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Francisco Pizarro Biography - Part I

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Part I  1475 - 1526

Introduction - Francisco Pizarro Biography 

Francisco Pizarro Biography
Francisco Pizarro Biography and Life

Prior to the time of the Spanish Conquest of much of South America, Peru was dominated by the Inca Empire with other Indian tribes mainly being in subjection to that mighty civilization.

Spain's presence in the Caribbean and even Central America was an established fact before the Spaniards were to turn their attention southward.

It was during this time that one of the most famous of the conquistadores, or Spanish conquerors, Francisco Pizarro, made his appearance on the scene, thus the starting point of Francisco Pizarro's biography.

During the course of his life, Francisco Pizarro was to bring the mighty Inca Empire to its demise and established the foothold of Spain in Peru along with the city of Lima, Peru's capital, to this date.

The Francisco Pizarro biography begins somewhere in the latter part of the 15th century; Pizarro was born somewhere between 1475 and 1478.

His father was an army colonel, his unwed mother a member of the poor farmer class.

At the time America was being "discovered" in 1492 by Columbus, he would have been somewhere in his teens, surely an exciting time for an ambitious young man with an ardent desire to participate in adventure and hopefully attain fame, riches, and power.

Part I  1475-1526 (this page)

  • Journey to the Americas
  • Pizarro in Panama
  • Explorations of South America

Part II  1527-1531   

  • The Famous Thirteen
  • 'Capitulacion de Toledo'

Part III  1532-1541

  • Conquering Peru
  • The Death of Pizarro

Journey to the Americas - Francisco Pizarro Biography

Francisco Pizarro Biography
Francisco Pizarro Biography and Life

Jumping ahead to the year 1502, just 10 years after the first voyage to the New World of Columbus, we find Pizarro leaving Spain together with the newly-assigned Governor of Hispaniola along with convoy of 30 seagoing vessels.

Now perhaps in his mid 20s, we can imagine how Pizarro felt to join 2,500 other hopeful settlers leaving the then-known world behind, the biggest fleet that had ever sailed to the New World.

Pizarro in Panama - Francisco Pizarro Biography

Francisco Pizarro Biography
Francisco Pizarro Biography and Life

Although not much is known about his life in the intervening years, in 1513 we find Pizarro with the famous Vasco Nunez de Balboa in his historical crossing of Central America.

Among the first to cross the Isthmus of Panama, Pizarro had the privilege of being among the very first Europeans to set eyes on the Pacific Ocean from the soil of the New World.

Just a year later, circumstances began to favor him and thus a new direction in the Francisco Pizarro biography.

A new governor was assigned to replace Balboa in Spanish territory in Central America and Pizarro began a fruitful relationship with this important person, commonly known as Perarias Davila.

Davila equipped Pizarro with a large group of local Indians along with a herd of cattle.

As part of the always ongoing political manipulations for power, a time came that Pedrarias Davila decided to permanently rid himself of Balboa, who was still on the scene and a threat to Davila's influence and power. 

It was to fall to Pizarro to arrest Balboa, which he summarily did in person and then delivered him into the hands of "justice."

Balboa was eventually found guilty and in January of 1519 was executed by being beheaded.

Pizarro's reward for his part in this maneuver was the governorship of the recently-founded Panama City, where he established himself between the years 1519 to 1523.

Perhaps he did not suspect that his own future was to be marred with this type of in-fighting, eventually leading to his own downfall in his later years. 

But much was to happen first.

Explorations of South America - Francisco Pizarro Biography

Francisco Pizarro Biography
Francisco Pizarro Biography and Life

During his time in Panama, others had begun to push south down the coast of Central and South America.

Their tales of the riches in a gold-wealthy land called Viru or Piru (later Peru) surely fired Pizarro's desires for wealth and fame.

Around this time, an early explorer/adventurer by the name of Andagoya was able to make contact with several different Indian tribes while pushing as far south as the border between present-day Ecuador and Colombia with the intention of getting his hands on some of that Inca gold.

However, sickness forced him to return to Panama prematurely.

Imagine Pizarro, an extremely ambitious man, sitting in Panama City and hearing the reports of wealth to be had for the taking, not only from the south, but also from the exploits and stories of fortune of his second cousin, the famous Hernan Cortes, in Mexico.

It would not be too long before Pizarro himself began preparing a string of exploratory journeys into the southern hemisphere to hunt for the wealth of the Incan Empire.

It was at this time, around 1524, that another major event occured in the Francisco Pizarro.  Now, when he would be about in his mid 30s, while still inside Panama, Pizarro established a joint venture along with a priest, Hernando de Luque, as well as a soldier, Diego de Almagro, to be able to search out and furthermore take over the southern region.

Pizarro, Almagro, and Luque subsequently reestablished their agreement much more clearly, making the decision to conquer and partition equally between them the rich civilization that they anticipated finding.

The joint venture, referred to as the "Empresa del Levante," was an unwritten agreement between these three men.

Under its terms, they decided that Pizarro would be the person in charge of the exploratory journey, Almagro would supply the soldiers and food stocks, and Luque would be in control of money and any kind of supplemental supplies the expedition would possibly require.

Second Trip to South America - Francisco Pizarro Biography

Francisco Pizarro Biography
Francisco Pizarro Biography and Life

Two years following the initial extremely disastrous journey, Pizarro, Almagro, and Luque again got together with plans for a second expedition; again with authorization from the governor of Panama, Pedrarias Davila.

The problem was that the governor, on his own part organizing an expedition northward to Nicaragua, was hesitant to endorse an additional trip, having lost faith in the results of Pizarro's exploratory journeys.

The three members, nevertheless, in the end gained his confidence and he relented.

Furthermore by this point in time, a completely new governor was to come and follow Pedrarias Davila.

This person was Pedro de los Rios, who had procured command of the posting in July of 1526 and indicated to Pizarro that he would give his support to the expedition (he would eventually join up with Pizarro a few years afterwards in Peru).

In August 1526, when the preparations had been completed, Pizarro, along with two ships with 160 men and a number of mounts, left Panama. This time, they got as far as the Colombian San Juan River.

Shortly after getting there the group split up, with Pizarro remaining to check out the unknown and frequently dangerous region off the low-lying Colombian coastal regions, while the expedition's number two person, Almagro, was dispatched back to Panama for added manpower.

The events that took place then, though not directly involving him personally, certainly had an effect on Francisco Pizarro's biography.

Pizarro's primary guide, Bartolome Ruiz, kept on cruising southward and, just after traversing the equatorial line, located and seized a large raft of Indians from Tumbes who had been in charge of the region.

To everybody's astonishment, this raft transported a cargo of woven goods, pottery articles, and several coveted items of gold, silver, and emeralds, rendering Ruiz's find the important focal point of this valuable second journey.

Various natives ended up being also taken on board Ruiz's vessel to assist later on as translators.

Naturally, the result of this capture was to immediately stimulate the rest of the conquerors' passion for extra gold and territory.

Ruiz next sailed northward to the San Juan River, getting there to discover Pizarro and his men completely worn out from the major hardships they had experienced while pushing into unknown terrain.

Not long after Ruiz's arrival at that port, Almagro likewise sailed into the harbor with his ship stuffed with provisions as well as a substantial reinforcement of, at the minimum, eighty enlisted men.

These were men fresh from Spain who had shown up in Panama ready for adventure and gold.

The impressive finds and outstanding information from Ruiz together with Almagro's fresh reinforcements reinvigorated Pizarro and his exhausted men.

They then determined to cruise back to the areas already visited by Ruiz and finally, following a challenging trip owing to potent winds and currents, arrived at Atacames on the Ecuadorian seacoast.

At Atacames, they found a rather significant group of indigenous people who had just lately been brought within Inca domination.

Regrettably for these eager armed men, the aggressive character of these inhabitants was so antagonistic and their sheer numbers so threatening that the Spaniards made the decision to wait until a more propitious time to continue the exploration of that territory.

Continue to Part II - Francisco Pizarro Biography

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