Diego de Ordas

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Diego de Ordás y Girón (* 1485 in Castroverde de Campos , Zamora , † 1532 on the Atlantic) was a Spanish conquistador . As one of the first Europeans, he took part in the exploration of Colombia and Panama .

Use in New Spain

Ordás was the first European to climb the Popocatépetl volcano .

In 1518 he joined Hernán Cortés with a ship and took an active part in the conquest of New Spain . He was probably induced to do so by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar . Because at that time he was the steward of Velázquez ( governor of Cuba ) and possibly had the task of supervising Cortés. On March 25, 1519 he fought against the Mayan warriors at the Battle of Cintla, near the river Grijalva in Tabasco . When Cortés was elected captain general by his men , Ordás filed a formal objection and was chained. He was later convinced and followed Cortés as a loyal follower. Ordás was the first European to climb the Popocatépetl , accompanied by two companions in arms . In return, Emperor Charles V allowed him to include a fire-breathing volcano in his coat of arms . When Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar sent a fleet with an army of 1200 men under Pánfilo de Narváez to New Spain in 1520 to arrest Cortés, Ordás fought alongside Cortés against Pánfilo de Narváez and his old employer. He barely survived the escape from Tenochtitlan and the Noche Triste . He was wounded several times by Aztec warriors. In the following siege and conquest of Tenochtitlan he took part in the rank of captain. Diego de Ordás later explored the province of Oaxaca and sailed the Coatzacoalcos River . While Cortés was conquering Honduras , rumor of his death spread in New Spain. Ordás wanted to see for himself, so he sailed to Honduras and learned news there that apparently confirmed the rumor. With that he sailed back to New Spain and brought Cortés into serious trouble. The captain general was pronounced dead and his property distributed.

Spain and South America

During his last stay in Spain in 1529 Ordás was appointed governor and captain general of the "Province of the Islands in the Rio Marañón", the name of the Rio Amazon at that time, which Vicante Yáñez Pinzón discovered in 1500. In 1531 Ordás set out overseas with 450 men and 74 horses on a three-masted Nau and three smaller caravels . Ordá's ship was separated from the caravels in a storm and he reached the east coast of South America on his Nau with 320 men and 27 horses at 2 ½ degrees north latitude. But instead of driving along the coastline to the southeast to the Amazon estuary located at the equator, Ordás took a course to the northwest and thereby distanced himself from his province. Near the mouth of the Rio Orinoco he came across a fort manned by Spaniards. Antonio Sedeño , governor of the "Province of the Island of Trinidad ", which lies opposite the Orinoco mouth, had left 35 men there under the command of a certain Joan Gonzalez. Ordás raided the fort and captured the crew. Then he received the information from the Indians at the mouth of the Orinoco that there were gold-rich countries in the interior, up the Orinoco. Ordás thought the information was true. He had the masts and the tall superstructures of his nau removed and instead fitted with long oars to make them easier and to maneuver in the river. Together with a caravel that was added in the meantime and a few smaller ships built on site, Ordás and 270 of his men drove 200 leguas up the Orinoco, about 1100 kilometers.

Near a tributary of the Orinoco, the Rio Meta , the conquistadors received detailed information about a "province called Meta" which, according to the Indians, is rich in gold beyond measure. This “gold empire” would lie further inland and could be reached via the Rio Meta. In contrast to the chronicler Fernández de Oviedo , who only speaks of a gold country, the chroniclers Juan de Castellanos and Pedro de Aguado report that Ordás learned of the existence of two gold riches. The second, even richer country, lies further south and is apparently accessible via another tributary of the Orinoco, which probably meant the Rio Guaviare . However, the conquistadors could not pursue the path to the second gold empire because they were stopped a few miles upstream from the mouth of the Rio Meta by the waterfalls of Atures , which were an insurmountable obstacle for the ships. Ordás turned back and in December 1531 went up the Rio Meta with the caravel and the other ships. He left the mastless Nau behind because of her too great draft. Because the conquistadors were in the dry season, the level of the Meta sank constantly, so that the men also had to leave the smaller ships and drag them through the water behind them. After 50 days on the Rio Meta, during which they probably came to the area of ​​the Llanos Orientales, the Venezuelan-Colombian grassland savannah, they turned back exhausted. 80 of Ordá's 270 men did not survive the rigors of the journey. Ordás decided to visit the settlement Cumaná on the north coast of South America and from there to look for the - or the - gold provinces by land. But in Cumaná, Ordás, who had made himself unpopular through arbitrary atrocities against his compatriots and atrocities against the Indian population, resigned almost all of his army. Diego de Ordás then went to Santo Domingo , where he asked the Court of Appeal for support against his mutinous men, but in vain.

Death and Importance to the Era of the Conquista of America

After the dismissal by the appellate court, he set off on a trip to Spain to bring his complaints to the Crown. On the high seas he died in 1532 of fever or poison. His body was buried at sea. Ordás was the first conquistador who followed up concrete references to gold-rich Indian states in the interior of the South American continent. One of the two gold countries he was aiming for was sought after 1538 under the name El Dorado .


First-hand sources (eyewitness reports) on Ordá's company on the Orinoco are fundamental:

  • Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés : Historia General y Natural de las Indias. Vol. II, Book 24, Chapters II - IV. Edition Madrid 1959, pp. 388-399.
  • Juan de Castellanos: Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias . Elegía IX, Canto 1st 2nd edition. Bogotá 1997, pp. 159-173.

Also with second hand information (descendants of the eyewitnesses):

  • Fray Pedro Aguado: Recopilación Historial , Part 2, Vol. III. Book 4, Chapter 7. 19th edition. Bogotá 1957, pp. 303-351.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The True Story of the Conquest of Mexico , p. 89
  2. Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The True Story of the Conquest of Mexico , p. 202
  3. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés: Historia General y Natural de las Indias . 1959, p. 389 .
  4. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés: Historia General y Natural de las Indias . 1959, p. 391 .
  5. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés: Historia General y Natural de las Indias . 1959, p. 394 .
  6. a b Juan de Castellanos: Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias . 1997, p. 173 .
  7. Fray Pedro Aguado: Recopilación Historial . 1957, p. 338 f .
  8. Fray Pedro Aguado: Recopilación Historial . 1957, p. 349 ff .