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Alonso de Ojeda

Alonso de Ojeda was a Spanish His name is sometimes spelled Alonzo and Oxeda.

Early Life

Alonso de Ojeda was born in 1466 Cuenca. He came from an impoverished noble family, but had the good fortune to start his career in the household of the Duke of Medinaceli. Early on he gained the patronage of Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, bishop of Burgos and later Patriarch of the Indies, who made it possible for Ojeda to accompany Christopher Columbus in his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Ojeda distinguished himself there by his daring in battle with the natives, towards whom, however, he was unduly harsh and vindictive. He returned to Spain in 1496.


After three years, in May 1499, he again journeyed to the New World, this time on his own account with three vessels and accompanied by the cosmographer Juan de la Cosa and Amerigo Vespucci, who discovered that, contrary to Columbus's beliefs, the land was not Asia. In little over three weeks he sighted the mainland near the mouth of the Orinoco River, and after landing at Trinidad and other such places, discovered a bay which he called Venezuela (little Venice), from its resemblance to the bay of Venice. There he married an Indian maiden called Guaricha.

Hispaniola and Spain

After some further exploration, he made his way to the island of Hispaniola, where he was received far from cordially, as it was thought that he was infringing upon the exploring privileges of Christopher Columbus. On his return to Spain in 1500, he took many captives whom he sold as slaves. Even so the voyage was not financially successful, netting some fifteen thousand maravedis in profit to be divided among the fifty-five surviving crew-members . Returning on the heels of Peralonso Nino's smaller but far more lucrative voyage magnified this disappointment.

Having influential friends at home, he was appointed Governor of Coquibacoa and was able to fit out a new expedition, which left Cadiz in 1502 and made a landing on the American continent at a place which he named Santa Cruz. There he established a colony which did not last long. Mutiny erupted, and he was hauled to Santo Domingo in shackles where a judge stripped him of his titles and properties before allowing him to return to Spain.

Somehow he made his way back to Hispaniola, where he rejoined former associate Juan de la Cosa. There he conceived the idea of establishing colonies on the mainland between Cabo de Vela and the Gulf of Uraba, and after some time spent in petitioning the Government, the two comrades finally obtained the necessary permission.

Colombia and Hostile Indians and Slaves

He went back to Spain and after great effort organized his third and last expedition in 1509. Among those who embarked in his four vessels was Francisco Pizarro, the future conqueror of Peru. Hernan Cortes, who was later to dominate Mexico, would have been among the soldiers of fortune engaged in this adventure, had not a sudden illness prevented him from sailing. With about 300 men, he sailed from Hispaniola to take possession, as Governor, of Nueva Andalucia, which comprised the territory between the gulfs of Uraba (Darien) and Maracaibo. Near the site of the present city of Cartagena he landed with a party of about 70 men to capture Indians for slaves. Ojeda found the natives very hostile; they attacked his force and killed every man except Ojeda and one other.

The reason that the natives were hostile was that Spaniards were raiding villages and taking many as slaves. Ojeda was no exception to the cruelty of the Spanish against the native people. An eyewitness account recorded by historian Bartolome de Las Casas notes, "The Spaniards worked an incredible slaughter on that village, they spared no one, women, children, babies or not. Then they robbed." Ojeda was known for his cruelty, he was a man that often shocked and brutalized the natives. He violated all sense of justice on the island of Hispaniola, he cut off the ear of a very important chief, seized the native King Caonabo and took him in chains to Spain, and enslaved countless Indians.

Later Life and Death

Not yet despairing, he founded a new colony at San Sebastian, but provisions soon ran low. It became necessary for him to go to Hispaniola to obtain supplies for the settlement, which he left in the charge of Francisco Pizarro. He was shipwrecked on the way, and only after suffering great privations did he finally reach Santo Domingo, where he died. Las Casas records of his death, that "He died sick and poor, poor, he didn't have a cent to bury him, I think, for all the pearls, the gold he had gotten or stolen from the Indians, for all the slaves he had made of them the times he hit the mainland. He willed himself to be buried right at the door of the church and monastery of St. Francis..."


B. de las Casas, Historia de las Indias

Sir Arthur Helps, The Spanish Conquest in America,

External links

Catholic Encyclopedia

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