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Vasco Nunez de Balboa & Francisco Pizarro (W6: Days 1&2)

Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1519) (W6:D1)

Born to wealth, Vasco Nunez de Balboa wanted to declare his independence and claim the treasures of the New World, returning one-fifth - called the Royal Fifth - to the King. After his first voyage, he took his earnings and retired to Hispaniola, but quickly lost all his money, falling into great debt. He left Hispaniola to distance himself from his debtors, hiding in a barrel, with his dog, aboard a Spanish ship commanded by Martín Fernández de Enciso (whose task was to assist Alonso de Ojeda in securing his fort in Tierra Firme, the Northern half of South America). Balboa was discovered and Enciso threatened to leave him on the next deserted island to die. Thanks to Enciso’s crew, and his knowledge of the region, Balboa was spared.

By the time they arrived at the settlement, the war with the local tribe was lost, and the colonists were leaving their fort to return home, with Francisco Pizarro and 70 colonists. Balboa talked the captain and Pizarro into resettling in an area called Darién, where they found great opposition. Yet, they still fought and won, taking over the native village when the tribe abandoned it. They named the settlement Santa María la Antigua del Darién. The crew preferred Balboa over their captain, who tried to make himself mayor. They overthrew Enciso, and established the first open government, and a municipal council, electing Balboa to a seat. Nicuesa, Governor of Veragua, a nearby region, became jealous of their success and tried to overthrow Balboa, but his people were loyal to him. Nicuesa and 17 of his men were banished to the sea. Balboa then became Governor of Santa Maria and Veragua.

His first act as Governor was to imprison Enciso and strip him of his properties, although he freed him months later, and sent him back to Hispaniola to live out his life. Balboa, in the meantime, continued to explore new lands, make friends with some tribes, and conquer others. Those that fought him were captured and enslaved. These tribes told tales about another sea and untold wealth; and Balboa set off on another expedition.

Because Enciso had returned to Hispaniola to tell of the confrontation with Balboa, Balboa was not provided any provisions to help in his expedition. He left with less than 190 men. On his journey, he came upon one of the tribes that had fled from the Conquistadors, when Balboa attacked less than a year before. This time, the tribe was ready for Balboa, and yet, still failed to stop him and sp they joined his army, along with many other. Nearing the Pacific, many of his soldiers were exhausted and stayed behind while Balboa, a few Conquistadors, and a large indigenous army continued forward. One morning, he climbed the summit of a mountain, to see the Pacific Ocean for the very first time. A few days later, they arrived, and while wading into the water, Balboa declared the Pacific Ocean under Spanish rule. Two months later, he returned by another route, conquering additional tribes. Spain sent more provisions and with them, a new Governor of Santa Maria. Balboa was arrested, but later allowed to lead one last expedition, which ended in failure. He was captured by Francisco Pizarro and, under the command of Espinosa, executed.

Francisco Pizarro (1478-1541) (W6:D2)

Born into poverty, Francisco Pizarro was ambitious enough to desire to find his fortunes in the new world. He grew up without an education, and without being able to read. He joined the Spanish military in his early 20s, and set off to the New World with Alonso de Ojeda, another Spanish explorer on his second trip to the New World. Ojeda’s first trip was sailing with Amerigo Vespucci, finding many islands in the Caribbean and travelling down to Venezuela and Columbia.

Pizarro followed him to Tierra Firme, the Northern half of South America. They were given permission to colonize the Gulf of Urabá, in the area of modern-day Columbia and though they tried to build a settlement, the indigenous opposition, constant attacks, and lack of food thwarted their efforts. Not receiving reinforcements, Ojeda left Pizarro in charge of the colony for 50 days, while he gathered the needed support. After 50 days, without support arriving, Pizarro decided to abandon the fort. Before departing, Vasco Núñez de Balboa arrived and helped secure their last two ships, and 70 surviving colonists. Ojeda would later return as a prisoner of one of the first Caribbean pirates, Bernardino de Talavera, who was escaping Hispaniola.

Pizarro joined the fleet of Martín Fernández de Enciso. From there, he joined Balboa on his mission to cross modern-day Panama by foot; this land would later be home to the Panama Canal. Their party was the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean from the Americas.

After news spread of cities of gold, like El Dorado, Pizarro teamed up with a priest, Hernando de Luque, and a soldier, Diego de Almagro, who agreed to explore and conquer South America and find these cities of gold. The original explorer of the area, Pascual de Andagoya, made contracts with many of the indigenous tribes in South America, and they were the ones that told of rivers flowing with gold. On the first expedition, Pizarro would begin the journey without his two comrades. Almagro would stay behind to find more recruits, joining later, and Luque was to find more funding and provisions for the expedition.

In his first expedition, Pizarro started in Panama, and traveled by ship, and on foot. They traveled down the coast of Columbia, but were forced to turn back due to weather, lack of provisions and food, and constant attacks by the indigenous people. Almagro would lose an eye in one of these attacks, when he was shot with an arrow. The men were nearing the point of mutiny after their last battle, the Battle of Punta Quemada, but Pizarro’s silver tongue - and his resolve to return for more conquistadors - settled their fire, and they returned to Panama.

The Governor of Panama, Pedrarias Dávila, was discouraged and did not want Pizarro to head another attempt to conquer the South. Dávila was planning his own expedition to conquer the North. Again, Pizarro and his two companions changed the Governor’s mind, and they took off on their second attempt. As they traveled south, Almagro left again, to find more provisions, and then sailed back down, to find Pizarro and his men exhausted from the travel. During this trip, they found natives on rafts, with textiles, ceramics, gold, silver, and emeralds for trade. They took aboard a few of these natives to help interpret for them.

On his third trip back to Panama, this time with proof of gold, Almagro was confronted by the new Governor of Panama, who quickly sent ships to retrieve Pizarro and bring him and his men back to Panama. When they arrived, Pizarro defied them and went back down South. Only 13 men would join him, while the others stayed at the fort in Tafur. Pizarro’s two friends, Almagro and Luque, returned again to Panama, to talk the Governor into supporting them. He gave them two ships and 6 months, but told them that they were to return if they couldn’t find this gold. In 1528, they finally reached Peru, and viewed the riches of the Tumbes tribe. They were welcomed with open arms. They spent some time with the people, but then decided to return to Panama for their final expedition into Peru. They left two men to learn the customs of the people, and the Chieftain gave them two boys to learn Spanish and Pizarro’s customs. These two were to become interpreters for Pizarro.

When the new Governor refused to allow another expedition, Pizarro set sail for Spain to speak to King Charles I himself, accompanied by his two new interpreters, gold, silver, fabrics, ceramics, and llamas - or as Pizarro called them, “little camels.” The King was quite impressed and promised support, as he left for Italy. In his stead, Queen Isabel of Portugal named Pizarro as Governor of the New Castille and sent him back with provisions. This new position gave him full power to override the governor of Panama and with 250 men, between Spain and the colonies, he was allowed to return and conquer the area of Peru. He left Spain with three ships, 180 men, and 27 horses; another 130 men joined from the colonies.

In 1531, they left for Tumbes, to find their village destroyed by another tribe. So without a safe place to settle, they continued into the interior and built their first settlement, San Miguel de Piura. They set up a tribute system, like that of the Incas, a repartimiento, where tribes would provide them with support from their own crops and riches. The Inca’s leader, Atahualpa, refused to pay tribute, seeing less than 200 Conquistadors against his 6,000 man army. Pizarro then attacked the army with his 200 men, 3 rifles, and 2 canons, and conquered the people, taking Atahualpa into custody. They set up a justice system in the colony and, even against Pizarro’s wishes, executed Atahualpa for murdering his own brother in contempt against Pizarro. The empire was split; some joined with Pizarro, now with more reinforcements of around 500 Conquistadors, while others fought against Pizarro (but in the end, lost to the Spanish). Within two years, they had taken the entire Incan empire. Both Pizarro - Governor of New Castille, and Almagro - Governor of New Toledo, began to fight over their territory, especially over the city of Cuzco. The brothers of Pizarro attacked and executed Almagro. Pizarro would then bankrupt Almagro II, who would, in turn, sneak into Pizarro’s palace and assassinate him, with the help of only 20 men.

The greed and power of men had seen the best of Pizarro, his men, and even his friends. It could also be said that the man who “Live(d) by the sword, die(d) by the sword.”

Activity: Conquering your Bedroom – Some of you have clean rooms; some have very messy ones. Today, you are to clean your room, and report back what you find. Even the cleanest of rooms has something to explore: a backpack, a drawer, or you may have to clean some other room in your house. Your objective in this activity is to draw the room you choose to clean and catalog the content as you clean it, then report back what you find. First, map the room, by drawing it from a birds eye view. Then number where items are that you find, and describe them below:

Items you find in the room:

1. What items did you find? _____________________________________________

Did you know that it was there? _____________________________________________

2. What items did you find? _____________________________________________

Did you know that it was there? _____________________________________________

3. What items did you find? _____________________________________________

Did you know that it was there? _____________________________________________

4. What did you find in the cleaning of this room, besides items? Was there something you learned about yourself, and can you take from this thing you learned, and make it better?






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