Cristóbal Vaca de Castro

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Cristóbal Vaca de Castro

Cristóbal Vaca de Castro (* 1492 in Izagre , León , Spain ; † 1562, according to other sources 1566 or 1571 in Valladolid , Spain) was a Spanish judge and colonial official in Peru .


De Castro's parents were García Díaz de Castro and Giomar Cabeza de Vaca. He studied law in Salamanca , obtained a licentiate and married María Magdalena de Quiñones y Osorio, with whom he had eight children. In 1536 he was appointed Oidor (Spanish = judge) of the Royal Audiencia of Valladolid. On September 9, 1540 he was made Knight of the Order of Santiago .

The way to Peru

In 1540 the Spanish King Charles I sent him to New Castile (Peru) to restore order between the rival groups around Francisco Pizarro and Almagros supporters after the execution of Diego de Almagros . Vaca de Castro had the reputation of a man of integrity, level-headedness and courage, and a clever scholar. His official title was that of a Juez pesquisidor (Spanish = special investigator). In the event of Francisco Pizarro's death, a secret decree from the Crown gave him the task of taking over the government of the colony.

He sailed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on November 5, 1540 and reached Panama in January 1541. Arrived there, he reformed the local Audiencia as its president. The Audiencia in Panama at that time had jurisdiction over all Spanish colonies on the American mainland. De Castro sailed again three months later to sail on to Peru, but was forced by the wind and the current to go ashore in Buenaventura (present-day Colombia ). From there he reached Cali by land , where he had to take a three-month break due to a serious illness. In Cali, he arbitrated a legal dispute between Sebastián de Belalcázar and Pascual de Andagoya .

Governor of Peru

Five months after his departure from Panama, still on his way to Peru, he learned in Popayán of the murder attempt on Francisco Pizarro and that Almagro's son Diego "el Mozo" had been replaced by one of his father's former captains, Juan de la Rada , as Pizarro's successor had been chosen. On September 25, 1541 Vaca de Castro finally arrived in Quito , where he united the forces loyal to the king behind him. Sebastián de Belalcázar joined him. Vaca de Castro then published the decree declaring him governor of the colony and gathered a sizeable force behind him. Alonso de Alvarado moved with his entourage from Chachapoyas to the Huaraz region . A Pizarro supporter in Cusco , Pedro Álvarez Holguín , who had set out with a troop on an expedition to Chuquisaca , united his contingent with another under the command of Captain Sebastián Garcilaso de la Vega , who was advancing from Arequipa . Together they also moved to the Huaraz region, where they and Alvarado's troops waited four months for de Castro. Together the armed forces moved to Jauja , from where de Castro set out for Lima to woo the local royalists and to raise funds for his campaign against the Almagro supporters through confiscations, war taxes and loans. Supported by Francisco de Carvajal , he defeated Diego el Mozo, whose bad advisor Juan de la Rada had previously died, on September 16, 1542 in the plain of Chupas . When he was defeated, Diego el Mozo tried to flee Cusco, but was captured. Under pressure from Pizarro supporters, de Castro ordered his execution . In a letter from November 1542 to the Spanish court, Vaca de Castro describes it as if the Almagro faction had collaborated in a large conspiracy with the fugitive Inca Manco Cápac and wanted to take the entire Pacific coast as far as Nombre de Dios in Panama, after some supporters of Almagro's murder plans had also confessed to Pedro de Valdivia's in Chile.

The Leyes Nuevas (Spanish = new laws) passed in 1542 aimed to abolish the obvious abuses of the encomienda system criticized by Bartolomé de Las Casas and others . At the same time, they were intended to limit the power of the encomenderos against the Castilian crown and prevent an aristocracy striving for autonomy from developing. The death penalty was threatened anyone who abducted indigenous people , even if they had bought them as slaves or if they wanted to come “voluntarily”. Indigenous property could only be acquired for compensation with the approval of the Audiencia. Person and property were to be respected and treated well, since they were vassals of the crown and free people. Even in the event of war or rebellion, indigenous people could no longer be legally made slaves.

The Leyes Nuevas caused a conflict between Vaca de Castro with Gonzalo Pizarro and his beneficiaries of the encomienda system. Vaca de Castro agreed to take the case to the Crown. He went one step further: he now distributed the comparatively few encomiendas that the Almagristas had among the loyalists, including the Pizarristas. This made it worthwhile to instigate unrest in which one only had to stand on the side of the winner.

Vaca de Castro moved the residence of the colonial government again from Lima to Cusco. Then he concentrated his efforts on the development of the colony by improving the communication possibilities and the establishment of rest stops for overland trips. He overlooked the exploitation in the mines. In 1543 he sent Diego de Rojas with 200 men to the Río de la Plata . The discovery of Tucumán is due to this expedition.

Return to Spain

In 1544 he was replaced by the viceroy of Peru, Blasco Núñez Vela , who had him arrested in Callao on charges of having sympathy for the Gonzalo Pizarro rebellion . Vaca de Castro was sent as a prisoner by ship to Panama, from where he sailed on to Spain. There he was charged with illegal enrichment , which was dropped after three years of pre-trial detention. He was later appointed commander of the Order of Santiago. Between 1557 and 1561 he was President of the Consejos de Castilla (Spanish = Council of Castile).

In old age he retired to the Convent of San Agustín in Valladolid, where he died and was buried in 1566.

Web links

Commons : Cristóbal Vaca de Castro  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ FA Kirkpatrick: The Spanish conquistadors. (= Goldmann's Yellow Pocket Books. 859). Munich 1962, p. 184.
  2. Liselotte and Theodor Engl: Pleasure in history - The conquest of Peru. Munich 1991, ISBN 3-492-11318-4 , p. 249f.
  3. John H. Elliot et al. (Ed.): Spain and the Spanish world. Freiburg im Breisgau 1991, p. 67f.
  4. Max Zeuske: The Conquista. Leipzig 1992, ISBN 3-361-00369-5 , pp. 114f.
  5. ^ FA Kirkpatrick: The Spanish conquistadors. (= Goldmann's Yellow Pocket Books. 859). Munich 1962, p. 187.