Vasco Núñez de Balboa

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Vasco Núñez de Balboa
Retrato de Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1517) - Anonimo.jpg
Bornc. 1475
DiedJanuary 1519 (aged c. 43–44)
Cause of death Execution by decapitation
NationalityCastilian
Occupation Maritime explorer for the Crown of Castile
Spouse(s) María de Peñalosa

Vasco Núñez de Balboa (Spanish pronunciation:  [ˈbasko ˈnuɲeθ ðe βalˈβo.a] ; c. 1475 around January 12–21, 1519) [1] was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, governor may be the title of a politician who governs a constituent state and may be either appointed or elected. The power of the individual governor can vary dramatically between political systems, with some governors having only nominal or largely ceremonial power, while others having a complete control over the entire government.

<i>Conquistador</i> soldiers, explorers, and adventurers primarily at the service of the Spanish Empire, and also to the Portuguese Empire

Conquistadors were the knights, soldiers and explorers of the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire. During the Age of Discovery, conquistadors sailed beyond Europe to the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia, conquering territory and opening trade routes. They colonized much of the world for Spain and Portugal in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Isthmus of Panama Narrow landstrip in Panama

The Isthmus of Panama, also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal. Like many isthmuses, it is a location of great strategic value.

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He traveled to the New World in 1500 and, after some exploration, settled on the island of Hispaniola. He founded the settlement of Santa María la Antigua del Darién in present-day Colombia in 1510, which was the first permanent European settlement on the mainland of the Americas (a settlement by Alonso de Ojeda the previous year at San Sebastián de Urabá had already been abandoned).

New World Collectively, the Americas and Oceania

The New World is one of the names used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas, and Oceania.

Hispaniola Caribbean island divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most populous and second-largest island in the West Indies.

Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean archipelago known as the Greater Antilles. It is the most populous island in the West Indies and the region's second largest after Cuba.

Santa María la Antigua del Darién Former Spanish settlement in Colombia

Santa María la Antigua del Darién, formerly also known as Dariena, was a Spanish colonial town founded in 1510 by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, located in present-day Colombia approximately 40 miles (64 km) south of Acandí, within the municipality of Unguía in the Chocó Department. It was the first city founded by conquistadors in mainland America. After Pascual de Andagoya, a Spanish-Basque conquistador under the direction of Panama governor Pedrarias Dávila, founded Panama City in 1519, Santa María la Antigua del Darién was abandoned and in 1524 was attacked and burned by the indigenous people.

Early life

Balboa was born in Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain. He was a descendant of the Lord mason of the castle of Balboa, on the borders of León and Galicia. His mother was the Lady de Badajoz, and his father was the hidalgo (nobleman), Nuño Arias de Balboa. Little is known of Vasco's early childhood except that he was the third of four boys in his family. During his adolescence, he served as a page and squire to Don Pedro de Portocarrero, lord of Moguer.

Jerez de los Caballeros Town in Extremadura, Spain

Jerez de los Caballeros is a town of south-western Spain, in the province of Badajoz. It is located on two hills overlooking the River Ardila, a tributary of the Guadiana, 12 miles east of the Portuguese border. The old town is surrounded by a Moorish wall with six gates. The newer portion is well built, and has numerous orange and other fruit trees. Its main industry is in agricultural production, especially in ham and bacon from herds of swine which are reared in the surrounding oak forests. The town is said to have been founded by Alfonso IX of Leon in 1229; in 1232 it was extended by his son Ferdinand III the Saint, who gave it to the Knights Templar. Hence the name Jerez de los Caballeros, Jerez of the Knights.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a European country located in Southwestern Europe with some pockets of Spanish territory across the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic Ocean. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Balboa, León Place in Castile and León, Spain

Balboa is a village and municipality located in the region of El Bierzo.

Early career

In 1500, motivated by his master after the news of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the New World became known, he decided to embark on his first voyage to the Americas, along with Juan de la Cosa, on Rodrigo de Bastidas' expedition. Bastidas had a license to bring back treasure for the king and queen, while keeping four-fifths for himself, under a policy known as the quinto real, or "royal fifth". [ citation needed ] In 1501, he crossed the Caribbean coasts from the east of Panama, along the Colombian coast, through the Gulf of Urabá toward Cabo de la Vela. The expedition continued to explore the north east of South America, until they realized they did not have enough men and sailed to Hispaniola.

Christopher Columbus Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonist who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon. He led the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, initiating the permanent European colonization of the Americas. Columbus discovered a viable sailing route to the Americas, a continent that was then unknown to the Old World. While what he thought he had discovered was a route to the Far East, he is credited with the opening of the Americas for conquest and settlement by Europeans.

Americas Landmass comprising North America, Central America and South America

The Americas comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.

Juan de la Cosa Spanish navigator

Juan de la Cosa was a Castilian navigator and cartographer, known for designing the earliest European world map that incorporated the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century. De la Cosa played an important role in the first and second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the West Indies, since he was the owner and captain of the Santa María.

With his share of the earnings from this campaign, Balboa settled in Hispaniola in 1505, where he resided for several years as a planter and pig farmer. He was not successful in this enterprise, however, and ended up in debt. Finally, he was forced to abandon life on the island.

In 1508, the king of Spain, Ferdinand II "The Catholic", launched the conquest of Tierra Firme (the area roughly corresponding to the Isthmus of Panama). He created two new territories in the region between El Cabo de la Vela (near the eastern border of Colombia) and El Cabo de Gracias a Dios (the border between Honduras and Nicaragua). The Gulf of Urabá became the border between the two territories: Nueva Andalucía to the east, governed by Alonso de Ojeda, and Veragua to the west, governed by Diego de Nicuesa.

Province of Tierra Firme

During Spain's New World Empire, its mainland coastal possessions surrounding the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico were referred to collectively as the Spanish Main. The southern portion of these coastal possessions were known as the Province of Tierra Firme, or the "Mainland province". The Province of Tierra Firme, or simply Tierra Firme, was also called Costa Firme.

Cabo de la Vela cape

Cabo de la Vela is a headland in the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia with an adjacent small fishing village. It is a popular ecotourism destination of the Caribbean Region of Colombia

Honduras republic in Central America

Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Fonseca, and to the north by the Gulf of Honduras, a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea.

In 1509, wishing to escape his creditors in Santo Domingo, Balboa set sail as a stowaway, hiding inside a barrel together with his dog Leoncico, [2] in the expedition commanded by the Alcalde Mayor [3] of Nueva Andalucía, Martín Fernández de Enciso, whose mission it was to aid Alonso de Ojeda, his superior.

Santo Domingo City in National District, Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo, officially Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic and the largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean by population. In 2010, its population was counted as 965,040, rising to 2,908,607 when its surrounding metropolitan area was included. The city is coterminous with the boundaries of the Distrito Nacional, itself bordered on three sides by Santo Domingo Province.

Stowaway One who transports oneself surrepticiously

A stowaway is a person who secretly boards a vehicle, such as a ship, an aircraft, a train, cargo truck or bus, in order to travel without paying and without being detected.

Martín Fernández de Enciso was a navigator and geographer from Seville, Spain. He was instrumental in colonising the Isthmus of Darien. Fernandez de Enciso founded a village near the Cabo de la Vela with the name Nuestra Señora Santa María de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela, the first settlement in the Guajira Peninsula. Due to constant attacks from the indigenous and pirates the village was moved to present-day Riohacha in 1544. His Suma de Geografia que trata de todas las partidas e provincias del mundo, published in 1519 in Seville, was the first account in the Spanish language of the discoveries of the New World. Among other things, this document contains one of the first western descriptions of the avocado.

Ojeda, together with seventy men, had founded the settlement of San Sebastián de Urabá in Nueva Andalucía, on the location where the city of Cartagena de Indias would later be built. However, the settlers encountered resistance from natives living in the area, who used poisoned weapons, and Ojeda was injured in the leg. A short time later, Ojeda sailed for Hispaniola, leaving the colony under the supervision of Francisco Pizarro, who, at that time, was only a soldier waiting for Enciso's expedition to arrive. Ojeda asked Pizarro to leave some men in the settlement for fifty days and, if no help arrived at the end of that time, to use all possible means to get back to Hispaniola.

Before the expedition arrived at San Sebastián de Urabá, Fernández de Enciso discovered Balboa aboard the ship, and threatened to leave him at the first uninhabited island they encountered; he later thought better of this and decided that Balboa's knowledge of that region, which he had explored eight years before, would be of great utility. This, in addition to the crew's pleas for his life, left Fernández de Enciso with no choice but to spare Balboa and keep him aboard. Moreover, both agreed on removing Nicuesa as governor of Veragua.

After the fifty days had passed, Pizarro started preparations for the return to Hispaniola, when Enciso's ship arrived. Balboa had gained popularity among the crew because of his charisma and his knowledge of the region. By contrast Fernández de Enciso was not well liked by the men: many disapproved of his order to return to San Sebastián, especially after discovering, once they had arrived, that the settlement had been completely destroyed and that the natives were already waiting for them, leading to a series of relentless attacks.

The founding of Santa María

Tierra Firme 1513 - Castilla de Oro Indias 1513.PNG
Tierra Firme 1513 - Castilla de Oro

Balboa suggested that the settlement of San Sebastián be moved to the region of Darién, to the west of the Gulf of Urabá, where the soil was more fertile and the natives presented less resistance. Fernández de Enciso gave serious consideration to this suggestion, and the regiment later went to Darién, where the native cacique (chieftain) Cémaco had 500 warriors waiting, ready for battle. The Spanish, fearful of the large number of enemy combatants, made a vow to the Virgen de la Antigua, venerated in Seville, that they would name a settlement in the region after her should they prevail. It was a difficult battle for both sides, but, by a stroke of luck, the Spanish came out victorious.

Cémaco, together with his warriors, abandoned the town and headed for the jungle. The Spanish plundered the houses and gathered a treasure-trove of golden ornaments. Balboa kept his vow, and, in September 1510, founded the first permanent settlement on mainland American soil, and called it Santa María la Antigua del Darién.

Mayor of Santa María

The victory of the Spanish over the natives and the founding of Santa María la Antigua del Darién, now located in a relatively calm region, earned Balboa authority and respect among his companions. They were increasingly hostile toward Alcalde Mayor Fernández de Enciso, whom they considered a greedy despot because of the restrictions he imposed on their appropriation of the natives' gold.

Balboa took advantage of the situation, acting as the spokesman for the disgruntled settlers. He removed Fernández de Enciso from the position of alcalde mayor, using the following legal manoeuvre: Fernández de Enciso was now controlling an area in Veragua, to the west of the Gulf of Urabá; since he was substituting for Alonso de Ojeda, his mandate was illegitimate, because the governor of Veragua was Diego de Nicuesa, not Ojeda; therefore, Fernández de Enciso should be deposed and arrested. After Fernández de Enciso's ouster, a more open government was established and a municipal council was elected (the first in the Americas). Two alcaldes [4] were appointed: Martín Samudio and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

Shortly after this, a flotilla led by Rodrigo Enrique de Colmenares arrived in Santa María. His objective was to find Nicuesa, who was also facing some difficulties in the north of Panamá. When de Colmenares learned about the recent events, he convinced the town's settlers that they should submit to the authority of Nicuesa, since their land was under his jurisdiction. Enrique de Colmenares invited two representatives, to be named by the local government, to travel with his flotilla and offer Nicuesa authority over the city. The two representatives were Diego de Albites and Diego del Corral.

Governor of Veragua

Enrique de Colmenares found Nicuesa near the town of Nombre de Dios, badly wounded and with few men remaining, on account of a skirmish with local natives. After his rescue, Governor Nicuesa heard about Balboa's exploits, the chieftain Cémaco's bounty, and Santa María's prosperity. He vowed that he would punish Balboa as soon as he gained control of the city, since he regarded his actions as a challenge to his authority in Veragua.

A certain Lope de Olano, who was jailed together with other malcontents, persuaded Santa María's representatives that they would make a serious error in handing control over to Nicuesa, whom he described as cruel, greedy, and able to singlehandedly destroy the city's prosperity. With this evidence, Albites and del Corral fled to Darién ahead of Nicuesa and informed Balboa and the municipal authorities of the governor's intentions.

When Nicuesa arrived at the city's port, a mob appeared, and the ensuing disturbance prevented the governor from disembarking into the city. Nicuesa insisted on being received, no longer as governor, but as a simple soldier, but still the colonists did not allow him to disembark. He and 17 others were forced to board an unseaworthy boat with few supplies, and were put out to sea on March 1, 1511. The ship disappeared, leaving no trace of Nicuesa and his men. In this way, Balboa became governor (gobernador) [5] of Veragua.

Conquistador

With the title of governor came absolute authority in Santa María and all of Veragua. One of Balboa's first acts as governor was the trial of Fernández de Enciso, accused of usurping the governor's authority. Fernández de Enciso was sentenced to prison and his possessions were confiscated. However, he was to remain imprisoned only for a short time: Balboa set him free under the condition that he return immediately to Hispaniola and from there to Spain. With him on the same ship were two representatives from Balboa, who were to inform the colonial authorities of the situation, and request more men and supplies to continue the conquest of Veragua.

Balboa setting his dogs upon Indian practitioners of homosexuality (1594) engraving from the New York Public Library. The rendering was by the Flemish Protestant artist Theodor de Bry. Balboamurder.jpg
Balboa setting his dogs upon Indian practitioners of homosexuality (1594) engraving from the New York Public Library. The rendering was by the Flemish Protestant artist Theodor de Bry.

Balboa continued defeating various tribes and befriending others, exploring rivers, mountains, and sickly swamps, while always searching for gold and slaves and enlarging his territory. He was also able to quell revolts among those of his men who challenged this authority, and, through force, diplomacy, and negotiation, he earned a certain respect and fear among the natives. In a letter addressed to the King of Spain, he expressed, somewhat ironically, that he had to act as a conciliatory force during the course of his expeditions.

He succeeded in planting corn, received fresh supplies from Hispaniola and Spain, and got his men used to life as explorers in the new territories. Balboa managed to collect a great deal of gold, much of it from the ornaments worn by the native women, and the rest obtained by violence.

Peter Martyr d'Anghiera in his De orbe novo decades, wrote how Balboa had fed forty local homosexual men to his dogs. Balboa, upset with "a brother of the king and other young men, obliging men, [who] dressed effeminately with women's clothing [... of those which the brother of the king] went too far with unnatural" temerity, threw forty of them as food to the dogs. D'Anghiera continues his story saying that the indigenous people's "natural hate for unnatural sin" drove them so that, "spontaneously and violently, they searched for all the rest that they would know who were infected". After all, D'Anghiera mentions that "only the nobles and the gentlemen practiced that kind of desire. [... The] indigenous people knew that sodomy gravely offended God. [... And that these acts provoked] the tempests that with thunder and lightning so frequently afflicted them, or the floods that drowned their fruits that had caused hunger and sickness." [6]

At the end of 1512 and the first months of 1513, he arrived in a region dominated by the cacique Careta, whom he easily defeated and then befriended. Careta was baptized and became one of Balboa's chief allies; he ensured the survival of the settlers by promising to supply the Spaniards with food. Balboa then proceeded on his journey, arriving in the lands of Careta's neighbour and rival, cacique Ponca, who fled to the mountains with his people, leaving his village open to the plundering of the Spaniards and Careta's men. Days later, the expedition arrived in the lands of cacique Comogre, fertile but reportedly dangerous terrain. However, Balboa was received peacefully and even invited to a feast in his honor; Comogre, like Careta, was then baptized.

Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513 Balboa Voyage 1513.PNG
Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513

In 1513, Balboa wrote a lengthy letter to the King of Spain, requesting more men (who were already acclimatized) from Hispaniola, weapons, supplies, carpenters versed in shipbuilding, and all the necessary materials for the building of a shipyard. In a subsequent letter, from 1515, saying the "Indians who had been like sheep had become like lions." [7] He would refer to his humanitarian policies regarding the natives, while at the same time recommending extreme severity in dealing with cannibals and violent tribes.

It was in Comogre's lands that Balboa first heard of "the other sea". It started with a squabble among the Spaniards, unsatisfied by the meager amounts of gold they were being allotted. Comogre's eldest son, Panquiaco, angered by the Spaniards' avarice, knocked over the scales used to measure gold and exclaimed: "If you are so hungry for gold that you leave your lands to cause strife in those of others, I shall show you a province where you can quell this hunger." Panquiaco told them of a kingdom to the south, where people were so rich that they ate and drank from plates and goblets made of gold, but that the conquerors would need at least a thousand men to defeat the tribes living inland and those on the coast of "the other sea". [8]

European discovery of the Pacific Ocean

Balboa received the unexpected news of a new kingdom – rich in gold – with great interest. He returned to Santa María at the beginning of 1513 to recruit more men from Hispaniola. There he learned that Fernández de Enciso had told the colonial authorities what had happened at Santa María. After seeing that there would be no assistance from Hispaniola, Balboa sent Enrique de Colmenares directly to Spain to look for help.

While the expedition to the South Sea (the name at the time of the Pacific Ocean [9] ) was being organized in Santa María, some explorers travelled ten leagues (around 50 km or 30 miles) up the Atrato River toward the interior, but came back empty-handed. Balboa's request for men and supplies had been denied: Enciso's case was by then widely known in the Spanish court. Therefore, Balboa had no choice but to carry out his expedition with the few resources that he had on hand in Santa María.

Using information given by various friendly caciques, Balboa started his journey across the Isthmus of Panama on September 1, 1513, together with 190 Spaniards, a few native guides, and a pack of dogs. Using a small brigantine and ten native canoes, they sailed along the coast and made landfall in cacique Careta's territory. On September 6, the expedition continued, now reinforced with 1,000 of Careta's men, and entered cacique Ponca's land. Ponca had reorganized and attacked, but he was defeated and forced to ally himself with Balboa. After a few days, and with several of Ponca's men, the expedition entered the dense jungle on September 20, and, with some difficulty, arrived four days later in the lands of cacique Torecha, who ruled in the village of Cuarecuá. In this village, a fierce battle took place, during which Balboa's forces defeated Torecha, who was killed by one of Balboa's dogs. [10] Torecha's followers decided to join the expedition. However, the group was by then exhausted and several men were badly wounded, so many decided to stay in Cuarecuá to regain their strength.

The few men who continued the journey with Balboa entered the mountain range along the Chucunaque River the next day. According to information from the natives, one could see the South Sea from the summit of this range. Balboa went ahead and, before noon that day, September 25, he reached the summit and saw, far away in the horizon, the waters of the undiscovered sea. The emotions were such that the others eagerly joined in to show their joy at Balboa's discovery. Andrés de Vera, the expedition's chaplain, intoned the Te Deum , while the men erected stone pyramids, and engraved crosses on the barks of trees with their swords, to mark the place where the discovery of the South Sea was made.

Possession and conquest of the South Sea

Balboa claiming possession of the South Sea (19th century engraving by unknown artist) Balboa sudsee.jpg
Balboa claiming possession of the South Sea (19th century engraving by unknown artist)

After the moment of discovery, the expedition descended from the mountain range towards the sea, arriving in the lands of cacique Chiapes, who was defeated after a brief battle and invited to join the expedition. From Chiapes' land, three groups departed in the search for routes to the coast. The group headed by Alonso Martín reached the shoreline two days later. They took a canoe for a short reconnaissance trip, thus becoming the first Europeans to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of New World. Back in Chiapes' domain, Martín informed Balboa, who, with 26 men, marched towards the coast. Once there, Balboa raised his hands, his sword in one and a standard with the image of the Virgin Mary in the other, walked knee-deep into the ocean, and claimed possession of the new sea and all adjoining lands in the name of the Spanish sovereigns. [2]

After traveling more than 110 km (68 mi), Balboa named the bay where they ended up San Miguel, because they arrived on September 29, the feast day of the archangel Michael. He named the new sea Mar del Sur, since they had traveled south to reach it.

Balboa's main purpose in the expedition was the search for the gold-rich kingdoms promised by Panquiaco. To this end, he crossed through the lands of caciques Coquera and Tumaco, defeating them easily and taking their riches of gold and pearls. He then learned that pearls were abundant in the islands ruled by Terarequí, a powerful and feared cacique. Balboa set out in several canoes towards these islands, even though it was the beginning of October and the weather conditions were not favorable. He was barely able to make out the islands, and named the largest one Isla Rica (Rich Island, today known as Isla del Rey). He named the entire group Archipiélago de las Perlas , which they are still called today.

In November, Balboa decided to return to Santa María but by a different route in order to further expand his territory and procure more gold. He passed through the regions of Teoca, Pacra, Bugue Bugue, Bononaima, and Chorizo, defeating some by force and befriending others through diplomacy. A particularly bloody battle took place against the cacique Tubanamá, whom Balboa eventually defeated. In December, the expedition arrived back in the Caribbean coast, by the Gulf of San Blas, a strip of land ruled by cacique Pocorosa. From there, he headed to the lands of Comogre, to find that his elderly ally had died. His son, Panquiaco, was now the new chieftain.

From there, he crossed the lands of Ponca and Careta, to finally arrive in Santa María on January 19, 1514, with a treasure in cotton goods, more than 100,000 castellanos worth of gold, to say nothing of the pearls. All this, however, did not compare to the magnitude of the discovery of the South Sea on behalf of Spain. Balboa commanded Pedro de Arbolancha to set sail for Spain with news of this discovery. He also sent one fifth of the treasure to the king, as the law required.

Disputes with Pedro Arias

Statue of Balboa in Madrid (Enrique Perez Comendador [es], 1954) Vasco Nunez de Balboa (E. Perez) 01.jpg
Statue of Balboa in Madrid (Enrique Pérez Comendador  [ es ], 1954)

The accusations of Fernández de Enciso, whom Balboa had deposed, and the removal and disappearance of Governor Ojeda, forced the king to name Pedro Arias de Ávila as governor of the newly created province of Castilla de Oro. Arias, better known as Pedrarias Dávila and who would later become notorious for his cruelty, took control of Veragua and managed to calm the situation. Pedrarias arrived from Arbolancha, Spain with an expedition of 1,500 men and 17 ships, thereby ensuring that Balboa's requests to the crown for more men and supplies were met. This would be to that date the largest and most complete expedition to leave Spain for the New World.

Pedrarias was accompanied on this expedition by Gaspar de Espinosa, who held the office of alcalde mayor; the very same Martín Fernández de Enciso whom Balboa had forced into exile, now as Chief Constable (Alguacil Mayor); [11] the royal officer and chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo; as well as several captains, among them Juan de Ayora, Pedrarias' lieutenant. There were also several clerics, most notably the Franciscan friar Juan de Quevedo, appointed bishop of Santa María. There were also women among the travellers, among them Isabel de Bobadilla, Pedrarias' wife. More than 500 men died from starvation or due to the inclemencies of the weather soon after reaching Darién. Fernández de Oviedo was to note that knights covered in silk and brocade, who distinguished themselves valiantly in the Italian Wars, would die, consumed by hunger and fever, due to the nature of the tropical jungle.

Balboa received Pedrarias and his representatives in July 1514 and accepted resignedly his replacement as governor and mayor. The settlers, however, did not like the change and some were planning to take up arms against Pedrarias, even as Balboa showed respect to the new colonial authorities.

As soon as Pedrarias took charge, Gaspar de Espinosa had Balboa arrested and tried "in absentia", sentencing him to pay reparations to Fernández de Enciso and others. He was, however, found innocent of the charge of murdering Nicuesa, so he was freed shortly afterwards.

Due to overpopulation in Santa María, Pedrarias called on several expeditionaries to search for new locations fit for settlement. Balboa requested of Pedrarias that he be allowed to explore the Dabaibe region, along the Atrato river, for there was a rumour of the existence of a temple filled with vast riches there. However, this expedition turned out to be a failure, leaving Balboa wounded due to constant attacks by the region's natives.

This setback, however, did not deter Balboa's ambitions of returning to explore the South Sea. Secretly, he arranged to recruit a contingent of men from Cuba. The ship carrying them berthed just outside Santa María, and its caretaker informed Balboa of their arrival, receiving in return 70 gold castellanos. Pedrarias, however, soon found out about the ship; furious, he had Balboa arrested, took away all his men and was planning to lock him up in a wooden cage. He was held back from doing this by Bishop de Quevedo, who appealed to him not to abuse his power on Balboa.

Luckily for Balboa, around that time the Spanish Crown would finally recognize his valuable services. The king bestowed on him the titles of " Adelantado [12] of the South Seas" and "Gobernador of Panama and Coiba". On top of this, the King instructed Pedrarias to show Balboa the greatest respect and to consult him on all matters pertaining to the conquest and government of Castilla de Oro. Because of all this, Pedrarias was to release and exonerate Balboa, lifting all charges brought up against him in the matter of the clandestine recruitment of an expeditionary party.

Downfall and death

At that point, the rivalry between Balboa and Pedrarias ceased abruptly, due in large part to the intercession of Bishop de Quevedo and Isabel de Bobadilla, who arranged for Balboa's marriage to María de Peñalosa, one of Pedrarias' daughters, [13] :15 who was in Spain. Shortly thereafter, the bishop left for Spain and the marriage took place by proxy (they would never meet because she was in Spain and Balboa would never return to his homeland). The friendship between Pedrarias and Balboa lasted barely two years, but in that time Balboa came to show great filial affection toward his father-in-law.

Balboa wished to continue exploring the South Sea, but Pedrarias did everything possible to delay his departure. However, in light of the new relationship between them, Pedrarias could not stop him indefinitely, and he finally consented to let Balboa go on his new expedition, giving him license to explore for a year and a half.

In 1519, Balboa moved to Acla with 300 men and, using the manpower of the natives and African slaves, managed to gather the materials necessary to fashion new ships. He traveled up to the Balsas River (Río Balsas), where he had four ships built. He travelled 74 km (46 mi) through the Pacific, surrounding the Pearl Islands and the coasts of Darién, up to Puerto Piñas, so named because of the large amounts of pineapples (piñas) he found there. He then returned to Acla, to continue the construction of sturdier ships.

Image of the execution of Balboa in Vasco Nunez de Balboa by Frederick A. Ober Execution of Balboa.jpg
Image of the execution of Balboa in Vasco Nuñez de Balboa by Frederick A. Ober

On his return, however, Pedrarias wrote warm letters urging Balboa to meet him as soon as possible. Balboa quickly obeyed. Halfway to Santa María, he encountered a group of soldiers commanded by Francisco Pizarro, who arrested him in the name of the governor and accused him of trying to usurp Pedrarias' power and create a separate government in the South Sea. Outraged, Balboa denied all charges and demanded that he be taken to Spain to stand trial. Pedrarias, however, together with Martin Enciso, ordered that the trial take place without delay.

Balboa's trial began in January, 1519, and on the fifteenth of that month,[ citation needed ] Espinosa sentenced him to death by decapitation. Four of Balboa's friends, Fernando de Argüello, Luis Botello, Hernán Muñoz, and Andrés Valderrábano, accused as accomplices, were sentenced to the same fate. The sentence was to be carried out in Acla, to show that the conspiracy had its roots in that colony.

As Balboa and his friends were being led to the block, the town crier announced: "This is the justice that the King and his lieutenant Pedro Arias de Ávila impose upon these men, traitors and usurpers of the Crown's territories." Balboa could not restrain his indignation and replied: "Lies, lies! Never have such crimes held a place in my heart, I have always loyally served the King, with no thought in my mind but to increase his dominions." Pedrarias observed the execution, hidden behind a platform. The executioner beheaded Balboa and his four friends with an axe. Balboa's head did not come off clean on the first try; it took three.[ citation needed ] Their heads remained in public display for several days, as a sign of Pedrarias' might. The final location of Balboa's remains is unknown, partly because there is no record of what happened in Acla after the execution.

Gaspar de Espinosa, Pedrarias' underling, sailed the South Sea aboard the very ships that Balboa had commissioned. In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan renamed the sea the Pacific Ocean because of its calm waters.

Legacy

Monument of Vasco Nunez de Balboa in Panama City Monumento a Vasco Nunez de Balboa - Flickr - Chito (3).jpg
Monument of Vasco Núñez de Balboa in Panama City
Balboa 1-cent, 1913 issue 1-cent Panama-Pacific Expo 1913 U.S. stamp.1.jpg
Balboa 1-cent, 1913 issue

Although Balboa suffered a premature death, his actions and deeds are remembered by history as the first European to cross America. Several parks and avenues throughout Panama bear the name "Vasco Núñez de Balboa", and a number of monuments honour his discovery of the South Sea. The Panamanian currency is called the Balboa, and his likeness appears on the obverse of most Panamanian coins. His name is also attached to Panama City's main port, Balboa (the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal) and the Balboa District within Panamá Province to which the Pearl Islands that he discovered belong. In San Francisco, California, US, Balboa's name appears among a row of avenues which are named after Spanish conquistadors, in the Balboa Park neighborhood, and Balboa High School in the Excelsior District. There is also a large park (Balboa Park) adjacent to downtown San Diego, California which was named after Balboa in 1910. [15] Balboa's name is also honoured in Madrid with a street and a metro station.

One of the highest orders granted by the Panamanian government to distinguished and outstanding figures, foreign and domestic, is the Orden Vasco Núñez de Balboa , in various degrees, as established by Law 27 from 28 January 1933.

The lunar crater Balboa was named after him.

Balboa appears in the lyrics to "The Great Nations of Europe" by composer/singer Randy Newman.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa was featured on the 1-cent denomination of the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1913. The 1-cent Balboa paid the one-cent card rate, and it was used in combination with other denominations to meet large weight and foreign destinations. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing issued over 330 million of these to the public. [16]

SENAN's Base Naval Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in Panama City is named for Balboa.

See also

Notes

  1. The dates 12 January, 15 January and 21 January appear in sources.
  2. 1 2 Lidz, Franz (September 2013). "Tracking Balboa". Smithsonian. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 44 (5): 32–36.
  3. Alcalde Mayor: may be translated as mayor or chief judge—a position combining judicial, military, civil, and police powers, that may or may not be held by a person with legal training.
  4. Alcalde: judge or quasi-judicial official
  5. Gobernador: governor of a settled and 'pacified' territory
  6. Alfonso G. Jiménez de Sandi Valle, Luis Alberto de la Garza Becerra and Napoleón Glockner Corte. LGBT Pride Parade in Mexico City. National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), 2009. 25 p.
  7. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Narrative_of_the_Proceedings_of_Pedrarias_Davila_(Haklyut,_34).djvu/55
  8. Pedrarias, Davila. Narrative of the Proceedings of Pedrarias Davila . Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  9. Spate, O.H.K. (2020). "'South Sea' to 'Pacific Ocean: A Note on Nomenclature". In Ballantyne, Tony (ed.). Science, Empire and the European Exploration of the Pacific. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN   9781351901819.
  10. Derr, Mark (2013). A Dog's History of America: How Our Best Friend Explored, Conquered, and Settled a Continent. The Overlook Press. p. 46. ISBN   9781468309102.
  11. Alguacil: may be translated as constable, bailiff, or sheriff
  12. Adelantado: governor of a territory that is still possibly experiencing hostilities; a position slightly lower than that of gobernador
  13. Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN   0140441239
  14. "Vasco Nuñez de Balboa". Internet Archive.
  15. Christman (1985), p. 33
  16. Haimann, Alexander T., “1-cent Balboa”, Arago: people, postage & the post, National Postal Museum online, viewed April 18, 2014.

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References