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Gonzalo Pizarro

Gonzalo Pizarroy Alonso was a Spanish conquistador and younger half-brother of Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of the Inca Empire. Illegitimate son of Captain Gonzalo Pizarro y Rodriguez de Aguilar (senior) (1446-1522) who as colonel of infantry served in the Italian campaigns under Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, and in Navarre, with some distinction, and Maria Alonso, from Trujillo. He was the half brother of Francisco and Hernando Pizarro and the full brother of Juan Pizarro.

Early years in Peru

Born in Trujillo, Spain, Gonzalo Pizarro accompanied his eldest brother, Francisco Pizarro, in his third expedition for the conquest of Peru in 1532. Gonzalo was also the brother of Hernando Pizarro and Juan Pizarro. A lieutenant of his brother Francisco during the conquest, Gonzalo Pizarro was one of the most corrupt, brutal and ruthless conquistadors of the New World, being far less restrained towards the natives and the Inca than his older brothers.

After Inca emperor Atahualpa was captured in the Battle of Cajamarca and later executed on July 26, 1533, the Pizarro brothers and their followers marched towards the Inca capital of Cuzco to complete the conquest, capturing the city on November 15 after a brief battle with the Inca forces under Quizquiz holding it after previously defeating the central government and massacring the nobility of Cuzco. Some sources suggest the Spaniards were well received after vanquishing the northern forces having occupied the capital for nineteen months, but that fact is highly uncertain.

Soon discords arose between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro concerning their leadership in the newly conquered land of the Incas. As a result, Almagro left Cuzco in 1534 and was given the honor of Spanish King Charles I to explore the southern part of Peru (modern-day Chile) and look for more treasures there. Upon his departure, Gonzalo and Juan were appointed by Francisco as garrisons of Cuzco without Almagro knowing it.

Gonzalo and Juan Pizarro both looked after the settlements in Cuzco, while their eldest brother Francisco explored the west coast of northern Peru and founded the city of Lima in 1535. Gonzalo, Juan and his younger brother Hernando ruled Cuzco with dictatorship, greed, corruption, and brutality, torturing and executing those who refused to accept Spanish rule. Their corrupt rule also brought a rebellion by the Incas under Manco Capac, who began to fight for equal rights and demanded freedom from harsh Spanish rule. The Incas fought the Spaniards in a number of sieges and battles for control of the land and temporarily captured Cuzco in May 6, 1536. The Incas were later defeated by the heavily armed Spanish soldiers led by Gonzalo and Juan. Smallpox was also spread among the natives and many perished.

When Almagro returned from Chile disappointed in not finding any gold, he captured and imprisoned Gonzalo and Hernando in 1537. They eventually managed to escape and re-join Francisco Pizarro on their return to Lima. When Gonzalo and Hernando noticed that Almagro also wanted to take control of Cuzco, they fought against him in the Battle of Las Salinas in April 1538. In the course of these events, Almagro left for Lima for a negotiation with Francisco on who would control Cuzco. Gonzalo and Hernando heard of Almagro's threatening intentions and led an army against him, defeating his forces and later condemning him for treason. Almagro was executed on July 8, 1538, under Hernando's orders.

Expeditions with Francisco de Orellana

In 1541, Gonzalo was declared the governor of Quito. Not satisfied and at the urging of Francisco Pizarro, he led an expedition east of Quito with Francisco de Orellana in search of the fabled city of El Dorado and, "The Country of Cinnamon" ("Pais de la Canela"). In Quito, Gonzalo was able to recruit 220 Spaniards and 4,000 Native Americans. The second-in-command, Orellana, was sent to Guayaquil to recruit more troops and horses. Gonzalo Pizarro and his followers left Quito on February 1541, a month before Orellana, who was able to bring 23 men and several horses. By March both met at the valley of Zumaco and started their march towards crossing the Andes. After following the courses of the Coca and Napo rivers, the expedition started running out of provisions. About 140 of the 220 Spaniards and 3,000 out of 4,000 natives had died. On February 1542, they decided Orellana would continue sailing down the Napo river in search of food along with 50 men.

After a brief time, Gonzalo thought the expedition was a whole failure and decided to take a route north back to Quito with 80 of the remaining men, unknowingly relinquishing the success to Orellana, who ended discovering and exploring the entire length of the Amazon River. This episode in the life of Gonzalo Pizarro was fictionalized in Werner Herzog's film, Aguirre: Wrath of God.

Upon his return to Quito, Gonzalo learned that the Almagristas (as the followers of Almagro were called) had assassinated his brother Francisco Pizarro on June 26, 1541 in retaliation for Almagro's execution. By this time the Crown's representative, Cristobal Vaca de Castro, had arrived in Peru amidst the confusion after Pizarro's death. Gonzalo Pizarro offered to help capture those responsible for his brother's death, but was refused. The Almagristas were finally defeated in the battle of Chupas on September 16, 1542, and their leader, Diego Almagro El Mozo, was executed.

Gonzalo turns against the Spanish King

Emperor Charles V then appointed Blasco Nunez Vela as Peru's first viceroy in 1544. Nunez introduced the New Laws, which were framed by Bartolome de Las Casas to protect the Indigenous. Many of the conquistadors living in Peru were against these laws since they could no longer exploit the natives. This prompted Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Carvajal to organize an army of followers with the intent of suppressing the New Laws. Many conquistadors turned against the Viceroy and joined Gonzalo's side, as his surname provided an effective rallying point. The rebel army defeated Nunez in 1546 at Anaquito near Quito. Although some, such as Carvajal, advised Gonzalo to proclaim himself King of Peru and to disown any further claim by the King of Spain to the land, Gonzalo refused.

Over the following months, however, the support for Gonzalo diminished when the King's new representative, Pedro de La Gasca, arrived with the intention of offering pardon and repealing the New Laws. Most of Gonzalo's army deserted him just before the crucial battle at Sacsayhuaman (in Spanish Jaquijajuana), near Cuzco, that would determine the fate of the conquest. No longer supported with an army against the King's new representative, Gonzalo Pizarro surrendered and was beheaded by the royal forces at field of battle, being the last of the Pizarro brothers to die a violent death (with Hernando dying of high age in Spain some three or six decades later).


Ancestors of Gonzalo Pizarro y Alonso


Andrew Dalby, "Christopher Columbus, Gonzalo Pizarro, and the search for cinnamon" in Gastronomica (Spring 2001).

F.A. Kirkpatrick, "The Spanish Conquistadores" Third Reprinting 1968.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gonzalo Pizarro

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