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Who was Francisco Pizarro?

Secondary Categories: PeruFeature

Over the past couple of months we’ve been examining the history of the Incas through the biographies of their emperors. But now the time has come to introduce another of the main protagonists in Peruvian (and South American) history. Francisco Pizarro was born in 1476 in Trujillo, Spain, the illegitimate son of a soldier and a peasant. He was a particularly poor kid, from an impoverished area who was captivated by the tales of wealth and adventure from the New World.

Francisco Pizarro statue in Trujillo, Spain

Pizarro is still venerated in his home town of Trujillo, Spain. The northern Peruvian city of Trujillo was named in his honor. (Picture: Daniel Welsch)

He went on his first voyage in 1510 (to Colombia), and although he didn’t come back with any riches he did make a name for himself as a reliable crew-member. In 1513 he embarked on an altogether more successful voyage which would result in the ‘discovery’ of the Pacific Ocean and in the once-penniless Pizarro being awarded a bountiful estate in Panama.

But still a desire to discover more distant lands and amass yet more wealth burned inside him. Starting in 1524, Pizarro underwent several sorties along the West coast of South America and in 1528 he returned to Spain to seek royal permission to conquer the southern territory and establish a new Spanish province there.


The spot in northern Peru where Pizarro disembarked in 1531 is now known as Puerto Pizarro. (Picture: Paulo Cesar Vicente da Luz)

Together with his half-brothers, Pizarro set off in 1531 to conquer Peru. They landed in the North of the country, near to what is now known as Ecuador, and gradually made their way inland and southwards. When they finally reached the city of Cajamarca in November 1532 they numbered just 106-foot-soldiers and 62 horsemen. The following day they would encounter an Inca army of nearly 10,000 men.

More about that next week…

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