Pedro de Alvarado

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Pedro de Alvarado

Pedro de Alvarado (* around 1486 in Badajoz ; † July 4, 1541 in Guadalajara , Mexico ) was a Spanish conquistador .


Cortés sinks his ships, picture by Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638–1722).

Pedro de Alvarado was the eldest son of the commander of Lobón and Puebla, Diego Gómez de Alvarado, and his wife Mexía de Sandoval. He had five brothers: Gonzalo , Jorge, Gómez, Hernando and Juan. All the brothers sought their happiness in the new world together. His cousin Alonso de Alvarado was also looking for land in the New World at the same time; he participated in the conquest of the Inca Empire .

In the Caribbean

In 1510 Pedro de Alvarado went to Hispaniola with his brothers and took part with them in the conquest of Cuba in 1511 . In the spring of 1518, Juan de Grijalva was commissioned with a voyage of exploration of the waters and coasts west of Cuba. Pedro de Alvarado took part in this expedition as the commander of one of the four ships. They explored the already partially known waters of the Yucatán peninsula and then steered north along the coast of the continent. It was the first Spanish expedition to penetrate the Mexicas' sphere of influence and to establish first trade contacts with the Aztecs . During this exploration, Pedro de Alvarado also entered the place Atlizintla ( Alvarado ) and named both the city and the river flowing through the settlement after himself. The place still bears his name today.

At the end of the year Alvarado's ship was the only one to return to Cuba and he reported to the governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar about the wealth and splendor of the peoples there.

The conquest of Mexico

In 1519, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar equipped another expedition and handed over the command of this force to Hernán Cortés . Together with his brother Gonzalo de Alvarado and at least one other brother (Jorge), Pedro de Alvarado joined this expedition. Cortés handed over the command of one of the eleven ships in the fleet to Pedro de Alvarado. On April 21, 1519, Cortés landed with over 500 men near San Juan de Ulúa .

Train to Tenochtitlan

The way of the Spaniards to Tenochtitlan

Although his mission was expressly only to explore the coast, Cortés decided to move to the Aztec Empire. He appointed Alvarado as his deputy. Because of his daring fighting style, but also because of his appearance, tall and with blond curls falling on his shoulders, he was the first conquistator to be nicknamed by the Mexica. They called him Tonatiuh (= "son of the sun").

On their way to the capital of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards met the inhabitants of Tlaxcala and won them as allies against the Aztecs. Pedro de Alvarado promoted the alliance by marrying a noble Tlaxcaltekin. She was baptized and given the Spanish name Doña Luisa. With this woman Alvarado had two children: a son, who was baptized Pedro like his father, and a daughter, Doña Leonora, who later married Don Francisco de la Cueva .

Moctezuma II , the King of the Aztecs received Cortés and his army on November 8th, 1519 and had the Spaniards assign a palace complex with a large inner courtyard as a residence. A few days later, the Spaniards captured him in his own palace and took him hostage in their palace.

The Tenochtitlan massacre

Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar , the governor of Cuba, had meanwhile dispatched a fleet under the command of the Pánfilo de Narváez to capture the arbitrary Cortés. When Cortés found out about the landing of his opponent, he left Pedro de Alvarado with 150 men in Tenochtitlan and marched on May 20, 1520 with the remaining 250 men and a contingent of Indian auxiliary troops towards Narváez. A religious festival took place in the city for a few days at the Templo Mayor . Alvarado ordered the unarmed participants to be massacred without cause. According to his own statements, between 2000 and 3000 Aztecs were killed in this massacre. In this regard, he spoke to the conquistador Juan Álvarez, who was in Tenochtitlan at the same time, but was completely surprised by the mass murders that the one who hits the first blow wins the victory . Now the Mexica took up arms and besieged Alvarado and his men in their palace. Cortés had succeeded in defeating Narváez and winning his men over to his side. When he returned to Tenochtitlan, reinforced by the soldiers of Narváez, he too was exposed to the uprising of the Aztecs.

Still sad

With the entire city rising against the invaders, the besieged were also cut off from food supplies and their situation became precarious. On the night of June 30th to July 1st, 1520, they tried to escape the siege and fled over one of the dams from Tenochtitlan. Alvarado fought in the hardest-pressed rearguard. He was one of the last to overcome the break in the dam, allegedly in the manner of a pole vaulter, using his lance. This jump later became legendary as the jump of the Alvarado ( Salto de Alvarado ) (a local street name in Mexico City is said to remind of it today). In the later investigation, Alvarado asserted that he had not left his troops cowardly by jumping with a lance, but, like others in his troop, had used a beam to escape. Of his company, only seven Spaniards and eight Tlaxcalteks survived. That night, which only a quarter of the Spaniards survived, went down in history as Noche Triste ( sad night ).

Conquest of Tenochtitlan

After their flight from Tenochtitlan, the Spaniards recovered from the Tlaxcalteks. With fresh forces from Spain and allied tribes, they attacked the city on May 31, 1521 and captured it after a ten-week siege. Again, Pedro de Alvarado fought on the front line.

The conquest of Guatemala

In 1523 Alvarado and his cousin de Sandoval took over the command of an army consisting of 120 horsemen, 300 foot soldiers and several hundred Indian auxiliary troops from Cholula and Tlaxcala. On instructions from Cortés, the two led the army into the highlands of Chiapas with the aim of Guatemala . The local Cakchiquel had called the Spaniards against their enemies, the Quiché , for help. The conquistadors fought the autonomous principalities of the highlands and in 1524 subjugated the Quiché empire and, a little later, that of the Cakchiquel in present-day Guatemala.

Under their leader, Tecun Uman , the Quiché were defeated by Alvarados troops in February 1524 in the valley of Xelaju, near the city of the same name. Tecun Uman was killed and up to 10,000 quiché were killed. After the defeat, the conquered Quiché entertained the new rulers according to their customs with all available luxury, but when they could not deliver gold, Pedro de Alvarado ordered all the assembled Indians to be burned alive.

After the conquest of Guatemala, Alvarado was appointed governor of the country by King Charles V. He commissioned Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo to conduct an expedition along the northern Pacific coast.

Legends in Guatemala


In the oral tradition of the Quiché, the Quetzal originally had an exclusively green plumage. According to legend, it only got its scarlet breast after the conquest of the Quiché empire by Pedro de Alvarado in 1524 and 1525. The Quetzal is said to have bathed in the blood of the murdered last King of the Quiché, Tecun Uman. As a result, the chest of the male quetzal bird turned scarlet and has since been a symbol of the mourning for the last king of the Quiché, Tecun Uman, and the resulting loss of freedom of the people.

In the Baile de la Conquista , a dance with masks and colorful robes that is often seen on festivals and holidays, the fight of the Indians against the Spaniards under Pedro de Alvarado, who wears an unflattering light mask, is re-enacted. The dance was previously promoted by the Catholic Church because it ended with the submission of the Indians to Christianity . Sometimes Maximón , a deity worshiped and feared in many highland villages in Guatemala, is associated with Pedro de Alvarado.

In Peru

In 1532 Alvarado received a royal permit (cédula real) to hold a conquista on the Spice Islands in the Pacific. But when he learned of the riches of the Inca Empire in the Andes in 1533 , he changed his plans. He invested the wealth he had gained in an expedition to look for this gold and even went into debt because of it. In order to have a fleet in the Pacific, he founded the port city of Iztapa with a shipyard in southern Guatemala . When the eighth ship was completed, he manned this small fleet with around 500 well-armed conquistadors, 119 horses, 2000 Indian auxiliaries and African slave-warriors and set sail on January 23, 1534, heading south. After a difficult sea voyage with storms and lack of water, he landed on February 25, 1534 in the Bay of Caráquez in today's Ecuador and began a conquest in the not yet subjugated north of the Inca Empire. However, he had landed too far north and had to fight his way through the jungle first. For the ascent into the Andes, too, he chose an inconvenient route over the pass between Cotopaxi and Carihuairazo , one of the highest Andean passes in the country. 80 Spaniards, a large part of the Indians and many horses were killed in the ice and snow. However, it came too late: On June 22nd, Pizarro's captain Sebastián de Belalcázar had conquered the formerly rich city of Quito , which had been badly affected by the war .

Alvarado continued south. In August 1534, Pizarro's partner Diego de Almagro brought his troop at Riobamba . A violent confrontation was in the air between Alvarado's outnumbered but exhausted army and Almagro's forces. After lengthy negotiations, Almagro and Alvarado finally concluded a contract on August 26th: Alvarado ceded his ships, his equipment and his alleged claims to Pizarro and Almagro and was to receive 100,000 gold pesos (approx. 450 kg) in return. Around the turn of the year 1534/35 Almagro and Alvarado met in Pachacámac with Pizarro, who agreed to the contract and raised the funds. Then Alvarado returned to Guatemala. His disappointed men joined Pizarro and Almagro. Many of them took part in Almagros unsuccessful expedition to Chile from 1535 to 1537.

Death in the Mixtón War

The death of Pedro de Alvarado depicted by an Aztec artist. He wears a halo on his head that resembles a crown and is connected to the sun. This points to Alvarado's Aztec name Tonatiuh (sun).

In the spring of 1540 the Mixtón War began in Nueva Galicia ("New Galicia") . As the revolt against Spanish rule spread quickly, the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza sent Cristóbal de Oñate to fight the rebellion there. But Oñate failed and was defeated by the insurgents. So the Viceroy turned to the battle-hardened Pedro de Alvarado. On June 12, 1541 he arrived with reinforcements in the region. He restored Spanish order in Guadalajara and then turned to the insurgents in Nochistlán . Another rider's horse fell during a battle. Alvarado was torn down a slope by this horse; the horse fell on him and seriously injured him. Since his wounds could not be treated locally, he was carried to the nearest town on a stretcher. Pedro de Alvarado died there on July 4, 1541, before he could completely suppress the uprising. His widow stayed in Guatemala and died shortly afterwards in their home after a volcano erupted in a mudslide. Pedro de Alvarado remained in the office of governor of Guatemala until his death . A city on the border between Guatemala and El Salvador was named after the conquistador.

See also


  • W. George Lovell, Christopher H Lutz, Wendy Kramer: Strike Fear in the Land: Pedro de Alvarado and the Conquest of Guatemala, 1520-1541. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman 2020, ISBN 978-0-8061-6494-6 .
  • Bartolomé Benassar: Cortez the Conquistador: the conquest of the Aztec Empire. Artemis, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-538-07133-0 .
  • Hernán Cortés : The Conquest of Mexico. Three reports to Kaiser Karl V. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-458-32093-8 .
  • Bartolomé de Las Casas: Concise Report on the Devastation of the West Indian Countries . Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1981, ISBN 3-458-32253-1 .
  • Bernal Díaz del Castillo : History of the Conquest of Mexico. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-458-32767-3 .
  • Hugh Thomas : The Conquest of Mexico, Cortes and Montezuma. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-596-14969-X
  • Florine GL Asselbergs: Conquered Conquistadors. The Lienzo de Quauhquechollan, a Nahua vision of the conquest of Guatemala. Onderzoekschool voor Aziatische Afrikaanse en Amerindische Studiën (CNWS), Leiden 2004, ISBN 978-90-5789-097-0 .
  • Hans Dollinger : Black Book of World History. 5000 years man is the enemy of man. Pawlak Verlag, Herrsching 1973, ISBN 3-88199-030-5 .
  • Armando de Ramón: Descubrimiento de Chile y compañeros de Almagro. Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago de Chile 1953.
  • José de Acosta : The gold of the condor . Reports from the New World 1590 and atlas on the history of its discovery. Edited and transmitted by Rudolf Kroboth and Peter H. Meurer . Edition Erdmann in K. Thienemanns Verlag, Stuttgart et al. 1991, ISBN 3-522-60750-3 (Original edition: America, Or how mans to Teutsch calls Die Neuwe Welt / or West India. By Mr. Josepho De Acosta in seven books / one part in Latin / and partly in Hispanic / Described. Sutorius, Ursel 1605). After the copy in the State Library of Prussian Cultural Heritage, Berlin.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernal Díaz del Castillo: History of the Conquest of Mexico , 1988, p. 198.
  2. Bernal Díaz del Castillo: History of the Conquest of Mexico , 1988, p. 274.
  3. ^ Hans Dollinger: Black Book of World History. 5000 years man is the enemy of man . Manfred Pawlak Verlagsgesellschaft, Herrsching 1973, pp. 238–239.
  4. Hugh Thomas: The Conquest of Mexico. Cortes and Montezuma . Fischer Taschenbuchverlag, Frankfurt am Main 2000, pp. 557–558.
  5. Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The True Story of the Conquest of Mexico , pp. 736-738.
  6. Bartolomé de Las Casas: Concise Report of the Devastation of the West Indian Countries . Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1981, p. 51.
  7. ^ John Hemming: The Conquest of the Incas. Mariner, Boston 2012, ISBN 978-0-15-602826-4 , p. 149
  8. Bernal Díaz del Castillo: The True Story of the Conquest of Mexico , pp. 736-738.
  9. cf. VD17 39: 133228S