrace Christianity. But when he handed Atahualpa a breviary, the king flung it aside. The Inca King's sacrilegious defiance touched off the slaughter of some six or seven thousand Incas and led to the capture of Atahualpa himself. Eight months later, although Atahualpa had raised a ransom of over $100 million in gold and silver, he was tried and sentenced to death under a warrant issued by Pizarro's and Valverde's authority. After the founding of Cuzco, Valverde returned to Spain, was named first Bishop of Cuzco by Pope Paul III and for the Council of the Indies was instructed "to investigate and report on all aspects of Peruvian life and government, including such delicate subjects as the distribution of encomiendas..." (Lockhart, Cajamarca, p. 203). On his return to Peru in April 1538, Valverde vigorously asserted the Church's privileges and opposed the enslavement and forced servitude of the Inca natives. He urged that the vast kingdom of Peru be subdivided into sections which "anticipated the modern boundaries of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador" (ibid., p. 204). But on the key issue of the ownership of lands, Valverde "accepted as given the encomienda system" by which early members of the conquistadores were rewarded for their military service.
In his plea, Del Barco petitions Pizarro and the Bishop to delay a reform in the distribution of repartimientos and calls for official visits to the encomiendas before any reforms are ordered. Reforms made without such visits, he insists, would be disadvantageous to the conquistadores. Pizarro and Valverde reply: "And after all the above [del Barco's petition]...the Bishop and the Governor...say that the accusation that they conspired in not making an investigative visit to the region as required by the King [Charles V] before making the general grants of repartimientos of Indians...is not germane. The fact is that he [del Barco] is one of the conquistadores who possesses the excessively large repartimientos which his Majesty has told us to regulate. As we see it, [our task is] to equalize and reform his [repartimiento], which at present he possesses according to and by the King's will...and to make such investigations and visits...so that...one may reward each [conquistador] according to his services to the crown...as merited." It is the King's will, as del Barco says, that the Governor and Bishop reward the conquistadores, and so, in this instance, "Pedro del Barco can continue holding his repartimiento," especially as an example to others, who "will see him as one who was rewarded well for his service and hold him in respect." They conclude with a formula: "And this is what they [Pizarro and Valverde] said...not setting aside their objections to or with any of [del Barco's] testimony. This is their reply before the witnesses, Ilán Suárez de Carvajal [Royal factor or agent], Gabriel de Rojas [a captain and co-signer of the Cuzco charter] and Cristóbal Beltrán, citizens and visitors in the said city of Cuzco."
As Lockhart notes, "Pizarro in his whole life never learned to sign his name, but by the early 1520's he began to make a rubric, and all known documents issued by him until his death contain that rubric..." (Lockhart, Cajamarca, p. 72). Documents bearing Pizarro's signature are extremely rare on the market; apart from the present, only two others have appeared at auction in this century: a 1536 power of attorney signed by Pizarro as witness (Christie's, New York, 18 May 1984, lot 51, $12,000) and a 1539 power of attorney granted by Pizarro (offered in 1952, 1969, and lastly at Sotheby Parke Bernet, 25 May 1983, lot 49). No other document bearing the joint signatures of Pizarro and Valverde--the preeminent temporal and ecclesiastical figures in the conquest of the Inca empire--has ever been offered at auction.