The Explorers: Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro is the eleventh figure in the exploration of North America by non-indigenous people. This was a continuing effort to map and explore the continent and advance the economic interests of said non-indigenous peoples of North America. It spanned centuries, and consisted of efforts by numerous people and expeditions from various foreign countries to map the continent.
The European colonization of the Americas describes the history of the settlement and establishment of control of the continents of the Americas by most of the naval powers of Western Europe. This began with the Norse colonization of North America in the late 10th century CE when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. The Norse settlements in the North American island of Greenland lasted for almost 500 years though there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.
Systematic European colonization began in 1492, when a Spanish expedition headed by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in what came to be known to Europeans as the “New World”. He ran aground on December 5, 1492 on Cat Island (then called Guanahani) in The Bahamas, which the Lucayan people had inhabited since the 9th century. Western European conquest, large-scale exploration and colonization soon followed.
Columbus’s first two voyages (1492–93) reached Hispaniola and various other Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1497, Italian explorer John Cabot, on behalf of the Kingdom of England, landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus’s third voyage reached the South American coast. As the sponsor of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, Spain was the first European power to settle and colonize the largest areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America.
The Spaniards began building their empire of the Americas in the Caribbean, using islands such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola as bases. The North and South American mainland fell to the conquistadors, precipitating an estimated 8,000,000 deaths of indigenous people, primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases. Some authors have argued this demographic collapse to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era. Florida fell to Juan Ponce de León after 1513. From 1519 to 1521, Hernán Cortés waged a campaign against the Aztec Empire, ruled by Moctezuma II. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, became Mexico City, the chief city of what the Spanish were now calling “New Spain”. More than 240,000 Aztecs died during the siege of Tenochtitlan, 100,000 in combat, while 500–1,000 of the Spaniards engaged in the conquest died. Other conquistadors, such as Hernando de Soto, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, pushed farther north. To the south, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire during the 1530s. The centuries of continuous conflicts between the North American Indians and the Anglo-Americans were less severe than the devastation wrought on the densely populated Meso-American, Andean, and Caribbean heartlands.
The British colonization of the Americas started with the unsuccessful settlement attempts in Roanoke and Newfoundland. The English eventually went on to control much of Eastern North America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. The British also gained Florida and Quebec in the French and Indian War.
Other powers such as France also founded colonies in the Americas: in eastern North America, a number of Caribbean islands and small coastal parts of South America. Portugal colonized Brazil, tried colonizing the eastern coasts of present-day Canada and settled for extended periods northwest (on the east bank) of the River Plate. The Age of Exploration was the beginning of territorial expansion for several European countries. Europe had been preoccupied with internal wars and was slowly recovering from the loss of population caused by the Black Death; thus the rapid rate at which it grew in wealth and power was unforeseeable in the early 15th century.
Eventually, most of the Western Hemisphere came under the control of Western European governments, leading to changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life. In the 19th century over 50 million people left Western Europe for the Americas. The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange, a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), ideas, and communicable disease between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following Columbus’s voyages to the Americas.
Henry F. Dobyns estimates that immediately before European colonization of the Americas there were between 90 and 112 million people in the Americas; a larger population than Europe at the same time. Others estimate that there were about 60.5 million people living in the Americas immediately before depopulation, of which 90 per cent, mostly in Central and South America, perished from wave after wave of disease, along with war and slavery playing their part.
Francisco Pizarro (c. 1471– June 26, 1541) was a Spanish conquistador, best known for his expeditions that led to the Spanish conquest of Peru. Born in Trujillo, Spain to a poor family, Pizarro chose to pursue fortune and adventure in the New World.
He went to the Gulf of Urabá, and accompanied Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his crossing of the Isthmus of Panama, where they became the first Europeans to reach the Pacific Ocean. He served as mayor of the newly founded Panama City for a few years, and undertook two failed expeditions to Peru.
In 1524, while still in Panama, Pizarro formed a partnership with a priest, Hernando de Luque and a soldier, Diego de Almagro, to explore and conquer the South. Pizarro, Almagro and Luque later explicitly renewed their compact, agreeing to conquer and divide equally among themselves the empire they hoped to vanquish. While their accord was strictly oral, they dubbed their enterprise the Empresa del Levante and determined that Pizarro would command the expedition, Almagro would provide military and food supplies and Luque would be in charge of finances and additional provisions
In 1529, Pizarro obtained permission from the Spanish crown to lead a campaign to conquer Peru and went on his third, and successful, expedition. When local people who lived along the coast resisted this invasion, Pizarro moved inland and founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Piura. After a series of maneuvres, Pizarro captured the Incan emperor Atahualpa at the Battle of Cajamarca in November 1532.
A ransom for the emperor’s release was demanded and Atahualpa filled a room with gold, but Pizarro charged him with various crimes and executed him in July 1533. The same year, Pizarro entered the Inca capital of Cuzco and completed his conquest of Peru. In January 1535, Pizarro founded the city of Lima.
After the final effort of the Inca to recover Cuzco had been defeated by Almagro, a dispute occurred between Pizarro and Almagro respecting the limits of their jurisdiction, as both claimed the city of Cuzco. The king of Spain had awarded the Governorate of New Toledo to Almagro and the Governorate of New Castile to Pizarro. The dispute had originated from a disagreement on how to interpret the limit between the governorates which led to confrontations between the Pizarro brothers and Almagro, who was eventually defeated during the Battle of Las Salinas (1538) and executed. Almagro’s son, also named Diego and known as El Mozo, was later stripped of his lands and left bankrupt by Pizarro.
Atahualpa’s wife, 10-year-old Cuxirimay Ocllo Yupanqui, was with Atahualpa’s army in Cajamarca and had stayed with him while he was imprisoned. Following his execution, she was taken to Cuzco and given the name Dona Angelina. By 1538, it was known she had borne Pizarro two sons, Juan and Francisco.
Historians have often compared the conquests of Pizarro and Cortés in North and South America as very similar in style and career. Pizarro, however, faced the Incas with a smaller army and fewer resources than Cortés, at a much greater distance from the Spanish Caribbean outposts that could easily support him, which has led some to rank Pizarro slightly ahead of Cortés in their battles for conquest. Based on sheer numbers alone, Pizarro’s military victory was one of the most improbable in recorded history.
Pizarro is well known in Peru as the leader of the Spanish conquest. After his invasion, Pizarro destroyed the Inca state and initiated the decline of local cultures while ruling for over a decade.
The Incas’ polytheistic religion was replaced by Christianity and much of the local population was reduced to serfdom under the Spanish elite. The cities of the Inca Empire were transformed into Spanish Catholic cities.
Pizarro is also reviled for ordering Atahualpa’s death despite the ransom payment (which Pizarro kept, after paying the Spanish king his due). Many Peruvians, including many of mainly indigenous descent, regard him negatively, although until relatively recently Pizarro had been portrayed positively, for instance in textbooks, for imposing Catholicism and creating a privileged class of mainly Spanish descent.
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Previous Explorer: Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca
- Catholic encyclopedia: Diego de Almagro. (n.d.). NEW ADVENT. https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01326e.htm
- Dona Angelina Yupanqui archives. (n.d.). Adventures In Historyland. https://adventuresinhistoryland.com/tag/dona-angelina-yupanqui/
- ExecutedToday.com » Battle of las Salinas. (2010, July 8). ExecutedToday.com. https://www.executedtoday.com/tag/battle-of-las-salinas/
- Francisco Pizarro. (2002, June 7). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Pizarro
- Luque, Hernando de (?–1534). (n.d.). Encyclopedia.com | Free Online Encyclopedia. https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/luque-hernando-de-1534
- MacGregor, S. (2018, December 19). The Spanish mercenaries were outnumbered 500-1, the Battle of Cajamarca, 1532. WAR HISTORY ONLINE. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/the-battle-of-cajamarca-1532.html
- San Miguel de Piura; First Spanish settlement in Peru. (2019, March 20). Archaeological Institute of America. https://www.archaeological.org/fieldwork/san-miguel-de-piura-first-spanish-settlement-in-peru/
- Swaminathan, N. (n.d.). Atahualpa, last inca emperor. Archaeology – Archaeology Magazine. https://www.archaeology.org/issues/95-1307/features/1093-atahualpa-cajamarca-francisco-pizarro-maiqui-machay