Mama Chira (or How to Negotiate with an Emperor)

Helen Pugh
7 min readMay 30, 2022

A long time ago, in the 1400s in fact, in a land we now call Peru, the leader of Cusco began to conquer other Indigenous groups in the vicinity. Little by little the Inca Empire was created and with it, the leader of Cusco became a mighty emperor. The meaning behind his name, Pachakutik (pa cha COO teeq), reflected his power: The Earth Shaker. This mighty leader had a mighty principal wife too- Anawarki (or Anahuarque).

When Pachakutik set his eyes on the Ica Valley (marked with a star on the map above), he marched 40,000 of his warriors south out of Cusco. As always when he set out to conquer a land, Anawarki was left behind in Cusco to act as regent over the entire empire.

Upon arrival, they encountered an arid, desert-like land near the sea. Although the coastal waters provided lots of salty water, there was hardly any fresh water around. Dry, swelteringly sunny and with huge sand dunes, it wasn’t exactly the most welcoming or desirable region.

Yet the Incas still wanted to win control of the area for some reason. In fact, Pachakutik was interested in expanding his lands in all directions. Ica was next on his list, despite being an incredible 470 miles to the west of Cusco. That gives you an idea of how vast Pachakutik’s empire was becoming.

Now the Incas had a clever way of conquering places. Instead of automatically starting a fight, they would turn up with a huge number of soldiers and say to the people there, “Hey! Look how many warriors we have. We could easily beat you if we had a battle. But, your men don’t want to die and ours don’t either. As rulers, it would be a waste of labour to allow men to die needlessly. Just surrender now and we can get on with conquering your land and your local leaders will even get to keep some of their power. How does that sound?”

Sometimes the local people would say no, that they wanted to try and maintain their impendence, hence a battle would have to happen in which the locals could be victorious or the Incas would win and punish the uprising. The Ica Valley folk weighed everything up and decided the best option for them was to draw up a surrender agreement with Pachakutik. Whilst the negotiations were taking place, the emperor stayed with an old lady who lived in the Ica village of Tate. (In the…

Helen Pugh

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