Conclusions: There exists important religious, leadership, and colonial similarities and differences between Incan and Spanish social hierarchies, which show how leaders play important roles in civilizations and provide evidence that confirms our hypothesis such as the struggle of conquest that both civilizations faced.
A Quechua standing along the fabric and the clothes his family makes to subsist (photo credit: Maria Emilia Andrade)
We confirm our hypothesis because the similarities and differences between the Inca and Spanish Empires are related, as both monarchies were sustained by religion since the Sapa Inca in Peru was believed to be descendant from God (Cartwright, 2016, para. 5), and the Catholic Monarchs in Spain also believed they were appointed by God to rule the people (Williamson, 2009, p.63). We also hypothesized that both civilizations had colonist aspirations since they wanted to conquer land and consolidate their Empires. Spain went through centuries of Inquisition and Reconquista before initiating colonization. The Moorish Caliphate and the Catholic kingdoms, such as France and Italy, were both strong civilizations fighting for power over the Iberian Peninsula.
The Reconquista or the period of war and struggle of the Iberian people when regaining territory from the Moors (photo credit: Valdoria)
The Reconquista was the period of war and struggle between 722 and 1492 in which the Iberian people retook lands that had been colonized by the Moors. Throughout these centuries, the Muslim Caliphate, an Islamic kingdom led by a religious representative of Islam, fractured (Williamson, 2009, p.56). The Reconquista took a deeply religious tone through the rule of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Once the Catholic monarchs succeeded in reconquering most of the peninsula, they established the Spanish Inquisition to persecute all who did not convert to Catholicism (Williamson, 2009, p.63). In contrast, the Incas did not fight other civilizations over religion. Instead, they conquered weaker civilizations, making them victors who imposed their religion.
The Spanish Inquisition and the persecution of the people who did not convert into Catholic. (photo credit: Groupsixty)
Our research demonstrates that the Incas and the Spaniards had similarities in their social hierarchies. The Incas had three main classes. At the top were the Incas, or nobles, led by the Sapa Inca, the ruler of the Incan civilization. The equivalent of the Sapa Inca in Spain was the King. Below the Incas were the Quechuas or working class, who worked in communities and traded goods (Inca society, n.d, para. 2); they were mostly farmers and craftsmen. The Spanish middle class also consisted of farmers and craftsmen. Finally, at the bottom were the Yanakunas, or lower class, who were usually prisoners of war and had to pay taxes or perform labor duties (Inca society, n.d para. 2). In Spain, the lower class consisted of peasants who worked land.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (photo credit: Sir Gawain)
The Incas conquered other empires in Latin America, including the Quitucaras of Ecuador (Bernabe, 2012, p.79) using warfare and mitimaes, a method used to assimilate conquered people into Incan culture (Bernabe, 1982 p.189). Like the Incas, the Spanish were no strangers to conquest since they had fought for the Iberian Peninsula and, “had deeply marked . . . Iberian peoples” (Williamson, 2009, p.55). Furthermore, both the Incas and the Spanish were ruthless civilizations with strong armies that desired conquest.
Incan religion portrayed through the house of a Quechua in Ollantaytambo (photo credit: Elisa Jimenez)
In Spain, commoners could become noblemen through conquest, which granted them land as well as rights. During the reconquista, the territorial expansion was headed by warriors who in turn were lead by caudillos, who became wealthy and gained social status from military enterprises against the Muslims (Williamson, 2009, p.56). Another way to rise in society was to populate the dry, arid lands of southern Spain, granted as latifundia or estates. Muslim peasants who continued to live on this land had to pay tribute to the crown. Christian peasants who needed military protection would pay for protection through labor (Williamson, 2009, p.56).
The crucification of Jesus in Cusco (photo credit: Elisa Jimenez)
Christianity played an important role for the Spanish society as the Church had power over the people, using it to control Spanish society through a system of patronage. Catholic clerics created a theory of absolutism, “which exalted the king’s God-given authority above the rights of the nobles and other states of the realm” (Williamson, 2009, p. 59). Furthermore, monarchs provided lands and honors to nobles and controlled most of the church's finances. For example, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had the right to appoint ecclesiastical offices in their territories, allowing them to impose Christianity on a diverse population, “religion, then, was to become the vital binding force” (Williamson, 2009, p. 62). Furthermore, the practice of Spanish monarchs appointing Church officials demonstrates their involvement in religious affairs. In conclusion both the Spanish and the Incas used religion to become more powerful since the higher positions in society were directly related with religion.
Finding similarities and differences between the Incas and Spaniards helped us further understand that most civilizations organize themselves around a leader and social classes. Leaders “motivate us to go places that we would never otherwise go. They are needed both to change organizations and to produce results” (Maccoby, 2004, para. 1). Leaders help people stay together through adverse times leading their communities to success. As a result, both civilizations had a supreme leader that gave prosperity to the empire and religion was an important influence.
A Quechua women in her home tinting wool to make fabrics (photo credit: Camila Baraya)
The encounter of the Spanish and Incan civilizations played a fundamental role in the cultural and socioeconomic history of the region. From the hybridization of these two civilizations came the mestizo culture. Many of the traditions remain after the colonization in America as a heritage of that merger. In conclusion, the fact that the Spanish and the Incan Empire had important similarities in their social structure provides insight into why and how the Spanish conquered the region.
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Jimenez, E. (2017). The Quechua children in Ollantaytambo portray the Incan middle class. [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self- Published
Jimenez, E. (2017). Incan religion portrayed through the house of a Quechua in Ollantaytambo. [Cell Phone Photograph]. Self- Published.
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