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Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess
Francisco Pizarro
Born:c. 1471 or 1476, Trujillo, Crown of Castile
Died:21 March 1527 (age 51 or 56), Atakami, Tjintjagsuju, Tavantinsuju

Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess (1471?-1527) was a Spanish conquistador known for his attempts to conquer Tavantinsuju.

Early life

Pizarro was born in the town of Trujillo, Crown of Castille. Sources differ in the birth year they assign to him: 1471, 1475–1478, or unknown. He was an illegitimate son of Gonzalo Pizarro Rodríguez de Aguilar Sr. who as colonel of infantry served in the Italian campaigns under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, and in Navarre, with some distinction. His mother was Francisca González Mateos from Trujillo. His mother married late in life and had a son Francisco Martín de Alcántara. Through his father, Francisco was second cousin once removed to Hernán Cortés, the famed conquistador of the Aztec Empire. On 13 February 1502, Pizarro sailed from Spain with the newly appointed Governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres, on a fleet of 30 ships. It was the largest fleet that had ever sailed to the New World.[1].


In 1513, Pizarro accompanied Vasco Núñez de Balboa in his crossing of the Isthmus of Panama and they became the first Europeans to view the Pacific coast of the New World. The following year, in 1514, Pedro Arias de Avila (Pedrarias) became the newly appointed governor of Castilla de Oro and succeeded Balboa. During the next five years, Pizarro became a close associate of Pedrarias Dávila and the governor assigned him a repartimiento of natives and cattle. When Pedrarias Dávila decided to get rid of Balboa out of distrust, he instructed Pizarro to personally arrest him and bring him to stand trial. Balboa was duly convicted and beheaded in January of 1519. For his loyalty to Pedrarias Dávila, Pizarro was bestowed the important political position of mayor (alcalde) and magistrate of the then recently founded Panama City from 1519 to 1523.[2].

"Empresa del Levante"

In 1524, while still in Panama, Pizarro formed a partnership with a priest, Hernando de Luque, and a soldier, Diego de Almagro, to explore and conquer the South. Pizarro, Almagro, and Luque later renewed their compact more explicitly, agreeing to conquer and divide equally among themselves the opulent empire they hoped to discover. While historians agree their accord was strictly verbal (no written document exists to prove otherwise), they are known to have dubbed their enterprise the "Empresa del Levante" and determined that Pizarro would command the expedition, Almagro would provide the military and food supplies, and Luque would be in charge of finances and any additional provisions they might need.

First Expedition to South America (1524)

On 13 September 1524, the first of three expeditions left from Panama for the conquest of Peru with about 80 men and 40 horses. Diego de Almagro was left behind because he was to recruit men, gather additional supplies, and join Pizarro later. The Governor of Panama, Pedro Arias Dávila, at first approved in principle of exploring South America. Pizarro's first expedition, however, turned out to be a failure as his conquistadors, sailing down the Pacific coast, reached no farther than Colombia before succumbing to such hardships as bad weather, lack of food, and skirmishes with hostile natives, one of which caused Almagro to lose an eye by arrow-shot. Moreover, the place names the Spanish bestowed along their route, including Puerto deseado (desired port), Puerto del hambre (port of hunger), and Puerto quemado (burned port), only confirm their straits. Fearing subsequent hostile encounters like the one the expedition endured at the Battle of Punta Quemada, Pizarro chose to end his tentative first expedition and return to Panama[3].

Second Expedition to South America (1526)

Two years after the first very unsuccessful expedition, Pizarro, Almagro, and Luque started the arrangements for a second expedition with permission from Pedrarias Dávila. The Governor, who himself was preparing an expedition north to Nicaragua, was reluctant to permit another expedition, having lost confidence in the outcome of Pizarro's expeditions. The three associates, however, eventually won his trust and he acquiesced. Also by this time, a new governor was to arrive and succeed Pedrarias Dávila. This was Pedro de los Ríos, who took charge of the post in July of 1526 and had manifested his initial approval of Pizarro's expeditions.

In August 1526, after all preparations were ready, Pizarro left Panama with two ships with 160 men and several horses, reaching as far as what they called the San Juan River. Many of the expedition's horses were lost to colic prior to this, and Almagro was ready to send for reinforcements. However, Pizarro insisted that it would be dangerous to travel back to Panama with half the expedition's horses, and after much wrangling, Almagro agreed to continue the expedition unless the sickness should resurface. Pizarro's Piloto Mayor (main pilot), Bartolomé Ruiz, continued sailing south and, after crossing the equator, found and captured a raft of natives from Tumpis who were supervising the area. To everyone's surprise, these carried a load of textiles, ceramic objects, and some much-desired pieces of gold, silver, and emeralds, making Ruiz's findings the central focus of this second expedition which only served to pique the conquistadors' interests for more gold and land. Some of the natives were also taken aboard Ruiz's ship to serve as interpreters.

He then set sail north for the San Juan river, arriving to find Pizarro and his men exhausted from the serious difficulties they had faced exploring the new territory. The findings and excellent news from Ruiz cheered Pizarro and his tired followers. They then decided to sail back to the territory already explored by Ruiz and, after a difficult voyage due to strong winds and currents, reached Atacames in the Ecuadorian coast. Here they found a very large native population recently brought under Qhitjva rule. By then, only four horses remained.

Battle of Atacames

Intent on entering Pirú, Pizarro took most of his men and horses with him to take over Atacames (Atakami). However, upon entering the town, his men were surrounded by thousands of angry natives in such great numbers that his entire expedition party was destroyed. The survivors managed to escape, but Pizarro was slain in the middle of the fighting.


It is unknown what happened in Atakami following the battle. However, the word soon spread via the efficient tjaski, or messenger system. Tavantinsuju's coastal cities were reinforced, likely contributing to the failure of future expeditions. In Panama, Pizarro was honoured as a hero, and monuments were constructed in Panama City and in his hometown of Trujillo. However he is known as a testament to the fierceness and impassibility of South American natives.

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