From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Conquistador (meaning "Conqueror" in the Spanish language) is the term used to refer to the soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th through the 17th century.
The leaders of these expeditions are called conquistadores, a name that denotes that they felt connected with the reconquista, the Christian (re)conquest of the Iberian peninsula from the Muslim Moors (711-1492). They also evoked the name of Santiago Matamoros ("St. James the Moor-killer") before going into battle against the Indians, another echo of this connection with the reconquista.
Many of the conquistadors were poor nobles (hidalgos) looking forward to make fortune in the Indies since they could not in Europe.
The first Spanish conquest in the Americas was the island of Hispaniola. From there Juan Ponce de León conquered Puerto Rico and Diego Velázquez took Cuba. The first settlement on the mainland was Darién in Panama, settled by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in 1512.
The most successful conquistador was Hernán Cortés, who in 1520-1521, with Native American allies, overran the mighty Aztec empire, thus making Mexico (then called New Spain) a part of the Spanish empire. Of comparable importance was the conquest of the Inca empire by Francisco Pizarro.
After this, rumours of golden cities (Cibola in North America, El Dorado in South America) caused several more expeditions to be sent out, but many of those returned without having found their goal, or having found it, finding it much less valuable than was hoped.
Most of the conquistadors acted cruel towards the inhabitants of the regions they visited or conquered, killing, enslaving and otherwise abusing them. Some Spaniards, singularly the priest Bartolomé de Las Casas defended Native Americans against of the abuses of conquistadors. In 1542, New Spanish colonial laws were made to protect Indians, known as the New Laws of 1542. In 1552, Bartolomé de las Casas published "Short Account of the Destruction of the West Indies" (Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias), which was used by the other European colonial powers, rivals of Spain, in criticism of Spain's role.
There is also the female, called a conquistadora. One conquistadora that is always going to be remembered is Ines Suarez. Ines came to the Americas around the age of thirty in search for her husband around 1537. After continuous days of searching in numerous contries of South America, she came upon a man who was dead; her husband. Shortly after the death, Suarez became the mistress of the great conqueror of Chile in that time period.
List of conquistadors and Spanish explorers, with the period and place of conquest or exploration:
- Diego de Almagro (Peru, 1524-1535, Chile, 1535-1537)
- Pedro de Alvarado (Mexico, 1519-1521, Guatemala 1523 -1527, Peru, 1533-1535, Mexico, 1540-1541)
- Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón (United States east coast, 1524-1527)
- Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (Panama, 1510-1519)
- Sebastián de Benalcázar (Ecuador and Colombia, 1533-1536)
- Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (southwestern United States, 1527-1536, South America, 1540-1542)
- Hernández de Córdoba (Yucatán, 1517)
- Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (southwestern United States, 1540-1542)
- Hernán Cortés (Mexico, 1518-1522, Honduras, 1524, Baja California, 1532-1536)
- Juan de Grijalva (Yucatán, 1518)
- Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (Colombia, 1536-1537, Venezuela, 1569-1572)
- Francisco de Montejo Yucatan, 1527-1546
- Pánfilo de Narváez (Florida, 1527-1528)
- Diego de Nicuesa (Panama, 1506-1511)
- Cristóbal de Olid (Honduras, 1523-1524)
- Francisco de Orellana (Amazon River, 1541-1543)
- Francisco Pizarro (Peru, 1509-1535)
- Gonzalo Pizarro (Peru, 1540-1542)
- Juan Ponce de León (Puerto Rico, 1508, Florida, 1513 and 1521)
- Hernando de Soto (southeastern United States, 1539-1542)
- Martin de Ursua, Peten region of Guatemala, 1696-1697
- Pedro de Valdivia (Chile, 1540-1552)
- Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (Cuba, 1511-1519)
For additional information or reclarification read: Born In Blood And Fire; Consise History of Latin America: John Charles Chasteen.