Spanish invaders destroyed the system that maintained the empire and its road. They imposed a new religion and tried to erase traditions. They imported plants and animals that altered the environment. Within 100 years, nearly 80 percent of the Native population died of European diseases.
The Spanish admired the Qhapaq Ñan, but soon many of its roads were abandoned, destroyed, or transformed. Heavy-footed horses and wheeled carts damaged roads built for foot traffic and llamas. Maintenance declined. Erosion took its toll.
The road over the mountains is a thing worth seeing.... [S]uch beautiful roads could not in truth be found throughout Christendom.
Pillaging the Sacred Mountains
Spanish explorers were driven by a thirst for gold and silver. The mountains of Tawantinsuyu were rich with mines, which soon became Spain’s principal source of wealth.
The Spanish manipulated the mit’a system, compelling indigenous people to provide labor. Unlike the Inka, the Spanish gave nothing in return. Many people died working these dangerous mines.
If I were to recount all the different varieties of golden objects, my story would never end.
Silver from Potosí
The Potosí silver mine was a sacred site for the Inka. Later, it became the chief supplier of silver to Spain. The dangers of the site have earned it the name "the mountain that eats men."Close
Mercury from Huancavelica
The Spanish established a mercury mine at Huancavelica. Mercury was used to extract silver from ore. Mining here was extremely dangerous, and the death rate was high.Close
Gold from Copiapó
The Copiapó region was a source of gold for the Inka Empire. Under Spanish control, its mines were exploited for ever-increasing amounts of gold and copper.Close