BECK index

Spanish Conquest 1492-1580

by Sanderson Beck

Columbus and the Caribbean
Caribbean and Panama 1500-21
Cortes in Mexico 1519-28
Mexico 1528-1580
Central America and Caribbean 1521-80
Cabeza, Coronado, Soto, and Menendez
Pizarros and Peru 1532-80
New Granada 1525-80
Southern South America to 1580
Las Casas on the Spanish Conquest

This chapter has been published in the book America to 1744. For ordering information please click here.

Columbus and the Caribbean

Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas

Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus), whose name means "Christ-bearing colonizer," was born near Genoa in 1451. He became a sailor, navigator, captain, and mapmaker, and after 1480 he dedicated his life to the audacious venture of leading an expedition to explore eastern Asia by sailing west. His proposal was rejected by the Royal Commission of Portuguese king Joao II (r. 1481-95) because they were exploring the route around Africa; also they believed that his estimate of the distance to Japan by going west was much too short. His brother Bartolomé Colon appealed to England's Henry VII without success. Finally in 1492 after the Spanish had defeated the Moors at Granada and expelled them and the Jews from Spain, King Fernando (Ferdinand) and Queen Isabel agreed to finance the bold venture.

Three ships left Palos, Spain on August 3, 1492 and departed from Gomera in the Canary Islands on September 6. Columbus told his crew they were going shorter distances than his own estimate so that they would not be so afraid; but modern scholars have calculated that his false reports were actually more accurate than his own estimates. On October 10 the crews resisted going any further west; but Columbus promised them he would turn back if they did not see land in three days. Two days later they landed on an island he called San Salvador, where they found a few naked Tainos (Arawaks). Taino means "peace" or "friend." Columbus wanted to win them over to the Christian faith and gave them red caps, glass beads, and hawks' bells, for which they received cotton, parrots, and wooden spears in exchange. The natives had no iron, and one cut himself handling the wrong end of a sword. Columbus observed that they were intelligent and believed they would be good Christians and servants. Noticing a golden ornament worn on a nose, he tried to ask them where they found the gold. Columbus forbade his crew from taking things of value from them. On October 14 he took seven of them with him to learn his language, and he wrote in his logbook that fifty of his men could easily subjugate them.

Columbus explored and claimed many islands. Some women wore a piece of cotton over their genitals, but most were naked. Many inhabitants ran away when they saw the Spaniards coming. From Cuba they took a dozen people, including a man who wanted to be with his family. On November 21 Captain Martin Alonzo Pinzon took his ship Pinta to search for gold. Columbus named the large island of Haiti Española (Hispaniola). After one of their interpreters told the fleeing natives that the Christians had come from the sky, they were given hospitality. The local cacique (chief) Guacanagari was carried in a litter and shared with his tribe the food they gave him. On December 24 while Columbus was resting, his flagship Santa Maria was wrecked on a reef; but the natives helped his men salvage all they could. Columbus named the new settlement Navidad, and 39 of his men volunteered to stay there while he returned to Spain. Efforts were being made to find gold, and they were warned about the aggressive Caribs, whom they believed were cannibals. Columbus took over the Niña and met up with Martin Pinzon, who denied he had been collecting gold. Before they departed, a group of Indians charged seven Spaniards, who wounded two of them before the fifty-five natives fled.

Columbus went northeast and found favorable winds; but a storm near the Azores caused them to pray and promise pilgrimages. Half his men on the pilgrimage, dressed only in shirts, were captured by the Portuguese; but Columbus managed to get them back and was received by King Joao II at Lisbon before he returned triumphantly to the Spanish court at Barcelona. According to their agreement, Columbus was recognized as viceroy over the lands he discovered. He promised that they would bring back gold, spices, cotton, mastic, aloes, and slaves. A large expedition with seventeen ships and at least 1,200 men was organized. On May 4, 1493 Pope Alexander VI designated a line 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, giving Portugal discoveries east of it, and Castile those to the west; but the next year Spain agreed in the Treaty of Tordesillas to have the line be 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands.

On the second voyage Columbus explored the leeward islands (Antilles), where they found the Caribs treated women cruelly and slaughtered and ate men. When they got back to Navidad, they learned that all the Christians were dead: some died from disease; some seeking gold were killed by Caonabo; and the rest were killed in the village. Guacanagari claimed that he had been wounded, though some doubted his injury. Columbus founded a settlement on the north coast of Española called Isabela. He sent Alonso de Ojeda (Hojeda) with fourteen men to look for gold at Cibao. Captain Antonio de Torres took twelve ships back to Castile with many requests by Columbus. While the Admiral was visiting the gold fields discovered by Ojeda, a plot to overthrow him was organized by Bernal de Pisa, who was caught and imprisoned. The Christians learned that the Tainos had no private property, as they freely took things from each other and shared everything in common. Columbus had Fort Santo Tomas built in the goldfields and put Pedro Margarit in charge.

Many Christians had difficulty adjusting to the tropical diet and became sick; so Columbus left 300 men on the island and sent the rest back to Castile. He put his brother Diego Colon in charge of the council and went off to explore Jamaica and Cuba. Lacking sleep, the Admiral eventually collapsed and returned to Isabela, where he found his brother Bartolomé had arrived. Pedro Margarit, instead of policing the island, let many factions and quarrels spring up in Isabela, where the council would not let him take control. Margarit took a ship back to Castile, allowing the Spaniards to rob and seize whatever women they pleased. In response to these crimes the Magdalena cacique Guatigana executed ten Christians and burned a house with forty sick men. When Columbus came back, he had some of Guatigana's chiefs arrested and sent to Spain; others were punished for having killed Christians.

The four main rulers on the island of Española were Caonabo, Higuanama, Behechio, and Guarionex; under each of these was about seventy caciques. Guacanagari remained loyal to Columbus and asked him to punish Caonabo and Behechio for taking his women. In 1495 the Admiral prepared 200 Christians with twenty horses and hunting dogs for war against about 100,000 Tainos. Bartolomé was appointed adelantado (governor) and commanded half the force. The horses and dogs caused the natives to flee, and many were killed. Most of those captured were executed except for Caonabo and his family; he had been captured earlier by Ojeda, who had tricked him by giving him shiny manacles. Caonabo confessed to murdering the men left at Navidad and died while being shipped to Castile. For a while the Christians were safe, and the natives would even carry them on their shoulders. Columbus believed it was God's providence for so few Christians to dominate the natives in this way. Tainos over age 14 had to pay tribute every three months, either a hawks' bell full of gold or 25 pounds of cotton. In exchange the Spaniards gave them a copper or brass medallion to wear to show they had paid; later the amount of gold required was cut in half. Many Tainos, who failed to pay this tax, had their hands cut off and often bled to death.

Michele de Cuneo reported that in February 1495 Columbus captured 1,600 Tainos and put 550 on ships, though 200 died on the return passage. Columbus claimed that four shiploads sent with Torres that year were cannibal Caribs, and they were sold in Spain as slaves to lessen colonial expenses. According to Peter Martyr, 50,000 Tainos had already died before this from famine, because they destroyed their own crops to discourage the Spaniards from settling on the island. In March 1496 Columbus stopped at the Caribs' islands to plunder food for their voyage back to Spain. On the island of Guadalupe he left some prisoners and gifts to gain good will so that they could use that island for provisions in the future. Las Casas later calculated that by 1496 the Tainos population on Española had been reduced to a third of what it had been. That year Bartolomé Colon recorded that there were more than a million Tainos adults in their domain. Columbus at the port of Cadiz saw three ships led by Pedro Alonso Niño departing in June 1496, and he gave him a letter authorizing him to sell prisoners of war as slaves.

That summer Bartolomé Colon collected 300 "prisoners" and sent them back with Niño's fleet while they built Santo Domingo on the south coast of Española. Bartolomé visited Behechio in Jaragua and allowed him to pay tribute in cotton, cassava, and hemp, because the region had no gold. Meanwhile alcalde mayor (chief magistrate) Francisco Roldan was leading the hungry, lusty, and greedy in a rebellion, because food had not arrived, because they were not allowed to take native women, and because they wanted to seek gold. They plotted to assassinate the adelantado Bartolomé Colon when he was going to hang their friend Barahona; but the sentence was commuted. With 65 men Roldan went to Isabela and took supplies without Diego Colon's permission before heading for Jaragua, where the women were most beautiful and friendly. Roldan's men and Tainos led by Guarionex planned to attack Fort Conception by surprise on the full moon as caciques murdered Christians; but one cacique struck early, and thus Bartolomé was warned. Roldan extorted a gourd full of gold from the cacique Manicaotex. Three ships under Carvajal sent by Columbus directly to Española arrived at Jaragua by mistake, and many were won over to Roldan's conspiracy. Bartolomé used force to subdue Guarionex and burned his villages as punishment.

The third voyage of Christopher Columbus had been delayed in Spain for two years by the hostility of Bishop Fonseca. After exploring the coast of South America, a weary Columbus arrived at Santo Domingo, finding 160 men sick with syphilis. This disease was not known in Europe until 1493. Having only seventy men who could fight, the Admiral summoned Roldan, offered him safe conduct, and agreed they could have ships to leave with their gold, women, and slaves within fifty days. When that could not be fulfilled, Columbus agreed to exonerate Roldan, let him resume his office as chief magistrate, and let his men have free land grants in Jaragua. These were called repartimientos and were the beginning of what became the encomienda system by which natives were "commended" to settlers, who could make them work on the plantations they were given; the encomenderos were also supposed to teach them to be good Christians. The caciques agreed to this in order to avoid paying the hated tribute. In 1498 Columbus shipped six hundred slaves and authorized forced labor in the repartimientos but under their caciques. By the end of 1499 Columbus had learned that there were extensive gold fields in Española.

Columbus had already written to the Spanish sovereigns saying he planned to take as many slaves as he could; now he told them of the rebellion and asked them to send a competent judge. Meanwhile they had authorized Ojeda to visit the mainland Columbus had discovered and which Ojeda named Venezuela, where he found valuable pearl fisheries. The natives asked him to attack their enemy Caribs on the islands, and Ojeda's force of 57 men killed many and captured others with only one Spaniard killed and 21 wounded. When Ojeda arrived in Española, he took wood and tried to take over leadership of the rebellion from Roldan, who now was ordered by the Colon brothers to bring in Ojeda; but the captain avoided capture, filled his ships with slaves, and went back to Spain. Meanwhile Pedro Alonso Niño with one ship managed to get rich taking pearls from Margarita and Cumana. However, Vicente Yañez Pinzon borrowed money at outrageous interest in Palos and discovered Brazil but went broke and almost lost his ships in a lawsuit.

As alcalde, Roldan arrested rebels and condemned Adrian de Mujica to be hanged. This satisfied the Tainos. They obediently went back to digging gold, and many, to please the Admiral, became Christians. The critics of Columbus got King Fernando and Queen Isabel to authorize Francisco de Bobadilla to investigate in Española with power to take over if necessary. When he arrived, he saw hanged Spaniards and stopped Diego Colon from executing other rebels. Diego was put in irons, and Bobadilla took over the governing palace, hearing many testify against the Colons. He tried to gain popularity by reducing the royal share of the gold from one-third to one-eleventh and by letting the Spaniards have their way with the natives. Columbus obeyed his summons and advised Bartolomé to submit also. Bobadilla sent all three Colon brothers back to Spain in chains.

After Columbus was brought to Cadiz, the sovereigns ordered him released from his chains. At their court in Granada they ordered Bobadilla to restore his estate; but Nicolas de Ovando was appointed governor of Española, and Venezuela was assigned to Ojeda and Vicente Yañez Pinzon. Ovando conducted a residencia of Bobadilla, meaning an investigation into his governing in residence, and he arrested chief judge Roldan. Columbus was given permission to go on a fourth voyage of exploration, but he was told to stay away from Española and their enemy, the Portuguese. He took shelter at Santo Domingo from a hurricane and warned Ovando not to send out his fleet. The ships led by Antonio de Torres and carrying Bobadilla were lost; only one ship with Columbus's agent Carvajal and his gold survived the hurricane.

After replacing a ship, Columbus explored what he called Veragua and the Mosquito coast from Panama to the Cape of Honduras. In 1503 he visited a cacique named Quibian, who was captured by Diego Mendez; but he escaped. Their ships became waterlogged from wormholes, and they were marooned at Jamaica. Mendez and Fieschi with six natives managed to take a canoe to Española; but a year went by before Columbus was rescued. Meanwhile the Porras brothers led a mutiny; they tried and failed to leave the island, which they then plundered. To keep the natives providing his men with food, Columbus used an upcoming eclipse of the moon on February 29, 1504 to persuade them that his God would harm them if they did not provide food for them. Columbus returned to Spain, where he died in 1506.

Caribbean and Panama 1500-21

In 1502 captain Ojeda returned to the Gulf of Paria to govern Coquibacoa, where he cut down trees, built a fort, and fought natives. He sent Vergara to Jamaica for supplies; but Vergara and Ocampo resented Ojeda keeping all the gold in a strongbox and took him prisoner to Santo Domingo, where all three were judged. Ojeda appealed to the sovereign and was eventually acquitted.

Governor Ovando arrived in Española in 1502 with 2,500 men on thirty ships. He subjugated the Tainos and strictly disciplined the Spaniards. Although Queen Isabel had instructed Ovando to consider the "Indians" free and not subject to slavery, she wrote they could be compelled to work for wages. Forced labor, diseases such as measles and smallpox, and famine greatly reduced the number of Tainos. Many crops were destroyed as herds of pigs and cattle were brought from Spain. Las Casas described in his history how in Jaragua Behechio's widow Anacaona tried hard to help the Spaniards; but Ovando believed that she was plotting revolt. He had her hanged and burned eighty caciques alive in a house. After dogs killed their cacique, natives in Higuey and Saona killed eight Spaniards in a boat. Juan de Esquivel was sent with four hundred men and slaughtered the natives, killing six hundred in one house. Even Las Casas could not describe the extermination. By the end of 1504 a royal order allowed Spaniards to compel natives to work but for wages, not as slaves.

In 1505 the first Spanish-speaking African slaves were brought to Española. A royal letter in 1509 decreed that natives were only to be compelled to work for one or two years, not for life. That year, before he was succeeded by Diego Colon, son of Columbus, Ovando sent Sebastian de Ocampo to reconnoiter Cuba. Only 60,000 Tainos were counted in 1509, and in 1514 a repartimiento, based on a census that recorded 22,726 (not counting slaves), was ordered by treasurer Miguel de Pasamonte. Large grants were given to absentee landlords such as Bishop Fonseca, royal secretary Lope de Conchillos, and others. According to the crown's records, about a ton of gold per year was mined in Española between 1504 and 1519.

On his third voyage Ojeda was paired with the courtier Diego de Nicuesa. In 1509 Nicuesa captured a hundred natives from the island of Santa Cruz and sold them as slaves on Española. Because Ojeda and Nicuesa were using Jamaica to supply Venezuela, Diego Colon sent Juan de Esquivel to seize it; but Jamaica did not produce gold, and settlers left. Ojeda explored Cartagena with four ships and three hundred men; Juan de la Cosa had been there eight years earlier with Bastides, and he warned Ojeda that the natives were warlike and used poisoned arrows. Ojeda had friars read a proclamation that they were a conquering people of the Catholic faith and that the pope had given their king this land and all its inhabitants; if they did not accept this religion, they would be attacked and made slaves. Ojeda led an expedition inland and alone survived, losing all his men, including the veteran Juan de la Cosa. Nicuesa had fallen out with Ojeda but helped him get revenge against these natives and got enough gold from the venture to give his men 7,000 castellanos each. (100 castellanos were equal to one pound of gold.)

Ojeda founded a colony on the mainland called San Sebastian and built a stockade. Wondering if Ojeda was invincible, natives ambushed him and shot a poisoned arrow into his thigh; but he ordered a doctor to cauterize the wound with a red-hot iron and survived. Men on Española led by Talavera stole a Genoese ship and took Ojeda captive; but they needed him to navigate in a storm. They were not able to make it back to Española and landed on Cuba, where they hiked through swamps and lost half the men. Ojeda prayed to the virgin Mary, using a painting, and built a chapel for the relic at the native village which saved his exhausted men. Eventually Ojeda made it back to Santo Domingo; but Diego Colon had the pirates arrested in Jamaica and hanged for stealing the ship.

Nicuesa explored the isthmus of Panama. In 1510 Bachelor Enciso sailed to find Ojeda and discovered that debtor Vasco Nuñez de Balboa had stowed away on board. Enciso learned of graveyards at Zenu and went there to steal the gold and gems. He read a proclamation Ojeda had used which had been drawn up by Spanish jurists. The natives replied that they agreed there is one God, but they thought the pope and the Spanish king must have been drunk or mad to think their country was given to them. They warned they would cut off his head if he tried to do this, showing them a row of enemy heads on poles. Enciso attacked them; but two of his men, wounded by arrows, died from the poison. They went back to San Sebastian, where Enciso's ship was wrecked, and he had to join the ship of Francisco Pizarro. Balboa said he had been with Bastides and guided them to the lucrative and fertile Darien, where the warriors did not use poison. The cacique Zemaco with 500 warriors attacked them but was defeated by Enciso and his men. Enciso forbade private trafficking in gold and became so unpopular that he was deposed; Balboa and Zamudio were elected. When Nicuesa came there and tried to take the gold, he was refused and, given the worst vessel, sailed away in March 1511 never to be heard of again.

Learning of gold, Governor Ovando in 1509 had authorized Juan Ponce de Leon to begin settlements on San Juan (Puerto Rico), where natives were distributed to Spaniards in repartimientos. The cacique Agueybana led a revolt. His sister loved Cristoval de Sotomayor and warned him; but their native guides murdered him and four other Spaniards. Spanish villages were burned, and a hundred inhabitants were massacred. Ponce de Leon had less than a hundred men in a fort; but he was reinforced from Española, and they defeated five thousand warriors, killing Agueybana. Put to work in the mines, a population estimated at 60,000 was reduced to 14,636 by 1515.

In 1510 the Spanish government ordered agents in Seville to send 250 slaves to the gold mines in Española. Slave raiding was authorized in the Bahamas to replace the dwindling labor supply on Española. The Spaniards had servants, whom they did not call slaves.

As early as 1509 King Fernando had ordered that no official should prevent anyone from sending him information concerning the welfare of those in the new world. In December 1511 Fray Antonio Montesinos preached a sermon at Santo Domingo in which he warned the conquistadors they were all in mortal sin because of the cruel way they were oppressing innocent people. He asked them,

Tell me, by what right do you hold these Indians
in such cruel and horrible servitude?
By what authority did you make unprovoked war
on these people, living in peace and quiet on their land,
and with unheard-of savagery
kill and consume so great a number of them?
Why do you keep them worn out and down-trodden,
without feeding them or tending their illnesses,
so that they die-or rather you kill them-
by reason of the heavy labor you lay upon them,
to get gold every day?
What care do you take to have them taught
to know their God and Maker, to be baptized,
to hear Mass and keep their Sundays and holy days?
Are they not men? Have they no soul, no reason?
Are you not required to love them as you love yourselves?
Do you understand this? Do you not feel it?
How can you be sunk so deep in unfeeling sleep?1

The audience was affected but not converted, and they complained to Diego Colon, insisting that the following Sunday the Dominican friar should retract what he had said. Fray Montesinos agreed to try but preached another strong sermon the next week. So they wrote to the King. In March 1512 Fernando ordered governor Diego Colon to restrain Montesinos, and Dominican superior Alonso de Loaysa commanded the Dominicans to stop preaching that doctrine. A royal response justifying the encomenderos was probably written by Bishop Fonseca.

Montesinos and the Franciscan Alonso del Espinal persuaded King Fernando to order theologians and jurists to formulate new laws. Friar Matias de Paz argued Indians must be free persons; but he believed that wars and enslavement could be used if they refused to become Christians. Palacios Rubios held that Pope Alexander VI in 1493 had given the natives to Spain to make them Christians; but they should not be mistreated. The Laws of Burgos promulgated at the end of 1512 mandated humane treatment of natives but allowed coercion to make them work. The encomienda system was ratified, and the natives were to live in new houses as their old ones were burned. They were to be taught to be Christians, forbidden to dance, but persuaded to marry. They could be allowed to live under their own government but must pay feudal dues to Spain. One-third of them may work in the gold mines. The next year a Clarification to the Laws of Burgos said the natives could be compelled to work nine months each year, and they must also work the other three months for wages or on their own farms.

In 1511 Diego de Velazquez began the conquest of Cuba, and he had a fort built at Baracoa. Young Bartolomé de Las Casas accompanied Panfilo de Narvaez on the invasion of the eastern end of Cuba, where Taino chief Hatuey had fled from Spanish oppression. According to Las Casas, Hatuey warned the Cubeños that the Spaniards would kill for gold and jewels. Although they claimed to adore a God of peace and equality, they usurped land and made people slaves. Hatuey led a guerrilla campaign against the intruders for three months. After he was betrayed and captured, the Spaniards burned him at the stake on February 2, 1512 as he refused to accept the religion of hypocrites. Seven thousand naked natives attacked the forces of Narvaez to steal clothes and other things. Narvaez terrified them with his horse, and they fled. To lessen conflict, parson Las Casas persuaded Narvaez to let the natives abandon half their houses to his settlers. In one incident a hundred Spaniards killed hundreds of natives, but Las Casas managed to save forty porters. In 1513 Amador de Lares got permission to import four African slaves from Española.

Velazquez was not authorized to assign native Cubeños to the conquistadors as workers. Nonetheless Francisco Morales captured some in his district, and in the conflict some Christians were killed. Velazquez sent Morales to be tried by Diego Colon at Española. The partisans of Morales wanted to send Velazquez's secretary, Hernando Cortes, to Santo Domingo, but the Governor learned of it and put the future conqueror of Mexico in prison. Friends of Cortes persuaded Velazquez to pardon him, and Cortes began accumulating his fortune by marrying Catalina Xuares. Velazquez reluctantly assigned Cubeños to his men, and the repartimiento system of forced labor began in Cuba. Velazquez was wise enough to have crops planted while they were washing for gold. By 1515 Velazquez had established seven towns including Havana and Santiago de Cuba. One-fifth of the gold sent to Spain in the first four years amounted to 12,437 pesos. Spaniards at Santiago ventured on man-hunting expeditions, and one raided islets of Yucutan in 1516. In 1520 three hundred slaves arrived in Cuba to work in the gold mine at Jaugua.

Hearing of a fountain that makes people younger, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida on Palm Sunday in 1512. He was sent by King Fernando in 1515 to kill the cannibal Caribs; but most of his own men were killed, as the Caribs carried off the women to the mountains. Ponce de Leon retired from military campaigning but remained governor of Puerto Rico. Learning in 1521 that Florida was part of the mainland, he ventured there again with eighty men but died on his way back in Cuba.

Factional Spaniards at Darien elected Balboa, who found Enciso guilty and sent him back to Spain with alcalde Zamudio. The Darien cacique Zemaco ambushed the Spaniards; but Francisco Pizarro and his men killed many as the rest fled; Balboa made Pizarro go back to get a wounded man. Two criminals had escaped punishment by Nicuesa and lived with the native Coyba cacique Careta. One told Balboa that Careta was hiding treasure. After the cacique and his family were captured, Careta offered to be Balboa's friend and gave him his daughter. Balboa helped the Coyba defeat their enemy, the Ponca. The Comagre tribe gave Balboa 4,000 ounces of gold and sixty captive slaves; after taking one-fifth of the gold for the crown, Balboa shared the rest with his men. Balboa sent Valdivia to Española for supplies and wrote asking Diego Colon to send a thousand men for an expedition to discover the southern sea.

After another attack from Zemaco, Balboa had a fortress built at Darien in 1512. A mutiny over gold division was suppressed; but after Balboa was recognized as governor by Diego Colon, Balboa pardoned them. Learning that Enciso was accusing him in Spain, Balboa took 190 men and a thousand natives with guides to cross the mountains. Ponca foe Quaraqua attacked them, but Spanish firearms, swords, and dogs killed 600 of his men; Balboa had about forty homosexual men in Quaraqua's harem torn apart by dogs for sodomy. In January 1513 Balboa wrote a letter to King Fernando criticizing Diego de Nicuesa and Alonzo de Ojeda for causing perdition and making the following claim for himself:

I have taken care that the Indians of the land are not ill-treated,
permitting no man to injure them
and giving them many things from Castile,
whereby they may be drawn into friendship with us.
The honorable treatment of the Indians has been the cause
of my learning great secrets from them.2

On September 25, 1513 Balboa was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. The cacique Chiapes gave him 500 pounds of gold, and Tumaco gave him more gold and pearls. Balboa had the chief Poncra and three others killed by dogs, because their enemies said they were plotting against him. Even more gold was extorted from the cacique Tubanama.

King Fernando sent Pedro Arias de Avila (Pedrarias Davila) to govern Golden Castile (as Darien was called) and to investigate Balboa. After learning of Balboa's achievements, two thousand men joined the expedition; but no lawyers were allowed. Franciscan friar Juan de Quevedo was appointed bishop and Gaspar de Espinosa alcalde mayor. The large enterprise was delayed until 1514 while Martin Fernandez de Enciso persuaded the royal council that God had given Spain the Indies just as the Jews had been given the promised land. El Requerimiento was formulated and was later proclaimed by conquistadors to justify their domination of natives. After explaining the Catholic religion, the sovereignty of the king and queen, and promising to treat them with love and charity if they accept their authority, this Requirement threatened the natives as follows:

But if you do not do thus, or maliciously delay to do it,
I certify to you that with the help of God
I will invade your lands with a powerful force,
and will make war upon you in all parts,
and in every manner in my power,
and will subject you to the yoke
and obedience of the Church and their highnesses;
and I will take your persons,
and those of your wives and children,
and will make them slaves,
and as such will sell them and dispose of them
as their highnesses shall order;
and I will take your property,
and I will do you all possible harm and evil,
as to vassals who do not obey or recognize their lord,
but who resist and oppose him.
And I protest that the deaths and damage
which from such conduct may result will be at your charge
and not at that of their highnesses, nor at mine,
nor at that of the gentlemen who come with me.3

Balboa submitted to a residencia in 1515 and had to pay a fine. In one month 700 of the greedy adventurers died of hunger and disease; others were sent back to Spain. The rapacious Juan de Ayores oppressed the natives while trying to find gold. At Dobayba a hundred Spaniards died, and Balboa was wounded. King Fernando proclaimed Balboa adelantado of the South Sea and governor of Panama and Coyba; but the resentful Garabito persuaded Pedrarias to arrest Balboa. Pizarro led an expedition after pearls to the Isla Rica that killed 700 natives in one battle. Bishop Quevedo persuaded Pedrarias not to send Balboa back to Spain but to betroth his daughter to Balboa. In 1516 Balboa managed to transport materials to build ships for exploring the Pacific, though Bishop Quevedo reported that more than 500 Indians died on the journey. Garabito used Balboa's native paramour to turn Pedrarias against him, and Pizarro arrested Balboa at Acla. He was tried before Espinosa for mistreating Enciso and Nicuesa; despite his popularity among his men, Balboa and three other officers were beheaded at the insistence of Pedrarias in 1517.

By 1515 most of the islands of the Caribbean were being exploited, and the Bahamas had been depopulated. Las Casas told how these innocent Lucayos were persuaded to leave their island so they could visit the souls of their ancestors. Many died and were thrown into the sea. Divers were used to gain precious pearls. The need for labor led the Spaniards to import African slaves even though they had to go through Seville because of the Treaty of Alcaçovas with the Portuguese.

When King Fernando died in 1516, Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros became regent for the mad Queen Juana; Las Casas persuaded him to replace Fonseca and appoint three Jeronymite monks to govern the Indies. They attempted to apply the Laws of Burgos that had been formulated in 1512, demanding that Christians injuring the Indians be punished by their judges and that Indians should be accepted as witnesses. Jiménez urged the Spaniards to marry native princesses (cacicas). Las Casas was appointed Protector of the Indians with a salary and the lawyer Zuazo to conduct residencias of the judges. The only proposal by Las Casas that was implemented was the one he regretted, allowing African slaves to relieve the burden on the Indians. In 1517 the first contract to import 4,000 African slaves in eight years was made. That year an official inquiry concluded that the Indians were not capable of living in freedom, though one Dominican believed they could. Las Casas had to flee Española to avoid being arrested. Jiménez died in 1518. A smallpox epidemic from Europe exterminated the remaining natives on Española and spread to Cuba in 1519. The Jeronymites were recalled, and Bishop Fonseca was again in charge. Rodrigo de Figueroa headed another investigation and in 1520 was instructed to give Indians their freedom; but he found that the natives with little help failed to provide for themselves. The declining gold industry was replaced mostly by sugar plantations. The first sugar mill had been built on Española in 1516. In 1520 officials in Española requested permission for sugar to be traded directly within the Spanish empire without having to go through Seville.

Central America and Caribbean 1521-80

Cortes in Mexico 1519-28

Aztecs to 1519

Hernan Cortes was born in Medellin in 1484 and went to Española in 1506 to mine gold, but Governor Ovando made him a notary. During the conquest of Cuba led by Diego Velazquez, Cortes was responsible for making sure the King got one-fifth of the profits from gold and slaves. In 1514 Cortes led a group that wanted more natives for the settlers. He became secretary for Governor Velazquez but was arrested for refusing to wed Catalina; after an escape and recapture, he married her. Cortes was appointed alcalde of Santiago.

In 1517 Cuba governor Velazquez sent Hernandez de Cordoba with three ships west to explore Yucatan. The Mayans at Cape Catoche invited the Spaniards to land, and they read the Requirement. Cordoba took two prisoners they named Melchor and Julian to be interpreters. On the western side of Yucatan they were attacked at night by Maya chief Mochcouoh, and twenty Spaniards were killed. Cordoba had 33 wounds and returned to Cuba. The next year Velazquez appointed his nephew Juan de Grijalva to head an expedition that revisited the island of Cozumel. At Champoton near the scene of the previous conquistador defeat, Grijalva demonstrated their cannons but had one man killed. He went further up the coast to the Tabasco region that was part of the Mexica empire. The Totonacs had been defeated by the Texcocans and by Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina, and they had been paying tribute since Ahuitzotl. They gave the Castilians gold, but Grijalva said he wanted more. He learned of their laws, human sacrifices, and probably about the Mexica empire. Pedro de Alvarado and others wanted more adventure; but Grijalva returned to Cuba, leaving behind only one man by mistake.

Before Grijalva returned, Velazquez asked Cortes to lead a trading expedition; blasphemy, gambling, and sleeping with native women were to be forbidden. Cortes used his money and borrowed even more. Velazquez provided nearly half the expenses but tried to replace Cortes with Luis de Medina; however, the Governor's messenger was stabbed, and the papers were taken to Cortes. Next Cortes had his men seize all the meat in a Santiago slaughterhouse, and he sent Diego de Ordaz to take over a brigantine carrying supplies to Darien. Cortes left Havana with eleven ships and about 530 Europeans, including a few women servants. They had sixteen horses, thirty crossbowmen, twelve arquebuses, fourteen cannons, cotton armor woven by Cuban native women, and steel armor for the knights.

At Cozumel, Cortes ordered Alvarado's men to return what they had stolen. The Mayans were friendly and told them two captured Christians had been brought there. Later Cortes found Geronimo de Aguilar, who had been lost with Valdivia after leaving Darien; the bodies of others had been eaten, but Aguilar had learned Chontal Maya and could serve as an interpreter. The Mayans urged Cortes to leave; he refused, and in a battle at Potonchan twenty conquistadors were wounded. The next day Cortes told them he would treat them as brothers if they laid down their arms. At Centla the Spaniards used horses and killed at least 220 Mayans before a truce was made. Cortes gained an interpreter in the young woman they called Marina, who knew both Chontal Maya and Nahuatl. During Easter week of 1519 Cortes visited the Totonacs, exchanging gifts. The slave Cuitlalpitoc arrived with food and jewels from the Mexica, and on Easter Sunday the Mexica governor of Cuetlaxtlan, Teudile, ordered his men to build hundreds of huts for the visitors. The ambassador from Moteuczoma Xocoyotl brought more treasures and witnessed the Castilian display of cannons and horses. Cortes indicated his men were desperate for gold.

When the latest messengers arrived with news of the strange teules (lords or spirits), Moteuczoma Xocoyotl had two captives sacrificed. He must have thought about Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, because this was 1-Reed, the year in the 52-year cycle in which Quetzalcoatl had arrived and departed to the east; he had also opposed human sacrifices. Moteuczoma sent Cortes golden treasures and jewels related to Quetzalcoatl; envoys even dressed Cortes and Alvarado like that god. Cortes said he wanted to visit Moteuczoma, but the Mexica refused and advised him to leave. They stopped supplying food, and the Castilians had to survive on shellfish. Cortes sent Alvarado with a hundred soldiers to take only food, but he was rough on the natives and seized two women himself. Cortes cleverly sent leaders supporting Velazquez away on expeditions and got himself "elected" justicia mayor and captain-general of the territory eventually named New Spain. Francisco de Montejo recommended a site at Quiahuiztlan, and they called the new city Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz.

The Totonacs told Cortes that the people of Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco were enemies of the Mexica. When Mexican tribute collectors arrived, Cortes persuaded the Quiahuiztlan chief to arrest them; then the wily Cortes secretly freed two of them, telling them he wanted to be a friend of Moteuczoma. A helmet Cortes had given Teudile was returned to him filled with gold dust as he had requested. The Totonacs agreed to rebel against Mexica, because the Castilians would fight for them. Cortes had the Cempoallan idols destroyed. He sent Montejo and Portocarrero back to Spain to gain the approval of King Carlos (Charles) V. A conspiracy to take a ship and intercept them was discovered, and after a trial Cortes had two leaders hanged. To keep others from leaving, he ordered nine of their twelve ships beached, stripped, and the wood used for building. In August 1519 about three hundred conquistadors accompanied by 800 serving Campoallans began their march toward the Mexica capital with artillery mounted on the first wheeled vehicles used in North America. Cortes gave inspiring speeches, and his slogan was "Conquer or die." He arrested and drafted men, who had landed from a ship under Alvarez de Pineda from Florida. Zautla chief Olintecle had thirty wives and was a tributary to the Mexica; he gave the Spaniards girls.

Cortes sent envoys to the Tlaxcalans, who had their Otomis attack them, killing two horses; but the Tlaxcalans offered to pay for them. The Tlaxcalans regularly sacrificed hundreds of prisoners to their god Camaxtli. Their general Xicotencatl persuaded his father of the same name and Maxixcatzin to attack the foreigners; but the Castilians defeated them, cruelly mutilated prisoners, and threw priests down from the temples. Cortes later reported that 149,000 men attacked him; sixty of his men were wounded, and in revenge they burned towns and killed many. Moteuczoma sent more gifts and promised to be a vassal of the Spanish king, asking Cortes not to come. Cortes told his men that if they turned back, their Totonac allies would turn against them. The Tlaxcalan council agreed to make peace with the Spaniards, who then entered their city. Cortes accepted three hundred slave girls for his men, and aristocratic daughters were given to his captains; but the Tlaxcalans would not give up their gods. Cortes sent two men ahead to Moteuczoma. At Cholula the Castilians saw the largest pyramid in the world. The Cholulans believed Quetzalcoatl protected them; when they planned an ambush, Cortes ordered more than a hundred of their leaders killed. This atrocity shattered the rumor that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl returning.

About a thousand Tlaxcalan allies now replaced the Totonacs, who went home. Moteuczoma Xocoyotl sent a man to impersonate him; but the Tlaxcalans told Cortes that he was an impostor. As the Castilians neared Tenochtitlan by reaching Chalco, Moteuczoma wept in public and begged the gods to have pity on his people, drawing his own blood to appease the gods. He sent four Mexican chiefs to Cortes, who was allowed to march on the causeways into the island capital in the lake. The Aztec emperor Moteuczoma greeted Cortes with courtesy and, according to several reports, offered to serve the king of Spain. He let his guests stay in the palace of his father Axayacatl. Cortes visited the market of the thriving commercial center of Tlatelolco. When Moteuczoma personally showed him the most sacred shrines of their religion where human sacrifices occurred daily, Cortes gave the Emperor a lecture on the Christian religion. He got permission to build a chapel in their quarters, and his men discovered a secret passage that led to a room full of treasures; Moteuczoma let them keep the gold and gems but got the feathers back.

The Castilians tried to find more gold, and golden ornaments were melted into bars. Cortes had two younger brothers of Texcoco king Cacama hanged, because he believed they were conspiring; Cacama was also arrested and held with Moteuczoma and the lords of Toluca, Itzapalapa, and Tacuba. These captives all agreed to be vassals of Spain, and Moteuczoma did so weeping. Cortes destroyed idols and let the priests remove others. Effigies of the Virgin Mary and St. Christopher were put in the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Moteuczoma warned the Christians to leave before they were attacked. Cortes had his men build ships to get across the lake.

Meanwhile Montejo and Portocarrero stopped at Cuba, and word got out. Governor Velazquez failed to stop them but sent Gonzalo de Guzman to Spain to accuse Cortes. Velazquez also chose Panfilo de Narvaez to lead an expedition to discipline Cortes. In Seville the treasures brought by Montejo and Portocarrero were confiscated by the House of Trade; but a lawyer hired by Martin Cortes, Hernan's father, got them back so that they could buy supplies to be sent to Mexico. Judge Vazquez de Ayllon was sent from Santo Domingo in separate ships to prevent conflict between Narvaez and Cortes. Narvaez left Cuba in March 1520 with nine hundred men on eighteen ships and founded a town called San Salvador on the site that is now Veracruz. He proclaimed that Cortes and his men were bad. Narvaez abducted Ayllon and sent him to Cuba; but the judge persuaded his captors to take him to Santo Domingo lest they be hanged. Moteuczoma's spies brought him messages from Narvaez, and the Mexica emperor told Cortes, urging him to leave. On the coast when men from Narvaez tried to read decrees, Gonzolo de Sandoval declared that Cortes was justicia mayor of New Spain and had them arrested and sent to Cortes at Tenochtitlan. Cortes treated them well, gained information, and sent them back to Narvaez with a load of gold.

Cortes gathered 340 men at Cholula and left Alvarado with 120 in the capital. Messengers went to the camp of Narvaez, and many were won over to Cortes with the help of gold. Sandoval with sixty men attacked Narvaez when he was sleeping in a thatched hut on top of a pyramid. Narvaez lost an eye in the fighting and surrendered after the hut was set on fire. In this first major battle between Europeans in the new world seventeen were killed. Cortes had Narvaez and Salvatierra put in irons, pardoned the prisoners, conscripting them and those in the new town. Resentment from his own men caused Cortes to send about forty, including a dozen of Narvaez's captains, on foot; they were captured or killed by Tepeacans at Quechula.

At Tenochtitlan the Mexicas stopped providing food for Alvarado and his men. Alvarado had relatives of Moteuczoma tortured and believed that an uprising was imminent. He permitted the festival of Tezcatlipoca, but during the frenzy he struck first, slaughtering the noble dancers and spectators in the sacred precinct. Those guarding Moteuczoma murdered many of the imprisoned lords. The Mexicas tried to burn the palace and did burn the four ships. Alvarado held a knife to Moteuczoma and made him tell his people to stop fighting. Several thousand Mexicas had been killed; only a half dozen Castilians had died, but now they were besieged in the palace.

Cortes gathered his forces at Tlaxcala, and from Tacuba marched back into the capital on June 24, 1520. He refused to speak directly to Moteuczoma Xocoyotl, since he had conspired with Narvaez. Cortes allowed his brother Cuitlahuac to leave so they might get food; but he organized resistance. When Diego de Ordaz led three hundred men out of the palace, they were pelted with stones, killing a few and wounding eighty, including Ordaz and Cortes. Spanish cannons killed scores of Mexicas. Moteuczoma was persuaded to speak again; but the Mexica captains replied that they had elected Cuitlahuac their new lord. Moteuczoma was hit by stones and died the next morning. That night Cortes had fought on the temple of Yopico, and about twenty Castilians were killed. He ordered the captive Mexica lords executed. At midnight the conquistadors tried to sneak out of the Aztec capital; but after crossing four bridges, the Mexicas were alerted. Most of the gold packed on horses was lost. The Spaniards had to swim across the lake, and many with gold bars inside their armor drowned. At least four hundred conquistadors died, about half of those escaping. Some of the Narvaez men may not have known of the escape and were probably captured and sacrificed.

The wounded Castilians limped back toward Tlaxcala, fighting off guerrilla harassment. Cuitlahuac led a major attack at Otumba but was defeated. Cortes announced that anyone with gold must turn it over to him or Alvarado, causing resentment. Maxixcatzin won a heated argument with the younger Xicotencatl, and Tlaxcala maintained their alliance with the Spaniards; but they demanded Cholula, a fortress in Tenochtitlan, a share of the booty, and no future tribute to anyone. Cortes agreed so that his men could recuperate at Tlaxcala. Resentful soldiers wanted to return to Cuba, but Cortes persuaded them to stay for the sake of honor. He proclaimed that because 870 Castilians and sixty horses had been killed, they would enslave the rebelling Mexicas. They first attacked the Tepeacans, killing more than 2,000 and enslaving at least 4,000 women and children.

Narvaez, or perhaps Alonso de Parada, had brought smallpox to Cozumel, and it quickly spread through the Mayans of Yucatan. An African porter of Narvaez brought the deadly disease to Cempoallan. Unlike the Europeans, the natives had no immunity against smallpox, and many succumbed; in some areas half the people died. By October 1520 smallpox had reached Tenochtitlan; Maxixcatzin and Cuitlahuac died. Cuauhtemoc, son of Ahuitzotl, became Mexica emperor; but as leaders died of smallpox, Cortes often selected the new rulers among his allies. In December, Cortes proclaimed in his Tlaxcala military and civil ordinances that the primary motivation for his conquest was for the spiritual salvation of the natives.

Several ships arrived from Cuba, Española, Jamaica, and Spain with supplies, and Cortes managed to incorporate the men into his growing army. Ixtlilxochitl, brother of two Texcoco kings, agreed to fight for the Castilians and proposed their alliance; but when King Coanacochtzin fled, Cortes ordered Texcoco sacked, again killing the men and enslaving the women and children. Coanacochtzin changed his mind. After the Castilians invaded Itzapalapa, the lords of Chalco and Tlamanalco offered to surrender. Fighting in Tacuba lasted six days. Villafaña was hanged for plotting to overthrow Cortes; but the innocent Francisco Verdugo was not blamed for being the intended replacement. In March 1521 Cortes sent Alonso de Mendoza and Diego de Ordaz with a ship of treasures and the first load of corn (maize) from Mexico to Española. Sandoval pacified most of the towns around the lake, and the Castilians attacked Xochimilco on the lake. Tenochtitlan was already suffering from a lack of tribute. Cuauhtemoc complained that their traditional enemies-Tlaxcala, Cholula, and Huexotzinco-had been joined by Texcoco, Chalco, Xochimilco, and Tacuba; but he was determined to fight to a desperate end, ordering even widows to use swords.

Twelve brigantines had been built for use on the lake. Cortes had about nine hundred soldiers and thousands of native allies providing supportive labor and warriors. The spring that supplied Tenochtitlan with an aqueduct was blocked, leaving the city brackish water, which was later captured, and the polluted lake. The battle for Tenochtitlan began on the first day of June in 1521. The Castilian army was divided into three parts and approached the capital on the causeways, aided by the ships and allied canoes. Cortes said he did not want to destroy the city; but to prevent rock throwing from rooftops, they demolished the buildings. When two sons of Moteuczoma asked to negotiate, Cuauhtemoc had them executed. The Mexica king appealed to the commercial city of Tlatelolco, and their leaders agreed to fight if their city was given control. On the last day of June the Castilians attacked Tlatelolco, but about twenty were killed; 53 were captured and sacrificed on the pyramid in view of Cortes and his officers. In this war few Castilians were killed, because the Mexicas usually sought to capture their enemies. This defeat caused most of the native allies to depart.

Chiefs in Cuernavaca asked Cortes for aid in fighting their enemies, and the general sent Andrés de Tapia to help them defeat the Malinalco. Sandoval's troops helped the Otomi defeat the Matalcingo. Cuauhtemoc did not try to follow up his victory, and a small force of Tlaxcalans raided the city. Thus the Spaniards regained allies as those in the capital suffered starvation and disease from drinking lake water. On July 27 Alvarado's men captured the great marketplace of Tlatelolco. On August 12 the Spaniards and their allies broke through, killing and capturing a reported 40,000. The next day Cuauhtemoc tried to escape in a canoe but was caught and brought before Cortes, who promised he could govern as his vassal and asked about gold.

Cortes established himself in a palace at Coyoacan and appointed his friends and officers to govern various territories in the former Mexica empire. Its tribute rolls indicated how much could be exacted from 370 towns. Local chiefs were required to provide specified amounts of gold, corn, turkeys, and other goods. Fields in the valley of Mexico had not been sown for at least a year. Repression and torture accompanied the search for gold; but most of the Mexicas cooperated in rebuilding Tenochtitlan, singing as they worked and quickly adapting to European technology. Spaniards resented the small amount of gold they received and suspected that Cortes was hoarding millions. Cortes sent them to found new communities. Sandoval went to subdue Coatzacoalcos, Luis Marin to Oaxaca and Chiapas, Cristobal de Olid to Michoacan, and Alvarado to Guatemala. Cortes himself went to Panuco. Cristobal de Tapia arrived from Española with papers from Bishop Fonseca appointing him governor of New Spain. Cortes refused to see him and fired Olid for accepting Tapia. Other officers met with Tapia and said he was not qualified to govern; Sandoval made sure he left.

In Santo Domingo the audiencia gave Cortes permission to conquer all of New Spain, brand slaves, and allot natives to conquistadors in encomiendas. Alonso de Avila helped Cortes gain these concessions and became alcalde mayor of Mexico by April 1522, when he presided over an inquiry. That month the first encomenderos were chosen. Each town was to be protected by a conquistador, who was responsible for making the natives Christians and vassals of the Spanish king. In Europe, Emperor Carlos V confirmed Cortes as governor of New Spain in October 1522; but the new treasurer, factor, accountant, and inspector were to have salaries much larger than his. Cortes was joined by his wife Catalina, who resented his native concubines and died in suspicious circumstances. Some believed Cortes strangled her; the charges were dropped, though her family won a civil suit.

At Panuco, Cortes ran into an expedition led by Jamaica governor Francisco de Garay, who had to yield in September 1523 when the royal decree finally arrived. Cortes promulgated the ordinances of New Spain in March 1524. Encomenderos were required to have weapons suitable to the number of Indians under their control, but they also had to make sure thousands of plants were cultivated. Hours of labor were limited from sunrise to one hour before sunset, and attending church on Sundays and holidays was compulsory. Women and boys under twelve could not be made to work on plantations. Labor squads could only be worked for twenty days, and thirty days must pass before they were summoned again. Encomienda Indians could not be used in mines, where slaves worked. Every settler was urged to bring his wife from Spain or get married within eighteen months. Municipal officers were appointed by Cortes and met in town councils at least once a week. Monopolies on imported cargoes were prevented by not allowing anyone to buy more than was needed for domestic use in the first ten days. The India council had tried to forbid encomiendas in 1523; but the outcry was so loud that this was repealed three years later, though no encomendero was to be allowed more than 300 Indians.

Cortes was religious and knelt when twelve Franciscans arrived in the summer of 1524 after walking barefoot 270 miles from Veracruz. One friar took the word for "poor," Motolinia, as his name. They instructed children and began to learn their language. Thousands were baptized, and Cortes helped organize the first council of friars and jurists in 1526. The zealous Franciscans also destroyed five hundred temples and twenty thousand images in seven years while building more than a hundred churches in Mexico City. Miracles were attributed to the faith of saintly Valencia, who died in 1534.

French pirates had stolen previous treasures that Cortes had sent to his king, and in 1524 he sent more gold and a silver cannon to Carlos V with gold and silver for his father to buy supplies for the colony. Diego de Soto successfully delivered these gifts to Spain in May 1525, though the money for Martin Cortes was confiscated as stolen from the king, who feared the growing power of Cortes. Sending men to punish Olid for trying to take over Honduras for Cuba governor Velazquez, Cortes went to explore Honduras himself, entrusting his property to mayordomo Rodrigo de Paz, who became alguacil mayor. The general took along Mexica lords, including Cuauhtemoc, as hostages to prevent rebellions but ended up having them hanged for conspiracy.

While Cortes was away, the four officers Carlos V had appointed governed New Spain. Treasurer Alfonso de Estrada was put in charge of Mexico and was resented by factor Gonzalo de Salazar, inspector Pedro Almindez Chirinos, and accountant Rodrigo de Albornoz, who fell ill. Salazar and Chirinos tried to win over justicia mayor Zuazo, but he was incorruptible; so they had him imprisoned with help from Paz. Claiming Cortes was dead, Salazar and Chirinos got Estrada and Albornoz to go along with arresting Paz and torturing his feet to find out where the money of Cortes was hidden. Paz was hanged about the same time Cortes had Cuauhtemoc hanged. Salazar sent out agents to extort treasures. When refugees were forced to leave a church, Father Valencia protested the desecration of a sanctuary by excommunicating the city until the prisoners were restored. In January 1526 a messenger from Cortes secretly arrived, stimulating Estrada and Albornoz to put Salazar and Chirinos in cages. After this misgovernment, Cortes was welcomed back with joy.

Licentiate Luis Ponce de Leon arrived to conduct a residencia of Cortes. He fell ill; but before he died, he appointed Marcos de Aguilar as alcalde mayor. The aged Aguilar also became sick and appointed Estrada governor. Cortes, suspected of poisoning them, refrained from taking over the government. Estrada sent Diego de Figueroa to the south; but he raided graveyards and extorted contributions, meeting his end when the ship carrying these treasures sunk. In August 1527 a royal decree arrived confirming Estrada as governor. Albornoz persuaded him to release Salazar and Chirinos. When Cortes complained angrily after one of his adherent's hand was cut off, Estrada ordered him exiled. Cortes sailed for Spain in 1528 to appeal to Emperor Carlos V.

Mexico 1528-80

The aristocratic lawyer Nuño de Guzman was appointed governor of Panuco and began confiscating property on legal technicalities. He seized natives and sold them as slaves, allowing settlers to do the same; about 10,000 were transported in more than twenty ships. Next Guzman was appointed president of an audiencia that began at Mexico City in January 1529. There he continued his plundering and punished rebels with torture and slavery. He arrested 250 soldiers of Cortes, and their property was awarded to the wife of Narvaez. Many punishments were avoided with substantial bribes of the audiencia. The residencia of Cortes began in February. Agents of Cortes fled into a church and were attacked, causing the judges to be excommunicated. Spain confirmed Cortes as captain-general but not as governor, though he was awarded 22 towns and 23,000 vassals.

In 1530 a royal cedula forbade the taking of slaves, even in war. Next the children of slaves were liberated, and eventually only Africans were held as slaves in America. In 1532 Vasco de Quiroga founded a hospital in Mexico City that combined charity, health, welfare, education, and religious purposes. King Carlos V appointed Antonio de Mendoza viceroy of Mexico in 1530, but he did not arrive there until 1535. African slaves planned a revolt and elected a king; but the plot leaked out, and 24 conspirators were hanged. To prevent this danger, Viceroy Mendoza asked the King to prohibit the slave trade.

On December 9, 1531 the native Juan Diego believed he was told by the Virgin to instruct Bishop Juan de Zumarraga to build a church in Guadalupe. After she appeared to him five times, Diego revealed an image of the Virgin to the bishop, and he was convinced. Shrines were built in her honor, and the cult spread across Mexico. Seven Augustinians came to Mexico in 1533, and twelve Dominicans arrived three years later. Dominican missionaries led by Diego Carranza peacefully won over the cannibalistic Chontales in Tabasco that had resisted armed conquest. Churches were built, and indigenous beliefs were suppressed. Millions were converted and baptized, more than 500,000 in the year 1537.

After he returned from Spain and was defended, Guzman decided to lead an expedition to Jalisco with the best-equipped army in America; he and Chirinos cruelly conquered the natives as far as Sonora. After the King revoked Guzman's license to take slaves, many settlers left. In 1533 his authority was limited to Jalisco, and a new audiencia investigated him. The new bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, exposed the misrule of Guzman's audiencia in a letter. Zumarraga ordered raids on the old religion, and its artifacts were burned in the marketplace. King Carlos appointed licentiate Diego Perez de la Torre governor of New Galicia in 1536 and to take the residencia of Guzman, who was imprisoned. Torre with help from friars treated the natives well, and many returned to their homes. Atrocities still occurred in areas beyond his control, and cacique Guajicar led a revolt in the north. In neighboring Michoacan, Bishop Vasco de Quiroga restricted the encomenderos, enabling the natives to make progress. When Torre died, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado became provisional governor in 1539. Stimulated by stories of seven rich cities, he invaded the north and organized an expedition that explored as far as Kansas. Frustrated fortune hunters disregarded his authority, and he returned to Mexico with only a remnant in 1542. From September of that year Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo explored the California coast until he died on January 3, 1543, succeeded by Bartolomé Ferrelo for three more months.

Cortes organized a muster of troops that failed so badly the natives began killing isolated Spaniards. This emergency, however, enabled him to raise a strong force to quell the rebellion in 1531. Cortes sent Francisco de Montejo to subjugate the Yucatan peninsula as early as 1527; this bloody war dragged on, and in 1535 no Spaniard was left in Yucatan. Finally in 1541 the natives were defeated and were never able to unite their forces again, although sporadic resistance lasted a few more years. More Spaniards died fighting in Yucatan than in the conquest of both the Aztec and Inca empires. The city of Merida was founded in 1542. Bartolomé de Las Casas urged the Spaniards in Yucatan to liberate their slaves in 1545. The Audiencia of Mexico charged Montejo in 1548 with stealing funds and refusing to free slaves as ordered; he had to agree to let missionaries accompany all his future expeditions. Cortes left Mexico in 1540, struggled with legal battles, and died in Spain in 1547.

Pedro de Alvarado tried to help New Galicia lieutenant-governor Cristobal de Oñate fight natives in the Mixton War; but while retreating, he died after his horse fell on him in 1541. Viceroy Mendoza with a force of 450 Spaniards and 30,000 Tlascalan and Mexica allies joined with Oñate to march on Nochistlan. Mendoza ordered the prisoners enslaved; but the local encomendero Ibarra allowed many to escape to protect his income. Nevertheless the total number of slaves taken from the Mixton War (1540-42) was estimated at 5,000. The New Laws of 1542 prohibited viceroys and governors from such enterprises. In 1545 Mexico was devastated by a new plague called matlazahuatl, of which an estimated 800,000 natives died. In 1546 Juan de Tolosa arrived with four Franciscan friars, and by treating the natives kindly they learned of the rich silver lodes that brought colonists to Zacatecas. A new audiencia was named Guadalajara in 1548. The Zapotecs rebelled against Spanish rule in 1550, and two years later the Chichimecs of Zacatecas were led by Maxorro, who was eventually captured.

Luis de Velasco replaced Mendoza as viceroy in 1550. King Carlos urged him to develop public education and found a university in Mexico City in 1551. That year the Crown decreed that 150,000 male slaves and all enslaved women and boys under 14 years of age should be freed. Even the viceroy and audiencias were not allowed to keep servants without paying them fair wages. In 1552 a royal decree allowed encomiendas to be left to the eldest legitimate son, and soon this was extended to future generations, making them perpetual. Yet royal visitador Diego Ramirez reformed the encomienda system by lowering tributes and prosecuting encomenderos for misconduct. Gambling had been prohibited in 1529, but in 1552 a royal monopoly on playing cards began bringing in revenue for the government. In 1557 caciques were ordered not to rob the wages of workers they employed, and the next year the Crown prohibited them from inflicting capital punishment or mutilation. In northern Mexico in 1563 Durango was founded, and Governor Diego de Ibarra organized Nombre de Dios; the next year they built a fort at San Juan. The Franciscans established ten convents by 1590. Four hundred convent towns had churches built mostly by native labor, and the secular parishes and pueblos had as many chapels. Archbishop Alonso de Montufar wrote in a letter in 1556 that gangs of 500, 600, or 1,000 Indians were brought in to work, and they became servants of the friars, nuns, and priests without paying them any wages.

When Velasco died in 1564, the city council of Mexico sent a message they did not want another viceroy. Martin Cortes, the son of the conquistador and the native Marina, was known as the Marques del Valle. Word that the India council did not assent to making encomiendas perpetual stimulated a conspiracy to make New Spain independent under the Marquis. Martin and Luis Cortes were arrested, and the main plotters, brothers Alonso and Gil Gonzalez de Avila, were beheaded for treason in 1566. Gaston de Peralta, Marques de Falces, arrived as the new viceroy and sent Martin and Luis Cortes to Spain, releasing others. When royal commissioners Alonso Muñoz and Luis Carrillo arrived, they deposed the new viceroy. To avoid torture, Cristobal de Oñate confessed and testified against many innocent people, who were put in newly built dungeons. In 1568 Oñate and two others were hanged, and others were exiled. The elderly Muñoz and Carrillo continued to jail innocent people until petitions sent to Spain resulted in their removal. Martin Cortes regained his property in 1574, but Tehuantepec was taken by the Crown to use as a port and navy yard. Francisco de Ibarra brutally conquered the northwest between 1562 and 1575 and called it Nueva Vizcaya.

English corsair John Hawkins with nine armed ships seized the island of Sacrificios in 1568. The audiencia agreed to give him provisions if his men did not enter Veracruz. The new viceroy, Martin Enriquez de Almansa (1568-80), exchanged hostages, but Hawkins had to avoid treachery; his men were mistreated, and some were even burned to death. Francis Drake attacked Spaniards in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, sacking Huatulco in Oaxaca in 1578 and exploring the California coast the next year. In 1574 the Inquisition led by Pedro de Moya began prosecuting heretics. From 1576 to 1580 a worse matlazahuatl epidemic carried off two million natives in Mexico but infected few Spaniards.

Mexico 1580-1744
Northern Mexico 1580-1744

Central America and Caribbean 1521-80

Caribbean and Panama 1500-21

After Balboa was executed, the friars of St. Jerome ordered Pedrarias to obey the town council of Darien. Bishop Quevedo in Spain testified against both Balboa and Pedrarias. In November 1521 the historian Fernandez de Oviedo was given permission by the Darien council to implement major reforms that included prohibiting gambling, blasphemy, keeping mistresses, employing native women for bearing burdens, and enslaving their children; he promoted construction and increased prosperity. Oviedo also put down a native rebellion. Pedrarias had him arrested and tried; Oviedo paid a fine, but after an attempt on his life he went back to Spain.

Pedrarias disobeyed the royal order to deliver Balboa's ships to Gil Gonzalez for an expedition in the South Sea. Gonzalez had ships built and was able to gain gold and converts mostly by diplomatic means. The chief Nicoya sent him on to Chief Nicaragua, who asked difficult questions. Why did the Christian God not make a better world? Is the soul immortal after it leaves the body? Are the pope and king of Spain immortal? Why do Christians love gold so much? Nicaragua agreed to give up his idols and become a Christian, and thousands followed his example. Diriangen, however, attacked the Spaniards with three thousand men; yet three horses enabled the conquistadors to scatter them. Panama governor Pedrarias wanted to kill the cacique Urraca, who was invited to Nata and treacherously captured, though he escaped. Urraca then led a war against the invaders that lasted nine years.

After Cortes conquered Mexico in 1521, he sent his lieutenant general Pedro de Alvarado to invade Guatemala with 120 horses, 420 soldiers, and 20,000 natives. The lord of Tehuantepec capitulated right away; but the wealthier lord of Tutupec resented this and attacked his neighbor. Tehuantepec appealed to Cortes, and in 1522 Alvarado helped them defeat the Tutupec. In early 1524 Alvarado moved into Soconusco. Tecum Umam led the ancient Quiché (Mayans); but their army was defeated when Alvarado slew that chief with a lance. Four captured chiefs of Xelahuh were baptized, freed, and sent out to convert others. Quichés in their capital at Utatlan invited the Spaniards to dine and plotted to burn their city; but Alvarado avoided the trap and defeated them, burning their city and destroying their crops as punishment. At the Cakchiquel capital of Patinamit their king Sinacam gave Alvarado gold and festive hospitality, asking him to subjugate the Zutugils, whose ruler at Atitlan had already slain four messengers sent by Alvarado. After capturing a stronghold, the Castilians found Atitlan abandoned. Alvarado fell in love with Sinacam's wife, arrested the king, and extorted more gold.

Next Pedro de Alvarado and his men invaded the region they called Salvador and exterminated tens of thousands of natives; most towns had to be subjugated more than once. In the summer of 1524 Cakchiquel nobles revolted. Alvarado even tore the golden ornaments from the noses of Sinacam and two princes, demanding more gold and silver within five days. The Quichés and Zutugils were even more devastated by the Castilian oppressors. The Spaniards founded a city called Santiago, and Alvarado appointed his brother Gonzalo alguacil mayor. Gonzalo de Alvarado took charge of conquering Mixco, Chignauta, and the Zacatepecs in 1525. He governed so badly that another revolt by the Cakchiquels had to be suppressed. Pedro de Alvarado returned from Spain to govern Guatemala, Chiapas and other territories; but he was put on trial in 1529 for embezzlement, cruelty, and illegal warfare. They agreed on a compromise, and he continued to govern.

Mexico governor Cortes sent Cristobal de Olid to explore Honduras in 1524, but the latter accepted money and men from Cuba governor Velazquez, who felt Cortes had betrayed him. Gil Gonzalez gave way before the powerful Olid. When Cortes learned about the disloyalty of Olid, he sent Francisco de las Casas to Honduras. Olid arrested Gonzalez and Casas but allowed them to dine with him. One night they grabbed him and stabbed him, executing Olid and his deserting lieutenant Briones before sailing for Mexico. Meanwhile Cortes was leading an expedition in an arduous trek through the forests, building impressive bridges to cross rivers and struggling with starvation as local natives avoided them. When captains on one of his ships at sea fought each other, the natives rebelled and killed the Spaniards, causing many in Mexico to believe that Cortes was dead, especially after Ordaz went and saw the evidence of the slaughter. Cortes was warmly welcomed at Trujillo. When he heard the bad news from Mexico, he sent a messenger, who reversed the situation. Cortes sent Sandoval to open a road to Nicaragua, but soon they went back to Mexico on the ship of Diego Altamirano, leaving Saavedra to govern Honduras.

Spaniards in the territory of Nicaragua came into conflict with each other in 1524 when Gil Gonzalez attacked Hernando de Soto, who had been sent by Hernandez de Cordoba on behalf of Pedrarias. Cordoba thought he could claim Nicaragua for himself and imprisoned Soto, who escaped and reported this to Pedrarias in Panama. This aged governor organized a large fleet and had Cordoba beheaded. Pedrarias sent Hurtado and Rojas into the Olancho valley, where they routed the followers of Saavedra. Natives, reacting to the cruelty of Pedrarias, attacked them and killed sixteen, including Hurtado and Grijalva. In 1526 Pedro de los Rios arrived as the new governor of Golden Castile, seizing the estates and encomiendas of Pedrarias and starting his residencia investigation the following February.

King Carlos V ordered the Spaniards not to fight each other, and he appointed Diego Lopez de Salcedo governor of Honduras. Saavedra and others were deported; but after a mutiny at sea they escaped to Cuba. When Salcedo ruled harshly by hanging and enslaving natives, they withdrew supplies, destroyed their crops, burned their villages, and fled to the mountains. Salcedo also began ruling Nicaragua in 1527 and alienated the settlers by taking over their slaves. When Rios arrived there, Salcedo ordered him to leave and even had a town destroyed for giving him hospitality. Pedrarias came in 1528 and had Salcedo imprisoned for ten months. Martin Estete supported Pedrarias but treated the natives so cruelly that after he left, they revolted. Historian Oviedo reported that Pedrarias had seventeen caciques torn apart by dogs one at a time in an arena. Estete tried to explore Salvador but was chased out by Guatemala governor Jorge de Alvarado. Pedrarias finally died in 1530.

Factions continued conflicts in Honduras, and Nicaragua governor Francisco de Castañeda promoted slave hunting. Rodrigo de Contreras became governor of Nicaragua in 1532; but reformer Bartolomé de Las Casas and King Carlos caused Contreras to cancel an expedition in 1536, although the Governor expelled the reformer. In 1542 the New Laws ordered those in Nicaragua to surrender their encomiendas, and two years later Antonio de Valdivieso became bishop of Nicaragua. Contreras had tried to avoid the law by giving his encomiendas to his wife; he and his relatives were accused of owning a third of the province. Complaints mounted up, and in 1548 licentiate Alonso Lopez de Cerrato arrived to investigate with a residencia. Contreras left for Spain and did not return. In 1550 his sons, Hernando and Pedro, aimed to take back power by force of arms, and Hernando murdered Bishop Valdivieso. Pedro Contreras with fifty men seized the ships in the Panama harbor. They tried to steal eleven million castellanos that licentiate Gasca was taking from Peru to Spain; but their forces led by Juan Bermejo were defeated.

Carlos V appointed Yucatan governor Francisco de Montejo to rule Honduras, and he suppressed a native rebellion in 1537 that ended when its chief Lempira died. Cristobal de Pedraza became bishop of Honduras and made contracts to gain African slaves for work in the mines; he was strongly criticized for this by Nicaragua bishop Valdiviez. A new audiencia was named Panama in 1538.

In Guatemala after Pedro de Alvarado died in 1541, his widow Beatriz was elected governor. She died, and in 1542 her brother Francisco de la Cueva and Bishop Marroquin were elected co-governors. Marroquin and his relatives and friends held a third of all the encomiendas in the province; so he and Pedraza resisted the reforms. Bartolomé de Las Casas had recommended that Alonso de Maldonado be appointed president of the new Audiencia of the Confines, and the viceroy of New Spain made Maldonado governor of Guatemala; but in 1545 he got the New Laws repealed, and later the repartimientos were made perpetual for the colonists. Meanwhile Fray Luis Cancer had continued the work of peaceful conversion in Vera Paz since 1541, but in 1546 Spaniards entered the region to impose tribute and make slaves. Cancer complained that 700 slaves were taken from Tuzulutlan alone, and the tributes were intolerable. The next year he and Las Casas returned to Spain. Las Casas threatened bishops Marroquin and Pedraza with excommunication, and in 1548 he got Alonso Lopez de Cerrato appointed president of the Audiencia of the Confines to judge a residencia of the removed Maldonado. In 1549 Bishop Maldonado founded a hospital in Santiago. That year a royal cédula decreed that natives should not be used as bearers except in emergencies and for pay.

Reform came in 1555 when Dr. Antonio Rodriguez de Quesada succeeded Cerrato in Guatemala, and licentiate Cavallon became alcalde mayor of Nicaragua. They encountered opposition from the settlers, who pressured them to fight the rebellion of the tribes in Lacandones. When Quesada died in 1558, Pedro Ramirez became commander of the army. A thousand Indians helped them invade the region and take 150 prisoners. Even the native governor of Vera Paz entered Acala to punish those who had murdered two priests. Licentiate Juan de Caballon had crushed a rebellion led by Juan Gaitan in 1554, and six years later he joined with priest Juan de Estrada de Rabago to fight rebelling natives in Nicaragua. In 1562 Juan Vazquez Coronado became alcalde mayor of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and by pacifying the natives he earned the governorship of both provinces. In 1564 the Dominican Laurencio persuaded the Puchutlas to settle in Vera Paz.

Fray Pedro Alonzo de Betanzos learned twelve Indian dialects and helped pacify Nicaragua and Costa Rica by not letting soldiers accompany him; after thirty years of this missionary work he died of fever in 1570.

Runaway slaves called cimarrones rebelled in Panama led by Bayano in 1554 and fought from the mountains until they were allowed to be free men in 1570. However, another rebellion broke out, and some cimarrones joined buccaneers in 1596. John Hawkins traded slaves and was attacked by Spaniards at San Juan de Ulua in 1568. Francis Drake got revenge by capturing merchandise worth 100,000 pesos at Venta Cruces in 1571 and by attacking Nombre de Dios the next year. After being informed by cimarrones, he marched to the city of Panama. He shared the gold they captured with his French allies and returned to England the next year. In 1576 John Oxenham captured Spanish ships in the Gulf of Panama; but Loarte defeated him, and most of his men were hanged. Commerce in Panama declined, because Spain protected its own monopolies on wine and tobacco. Africans had been imported to dive for pearls, but these treasures were exhausted. Mining reached its peak in 1570, but by 1580 only four mines remained in Panama. Efforts to build defenses culminated by the end of the century after the death of Drake.

In Española water-powered sugar mills called ingenios replaced horse-powered mills, and by 1523 Jamaica had thirty ingenios. Slaves revolted on Española in 1522, but the next year Carlos V authorized the importation of 4,000 African slaves from the Portuguese Guinea coast into Spanish dominions-1,500 to Española, 500 to Puerto Rico, 300 to Jamaica, and 300 to Cuba, which requested 700 more in 1528. Puerto Rico also developed sugar plantations and had a slave rebellion in 1527. Diego Colon was divested of his authority by the Council of the Indies in 1523 and tried to regain it until his death in 1526. That year Dominican cardinal Garcia de Loaysa called a special session of the Indies Council with Carlos V at the Alhambra. In their "Ordinances on discoveries and good treatment of the Indians" they ordered conquistadors to read the Requirement and take along two clergy approved by the Council to instruct and protect the natives. Anyone conducting an unjust war against the natives was to lose his contract. San Juan, Puerto Rico, was protected by the Santa Catalina fortress near San Juan that was completed in 1540, when they began building the El Morro Castle.

The Dominican college at Santo Domingo became a university in 1538. In 1574 the death penalty was decreed for free mulattoes or Africans inciting slaves to escape while the penalty for Spaniards was reduced to banishment. Las Casas estimated that Española alone had imported 30,000 slaves by 1540, and 2,000 slaves per year were being imported in 1552. These are the "legal trade" figures, but that year an official estimated that the number smuggled was twice that amount.

Velazquez became wealthy governing Cuba and died in 1524; he was succeeded by his cousin Manuel de Rojas. Municipal councils had been increasing their powers. In 1525 the Santiago Council refused to allow the acting governor to attend their sessions, and three years later they petitioned Emperor Carlos to let each town elect a council and proctor. A smallpox epidemic devastated Cubeños in 1528, and in October 1529 a revolt killed nine or ten conquistadors. When Gonzalo de Guzman was appointed repartidor, Fray Pedro Mexia de Trillo went to the audiencia of Española in May 1527 to protect the native Cubeños. Guzman argued that the natives were not fit for responsibility and reported to the crown that they were in rebellion. Carlos V declared they were not slaves but encomendados that should be given food, clothing, and not be overworked. Cuba bishop Miguel Ramirez was named their protector. Rojas reported that Spanish mistreatment caused the revolt of the Cubeños.

After 1527 half of the Africans imported to the Indies were required to be females, and in 1531 the crown ordered that royal revenues be invested in African slaves to be distributed among the settlers. African slaves in the Jobabo mines revolted in November 1533, and four died defending themselves. Rojas reluctantly gave his authority over to the appointed Guzman in October 1535. Hernando de Soto took the wealth he gained in Peru to the court in Spain and was made governor of Cuba in 1537. He arrived at Santiago in June 1538 with 600 men, and that year French pirates with the help of local slaves burned Havana. In May 1539 Soto launched his expedition from Havana to explore Florida. With few soldiers left in eastern Cuba, the natives rebelled and were joined by Africans. The absent Soto was finally replaced when Juanes de Avila arrived in 1544. The crown had forbade using natives in the mines, but this had been overruled in the council for the Indies in 1543. Governor de Avila proclaimed that natives were not to be forced to work except when "necessary" and for a proper wage. De Avila created monopolies for his own profit, accepted bribes, and intimidated people. He was investigated by a commission and replaced by Antonio Chaves in 1546. Chaves did not enforce the laws protecting the natives and was reprimanded by King Carlos. Dr. Gonzalo Perez de Angulo was made governor in 1549, and Chaves was sent back to Spain as a prisoner. Increasing slavery discouraged democracy, and in 1550 the last conference of proctors was held in Santiago, Cuba. Angulo declared the native Cubeños free, but in 1556 their numbers were estimated at only two thousand. The next year the Havana Council prohibited Africans from selling tobacco or wine.

Central America 1580-1744
Spanish and French West Indies 1580-1744
British and Dutch West Indies 1580-1744

Cabeza, Coronado, Soto, and Menendez

In April 1528 Panfilo de Narvaez began exploring Florida with 400 men and eighty horses. He cut off the nose of Timucuan chief Ocita and threw his mother to war-hounds that killed her. While pursuing rumors of gold he lost 150 men to disease and attacks by Timucuan warriors. The ships went along the coast for a year, but they never met up with the expedition of Narvaez and departed. The remaining 242 Spaniards built five boats but suffered storms in the Gulf of Mexico and attacks by natives. In November 1528 eighty unarmed and naked survivors landed on the Texas shore and were killed or enslaved by natives; only fifteen in two or three groups survived the first winter on or near Galveston Island. Treasurer Alvarez Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca and three other Spaniards escaped from slavery in 1534 and wandered for two years before reaching a Spanish settlement in Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca and the African Estevanico were accepted as medicine men, and Cabeza later published an account of his adventures. He wrote that they were punished until they cooperated in being healers. They prayed and laid their hands on the ill; for this they were well received and attended by many as they traveled from tribe to tribe. Cabeza did not find any idolatry among the Indians. They traveled west near the Rio Grande River among the Coahuiltecans and as far as the Gulf of California. Then they went south toward Mexico City. As they got near Spanish invaders, the natives asked them for protection and did not believe that they were related to the cruel Spaniards. When they met raiders under Diego de Alcaraz, Cabeza made him promise to release the natives; but after they left, Alcaraz went on oppressing them.

After they returned to Mexico, Estevanico went with Fray Marcos de Niza in 1539 to look for the seven cities of Cibao among the Zunis. Because he was black or had the rattle of their enemy, the Zunis felt Estevanico could not be a prophet and killed him. Niza's account of a Zuni city with jewels and silversmiths stimulated Francisco Vazquez de Coronado to lead an expedition to search for riches. They demanded food from the Zunis and attacked them if they refused. When he did not find treasures, Coronado called Niza a liar and divided his expedition into three parts. Pedro de Tovar got corn but no gems from the Hopis; the soldiers led by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas discovered the Grand Canyon; and Hernando de Alvarado got food and supplies but no gold from the Pueblos. After a dispute with a Pawnee guide called the Turk, Alvarado captured two chiefs and sent them to Coronado, who held them as prisoners. During the winter Coronado took warm clothing from the Pueblos for his soldiers and provoked a revolt called the Tiguex War that lasted three months. Tiwas fled to the mountains, and others were besieged at Moho for fifty days, resulting in two hundred deaths. In the spring the Turk guided Coronado north looking for treasure, but they found only the semi-nomadic Wichitas on the plains of Kansas. The soldiers strangled the Turk, and in 1541 Coronado was kicked in the head by his horse and was carried back to Mexico. All but a hundred men deserted him on the march. After Alcaraz ransomed some chieftains in 1541, the Indians attacked the Spaniards, driving them out of San Geronimo and killing Alcaraz and others in 1542.

Hernando de Soto financed his own expedition in May 1539 with about six hundred soldiers, one hundred servants, nine ships, and many horses, mules, pigs, and war dogs. Cabeza de Vaca declined to go with Soto, but two of his cousins went against his advice. They landed at Tampa Bay and were joined by Juan Ortiz, who had been with Narvaez and could translate. Ortiz had been the prisoner of Ocita, who tortured him because Narvaez had cut off his nose and killed his mother. Ortiz was helped by a Timucuan princess and escaped to the home of the rival chief Mucozo. Ortiz told Soto that the cacique Urriparacoxi was wealthy because both Ocita and Mucozo paid him tribute. Soto brought chains and collars to enslave the natives. He used a mirror to convince chiefs he was a son of the sun and could tell what they were thinking. Chief Acuera, having suffered before, sent out warriors to behead Spaniards; fourteen heads were sent to him in three weeks, and Soto left the area. Uriutina (called Vitachuco by Garcilaso de la Vega) had two brothers willing to capitulate, but he resisted. When his promises of spiritual protection failed, after fighting awhile his warriors fled. Uriutina was the last to be captured. The prisoners pretended to submit until Uriutina got an opportunity to punch Soto in the face, causing bleeding from his eyes, nose, and mouth. After Uriutina was killed, Soto ordered Indian collaborators to shoot arrows into the two hundred prisoners. Soto gradually recovered by wearing a face plaster for weeks. The Spaniards moved west, seized food, and fought off Apalachee attacks.

In the spring of 1540 Soto's expedition moved north, looting and burning towns. At Cofitachequi by the Wateree River (in South Carolina) a queen ruled the town and gave Soto a string of pearls to avoid violence. After a feast the Spaniards plundered graves looking for pearls. Soto gave his soldiers pearls to make rosaries. He took the queen with him, but she escaped. Soto reported that the people in the Coosa area by the Coosawattee River had more wealth. In October they went down the Alabama River. King Tascalusa of the Atahachi seemed to cooperate but ordered a surprise attack with several thousand warriors. Five Spaniards were quickly struck down; but Soto and his guards mounted horses and battled their way out. Some of the army's porters joined the opposition. Then four squadrons of Spaniards assaulted and burned the town of Mabila, killing thousands. Soto and many Spaniards were wounded, and they wintered in Chickasaw territory.

In 1541 Soto and his men crossed the Mississippi River. The paramount chief Quigualtam of the Natchez refused to obey Soto's summons, but the conquistador died of illness on May 21, 1542. Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado led the expedition, and many died of disease because they disdained to use an herb recommended by natives. The survivors were pursued by various tribes, built ships, and fled down the Mississippi, reaching Mexico with 311 men in September 1543. In 1549 friar Luis Cancer de Barbastro led a missionary expedition to Florida; but they landed where Spaniards had previously abused the natives, and they were all massacred.

The native peoples were devastated by Soto's expedition and the disease that spread from a sick Spanish slave who had been left behind. When Tristan de Luna led five hundred soldiers and a thousand colonists in 1559 he found the capital city of Coosa had been reduced from five hundred houses to fifty. Mound temples were in ruins, and cornfields had been abandoned. Juan Pardo explored the Carolinas 1566-68 and found that most towns only had a few refugees left. Surviving Apalachees, Timucuans, and Calusas eventually joined the Creeks (Muskogees), who along with the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chickasaws lived in farming communities, instead of in towns. Some of the Creeks moved south and became the Seminoles.

French admiral Gaspar de Coligny wanted to make the new world a haven for persecuted Protestants and urged Jean Ribaut to lead an expedition of Huguenots to found Port Royal (South Carolina) in 1562. Like most Europeans, they took advantage of native hospitality and failed to provide for themselves. Hunger led to mutiny, abandoning the colony, and a desperate return voyage in which one was eaten by the others. The next year Ribaut sent René de Laudonniere with skilled artisans but still no farmers. They built Fort Caroline, but this time mutiny led to buccaneering. The pirates captured a Spanish vessel but were arrested and taken to Havana. Laudonniere had four other mutineers shot. The French helped the chief Outina fight his enemies but still lacked food. Slave-trader John Hawkins generously traded them a ship for their cannons and other useless items. Then Ribaut arrived with seven ships.

News of French intruders in America motivated Philip II to send Pedro Menendez de Avilés. He financed his own expedition with a thousand men and five hundred slaves, and his Spanish fleet showed up one week after Ribaut in 1565. Menendez told the French that he came to kill all the Lutherans. He went to St. Augustine, where the Africans built a fort. They marched north on land and made a surprise attack on Fort Caroline. Laudonniere escaped, but Menendez ordered 142 people killed for being Protestants. Meanwhile the ships of Ribaut were wrecked; 200 of his men surrendered and then were slaughtered by Menendez. Ribaut and most of his 350 remaining men were also murdered by the fanatical Spaniard, and the rest were sent to the galleys by King Philip II. Dominique de Gourgues had previously been a captive in a Spanish galley, and he enlisted 200 men to gain revenge in 1567. Natives led by Satouriona, who had turned hostile to the Spaniards, helped the French massacre the garrison of 400, a few being hanged for being traitors, robbers, and murderers, not for being Spanish, just as Menendez had executed men for being Lutherans, not for being French. However, Menendez was in Spain, and he came back to rebuild the fort. Jesuits arrived in 1570; but the next year abused Indians murdered Spaniards, causing even the Jesuits to leave Florida.

Pizarros and Peru 1532-80

Incas to 1532

Captain Francisco Pizarro formed a partnership in Panama with Diego de Almagro and the priest Hernando de Luque in order to explore the Pacific coast, looking for a Biru tribe that became the name Peru. His first expedition began in November 1524 with eighty men and four horses; but they suffered starvation, and Almagro lost an eye fighting natives. In 1526 they took two ships and captured a balsa raft with rich ornaments of silver and gold. Pizarro kept three captured natives to learn Spanish and be interpreters. The next year only thirteen men stayed with Pizarro on the Isla del Gallo; but in 1528 Pizarro discovered the Inca city of Tumbez. He went to Spain and at Toledo persuaded the Queen to appoint him governor and captain-general of Peru; Almagro was named commandant of Tumbez and Luque protector of the Indians. In 1532 Pizarro explored the coast of Ecuador but found Tumbez in ruins because of the Inca civil war. He killed the local chief Amotape, left sixty Spaniards in a new town called San Miguel, and invaded the Inca empire with only 168 men and 62 horses.

An envoy invited Pizarro to come to Cajamarca to meet the dominant Inca emperor Atahualpa. Hernando de Soto found five hundred women from a convent in a square and gave many of them to his men. Pizarro sent Soto and his brother Hernando Pizarro ahead with fifteen horseman and the interpreter Martin; Atahualpa complained that they had treated chiefs badly by chaining them but offered them houses on the square. When Francisco Pizarro arrived and planned a treacherous attack, Atahualpa asked the Spaniards to return what they had stolen and threw down a prayer book that Friar Vicente de Valverde gave him. The Dominican shouted it was an outrage, and Pizarro ordered the cannons fired. Horseman rode out and slaughtered the unarmed Incas, as Pizarro tried to grab Atahualpa, who was captured. In two hours about 7,000 natives were killed in Cajamarca. Pizarro had Atahualpa instruct the Incas to surrender, and Soto gathered men, women, llamas, gold, silver, and clothing. Governor Pizarro said they wanted only gold, and so Atahualpa promised to fill a room with gold in exchange for his freedom. Some caciques came and obeyed their captive Inca emperor. His rival brother Huascar was killed on the road, and Atahualpa also had two half-brothers murdered.

In 1533 Hernando Pizarro led an expedition that searched for gold at Pachacamac. Atahualpa had the general Quisquis at Cuzco, Chalcuchima at Jauja, and Rumiñavi at Quito. Hernando Pizarro persuaded Chalcuchima to accompany him to Cajamarca. To learn of gold, Soto tortured Chalcuchima with fire in front of Atahualpa. In April 1533 Almagro arrived at Cajamarca with 153 Spaniards. Francisco Pizarro ordered gold and silver ornaments melted down, and his brother Hernando left with 100,000 castellanos for the king of Spain. The furnaces at Cajamarca turned out 13,420 pounds of "good gold" and 26,000 pounds of good silver. The Cajamarca chief told Governor Pizarro that Atahualpa had ordered his men from Quito to attack. Pizarro and royal officials condemned the Inca emperor to be burned; but because he agreed to be baptized, Atahualpa was strangled. Then Soto's reconnaissance patrol learned that there was no threat after all. Many caciques accepted Huascar's younger brother Tupac Huallpa as the next Inca emperor. Governor Pizarro proclaimed the Requirement of capitulation, and the Incas celebrated Tupac Huallpa's coronation.

In August 1533 Governor Francisco Pizarro, Almagro, and Soto marched out of Cajamarca with the captive Chalcuchima, who was blamed for the empty storehouses along the way. Spaniards entered Jauja, as it was burning, and slaughtered fleeing warriors. Inca Tupac Huallpa died of illness at Jauja in October. Leaving a garrison, Pizarro left for Cuzco with 130 men and a hundred horses. By killing Atahualpa, the Spaniards had taken the side of the late Huascar in the Inca civil war, and many natives attacked the Quitans, who moved south destroying villages, food stores, bridges, and aqueducts. Soto was sent ahead, and Quitans killed six of his men in an ambush. Young prince Manco, son of Huayna-Capac, arrived and denounced Chalcuchima, who refused to become a Christian and was burned to death. The Castilians entered a quiet Cuzco in November 1533. Governor Pizarro told Manco that he came to Cuzco to "liberate" them from the Quitan tyranny. Manco assembled an army of 20,000 and went with Soto, Almagro, and fifty horsemen to pursue Quisquis, whose men wanted to go home to Quito. Pizarro organized the looting of treasure and found more wealth at Cuzco, mostly in silver, than they had gathered at Cajamarca. Quisquis attacked Jauja, killing one Spaniard but wounding many. By June 1534 Soto had driven the Quitan army into the north.

Governor Francisco Pizarro divided the city of Cuzco and gave it to 88 soldiers, and he distributed the natives at Jauja in encomiendas to 53 Spaniards. He put Soto in charge at Cuzco and instructed him not to let Spaniards demand gold from the natives. In 1535 Pizarro founded a city on the coast that came to be called Lima. At Quito Rumiñavi had Atahualpa's brother Quilliscacha murdered and ruled as a warlord. Meanwhile early in 1534 conquistador Pedro de Alvarado invaded Ecuador with a strong force. Pizarro sent Sebastian de Benalcazar to capture Quito, which Rumiñavi abandoned. Benalcazar also invaded Chibcha territory. Alvarado lost 85 men in the Andean mountains and agreed to sell his ships to Almagro and return to Guatemala, letting his men stay in Peru. Quisquis arrived with his army, which killed fourteen Spaniards; but his officers wanted to go home, mutinied, and killed Quisquis. The Castilians captured and executed Rumiñavi at the square in Quito.

In 1535 the colonists learned that Carlos V had given northern Peru to Pizarro and the south to Almagro. After conflict over who was to rule Cuzco, Almagro left in July on an expedition to explore Chile. Manco sent along 12,000 men with his brother Paullu and high priest Villac Umu. Reluctant natives were chained and imprisoned every night. In October disgusted Villac Umu left, and soon all the natives from Cuzco had fled, leaving the Spaniards with no servants. At Cuzco conquistadors insulted, persecuted, and harassed Manco for gold. When he tried to escape, they captured and imprisoned him. Manco's uncle Tiso and Collao chiefs began murdering encomenderos. When Hernando Pizarro returned from Spain, he was put in charge at Cuzco. Manco was released and offered to get a golden statue for Hernando. Instead, he organized a widespread rebellion that began in the spring of 1536. His army was estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000. In Cuzco 190 Spaniards had only eighty horses. The natives set fire to the city and attacked for six days, killing Juan Pizarro; but the Castilians fought their way to take over the citadel at Sacsahuaman, slaughtering 1,500 in the fortress. Cañari auxiliaries brought them food and water. Hernando Pizarro ordered women natives killed, and by August the siege let up.

Francisco Pizarro sent reinforcements; but Gonzalo de Tapia and his seventy horsemen were all killed or captured in a mountain ambush. In a dawn attack led by Quizo Yupanqui, the Incas massacred those left at Jauja except for two men. Quizo Yupanqui attacked the new capital at Lima but was killed with other leaders who bravely fought in the front. Hernando Pizarro went after Manco Inca at Ollantaytambo; but his horses could not fight after the Incas flooded the plain by diverting the Patacancha River. The Spaniards tried to demoralize the natives by cutting off the hands of prisoners in the square at Cuzco. The Pizarros got aid from Spaniards in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama, and Española; even Cortes sent weapons from Mexico. Alonso de Alvarado arrived with 350 men and mutilated captured natives.

Almagro returned to Cuzco after an unsuccessful exploration of Chile; 150 Spaniards and 10,000 native allies froze to death. Like the Incas nearly a century before, Almagro could not conquer the Promaucas across the Rio Rapel. He wanted to attack the Pizarros and appealed to Manco, who demanded he execute four of Hernando Pizarro's scouts. This attempted alliance dissolved after the native Paucar attacked Almagro's soldiers at Calca. Nevertheless Almagro used force to take Cuzco from the Pizarrists in April 1537. Manco took refuge in the Vilcabamba valley. In July after Rodrigo Orgoñez defeated Alonso de Alvarado at Abancay, Almagro sent him in pursuit of Manco, who escaped; but Orgoñez brought back 50,000 llamas and alpacas with 20,000 natives, who were released to go home. Valverde became protector of the natives in 1538, but he had little power to enforce his responsibility.

Gonzalo Pizarro escaped, and his brother Hernando was released in negotiations with Almagro. In April 1538 Hernando Pizarro led the attack on Cuzco that defeated and captured Almagro. Orgoñez was beheaded right away, and Almagro was executed ten weeks later. Manco's Incas at Oncoy ambushed and killed 24 men led by Captain Villadiego. Tiso attacked the Colla for collaborating with the Spaniards, and with 40,000 Chibchas he besieged Gonzalo Pizarro at Cochabamba. In 1539 Francisco Pizarro sent out more troops, and the native chiefs began surrendering. Gonzalo Pizarro fought in the north and became governor of Quito. An attack on Vilcabamba still did not capture Manco, but Spaniards mistreated and executed his sister-queen Cura Ocllo. They captured high priest Villac Umu in October and executed him with Tiso and fifteen commanders the following month. Manco warned the natives of Chile to hide their valuables from the Spaniards, and in 1541 ten thousand natives burned the Spanish settlement at Santiago, which Pedro de Valdivia had founded for 132 encomenderos.

In March 1541 Gonzalo Pizarro led an expedition from Quito across the Andes Mountains with 250 soldiers and 4,000 native servants. He tortured local natives to try to get information. They built a boat to carry his sick men and heavy gear on the Coca River. After Christmas he let Francisco Orellana take the boat with sixty men so that they could bring back food. They soon realized that the strong current would not allow them to make it back. Orellana sailed down the Napo and rested in January at the village by the mouth of the Aguarico River. Seeing women warriors, they named the larger river they reached after the Amazons. Meanwhile Gonzalo Pizarro and his men struggled to survive on their return by eating their last eighty horses. Orellana's men repaired the boat and built others, sailing all the way to the mouth of the Amazon and up the northern coast around Trinidad to Cubagua by September 1542. Orellana was appointed governor of the Amazon; but he died on his second expedition that was disastrous. A similar river venture was taken over by Lope de Aguirre in 1559; but he was executed when he reached Venezuela in 1561.

Hernando Pizarro took more treasure to King Carlos V, but in 1540 he was imprisoned in luxury at Madrid for having executed Almagro. On June 26, 1541 Almagrists assassinated Francisco Pizarro in his palace at Lima and proclaimed young Diego de Almagro governor. Bishop Vicente de Valverde escaped on a ship to Panama but was killed and eaten by cannibals. King Carlos sent Vaca de Castro to govern Peru, and the army led by Alonso de Alvarado defeated the Almagrists at Chupas in September 1542, as Manco's warriors watched.

Peru now had 480 encomenderos, living in large houses with African slaves and women servants apart from their allotted natives. The New Laws of 1542 abolished slavery of Indians and tried to reform the encomienda system, but the new viceroy Blasco Nuñez Vela became unpopular trying to enforce these laws. Manco was negotiating a reconciliation when he was treacherously murdered by Almagrist fugitives, who were then killed by the Incas. Gonzalo Pizarro had used the threat of Manco to raise an army in Cuzco but marched to Lima, enabling the audiencia to depose and deport the viceroy in 1544. Vela went to Quito; but Gonzalo Pizarro led an army from Lima that defeated and killed him in January 1546. King Carlos revoked the new laws, enabling his newly appointed governor, Pedro de la Gasca, to get enough support to overthrow the Gonzalo Pizarro regime, which had executed 340 Spaniards. Gasca defeated and executed this Pizarro in 1548. Gasca took encomiendas away from rebels and gave them to his supporters. Natives had to take large quantities of gold, silver, wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, llamas, pigs, birds, eggs, logs, and crafts to the homes of the encomenderos.

Discrimination against mestizos became official in 1549 when Carlos V decreed they could not hold office nor have Indian servants. He also forbade coercing natives to work but allowed it if they were paid. In 1551 the University of San Marcos was founded in Lima, and the first ecclesiastical council of Lima condemned the use of coca. That year Carlos decreed that Indians could be employed in the mines that were providing the Crown with 1,500,000 pesos a year. Rich silver deposits had been discovered at Potosi in 1545, and its mining became a grueling industry in miserable conditions. In 1552 Prince Felipe pardoned Manco's young son Sayri-Tupac. After the Audiencia of Lima announced its method for assessing native wages in 1553, Francisco Hernandez Giron led a revolt in Cuzco; but they were defeated at Pucara, and Giron was beheaded in 1554. Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza Cañete became viceroy in 1555 and let Sayri-Tupac leave Vilcabamba two years later. He allowed Cuzco corregidor Juan Polo de Ondegardo to nominate eight natives for alcalde. Polo chose one, but three were elected by natives to administer justice. Cañete removed several corregidors, because they were thieves. A royal decree in 1560 prohibited using forced labor on coca plantations. Hernando de Santillan was sent to establish an audiencia at Quito in 1564; his tyrannical government subjected him to a heavy fine, which was later reduced by the court.

When Sayri-Tupac died in 1561, his brother Titu Cusi Yupanqui took charge at Vilcabamba; after long negotiations he signed a peace treaty in 1566, allowing Christian missionaries to convert him and others at Vilcabamba. Titu Cusi objected to the puritanical austerity of Marcos Garcia but had a good relationship with Diego Ortiz and Martin Pando. He was so wary of the Spaniards' greed that when the prospector Romero found gold in Vilcabamba, Titu Cusi had him beheaded. He forbade settlers in Vilcabamba but ordered his people not to raid Spaniards or damage their churches. Some mestizos plotted with Paullu's son Carlos Inca to kill Spaniards; but in 1567 Augustinian prior Juan de Vivero heard of it in a confession and warned the authorities at Lima. Audiencia president Garcia de Castro exiled eight mestizos, confiscated their estates, and kept a close watch on Carlos Inca. As governor, Castro appointed a corregidor de Indios, but Church authorities and curacas (chiefs) aroused opposition and petitioned the Audiencia of Lima in 1565 to allow more native self-government. The second ecclesiastical council in 1567 concentrated on suppressing native practices such as drinking, incest, and what they called witchcraft, and the Inquisition came to Lima in 1570.

European diseases and ruthless exploitation by the Spaniards diminished the native population from about seven million to an estimated 1,800,000 by the end of the 16th century. Conquistadors killed thousands of llamas to eat the marrowfat, throwing away the meat. By 1560 about eight thousand Spaniards lived in Peru; women came from Spain and married the wealthy colonists. A royal commission studied whether to make encomiendas perpetual; but their secret papers were found and showed how corrupt they were. Many local curacas took advantage of the Spanish conquest to take their power back from the Inca empire, often collaborating with the encomenderos in exploiting their people. During the wars many natives died working as porters.

King Felipe (Philip) II appointed Francisco de Toledo viceroy of Peru, and he was welcomed at Lima with great ceremonies in November 1569. Toledo tried to organize the somewhat Christianized Indians into native hamlets. The next year a commission headed by Archbishop Jeronimo de Loayza decided unanimously that because mining was in the public interest, natives could be compelled to do that work. In 1571 Fernandez de Velasco developed a process using Huancavelica mercury to mine silver at Potosi, which grew to a city of 150,000 people. The mines at Huancavelica were especially toxic with mercury and arsenic. Loayza and the others soon retracted their proclamation and later denied they had even used the words "compel and force."

Toledo interrogated witnesses and sent the resulting Informaciones to King Felipe II in 1571, arguing that the Inca kings had only ruled more than a small part of Peru for a few generations and had been tyrannical, and he commissioned Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to write a history. When Inca Titu Cusi died of illness at Vilcabamba in 1571 after drinking a concoction given him by Martin Pando, his brother Tupac Amaru was chosen to succeed him. Militant Incas killed Pando and Diego Ortiz for failing to revive the Inca. Tupac Amaru revitalized the traditional religion and had the churches destroyed. Dominican prior Gabriel de Oviedo tried to arrange a marriage for Titu Cusi's son but was turned away from Vilcabamba, and papal envoy Atilano de Anaya was murdered to prevent the succession from becoming known.

Toledo sent Hurtado de Arbieta to invade Vilcabamba and hunt down the recalcitrant Incas. Tupac Amaru was captured, catechized, and baptized. The Spaniards hanged Curi Paucar and other rebels, and a questionable trial sentenced Tupac Amaru to death. Bishop Coruña begged the Viceroy to spare the Inca king, who on the scaffold confessed that the Inca religion was false as he admitted he spoke for himself, not for God. The death of Tupac Amaru marked the end of the line of Inca kings. A trial found Carlos Inca and other nobles guilty, confiscated their property, and sent them into exile, though in 1574 King Felipe reversed these sentences.

Viceroy Toledo appointed inspectors in 1571, and he ordered about 1,500,000 natives moved from small villages into larger towns in a wrenching and unpopular resettlement that took two years. Toledo set minimum wages and insisted that workers be paid in silver every week. In 1574 Toledo organized forced labor (mita) from sixteen provinces in the southern mountains from which 95,000 men had to serve four months every seven years in the mines; 4,500 at a time worked 72-hour weeks, but their pay did not cover their expenses. Four-fifths of the natives in Peru were forced to work, most of them in agriculture. As encomiendas lapsed, the corregidors became the primary oppressors. Toledo divided Peru into 71 provinces, and in 1575 he decreed that the local judges should be of good character and sympathetic to the natives; but by 1578 he realized that most of their "protectors" were robbing the natives and burdening them by means of lawsuits. Native alcaldes heard minor cases and could not punish with death, mutilation or bloodshed; they could fine up to one peso or inflict up to twenty strokes. In 1532 the Andean population had been about nine million, but by 1590 only about one and a half million survived. In the first half century the Spaniards had already taken 185,000 kilograms of gold and 16,000,000 kilograms of silver from Peru.

Peru and Chile 1580-1744

New Granada 1525-80

The northwestern portion of South America had many Chibchas. In what became Colombia the Taironas lived on the lower slopes of the of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by the Caribbean shore, and Muiscas were more numerous inland in the mountainous area that became Bogota. One chief there was installed with a ceremony that coated him with gold dust that was then washed off; this ritual may have stimulated the legend of the "gilded man" or El Dorado that motivated so much exploration by conquistadors. San Sebastian was founded near Panama in 1510 but did not last.

Santa Marta Bay had been named in 1501, and in 1525 Rodrigo de Bastidas founded a city of the same name. He made peace with the neighboring Gairas, Tagangas, and Dorsinos, and he obtained gold from the Bondas and Bondingas. He put his troops to work building houses and prohibited trading with the natives for gold. Lt. General Pedro Villafuerte led a conspiracy to kill Bastidas, who was wounded but defended as the assassins fled. He replaced Villafuerte with Alvarez Palomino, who succeeded him in 1526. Villafuerte and Pedro de Porras were captured and executed. Palomino maintained peace with local tribes but raided the Zacas and Chairamas farther away. The audiencia (law court) at Santo Domingo appointed Pedro Badillo as temporary governor with Pedro de Heredia as his assistant. Badillo let the Spaniards devastate the natives. Carlos V appointed Garcia de Lerma, who arrived at Santa Marta in 1529 with four hundred men, including twenty Dominican missionaries led by Fray Tomas Ortiz. The tribes were peaceful, and he distributed them to encomenderos, who abused them. Pedro de Heredia defeated the Turbacos and founded Cartagena in 1533, taking booty worth 1.5 million gold ducats from the interior. In 1536 Juan Badillo was sent to arrest the Heredia brothers, and he ordered Indians to be captured and sold as slaves in Santo Domingo.

The lawyer Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada led an army of 900 to conquer the Muiscas in 1536. He imposed strict discipline by hanging a soldier for having taken two blankets left on the trail by a native. He defeated the zipa Tisquesua and then the zaque in Tunja, where he seized a treasure of gold. The next zipa made an alliance with the Spaniards to fight the Panches of the Magdalena Valley. After collecting much gold from the Muiscas, in 1538 Jiménez de Quesada and his men attacked the Chibcha capital at Bacata, enslaved the Chibchas, stole their gold, and burned their temples, founding Santa Fe de Bacata, which later became known as Bogota. A few weeks later Sebastian de Belalcazar, who was from Peru and Quito and had founded Popayan in 1536, arrived and was appointed governor. The German Nikolaus Federmann also led an expedition that arrived in Bogota from Venezuela about this time. Jiménez, Belalcazar, and Federmann held a summit meeting and agreed to let the government of Spain decide. Carlos V rejected Federmann as an interloper, appointed Belalcazar governor of Popayan, and after remitting his punishment, he made Jiménez marshal over New Granada (Colombia and Venezuela). Belalcazar sent troops south, and Pedro de Añasco burned a chief to death, provoking a massacre of the Spaniards by ten thousand warriors; but ninety Spaniards managed to hold out in a fort at Timana.

Alonso Luis de Lugo replaced Jiménez de Quesada as governor of New Granada in 1542. In Velez he cancelled the distribution of the natives and collected tribute from the chiefs for himself. In 1544 Lugo banished the Quesadas from the Indies and left for Spain. Meanwhile the corsair Robert Val had plundered and burned Santa Marta in 1542, and the next year his pirates looted Cartagena, which prevented fire by paying Val a ransom of 2,000 pesos. Settlers resisted the New Laws of 1542 by continuing to enslave the natives. Visitador Miguel Diaz de Armendariz arrived at Cartagena in 1544 and ordered Belalcazar to enforce the New Laws in Popayan, but evasions continued. In 1546 Jorge Robledo led a force of seventy men from Cartagena to Antioquia and arrested Belalcazar's officer; but Belalcazar surprised his camp at Loma de Pozo, forced Robledo to surrender, and executed him with three of his officers. After trying Heredia in Cartagena, Armendariz went to Bogota in 1547. Several delegates went to Spain, and the next year the New Laws were changed. In 1550 the cabildo (council) of Bogota recognized the newly installed audiencia. Belalcazar was arrested for the four murders, provided a bond, but died on his way to Spain in 1551. That year Jiménez returned to Bogota and endeavored to protect the natives he had conquered.

In 1553 the visitador Juan Montaño arrested the judges Juan Lopez de Galarza and Beltran de Gongora and sent them to Spain. Complaints against Montaño led to the lawyer Alonso de Grajeda being sent to arrest him. Montaño was sent to Spain in the same chains he had used on his victims, and the Council of the Indies executed him in 1561. That year Jiménez de Quesada repelled an attack from Venezuela and was appointed governor of New Granada, but he wasted three years, many men, and much money trying to find El Dorado. In 1564 the crown replaced the members of the audiencia, and Andres Diaz Venero de Leiva was appointed the first president of New Granada. He governed well for ten years and tried to alleviate the wretched conditions of the natives by giving them their own land, urging encomenderos to fulfill their duties, penalizing those who used Indians as carriers, and opening schools for Indians. Agustin de la Coruña became bishop of Popayan in 1566. He championed the oppressed natives and Africans so much by distributing Church funds to the poor and defending them against abuses that he was imprisoned and sent to Quito. After five years in exile he was allowed to return and continue his saintly work until he died in 1589. A small pox epidemic devastated the native population in 1566 and struck again 1588-90, killing thousands.

During the interim four years (1574-78) of administration by the audiencia, Jiménez de Quesada was sent to conquer the Guali Indians, and he founded the city of Santa Agueda. Jiménez died of leprosy in 1579, leaving a debt of 60,000 ducats. The second president, Lope Diez Aux de Armendariz, arrived in 1578, but two years later he was imprisoned by visitador Juan Bautista Monzon. He too was imprisoned but was released in 1582 by visitador Prieto de Orellana, who in turn was dismissed, went to Madrid, and died in jail.

Carlos V granted most of Venezuela to a consortium of German bankers led by the Welser group of Augsburg, and in 1529 Ambrosio Alfinger arrived in Coro, which had been recently established as a slave-raiding post by Juan de Ampies. They sought the fabulous El Dorado, but Alfinger treated the natives cruelly and died from wounds he received from them. In 1534 a Bavarian who called himself Jorge de Espira was appointed governor. He and Nikolaus Federmann went searching for gold separately. Crown agents investigated Jorge de Espira, who died in 1540. The next year Philip Hutten became governor at Coro; but in 1546 he was assassinated by Juan de Carvajal, who led settlers into the Segovia Highlands, founding El Tocuyo in the valley to provide cattle and crops for the miners in the region. Borburata became a port for conveying African slaves. In 1555 Valencia became the frontier outpost on Lake Tacarigua. Settlers in the valley of Caracas were repeatedly attacked by Indians until Diego Losada arrived in 1567 with 150 residents and 800 Indian servants and soldiers. Maracaibo suffered from hostile natives for a dozen years until it became permanent in 1574. The Franciscans established a convent in the province of Santa Cruz de Caracas. In 1580 a smallpox plague wiped out about two thirds of the 30,000 natives in the Caracas valley.

New Granada 1580-1744

Southern South America to 1580

Most of the natives in Chile were called Araucanians. They lived simply, believed in life after death, and used arrows more for hunting than for war. Between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries the Diaguitas invaded from the northeast. Then the Chinchas and Quechuas brought the more advanced civilization of farming, mining, and industry from the north. The Quechuas conquered the Chinchas. In the middle of the 15th century the Incas used the Quechuas to organize bureaucracy for the collecting of annual tribute in northern Chile. Fernando Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan) discovered the southern straits named after him in 1520 and the island Tierra de Fuego. In 1535 Diego Almagro in Cuzco equipped five hundred Spaniards and thousands of native servants for a difficult expedition across the mountains in which ten thousand lost their lives. They established a headquarters in Aconcagua and were supplied by ships. After a hard winter and not finding gold, they decided to return, forcing more natives to carry their supplies until they dropped dead.

In 1539 Francisco Pizarro appointed Pedro de Valdivia his lieutenant-governor in Chile. He gathered 150 Spaniards and three thousand Yanaconas (native auxiliaries) that included families, though the only Spanish woman was Valdivia's companion Ines Suarez. In 1540 they marched to the valley of Copiapo. Valdivia promised friendship to those who did not resist but extermination to enemies. On February 12, 1541 he founded a city named Santiago de Nueva Extremadura, claiming from Copiapo to the Strait of Magellan. The cacique Michimalonco organized resistance in the valley of Aconcagua and killed soldiers guarding the gold miners. In September the Araucanians attacked and burned the town. Valdivia sent for help, and a hundred men arrived with more supplies by ship at the end of 1543. Juan Bohon founded the city of La Serena with thirteen citizens. In 1544 Valdivia assigned sixty large portions of land to his captains and others. Needing more men, he went back to Peru, embarking at Valparaiso. Valdivia sent another hundred men, and the royal envoy named him governor of Chile. La Serena had been destroyed by Indians, and Francisco de Aguirre rebuilt it in 1549. Valdivia arrived with two hundred soldiers and founded Concepcion near the Biobio River on March 3, 1550. In the Araucanian territory he named a city after himself, and Captain Jeronimo de Alderete founded Villarrica.

The Spaniards seemed to have conquered Chile with less than a thousand men. They fought the fierce Araucanian warriors and with cannons and horses forced them to flee; but after Valdivia cut off the hands and noses of their prisoners, they sought revenge. The elder sage Colocolo persuaded the Araucanians to unite against the Spaniards with Caupolican as general. Valdivia had made the young Araucanian Lautaro his page, but he went back to his tribe in 1553 and helped Caupolican defeat and kill all the Spaniards at Fort Tucapel; Valdivia was captured, dismembered, and eaten. Francisco de Villagra took command but was defeated by Lautaro's forces with nearly a hundred killed. After the towns of Valdivia and Concepcion were attacked, Peru's viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza appointed his son Garcia governor and sent him with 350 men. Villagra tried to rebuild Concepcion; but Lautaro attacked them again, and the Spaniards fled to Santiago in 1555. However, Villagra's troops killed Lautaro in a surprise attack on his camp in April 1557. Garcia de Mendoza arrived in early 1557 but stayed on the island of Quiriquina for months until it was safe. Then his men built a fort that was attacked by the chieftain Caupolican. Hundreds of Araucanians were killed by cannons and shots. Finally the Spaniards defeated Caupolican and his men in swampy Lagunillas. Garcia ordered Concepcion resettled and founded Cañete. The Araucanians fought back again, but their prisoners were brutally killed. After Caupolican was tortured and killed in Cañete, the war in Chile ended in 1558. In less than a decade a million Araucanians had been reduced to about 400,000 by war, famine, and a smallpox epidemic.

Alonso de Ercilla y Zuñiga was born in Madrid on August 11, 1533 to aristocratic parents. He studied Latin and the classics at Bobadilla, and at the age of fifteen he became a page at the court of young Felipe II. Ercilla was with the prince in England in 1553 when Jeronimo de Alderete brought news of the Araucanian rebellion in Chile. Ercilla enlisted as a captain under Alderete and was in Peru by 1556. During one of their tournaments he disputed with another officer and placed his hand on his sword in the presence of General Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza; for this offense he was nearly beheaded, but a Spanish lady pleaded for the lives of the two officers. Ercilla was compelled to leave Chile in 1558 and returned to Spain in 1561. He interviewed people and wrote the first part of his epic poem La Araucana and dedicated it to Felipe II, who approved its publication in 1569. Using his notes made during the war, Ercilla completed Part 2 of La Araucana in 1578 and Part 3 in 1589. In his prolog he described it as an authentic history of the war, and he apologized for treating the Araucanians as heroic figures fighting to defend their freedom from the invading Spaniards. In this emergency even their women went to war as the Araucanians fought heroically to the death. His long poem was written in the tradition of Virgil's Aeneid and Lucan's Civil War, and it is considered one of the first great works of Latin American literature as the national epic of Chile.

Garcia de Mendoza followed the advice of Licentiate Hernando de Santillan by implementing an ordinance in 1559 to reduce the excessive work and bad treatment imposed on the natives, but each encomienda had to provide one Indian for every six in the tribe to work in the mines and one in five for the fields. Garcia had arrested Villagra and sent him to Lima; but King Felipe II removed Hurtado de Mendoza and his son Garcia for having executed people without due process of law, and Felipe appointed Villagra governor of Chile. The Araucanians learned how to use horses and continued fighting, forcing Peru to supply Chile with soldiers. Francis Drake raided Valparaiso in 1578.

In the arid region the Diaguitas ate corn (maize), peas, gourds, fruit, and prickly pears, and for warfare they used bows and arrows, slings, and hatchets. In the forests of Chaco and Formosa the Malacos-Mataguayos, Chorotes, Guaycurues, and Chiriguanos hunted, fished, and made textiles. On the plains were the Araucanians, Querandies, and Puelcheans. In the southern archipelago were the nomadic Onas and Yamanas.

Sebastian Cabot had a fort built on the Rio de la Plata in 1527. In 1534 King Carlos V signed a contract with Almagro for Chile and with Pedro de Mendoza for the La Plata region. Mendoza was delayed by illness and reached Rio de Janeiro in November 1535 with eleven ships and 1,200 men. The small ships entered the Rio de la Plata River in February 1536 and founded a town named Buenos Aires for its "good airs." In a battle with natives Admiral Diego Mendoza and thirty Spaniards were killed. After Juan de Ayolas went up the Parani River to found Corpus Christi, 12,000 Indians attacked and burned the fort at Buenos Aires. Pedro de Mendoza died of illness in June 1537 and was succeeded by Ayolas, who founded Asuncion up the river. There Ruiz Galan said he represented Pedro de Mendoza and clashed with Domingo Martinez de Irala, who supported Ayolas. In September a cédula authorized assembled colonists to elect a new leader in case the old one had not named a representative. Irala had a document authorizing him and took command in 1539. He moved the colonists from Buenos Aires to Asuncion, and natives destroyed Buenos Aires in 1541.

Irala developed good relations with the Guarani natives, and this policy was continued in 1542 by his successor, the adventurous Cabeza de Vaca, who made peace with twenty chief Guaycurues. The next year he led an expedition up the Paraguay River with 400 Spaniards and 1,200 Indian allies in ten ships and 120 canoes. The natives and common soldiers liked Cabeza, but the officers resented his strict discipline. After he refused to let them keep a hundred native girls given them by their parents, they imprisoned Cabeza when he was sick and deported him to Spain, where in 1551 he was sentenced to forced labor in Algeria. Cabeza successfully appealed this, but he was banned from the new world and published his account in 1555. Irala resumed the governorship, and in 1545 he led an expedition that killed two thousand hostile natives and enslaved 12,000, mostly women and children. Irala traveled as far as Cuzco in 1548 and met with the royal commissioner Pedro de la Gasca. Gonzalo de Mendoza led some mutineers back to Asuncion, where Irala had appointed Captain Francisco de Mendoza. However, the inhabitants elected Diego de Abreu. When Mendoza tried to lead an uprising, Abreu had him beheaded. When Irala returned, Abreu was executed. Irala allotted 26,000 natives as repartimientos to colonists and governed Paraguay until he died of fever in 1556.

Paraguay's first bishop arrived in 1555. Irala's successor Gonzalo de Mendoza sent Nuño de Chaves, who founded Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 1561. Mendoza died that year, and another son-in-law of Irala named Ortiz de Vergara became governor; but the viceroy of Peru replaced him with Juan Ortiz de Zarate, and by agreement he encouraged the importation of farmers, cattle, horses, and sheep. Francisco de Aguirre sent Diego Villarroel to found San Miguel de Tucuman in 1565, and in 1570 Fray Fernando de Trejo became the first bishop of Tucuman. The Franciscan Francisco Solano was so successful at converting natives with kindness and music that he was later canonized. The Chiriguanos destroyed two forts of the Spaniards, and in 1567 they pillaged Chibcha villages. After being told by thirty Chiriguanos that they had been converted by Santiago (saint James), Peru viceroy Toledo realized it was a ruse and led a large army against them in 1574; but the Spaniards were devastated by hunger and disease and had to retreat. In 1573 Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera founded Cordoba on the central plain. That year Juan de Garay founded Santa Fe with nine Spaniards and 75 Creoles born in the new world. In 1580 Garay went to the town that had been abandoned forty years before and planned the city of Buenos Aires.

Rio de la Plata 1580-1744
Peru and Chile 1580-1744

Las Casas on the Spanish Conquest

Bartolomé de Las Casas was born in 1484 and grew up in Seville, where he witnessed the triumphant return of Columbus in 1493. His father and three uncles accompanied Columbus on his second voyage; his father returned in 1498 on a ship loaded with slaves, one of whom he gave to Bartolomé during his college years at Salamanca. The slave was returned to Española in accordance with the royal order of 1500. Bartolomé accompanied his father to Española in 1502. After the massacre at Jaragua, Governor Ovando gave Bartolomé a slave. Las Casas later described the misery and early deaths of the slaves who worked in the mines. He went to Spain to assist Bartolomé Colon and was ordained a priest at Rome in 1507. After studying canon law for two years, Las Casas sailed back to Española with Admiral Diego Colon, who gave him land in Cibao with a repartimiento (allotment) of Indians. In 1513 he joined Diego Velazquez in the conquest of Cuba under Panfilo de Narvaez, trying to pacify the natives. Las Casas observed Spaniards massacre three thousand natives at Caonao after they had brought food to share with the Christians. He left Narvaez and was given an encomienda near the port of Xagua. Once he was even refused the sacrament by a Dominican because he held slaves.

While preparing a sermon in 1514 and reading the Wisdom of Sirach 34:18-22 in which denying the laborer his wages is compared to shedding the blood of a neighbor, Las Casas had a change of heart, realizing that the treatment of the natives was unjust and tyrannical. He informed Velazquez that he was renouncing his Indians, and he began to give sermons against the robbery and wrongs of the Spaniards, telling his congregation that it was sinful to make the Indians serve them. Las Casas returned to Spain in 1515 with Antonio Montesinos to report to King Fernando on the evils he witnessed. He presented his Memorial de remedios to Cardinal Cisneros on how Spaniards and Indians could live together. This visionary document was passed from regent Adrian of Utrecht to Erasmus and Thomas More, who applied its ideas in his Utopia.

In 1516 Las Casas was appointed Protector of the Indians and tried to influence the Jeronymite commissioners, but his zeal met determined resistance from the Spaniards who exploited the labor of the natives. When he told Bishop Fonseca of Burgos that seven thousand Cuban children had died of starvation in three months because their parents had been taken to work in the mines, Fonseca asked how that concerned him or the king. The next year Las Casas proposed an experiment to settle Venezuela with farmers that would work all the natives in common under his rules. Twenty African slaves were to be put in the mines in place of the Indians, and only priests properly educated in his methods were allowed. The community was to be assisted by 74 officials with various technical skills, and 6,600 castellanos were to be spent on supplies per year. In 1518 a royal order authorized establishing the villages; but because of opposition Las Casas had trouble getting volunteers. Most of those rounded up by Captain Berrio fell ill, and the attempted colonization was delayed for three years.

In 1519 Bishop Juan de Quevedo, using Aristotle as his authority, argued that Indians are slaves by nature. The aristocratic Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, the first official historian of the Indies, seemed to agree, but Las Casas kept this history from being printed. Las Casas suggested more Arthurian ideals dubbed Knights of the Golden Spur. Opposed by Bishop Fonseca, Las Casas selected seventy laborers and went to Cumana in 1521; but some soldiers refused to serve under him and went off slave hunting. This caused the Guayqueri on the Venezuela coast to call on Caribs; they burned the monastery, killed some Dominicans, and massacred the colony while Las Casas was away. Las Casas blamed himself for compromising with the slave-hunters. Drunken natives used poisoned arrows, and in revenge Spaniards enslaved 600 of them in two months. The frustrated Las Casas joined the Dominican order and retreated into a monastery on Española for many years. He became prior of a new monastery on the northern coast in 1526 and observed the dying slaves that were being brought from the Bahamas. He wrote reports to Spain and influenced legislation to suppress slavery.

In 1533 Las Casas persuaded a dying encomendero to free his slaves and leave his goods as reparation. As a result of this, pressure was put on his superior to confine him to the monastery. Las Casas accepted the submission of a "rebel" cacique named Enriquillo, who had been educated in a Franciscan convent. After the encomendero Valenzuela raped his wife, Enriquillo complained to Valenzuela and the governor's agent; but they only threatened him with punishment. He went to the Audiencia, which did no more than send him back with a letter. After more abuses and brutalities, Enriquillo withdrew to the mountains. He and other Indians defended themselves against the soldiers sent against them, taking their weapons. Enriquillo never let his men attack Spaniards first and ordered all prisoners disarmed and released. After thirteen years the colony had spent 80,000 castellanos trying to capture them. Finally Fray Remigio persuaded Enriquillo they could be friends with the Spaniards, and Enriquillo delivered to them gold but had to flee again from their treachery. Enriquillo died soon after he agreed to accompany Las Casas to the town of Azua.

Las Casas worked as a missionary in Central America. In 1536 he refused to join an expedition under Captain Diego Machuca de Zuazo and denied absolution to those participating because he believed the conquest ordered by Nicaragua governor Rodrigo de Contreras was wrong; but he offered to pacify the country himself with only fifty men. Contreras banished Las Casas; but King Carlos ordered Contreras to suspend his expedition for two years so that Las Casas could use peaceful methods. He attended conferences in Mexico with his allies Fray Julian Garces and Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, urging the doctrine of peaceful conversion. Bernardino de Minaya took these ideas to a conference in Rome in 1536, and the next year Pope Paul III pronounced that American Indians should not be deprived of their liberty or property even if they are outside of the Christian fold; he threatened those who enslave Indians with excommunication. Las Casas wrote a long book, which is mostly lost, entitled The Only Method of Attracting All People to the True Faith. In this treatise he moderated his rhetoric and exhorted preachers to use only peaceful and loving methods of conversion because any violence repels rather than attracts. Infidels are not moved by those greedy for wealth or desiring dominion over them.

Las Casas was allowed to attempt another experiment to test this thesis in Guatemala with his fellow Dominicans. The province of Tuzutlan was so untamed that it was called the "Land of War." In 1537 acting governor Alonso Maldonado from the second Mexico audiencia was investigating the Alvarado government and agreed to keep other Spaniards out of this region for five years. With three friars Las Casas wrote songs on Christian history, and they taught them to four native merchants who were Christians and began by trading with the natives and singing these songs. Then the Dominican Luis de Barbastro, who knew the Mayan language Quiché, went to live among them. The chief became a Christian and urged his people to follow; Las Casas took him to meet Governor Alvarado. This experiment in peaceful conversion succeeded for several years as the region was renamed Vera Paz, the "Land of True Peace." Meanwhile colonists and ecclesiastics argued over peaceful preaching as a method.

Las Casas returned to Spain in 1539 and for two years lobbied the Council of the Indies to abolish encomiendas. He condemned this system in his Remedies for the Existing Evils, with Twenty Reasons Therefore. The ninth reason was the most simple and obvious, namely that all people in the new world are free. Even the Spanish Cortes (Council) in Valladolid petitioned the king to remedy the cruelties perpetrated against the Indians. After Carlos V returned to Spain in 1542, Dominicans persuaded him to abolish encomiendas and promulgate the New Laws. No Indian was to be enslaved, and all existing Indian slaves were to be freed. Encomenderos without proper title were to lose their natives, as were all officials and prelates. No new encomienda was to be granted to anyone, and as encomenderos died, their natives were to revert to the Crown. On the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Española tribute was not to be demanded from Indians, who were to have the same rights as Spaniards. Suspected of taking bribes from Cortes, Pizarro, and others, the Council of the Indies was suspended for a year, and new commissioners were appointed. Later historians have questioned whether abolishing the encomiendas benefited the natives because they still were considered tribute-paying vassals of the king.

The conquistadors reacted strongly to the New Laws, resulting in the assassination of the viceroy in Peru. Visitador Tello de Sandoval was sent to Mexico to enforce the New Laws; but he heard so many protests, he modified them. Business was badly affected, and hundreds of Spaniards returned to Spain with their wives. Clergy had also profited from encomiendas, and many priests resisted the reform. In 1545 the Council of Mexico advocated suspending the New Laws and making encomiendas perpetual, and Carlos V revoked the New Law on encomiendas later that year.

Las Casas met with hostility at Santo Domingo, but the stern rule of Judge Cerrato prevented violence. After rejecting the lucrative see of Cuzco, Las Casas was consecrated bishop of poor Chiapas in 1544. He met with bishops at Mexico City in 1546 and wrote Advice and Regulations to Confessors, urging the withholding of sacraments from anyone who did not compensate Indians properly for their labor. The rules were to be kept secret, but they leaked out and upset many. Penitents were required to give their slaves freedom instantaneously and irrevocably. They must pay for the wrongs they did, and very unpopular was the call for conquistadors, who had gained all their wealth from exploiting natives, to leave nothing to their sons. Merchants who imported war materials were also guilty and owed restitution. Those confessing must never again participate in a war of conquest against natives.

Having become too unpopular to minister effectively in the colonies, Las Casas resigned his bishopric and returned to Spain for good in 1547. The king's chaplain Juan Ginés de Sepulveda had written a treatise in which he argued that the wars against the Indians were just. Persuaded by Las Casas, university authorities refused to let Sepulveda's book be printed. Las Casas had been working on his History of the Indies for years and responded by writing the massive Defense of Indian Civilization. He argued that the current licenses should be revoked and that all conquest should be stopped. In April 1549 the royal order on "The Manner in which New Discoveries are to be Undertaken" was sent to the Audiencia of Peru.

Sepulveda wrote to Prince Felipe (Philip) in September, and in April 1550 Emperor Carlos ordered all conquests stopped until theologians and counselors should decide the issue. Sepulveda wrote A Defense for the Book on the Just Causes of the War, which was printed at Rome in May 1550, and he wrote three other defenses in Spanish, describing the Indians as brutish and cowardly. Fourteen officials and ecclesiastics met for a month during the summer at Valladolid. Sepulveda spoke for three hours and then Las Casas read from his book for five days before the judges began their discussion. Domingo de Soto made a summary, and then Sepulveda wrote a reply to the twelve objections of Las Casas. Sepulveda argued that because of their idolatry and sins against nature, the Indians should be subjugated and protected by the superior Spaniards. He noted that the natives do not have any written laws or even private property. Las Casas responded that the Indians were quite rational and in some respects superior to the Greeks and Romans. He wrote,

No nation exists, no matter how rude, uncultivated,
barbarous, gross, or almost brutal its people may be,
which may not be persuaded and brought to a good order
and way of life and made domestic, mild, and tractable,
provided the method that is proper and natural to men is used;
that is, love and gentleness and kindness.5

The judges argued and made no judgment, but by 1566, the year Las Casas died, King Felipe II was issuing licenses for new discoveries. Yet the more humane ordinance of 1573 was surely influenced by the life work of the zealous Dominican, as the concept of conquest was replaced by pacification.

After the debate, in 1552 Las Casas published eight tracts, including his Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies he had written ten years earlier. Unlike most of his writing, this bold criticism was translated in the 16th century into Flemish, English, French, German, and Latin and was thus widely disseminated. In the prolog he explained that it would have been a criminal neglect of his duty to remain silent about the enormous loss of life because of the conquests. He summarized the most egregious violations he was describing in his longer history. The native population of Española had been reduced from three million to two hundred. Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas were similarly devastated. On the mainland Christians had caused the deaths of between twelve and fifteen million people by unjust war and brutal slavery in order to get gold and amass private fortunes. Las Casas repeatedly argued that the natives had done nothing wrong to deserve such ill treatment. They had welcomed the Europeans, believing they came from heaven until they realized what their oppressive purposes were. Only then did some of them take up their inferior weapons to try to defend themselves. Europeans were ruthless and vowed to slaughter one hundred natives for every Spaniard who was killed.

In Panama and Nicaragua, Governor Pedrarias led the slaughter in the relentless search for gold. Demands for fifty slaves every few months were made of local leaders, who were burned alive or thrown to dogs if they did not meet their quota. Las Casas described the assaults in Mexico as worse than those of Turks trying to destroy Christians. He accused the Alvarado brothers of killing four million natives in Guatemala between 1524 and 1540. Other "butchers" he left unnamed were Guzman in northern Mexico and Montejo in Yucatan. In only the first ten years Las Casas calculated the number of deaths in Peru at four million. He noted that already the conquistadors in Peru were fighting and killing each other. He saw the Christ in each of the natives and lamented that they had not been given the knowledge of God. He loved Castile and feared his country would be punished for these crimes.

Las Casas wrote a treatise on imperial sovereignty in which he argued that the pope had no coercive authority to force infidels to accept Christianity, and he believed that the natives had their own rightful kings and property, which should be restored by the encomenderos who had robbed them. In Thirty Very Juridical Propositions he argued that everything the Spaniards had done in the new world was illegal and unjust. These writings and his sermons made Las Casas the most hated man in the Spanish empire. Several times the council of Mexico City urged Felipe II to restrain the Indian advocate and prohibit the printing of his books. In 1554 licenciado Ribera on behalf of encomenderos in Peru offered Felipe four million ducats if he would make encomiendas perpetual; so Las Casas contacted missionaries, and they promised even more money to the bankrupt Spanish government from the Indians themselves for their freedom. This royal commission was so fraught with corruption and fraud that the king dismissed it. In 1564 Las Casas wrote a Solution to the Twelve Doubts in which he asserted that it is right for even infidels to have jurisdiction over their own lives. He questioned the enrichment of the fortune hunters in Peru, and his writing stimulated Viceroy Toledo to research the history of the Incas so that he could prove that they had oppressed other natives.

In his last will and testament Las Casas described his call as:

To act here at home on behalf of all those people
out in what we call the Indies,
the true possessors of those kingdoms, those territories.
To act against the unimaginable, unspeakable violence
and evil and harm they have suffered from our people,
contrary to all reason, all justice,
so as to restore them to the original liberty
they were lawlessly deprived of,
and get them free of death by violence, death they still suffer.5

Then in the same will he left behind a disturbing prophecy:

I think that God shall have to pour out his fury and anger
on Spain for these damnable, rotten, infamous deeds
done so unjustly, so tyrannically, so barbarously
to those people, against those people.
For the whole of Spain has shared in the blood-soaked riches,
some a little, some a lot, but all shared in goods
that were ill-gotten, wickedly taken with violence and genocide-
and all must pay unless Spain does a mighty penance.6

Spanish Colonies and the West Indies 1580-1744


1. Historia de las Indias by Bartolomé de Las Casas II:176 in New Iberian World, Volume 2 The Caribbean, p. 310.
2. Quoted in The Caribbean by W. Adolphe Roberts, p. 66.
3. Oviedo III:29 quoted in History of Central America, Volume 1 by Hubert Bancroft, p. 398.
4. Apologetica Historia by Bartolomé de Las Casas p. 127-129 quoted in The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America by Lewis Hanke, p. 126.
5. Indian Freedom: The Cause of Bartolomé de Las Casas ed. Francis Patrick Sullivan, p. 354.
6. Ibid., p. 354.

Copyright © 2003-2006 by Sanderson Beck

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Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas
Spanish Conquest 1492-1580
Brazil and Guiana 1500-1744
Spanish Colonies and the West Indies 1580-1744
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Franklin's Practical Ethics
Summary and Evaluation of America to 1744

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