Pizarro, in contrast to Cortes, was uneducated and poor when he joined the army and found his way to the Caribbean Islands in 1502. He had heard stories about the Inca kingdom as a land of silver and gold (El-dor-ado). He made repeated attempts to reach it from the Pacific. On one of his journeys back home, he was able to meet the Spanish king and show him beautifully designed gold jars of Inca workmanship. The king’s greed was aroused, and he promised Pizarro the governorship of the Inca lands if he conquered it. Pizarro planned to follow Cortes’ method, but was disconcerted to find that the situation in the Inca empire was different.
In 1532, Atahualpa secured the throne of the Inca empire after a civil war. Pizarro arrived on the scene and captured the king after setting a trap for him. The king offered a roomful of gold as ransom for his release – the most extravagant ransom recorded in history – but Pizarro did not honour his promise. He had the king executed, and his followers went on a looting spree. This was followed by the occupation of the country. The cruelty of the conquerors provoked an uprising in 1534 that continued for two years, during which time thousands died in war and due to epidemics. In another five years, the Spanish had located the vast silver mines in Potosi (in Upper Peru, modern Bolivia) and to work these they made the Inca people into slaves.