Spanish Notaries with Pizarro, Inca Peru, 1532

Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro PeruSpanish Notaries with Pizarro, Inca Peru, 1532

Spanish notary Francisco Lopez de Jerez was secretary and notary for conquistador Francisco Pizarro and wrote the True Account of the Conquest of Peru, published in Seville, Spain in 1534.

It is the most influential account of the Pizarro expedition’s arrival in the central Andes Mountains of South America, and the capture of Atahualpa, the Inca ruler of a large and powerful civilization, at Cajamarca, northern Peru, on November 16, 1532.

Another Spanish notary, Pedro Sancho de la Hoz, wrote a Report on the Distribution of the Ransom of Atahualpa.

Notary Jerez was injured during the battle with the Incas but became wealthy from his share of the ransom received in exchange for the broken promise of freedom for Emperor Atahualpa.

Pizarro Expedition

The Pizarro Expedition left Panama for Peru in 1530, under a license from King Charles I.  Pizarro had accompanied Balboa and was mayor of Panama City.  In 1532, the expedition arrived at the ruins of Tumbes and learned of a civil war between armies of two royal brothers, Huascar and Atahualpa.  Atahualpa had destroyed Tumbes, and was about 200 miles to the southeast, with an army in the mountains.

Francisco Pizarro SignaturePizarro’s men were the first Europeans to climb into the Andes Mountains, following a well-built Inca road.  The Spanish force numbered 168, with 102 on foot and 62 on horseback.  Pizarro was age 54.

In front of the group was Captain Hernando de Soto, age 32, who later explored Florida and discovered the Mississippi River.

Four of the twelve notaries would later write eyewitness accounts of the expedition.  Pizarro came from a poor family and could not read or write.  (See signature)

On Friday, November 15, 1532, the force climbed over a mountain pass and saw the green valley of Cajamarca, at 9,000 feet.  Beyond was the camp of Atahualpa and the Inca army of 30,000 men.

Notary Miguel de Estete wrote, “So many tents were visible, it truly frightened us.  But it was not appropriate to show fear nor to turn back.  After thoroughly observing the town and the tents, we descended into the valley and entered the town of Cajamarca.”  The town appeared empty, most inhabitants were hiding or had fled.

Notary Francisco de Xerez wrote, “The town has 2,000 inhabitants.  The plaza is larger than any in Spain and enclosed by a wall.  The houses are more than 200 paces in length, very well made, surrounded by strong walls, 15 feet high.

Atahualpa Fourteenth Inca Brooklyn MuseumGold Ransom for Emperor Atahualpa

During the Battle of Cajamarca, Emperor Atahualpa was captured when invited into town for negotiations.  The armored Spanish soldiers emerged from hiding and attacked the Inca warriors with cannons, crossbows, swords and arquebus (musket) fire.  Many Incas were killed or ran away, in fear of the Spanish weapons and horses, which they had never seen before.

Because of his wealth and power, Atahualpa negotiated a fortune in gold and silver as a ransom for his release.   He would send messengers instructing his subjects to bring enough gold objects to fill his captivity room 22 feet long, 17 feet wide, and 8 feet high.  And, within several months, the adjacent room would also be filled twice with silver.  Much of the treasure would come from the capital hub in Cuzco, and it would take months to transport.

Atahualpa ransom room Cajamarca PeruPizarro ordered a notary to write up the terms of the ransom for Atahualpa.  Pizarro promised that once the ransom was received, the Inca leader would be released to Quito, where he could rule a kingdom in the north.  But, this was a lie.

Although the Spanish collected 7 tons of gold as ransom, they charged Atahualpa with various crimes, held a mock trial, and put him to death by strangulation on July 26, 1533.

The Inca Empire was vast, 3 times the size of Spain, and twice the population.  It included Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia.  Atahualpa commanded an army of 100,000 men and 10 million inhabitants.

Advance Party Arrives to Claim Cuzco

Pizarro sent three men, a Basque notary, and two sailors, south to Cuzco, a 600-mile journey.  Pizarro had been assured it held vast quantities of gold.  The orders to his men were to “take possession” of the city for Spain and to help speed the collection of gold and silver for Atahualpa’s ransom.

Inca Empire expansion mapThe men were the first Europeans to be carried in royal Inca litters in the Andes and to view and enter the Inca capital in May 1533.  On their journey, they witnessed blue-green glaciers, mountain villages in green valleys, huge herds of alpacas and llamas, and crossed deep gorges on hanging bridges.

After a month of travel, they arrived at Cuzco“This city is the greatest and finest that has ever been seen in this realm or even [elsewhere] in the Indies,” the Spaniards later wrote the King.  They were amazed at the precision of the interlocking carved stones used for buildings.

There were four palaces for lords, the best of them is the house of Huayna Capac, a former chief [the father of Atahualpa and Huascar].  There were many state-owned warehouses filled with food, goods, and supplies produced and gathered by millions of peasants across the empire, using a web of roads.  Accountants kept track of warehouse inventories.

As they had been instructed, the three Spaniards “took possession of that city of Cuzco in the name of His Majesty.” The Basque notary, Juan Zárate, dutifully drew up a document that he signed with a flourish and notarized with a seal, as puzzled natives no doubt watched over his shoulder. Neither the natives nor the two illiterate Spanish sailors who had accompanied him could read a word of what he had written.”

Pizarro arrived in Cuzco with an army of 500 soldiers on November 15, 1533, completing the military conquest of Peru.  European diseases, including smallpox, brought by explorers and conquistadors also devastated the native population, which had no immunity.

Notary as Professional Class Occupation

During colonization, there were three main classes of professional occupations in Spanish Peru:  churchmen, men with degrees in law or medicine, and notary-secretaries.  Notaries in Spanish society came from the families of artisans, small merchants and occasionally, petty hidalgos.  Most notaries came from Andalusia, Spain.

Notary Offices in Spanish Peru

The notary was a versatile workhorse of the Spanish government.   Notaries trained as an apprentice in the office of a notary public.  Many arrived in Peru in their mid to late teens.  Training was complete by age twenty, and the notary apprentice negotiated at royal court for the title of “His Majesty’s Notary“.

Then the notary set up an office in a specific city, either by purchase or political favor.  Many notary offices were passed on from father to son.  A successful notary office had one or two partners, and one to three apprentices.

Notary offices were clustered in the town plaza, near the city council office.  There were living quarters in the back of the office for the staff.  Even remote villages and small expeditions had one or two notaries.  At Cajamarca, there were twelve trained notaries.

Many notaries worked to build a successful practice in Peru, then sold it, and used the money to return to Spain and buy a notary office there.

Notary Records and Additional Occupations

Notaries were primarily experts in legal form and terminology and could draw up a power of attorney, testament, official command, ordinance or petition.  They recorded witness testimony, court transcripts, attorneys’ briefs and petitions, and made copies of documents.  The Spanish placed great importance on record keeping, and notary records provide an important account of major historic events and everyday life.

Notaries also served as town clerks, court clerks, deputy constables, treasurers, accountants, and ecclesiastic notaries.  Some notaries served as procuradors, or untitled lawyers, either assisting lawyers or competing with them.

Many were in prime position to observe important developments, were part of the courthouse crowd and were able to seize political opportunities.

Francisco Pizarro statue Lima PeruPizarro’s Death in Lima

Although Spanish explorers reached Peru in 1520, consecutive history of Spanish Peru began in 1532, with Pizarro’s conquering expedition.

After the conquest of the Incas, Francisco Pizarro served as Governor and Adelantado of Peru from 1532 until his assassination in Lima in 1541, by the son of Diego de Almagro, a former expedition partner.

Pizarro was stabbed in the throat while drawing his sword.  Before he died, he painted a cross on the floor with his blood and cried for Jesus Christ.  His coffin lies in Lima Cathedral.

Movie: Royal Hunt of the Sun

The 1969 adventure movie, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, filmed in Peru, stars Robert Shaw as Pizarro and Christopher Plummer as Atahualpa.  Leonard Whiting plays Pizarro’s notary.  I found it on YouTube along with video documentaries about Pizarro and the Incas.

Photo Credits

1. Francisco Pizarro, by Urituguasi no! [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Signature mark (“rubrica”) of Francisco Pizarro, written twice with his name written between them.  Public domain.
3. Inca Emperor Atahualpa, [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
4. Atahualpa Ransom Room, by Antonio Velasco (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
5. Inca Empire map, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
6. Pizarro Statue in Lima, Peru, by Manuel González Olaechea (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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[Last-Modified Date 2017-04-23] new image

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