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Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro helped Vasco Nez de

Balboa discover the Pacific Ocean, and after conquering Peru, founded its capital
city, Lima.
Francisco Pizarro was born circa 1476 in Trujillo, Spain. In 1513, he joined Vasco
Nez de Balboa in his march to the "South Sea," during which Balboa discovered
the Pacific Ocean. In 1532, Pizarro and his brothers conquered Peru. Three years
later, Pizarro founded the nation's new capital, Lima. Pizarro was assassinated on
June 26, 1541, in Lima, Peru, by vengeful members of an enemy faction of
Early Years
Conquistador Francisco Pizarro was born, an illegitimate child, circa 1476, in
Trujillo, Spainan area stricken by poverty. His father, Captain Gonzalo Pizarro,
was a poor farmer. His mother, Francisca Gonzlez, was of humble heritage.
Pizarro grew up without learning how to read. Instead, he herded his father's pigs.
As young man, Pizarro heard tales of the New World and was seized by a lust for
fortune and adventure. In 1510, he accompanied Spanish explorer Alonzo de
Ojeda on a voyage to Urab, Colombia. Although the expedition was unfruitful,
Pizarro proved he could be relied on in a bind.
March to the Sea
In 1513, Pizarro joined conquistador Vasco Nez de Balboa in his march to the
"South Sea," across the Isthmus of Panama. During their journey, Balboa and
Pizarro discovered what is now known as the Pacific Ocean, although Balboa
allegedly spied it first, and was therefore credited with the ocean's first European
Ironically, Pizarro later arrested Balboa under the orders of Pedro Arias de vila
(also known as Pedrarias), Balboa's rival and a known tyrant. Afterward, Pizarro
stayed in Panama for a time, where he was awarded an estate, served as mayor of
Panama City and amassed a small fortune.
Reconnaissance Voyages
In 1524, Pizarro teamed up with navigator Diego de Almagro and a priest named
Fernando de Luque. The first of their reconnaissance voyages went as far as the
San Juan River. The next gave Pizarro the chance to explore further south along
the coast. In the meantime, Pizarro's chief navigator, Bartolom Ruiz, forged
across the equator and then returned with word of those regions south of the

Conquering Peru
In 1528, Pizarro went back to Spain and managed to procure a commission from
Emperor Charles V. Pizarro was to conquer the southern territory and establish a
new Spanish province there. In 1532, accompanied by his brothers, Pizarro
overthrew the Inca leader Atahualpa and conquered Peru. Three years later, he
founded the new capital city of Lima.
Over time, tensions increasingly built up between the conquistadors who had
originally conquered Peru and those who arrived later to stake some claim in the
new Spanish province. As a result, conquistadors were torn into two factionsone
run by Pizarro, and the other by his former associate, Diego Almagro. After taking
Cuzco, Almagro engaged Pizarro and his brothers in the Battle of Las Salinas.
Upon the Pizarro brothers' victory, in 1538, Hernando Pizarro captured and
executed Almagro. On June 26, 1541, in Lima, Peru, members of the defeated
party avenged Almagro's death by assassinating Francisco Pizarro.


Hernn Corts, marqus del Valle de Oaxaca, was a Spanish conquistador who
overthrew the Aztec empire and won Mexico for the crown of Spain.
Born around 1485, Hernn Corts was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who
defeated the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain. He first set sail to the
New World at the age of 19. Corts later joined an expedition to Cuba. In 1518, he
set off to explore Mexico. There he strategically aligned some native peoples
against others to overthrow them. King Charles I appointed him governor of New
Spain in 1522. Corts died in Spain in 1547.
Early Life
Hernn Corts, marqus del Valle de Oaxaca, was born around 1485 in Medelln,
Spain, and helped advance Spain's position in North America in the 1500s. He
came from a lesser noble family in Spain. Some reports indicate that he studied at
the University of Salamanca for a time.
In 1504, Corts left Spain to seek his fortune in New World. He traveled to the
island of Santo Domingo, or Hispaniola. Settling in the new town of Aza, Corts
served as a notary for several years. He joined an expedition of Cuba led by Diego
Velzquez in 1511. There, Corts worked in the civil government and served as the
mayor of Santiago for a time.

Conquered the Aztecs

In 1518, Corts was to command his own expedition to Mexico, but Velzquez
canceled it. Corts ignored the order and set sail for Mexico with more than 500
men and 11 ships that fall. In February 1519, the expedition reached the Mexican
Corts became allies with some of the native peoples he encountered, but with
others he used deadly force to conquer Mexico. He fought Tlaxacan and Cholula
warriors and then set his sights on taking over the Aztec empire. He marched to
Tenochtitln, the Aztec capital and home to ruler Montezuma II. Corts took
Montezuma hostage and his soldiers raided the city. Corts left the city after
learning that Spanish troops were coming to arrest him for disobeying orders.
After facing off against Spanish forces, Corts returned to Tenochtitln to find a
rebellion in progress. The Aztecs eventually drove the Spanish from the city, but
Corts returned again to defeat them and take the city in 1521. King Charles I of
Spain (also known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) appointed him the
governor of New Spain the following year.
Later Years
After his victory over the Aztecs, Corts faced challenges to his authority and
position. He traveled to Honduras in 1524 to stop a rebellion against him in the
area. Back in Mexico, Corts found himself removed from power. He traveled to
Spain to plead his case to the king, but he was not reappointed to his
In 1540, Corts retired to Spain. He spent much of his later years seeking
recognition for his achievements and support from the Spanish royal court. Corts
died in Spain in 1547.


Spanish conquistador Pedro De Alvarado was known for his skill as a soldier and
for his cruelty to the native populations of Mexico.
Pedro de Alvarado (1485-1541) was a Spanish conquistador who participated in
the Conquest of the Aztecs in Central Mexico in 1519 and led the Conquest of the
Maya in 1523. Referred to as "Tonatiuh" or "Sun God" by the Aztecs because of his
blonde hair and white skin, Alvarado was violent, cruel and ruthless, even for a
conquistador for whom such traits were practically a given. After the Conquest of
Guatemala, he served as governor of the region, although he continued to
campaign until his death in 1541.

Early Life
Pedro's exact year of birth is unknown: it was probably some time between 1485
and 1495. Like many conquistadores, he was from the province of Extremadura: in
his case, he was born in the city of Badajoz. Like many younger sons of minor
nobility, Pedro and his brothers could not expect much in the way of an inheritance:
they were expected to become priests or soldiers, as working the land was
considered beneath them.
In about 1510 he went to the New World with several brothers and an uncle: they
soon found work as soldiers in the various expeditions of conquest that originated
on Hispaniola, including the brutal conquest of Cuba.
Personal Life and Appearance
Alvarado was blond and fair, with blue eyes and pale skin that fascinated the
natives of the New World. He was considered affable by his fellow Spaniards and
the other conquistadores trusted him. He married twice: first to a Spanish
noblewoman, Francisca de la Cueva, who was related to the powerful Duke of
Albuquerque, and then later, after her death, to Beatriz de la Cueva, who survived
him and briefly became governor in 1541. His longtime native companion, Doa
Luisa Xicotencatl, was a Tlaxcalan Princess given to him by the lords of Tlaxcala
when they made an alliance with the Spanish.
He had no legitimate children, but did father several bastards.
Alvarado and the Conquest of the Aztecs
In 1518, Hernn Corts mounted an expedition to explore and conquer the
mainland: Alvarado and his brothers quickly signed on. Alvarado's leadership was
recognized early on by Corts, who put him in charge of ships and men.
He would eventually become Corts' right-hand man. As the conquistadores
moved into central Mexico and a showdown with the Aztecs, Alvarado proved
himself time and again as a brave, capable soldier, even if he did have a noticeable
cruel streak. Corts often entrusted Alvarado with important missions and
reconnaissance. After the conquest of Tenochtitln, Corts was forced to head
back to the coast to face Pnfilo de Narvez, who had brought soldiers from Cuba
to take him into custody. Corts left Alvarado in charge while he was gone.
The Temple Massacre
In Tenochtitln (Mexico City), tensions were high between the natives and the
Spanish. The noble class seethed at the audacious invaders, who were laying
claim to their wealth, property and women. On May 20, 1520, the nobles gathered
for their traditional celebration of Toxcatl. They had already asked Alvarado for

permission, which he had granted. Alvarado heard rumors that the Mexica were
going to rise up and slaughter the intruders during the festival, so he ordered a preemptive attack. His men slaughtered thousands of unarmed nobles at the Festival.
According the Spanish, they slaughtered the nobles because they had proof that
the festivities were a prelude to an attack designed to kill all of the Spanish in the
city: the Aztecs claim the Spanish only wanted the golden ornaments many of the
nobility were wearing. No matter what the cause, the Spanish fell on the unarmed
nobles, slaughtering thousands.
The Noche Triste
Corts returned and quickly tried to restore order, but it was in vain. The Spanish
were under a state of siege for several days before they sent Emperor Moctezuma
to speak to the crowd: according to the Spanish account, he was killed by stones
thrown by his own people. With Moctezuma dead, the attacks increased until the
night of June 30, when the Spanish tired to sneak out of the city under cover of
darkness. They were discovered and attacked: dozens were killed as they
attempted to escape, laden down with treasures. During the escape, Alvarado
allegedly made a mighty leap from one of the bridges: for a long time afterwards,
the bridge was known as "Alvarado's Leap."
Guatemala and the Maya
Corts, with the help of Alvarado, was able to regroup and retake the city, setting
himself up as governor. More Spanish arrived to help colonize, govern and rule the
remnants of the Aztec Empire. Among the loot discovered were ledgers of sorts
detailing tribute payments from neighboring tribes and cultures, including several
considerable payments from a culture known as the K'iche far to the south.
A message was sent to the effect that there had been a change in management in
Mexico City but the payments should continue. Predictably, the fiercely
independent K'iche ignored it. Corts selected Pedro de Alvarado to head south
and investigate, and in 1523 he gathered up 400 men, many of whom had horses,
and several thousand native allies.
They headed south, delirious with dreams of plunder.
The Conquest of Utatln
Corts had been successful because of his ability to turn Mexican ethnic groups
against one another, and Alvarado had learned his lessons well. The K'iche, at
home in the city of Utatln near present-day Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, were
by far the strongest of the kingdoms in the lands that had once been home to the
Mayan Empire. Corts quickly made an alliance with the Kaqchikel, traditional
bitter enemies of the K'iche. All of Central America had been devastated by
disease in the previous years, but the K'iche were still able to put 10,000 warriors
into the field, led by K'iche warlord Tecn Umn. The Spanish routed the K'iche in

February of 1524 at the battle of El Pinal, ending the greatest hope of large-scale
native resistance in Central America.
Conquest of the Maya
With the mighty K'iche defeated and their capital city of Utatln in ruins, Alvarado
simply had to pick off the remaining kingdoms one by one. By 1532 all of the major
kingdoms had fallen, and their people had been given by Alvarado to his men as
virtual slaves. Even the Kaqchikels were rewarded with slavery.
Alvarado was named governor of Guatemala and established a city there, near the
site of present-day Antigua. He served as Governor for seventeen years.
Further Adventures
Alvarado was not content to sit idly in Guatemala counting his newfound wealth.
He would abandon his duties as governor from time to time in search of more
conquest and adventure. Hearing of the great wealth in the Andes, he set out with
ships and men to conquer Quito: when he arrived, it had already been captured by
Sebastian de Benalcazar on behalf of the Pizarro brothers. Alvarado considered
fighting the other Spaniards for it, but in the end allowed them to buy him off. He
was named the Governor of Honduras and occasionally went there to enforce his
claim. He also returned to Mexico to campaign in the Mexican northwest. This
would prove the end of him: in 1541 he died in present-day Michoacn when a
horse rolled over on him during a battle with natives.
Alvarado's Cruelty and Las Casas
All of the conquistadores were ruthless, cruel and bloodthirsty, but Pedro de
Alvarado was in a class by himself. He ordered massacres of women and children,
razed entire villages, enslaved thousands and threw natives to his dogs when they
displeased him. When he decided to go to the Andes, he took with him thousands
of Central American natives to work and fight for him: most of them died en route or
once they got there. Alvarado's singular inhumanity drew the attention of Fray
Bartolom de Las Casas, the enlightened Dominican who was the Great Defender
of the Indians. In 1542, Las Casas wrote "A Short History of the Destruction of the
Indies" in which he rails against the abuses committed by the conquistadores.
Although he did not mention Alvarado by name, he clearly referred to him:
"This man in the space of fifteen years, which was from the year 1525 to 1540,
together with his associates, massacred no less then five millions of men, and do
daily destroy those that are yet remaining. It was the custom of this Tyrant, when
he made war upon any Town or Country, to carry along with him as many as he
could of the subdued Indians, compelling them to make war upon their
Countrymen, and when he had ten or twenty thousand men in his service, because
he could not give them provision, he permitted them to eat the flesh of those

Indians that they had taken in war: for which cause he had a kind of shambles in
his Army for the ordering and dressing of mans' flesh, suffering Children to be killed
and boiled in his presence. The men they killed only for their hands and feet, for
those they accounted dainties."
Legacy of Pedro de Alvarado
Alvarado is best remembered in Guatemala, where he is even more reviled than is
Hernn Corts in Mexico (if such a thing is possible). His K'iche opponent, Tecn
Umn, is a national hero whose likeness appears on the Quetzal note. Even
today, Alvarado's cruelty is legendary: Guatemalans who do not know much about
their history will recoil at his name. Mostly he is remembered as the most vicious of
the conquistadores if he is remembered at all.
Still, there is no denying that Alvarado had a profound effect on the history of
Guatemala and Central America in general, even if most of it was negative. The
villages and towns he gave away to his conquistadores formed the basis for
current municipal division in some cases, and his experiments with moving
conquered people around resulted in some cultural exchange among the Maya.