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Sebastián de Belalcázar
Born 1479 or 1480
Córdoba, Crown of Castille
Died 1551 (aged 70–71)
Cartagena, New Kingdom of Granada, Viceroyalty of Peru
Nationality Spaniard
Other names Sebastián de Benalcázar
Sebastián Moyano
Occupation Conquistador

Statue of Sebastián de Belalcázar in the Colombian city of Santiago de Cali

Sebastián de Belalcázar (1479 or 1480 – 1551) was a Spanish conquistador.

Early life

He was born Sebastián Moyano in the province of Córdoba, Spain, in either 1479 or 1480. He took the name Benalcázar as that was the name of the castle-town near to his birthplace in Córdoba. According to various sources, he may have left for the New World with Christopher Columbus as early as 1498, but Juan de Castellanos wrote that he killed a mule in 1507, and fled to Spain for the West Indies due to fear of punishment, and as a chance to escape the poverty in which he lived.


He entered Nicaragua with Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1524, and became the first mayor of the city of León in Nicaragua. He remained there until 1527, when he left for Honduras as a result of internal disputes among the Spanish governors. Briefly returning to León, he sailed to the coast of Peru, where he united with the expedition of Francisco Pizarro in 1532.

Conquest of Ecuador

In 1534, after having helped Pizarro battle native tribes, he set off to conquer Quito in Ecuador, using funds obtained as compensation from his previous campaigns. Quito had been the northernmost city of the Inca Empire, but before Belalcázar could take it, Inca general Rumiñahui sent the treasure in the city deep into the Andes and then burned the city. Belalcázar founded the new city of Quito with Diego de Almagro, honoring Pizarro by naming it in full "San Francisco de Quito". His battles, though, were not entirely honourable. At a village called Quinche near Puritaco, he found that all the men were away fighting with the national army. To make an example of these people (and to vent his frustration at finding so little treasure), he ordered all the women and children to be slaughtered. 'A feeble excuse to justify cruelty unworthy of a Castilian', was the verdict of Herrera, the official Chronicler of the Conquest, to Benalcazar's excuse that this was done to terrify other natives into returning to their homes.

Conquest of Colombia

Moving northward into present day Colombia in search of El Dorado in 1535, he entered the Cauca River Valley, founding the southwestern Colombian cities of Santiago de Cali in 1536, and Pasto and Popayán (next in importance after Quito) in 1537. Crossing overland to the Magdalena River Valley, he entered the highlands of central Colombia, which had also been reached by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and Nikolaus Federmann, a German, in 1539. The three presented their dispute before King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The King granted Belalcázar rule of the area with the title of governor of Popayán and the honorary title of adelantado in May 1540. As so often happened among the conquistadors, land squabbles developed again, this time between Belalcázar and Pascual de Andagoya (1495–1548), who also claimed the governorship of Popayán. Belalcázar successfully defended his lands, and took over some of Andagoya's. He then intervened in a disagreement between supporters of the families of Pizarro and Almagro in Perú. In 1546, he ordered the execution of Jorge Robledo, who governed a neighboring province in yet another land-related vendetta. He was put to trial in absentia in 1550, convicted and condemned to death for the death of Robledo, and other offenses pertaining to his constant involvement in the various wars between other conquistadors. A victim of his own ambition, he died in 1551 before he could begin the voyage back to Spain to appeal the decision, in Cartagena, Colombia.

External links

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