Vasco Núñez de Balboa

Vasco Núñez de Balboa (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbasko ˈnuɲeθ ðe βalˈβo.a]; c. 1475 – around January 12–21, 1519)[1] was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

He traveled to the New World in 1500 and, after some exploration, settled on the island of Hispaniola. He founded the settlement of Santa María la Antigua del Darién in present-day Panama in 1510, which was the first permanent European settlement on the mainland of the Americas (a settlement by Alonso de Ojeda the previous year at San Sebastián de Urabá had already been abandoned).

Vasco Núñez de Balboa
Retrato de Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (1475-1517) - Anónimo
Bornc. 1475
DiedJanuary 1519 (aged c. 43–44)
Cause of death Execution by Decapitation
OccupationMaritime explorer for the Crown of Castile
Spouse(s)María de Peñalosa

Early life

Balboa was born in Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain. He was a descendant of the Lord mason of the castle of Balboa, on the borders of León and Galicia. His mother was the Lady de Badajoz, and his father was the hidalgo (nobleman), Nuño Arias de Balboa. Little is known of Vasco's early childhood except that he was the third of four boys in his family. During his adolescence, he served as a page and squire to Don Pedro de Portocarrero, lord of Moguer.

Early career

In 1500, motivated by his master after the news of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the New World became known, he decided to embark on his first voyage to the Americas, along with Juan de la Cosa, on Rodrigo de Bastidas' expedition. Bastidas had a license to bring back treasure for the king and queen, while keeping four-fifths for himself, under a policy known as the quinto real, or "royal fifth". In 1501, he crossed the Caribbean coasts from the east of Panama, along the Colombian coast, through the Gulf of Urabá toward Cabo de la Vela. The expedition continued to explore the north east of South America, until they realized they did not have enough men and sailed to Hispaniola.

With his share of the earnings from this campaign, Balboa settled in Hispaniola in 1505, where he resided for several years as a planter and pig farmer. He was not successful in this enterprise, however, and ended up in debt. Finally, he was forced to abandon life on the island.

In 1508, the king of Spain, Ferdinand II "The Catholic", launched the conquest of Tierra Firme (the area roughly corresponding to the Isthmus of Panama). He created two new territories in the region between El Cabo de la Vela (near the eastern border of Colombia) and El Cabo de Gracias a Dios (the border between Honduras and Nicaragua). The Gulf of Urabá became the border between the two territories: Nueva Andalucía to the east, governed by Alonso de Ojeda, and Veragua to the west, governed by Diego de Nicuesa.

In 1509, wishing to escape his creditors in Santo Domingo, Balboa set sail as a stowaway, hiding inside a barrel together with his dog Leoncico,[2] in the expedition commanded by the Alcalde Mayor[3] of Nueva Andalucía, Martín Fernández de Enciso, whose mission it was to aid Alonso de Ojeda, his superior.

Ojeda, together with seventy men, had founded the settlement of San Sebastián de Urabá in Nueva Andalucía, on the location where the city of Cartagena de Indias would later be built. However, the settlers encountered resistance from natives living in the area, who used poisoned weapons, and Ojeda was injured in the leg. A short time later, Ojeda sailed for Hispaniola, leaving the colony under the supervision of Francisco Pizarro, who, at that time, was only a soldier waiting for Enciso's expedition to arrive. Ojeda asked Pizarro to leave some men in the settlement for fifty days and, if no help arrived at the end of that time, to use all possible means to get back to Hispaniola.

Before the expedition arrived at San Sebastián de Urabá, Fernández de Enciso discovered Balboa aboard the ship, and threatened to leave him at the first uninhabited island they encountered; he later thought better of this and decided that Balboa's knowledge of that region, which he had explored eight years before, would be of great utility. This, in addition to the crew's pleas for his life, left Fernández de Enciso with no choice but to spare Balboa and keep him aboard. Moreover, both agreed on removing Nicuesa as governor of Veragua.

After the fifty days had passed, Pizarro started preparations for the return to Hispaniola, when Enciso's ship arrived. Balboa had gained popularity among the crew because of his charisma and his knowledge of the region. By contrast Fernández de Enciso was not well liked by the men: many disapproved of his order to return to San Sebastián, especially after discovering, once they had arrived, that the settlement had been completely destroyed and that the natives were already waiting for them, leading to a series of relentless attacks.

The founding of Santa María

Balboa suggested that the settlement of San Sebastián be moved to the region of Darién, to the west of the Gulf of Urabá, where the soil was more fertile and the natives presented less resistance. Fernández de Enciso gave serious consideration to this suggestion, and the regiment later went to Darién, where the native cacique (chieftain) Cémaco had 500 warriors waiting, ready for battle. The Spanish, fearful of the large number of enemy combatants, made a vow to the Virgen de la Antigua, venerated in Seville, that they would name a settlement in the region after her should they prevail. It was a difficult battle for both sides, but, by a stroke of luck, the Spanish came out victorious.

Cémaco, together with his warriors, abandoned the town and headed for the jungle. The Spanish plundered the houses and gathered a treasure-trove of golden ornaments. Balboa kept his vow, and, in September 1510, founded the first permanent settlement on mainland American soil, and called it Santa María la Antigua del Darién.

Mayor of Santa María

The victory of the Spanish over the natives and the founding of Santa María la Antigua del Darién, now located in a relatively calm region, earned Balboa authority and respect among his companions. They were increasingly hostile toward Alcalde Mayor Fernández de Enciso, whom they considered a greedy despot because of the restrictions he imposed on their appropriation of the natives' gold.

Balboa took advantage of the situation, acting as the spokesman for the disgruntled settlers. He removed Fernández de Enciso from the position of alcalde mayor, using the following legal manoeuvre: Fernández de Enciso was now controlling an area in Veragua, to the west of the Gulf of Urabá; since he was substituting for Alonso de Ojeda, his mandate was illegitimate, because the governor of Veragua was Diego de Nicuesa, not Ojeda; therefore, Fernández de Enciso should be deposed and arrested. After Fernández de Enciso's ouster, a more open government was established and a municipal council was elected (the first in the Americas). Two alcaldes [4] were appointed: Martín Samudio and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

Shortly after this, a flotilla led by Rodrigo Enrique de Colmenares arrived in Santa María. His objective was to find Nicuesa, who was also facing some difficulties in the north of Panamá. When de Colmenares learned about the recent events, he convinced the town's settlers that they should submit to the authority of Nicuesa, since their land was under his jurisdiction. Enrique de Colmenares invited two representatives, to be named by the local government, to travel with his flotilla and offer Nicuesa authority over the city. The two representatives were Diego de Albites and Diego del Corral.

Governor of Veragua

Enrique de Colmenares found Nicuesa near the town of Nombre de Dios, badly wounded and with few men remaining, on account of a skirmish with local natives. After his rescue, Governor Nicuesa heard about Balboa's exploits, the chieftain Cémaco's bounty, and Santa María's prosperity. He vowed that he would punish Balboa as soon as he gained control of the city, since he regarded his actions as a challenge to his authority in Veragua.

A certain Lope de Olano, who was jailed together with other malcontents, persuaded Santa María's representatives that they would make a serious error in handing control over to Nicuesa, whom he described as cruel, greedy, and able to singlehandedly destroy the city's prosperity. With this evidence, Albites and del Corral fled to Darién ahead of Nicuesa and informed Balboa and the municipal authorities of the governor's intentions.

When Nicuesa arrived at the city's port, a mob appeared, and the ensuing disturbance prevented the governor from disembarking into the city. Nicuesa insisted on being received, no longer as governor, but as a simple soldier, but still the colonists did not allow him to disembark. He and 17 others were forced to board an unseaworthy boat with few supplies, and were put out to sea on March 1, 1511. The ship disappeared, leaving no trace of Nicuesa and his men. In this way, Balboa became governor (gobernador)[5] of Veragua.


With the title of governor came absolute authority in Santa María and all of Veragua. One of Balboa's first acts as governor was the trial of Fernández de Enciso, accused of usurping the governor's authority. Fernández de Enciso was sentenced to prison and his possessions were confiscated. However, he was to remain imprisoned only for a short time: Balboa set him free under the condition that he return immediately to Hispaniola and from there to Spain. With him on the same ship were two representatives from Balboa, who were to inform the colonial authorities of the situation, and request more men and supplies to continue the conquest of Veragua.

Balboa setting his dogs upon Indian practitioners of homosexuality (1594) engraving from the New York Public Library. The rendering was by the Flemish Protestant artist Theodor de Bry.

Balboa continued defeating various tribes and befriending others, exploring rivers, mountains, and sickly swamps, while always searching for gold and slaves and enlarging his territory. He was also able to quell revolts among those of his men who challenged this authority, and, through force, diplomacy, and negotiation, he earned a certain respect and fear among the natives. In a letter addressed to the King of Spain, he expressed, somewhat ironically, that he had to act as a conciliatory force during the course of his expeditions.

He succeeded in planting corn, received fresh supplies from Hispaniola and Spain, and got his men used to life as explorers in the new territories. Balboa managed to collect a great deal of gold, much of it from the ornaments worn by the native women, and the rest obtained by violence.

Peter Martyr d'Anghiera in his De orbe novo decades, wrote how Balboa had fed forty local homosexual men to his dogs. Balboa, upset with "a brother of the king and other young men, obliging men, [who] dressed effeminately with women's clothing [... of those which the brother of the king] went too far with unnatural" temerity, threw forty of them as food to the dogs. D'Anghiera continues his story saying that the indigenous people's "natural hate for unnatural sin" drove them so that, "spontaneously and violently, they searched for all the rest that they would know who were infected". After all, D'Anghiera mentions that "only the nobles and the gentlemen practiced that kind of desire. [... The] indigenous people knew that sodomy gravely offended God. [... And that these acts provoked] the tempests that with thunder and lightning so frequently afflicted them, or the floods that drowned their fruits that had caused hunger and sickness."[6]

At the end of 1512 and the first months of 1513, he arrived in a region dominated by the cacique Careta, whom he easily defeated and then befriended. Careta was baptized and became one of Balboa's chief allies; he ensured the survival of the settlers by promising to supply the Spaniards with food. Balboa then proceeded on his journey, arriving in the lands of Careta's neighbour and rival, cacique Ponca, who fled to the mountains with his people, leaving his village open to the plundering of the Spaniards and Careta's men. Days later, the expedition arrived in the lands of cacique Comagre, fertile but reportedly dangerous terrain. However, Balboa was received peacefully and even invited to a feast in his honor; Comagre, like Careta, was then baptized.

Balboa Voyage 1513
Balboa's travel route to the South Sea, 1513

In 1513, Balboa wrote a lengthy letter to the King of Spain, requesting more men (who were already acclimatized) from Hispaniola, weapons, supplies, carpenters versed in shipbuilding, and all the necessary materials for the building of a shipyard. In a subsequent letter, from 1515, he would refer to his humanitarian policies regarding the natives, while at the same time recommending extreme severity in dealing with cannibals and violent tribes.

It was in Comagre's lands that Balboa first heard of "the other sea." It started with a squabble among the Spaniards, unsatisfied by the meager amounts of gold they were being allotted. Comagre's eldest son, Panquiaco, angered by the Spaniards' avarice, knocked over the scales used to measure gold and exclaimed: "If you are so hungry for gold that you leave your lands to cause strife in those of others, I shall show you a province where you can quell this hunger". Panquiaco told them of a kingdom to the south, where people were so rich that they ate and drank from plates and goblets made of gold, but that the conquerors would need at least a thousand men to defeat the tribes living inland and those on the coast of "the other sea".

European discovery of the Pacific Ocean

Balboa received the unexpected news of a new kingdom – rich in gold – with great interest. He returned to Santa María at the beginning of 1513 to recruit more men from Hispaniola. There he learned that Fernández de Enciso had told the colonial authorities what had happened at Santa María. After seeing that there would be no assistance from Hispaniola, Balboa sent Enrique de Colmenares directly to Spain to look for help.

While the expedition to the South Sea (the name at the time of the Pacific Ocean[7]) was being organized in Santa María, some explorers travelled ten leagues (around 50 km or 30 miles) up the Atrato River toward the interior, but came back empty-handed. Balboa's request for men and supplies had been denied: Enciso's case was by then widely known in the Spanish court. Therefore, Balboa had no choice but to carry out his expedition with the few resources that he had on hand in Santa María.

Using information given by various friendly caciques, Balboa started his journey across the Isthmus of Panama on September 1, 1513, together with 190 Spaniards, a few native guides, and a pack of dogs. Using a small brigantine and ten native canoes, they sailed along the coast and made landfall in cacique Careta's territory. On September 6, the expedition continued, now reinforced with 1,000 of Careta's men, and entered cacique Ponca's land. Ponca had reorganized and attacked, but he was defeated and forced to ally himself with Balboa. After a few days, and with several of Ponca's men, the expedition entered the dense jungle on September 20, and, with some difficulty, arrived four days later in the lands of cacique Torecha, who ruled in the village of Cuarecuá. In this village, a fierce battle took place, during which Balboa's forces defeated Torecha, who was killed by one of Balboa's dogs.[8] Torecha's followers decided to join the expedition. However, the group was by then exhausted and several men were badly wounded, so many decided to stay in Cuarecuá to regain their strength.

The few men who continued the journey with Balboa entered the mountain range along the Chucunaque River the next day. According to information from the natives, one could see the South Sea from the summit of this range. Balboa went ahead and, before noon that day, September 25, he reached the summit and saw, far away in the horizon, the waters of the undiscovered sea. The emotions were such that the others eagerly joined in to show their joy at Balboa's discovery. Andrés de Vera, the expedition's chaplain, intoned the Te Deum, while the men erected stone pyramids, and engraved crosses on the barks of trees with their swords, to mark the place where the discovery of the South Sea was made.

Possession and conquest of the South Sea

Balboa südsee
Balboa claiming possession of the South Sea (19th century engraving by unknown artist)

After the moment of discovery, the expedition descended from the mountain range towards the sea, arriving in the lands of cacique Chiapes, who was defeated after a brief battle and invited to join the expedition. From Chiapes' land, three groups departed in the search for routes to the coast. The group headed by Alonso Martín reached the shoreline two days later. They took a canoe for a short reconnaissance trip, thus becoming the first Europeans to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of New World. Back in Chiapes' domain, Martín informed Balboa, who, with 26 men, marched towards the coast. Once there, Balboa raised his hands, his sword in one and a standard with the image of the Virgin Mary in the other, walked knee-deep into the ocean, and claimed possession of the new sea and all adjoining lands in the name of the Spanish sovereigns.[2]

After traveling more than 110 km (68 mi), Balboa named the bay where they ended up San Miguel, because they arrived on September 29, the feast day of the archangel Michael. He named the new sea Mar del Sur, since they had traveled south to reach it.

Balboa's main purpose in the expedition was the search for the gold-rich kingdoms promised by Panquiaco. To this end, he crossed through the lands of caciques Coquera and Tumaco, defeating them easily and taking their riches of gold and pearls. He then learned that pearls were abundant in the islands ruled by Terarequí, a powerful and feared cacique. Balboa set out in several canoes towards these islands, even though it was the beginning of October and the weather conditions were not favorable. He was barely able to make out the islands, and named the largest one Isla Rica (Rich Island, today known as Isla del Rey). He named the entire group Archipiélago de las Perlas, which they are still called today.

In November, Balboa decided to return to Santa María but by a different route in order to further expand his territory and procure more gold. He passed through the regions of Teoca, Pacra, Bugue Bugue, Bononaima, and Chorizo, defeating some by force and befriending others through diplomacy. A particularly bloody battle took place against the cacique Tubanamá, whom Balboa eventually defeated. In December, the expedition arrived back in the Caribbean coast, by the Gulf of San Blas, a strip of land ruled by cacique Pocorosa. From there, he headed to the lands of Comagre, to find that his elderly ally had died. His son, Panquiaco, was now the new chieftain.

From there, he crossed the lands of Ponca and Careta, to finally arrive in Santa María on January 19, 1514, with a treasure in cotton goods, more than 100,000 castellanos worth of gold, to say nothing of the pearls. All this, however, did not compare to the magnitude of the discovery of the South Sea on behalf of Spain. Balboa commanded Pedro de Arbolancha to set sail for Spain with news of this discovery. He also sent one fifth of the treasure to the king, as the law required.

Disputes with Pedro Arias

Vasco Núñez de Balboa (E. Pérez) 01
Statue of Balboa in Madrid (Enrique Pérez Comendador, 1954).

The accusations of Fernández de Enciso, whom Balboa had deposed, and the removal and disappearance of Governor Ojeda, forced the king to name Pedro Arias de Ávila as governor of the newly created province of Castilla de Oro. Arias, better known as Pedrarias Dávila and who would later become notorious for his cruelty, took control of Veragua and managed to calm the situation. Pedrarias arrived from Arbolancha, Spain with an expedition of 1,500 men and 17 ships, thereby ensuring that Balboa's requests to the crown for more men and supplies were met. This would be to that date the largest and most complete expedition to leave Spain for the New World.

Pedrarias was accompanied on this expedition by Gaspar de Espinosa, who held the office of alcalde mayor; the very same Martín Fernández de Enciso whom Balboa had forced into exile, now as Chief Constable (Alguacil Mayor);[9] the royal officer and chronicler Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo; as well as several captains, among them Juan de Ayora, Pedrarias' lieutenant. There were also several clerics, most notably the Franciscan friar Juan de Quevedo, appointed bishop of Santa María. There were also women among the travellers, among them Isabel de Bobadilla, Pedrarias' wife. More than 500 men died from starvation or due to the inclemencies of the weather soon after reaching Darién. Fernández de Oviedo was to note that knights covered in silk and brocade, who distinguished themselves valiantly in the Italian Wars, would die, consumed by hunger and fever, due to the nature of the tropical jungle.

Balboa received Pedrarias and his representatives in July 1514 and accepted resignedly his replacement as governor and mayor. The settlers, however, did not like the change and some were planning to take up arms against Pedrarias, even as Balboa showed respect to the new colonial authorities.

As soon as Pedrarias took charge, Gaspar de Espinosa had Balboa arrested and tried "in absentia", sentencing him to pay reparations to Fernández de Enciso and others. He was, however, found innocent of the charge of murdering Nicuesa, so he was freed shortly afterwards.

Due to overpopulation in Santa María, Pedrarias called on several expeditionaries to search for new locations fit for settlement. Balboa requested of Pedrarias that he be allowed to explore the Dabaibe region, along the Atrato river, for there was a rumour of the existence of a temple filled with vast riches there. However, this expedition turned out to be a failure, leaving Balboa wounded due to constant attacks by the region's natives.

This setback, however, did not deter Balboa's ambitions of returning to explore the South Sea. Secretly, he arranged to recruit a contingent of men from Cuba. The ship carrying them berthed just outside Santa María, and its caretaker informed Balboa of their arrival, receiving in return 70 gold castellanos. Pedrarias, however, soon found out about the ship; furious, he had Balboa arrested, took away all his men and was planning to lock him up in a wooden cage. He was held back from doing this by Bishop de Quevedo, who appealed to him not to abuse his power on Balboa.

Luckily for Balboa, around that time the Spanish Crown would finally recognize his valuable services. The king bestowed on him the titles of "Adelantado[10] of the South Seas" and "Gobernador of Panama and Coiba". On top of this, the King instructed Pedrarias to show Balboa the greatest respect and to consult him on all matters pertaining to the conquest and government of Castilla de Oro. Because of all this, Pedrarias was to release and exonerate Balboa, lifting all charges brought up against him in the matter of the clandestine recruitment of an expeditionary party.

Downfall and death

At that point, the rivalry between Balboa and Pedrarias ceased abruptly, due in large part to the intercession of Bishop de Quevedo and Isabel de Bobadilla, who arranged for Balboa's marriage to María de Peñalosa, one of Pedrarias' daughters,[11]:15 who was in Spain. Shortly thereafter, the bishop left for Spain and the marriage took place by proxy (they would never meet because she was in Spain and Balboa would never return to his homeland). The friendship between Pedrarias and Balboa lasted barely two years, but in that time Balboa came to show great filial affection toward his father-in-law.

Balboa wished to continue exploring the South Sea, but Pedrarias did everything possible to delay his departure. However, in light of the new relationship between them, Pedrarias could not stop him indefinitely, and he finally consented to let Balboa go on his new expedition, giving him license to explore for a year and a half.

In 1519, Balboa moved to Acla with 300 men and, using the manpower of the natives and African slaves, managed to gather the materials necessary to fashion new ships. He traveled up to the Balsas River (Río Balsas), where he had four ships built. He travelled 74 km (46 mi) through the Pacific, surrounding the Pearl Islands and the coasts of Darién, up to Puerto Piñas, so named because of the large amounts of pineapples (piñas) he found there. He then returned to Acla, to continue the construction of sturdier ships.

Execution of Balboa
Image of the execution of Balboa in Vasco Nuñez de Balboa by Frederick A. Ober[12]

On his return, however, Pedrarias wrote warm letters urging Balboa to meet him as soon as possible. Balboa quickly obeyed. Halfway to Santa María, he encountered a group of soldiers commanded by Francisco Pizarro, who arrested him in the name of the governor and accused him of trying to usurp Pedrarias' power and create a separate government in the South Sea. Outraged, Balboa denied all charges and demanded that he be taken to Spain to stand trial. Pedrarias, however, together with Martin Enciso, ordered that the trial take place without delay.

Balboa's trial began in January, 1519, and on the fifteenth of that month, Espinosa sentenced him to death by decapitation. Four of Balboa's friends, Fernando de Argüello, Luis Botello, Hernán Muñoz, and Andrés Valderrábano, accused as accomplices, were sentenced to the same fate. The sentence was to be carried out in Acla, to show that the conspiracy had its roots in that colony.

As Balboa and his friends were being led to the block, the town crier announced: "This is the justice that the King and his lieutenant Pedro Arias de Ávila impose upon these men, traitors and usurpers of the Crown's territories." Balboa could not restrain his indignation and replied: "Lies, lies! Never have such crimes held a place in my heart, I have always loyally served the King, with no thought in my mind but to increase his dominions." Pedrarias observed the execution, hidden behind a platform. The executioner beheaded Balboa and his four friends with an axe. Balboa's head did not come off clean on the first try; it took three. Their heads remained in public display for several days, as a sign of Pedrarias' might. The final location of Balboa's remains is unknown, partly because there is no record of what happened in Acla after the execution.

Gaspar de Espinosa, Pedrarias' underling, sailed the South Sea aboard the very ships that Balboa had commissioned. In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan renamed the sea the Pacific Ocean because of its calm waters.


Monumento a Vasco Núñez de Balboa - Flickr - Chito (3)
Monument of Vasco Núñez de Balboa in Panama City.
1-cent Panama-Pacific Expo 1913 U.S. stamp.1
Balboa 1-cent, 1913 issue

Although Balboa suffered a premature death, his actions and deeds are remembered by history as the first European to cross America. Several parks and avenues throughout Panama bear the name "Vasco Núñez de Balboa," and a number of monuments honour his discovery of the South Sea. The Panamanian currency is called the Balboa, and his likeness appears on the obverse of most Panamanian coins. His name is also attached to Panama City's main port, Balboa (the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal) and the Balboa District within Panamá Province to which the Pearl Islands that he discovered belong. In San Francisco, California, USA, Balboa's name appears among a row of avenues which are named after Spanish conquistadors and in a San Francisco neighborhood Balboa Park. There is also a large park (Balboa Park) adjacent to downtown San Diego, California which was named after Balboa in 1910.[13] Balboa's name is also honoured in Madrid with a street and a metro station.

One of the highest orders granted by the Panamanian government to distinguished and outstanding figures, foreign and domestic, is the Orden Vasco Núñez de Balboa, in various degrees, as established by Law 27 from 28 January 1933.

The lunar crater Balboa was named after him.

Balboa appears in the lyrics to The Great Nations of Europe by composer/singer Randy Newman.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa was featured on the 1-cent denomination of the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1913. The 1-cent Balboa paid the one-cent card rate, and it was used in combination with other denominations to meet large weight and foreign destinations. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing issued over 330 million of these to the public.[14]

SENAN's Base Naval Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in Panama City is named for Balboa.

See also


  • Asenjo García, Frutos (November 1991). Vasco Núñez de Balboa: El descubrimiento del Mar del Sur. Madrid: Sílex Ediciones. ISBN 84-7737-034-6.
  • Christman, Florence (1985). The Romance of Balboa Park (4th ed.). San Diego: San Diego Historical Society. ISBN 0-918740-03-7.
  • Garrison, Omar V. (January 1977). Balboa el conquistador: La odisea de Vasco Núñez, descubridor del Pacífico. Barcelona: Editorial Grijalbo. ISBN 84-253-0748-1.
  • (Online book)Historia General de las Indias. Chapters LVII to LXVI. Francisco López de Gómara. Medina del Campo, 1553; Zaragoza, 1555
  • (PDF format )Compendio de Historia de Panamá . pp. 156 – 171. Juan B. Sosa y Enrique J. Arce. Panamá, October, 1911
  • Encyclopedia Ilustrada Cumbre - Tomo 10. pp. 186 – 188. 32nd edition - 1993. Editorial Hachette Latinoamérica, S. A. de C. V., México. ISBN 970-611-125-5
  • Historia general y natural de las Indias. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés. Madrid, 1850
  • Relación de los sucesos de Pedrarias Dávila. Pascual de Andagoya. III. Madrid, 1829
  • Balboa on
  • This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the Spanish-language Wikipedia, which was accessed in the version of 14 April 2006.


  1. ^ The dates 12 January, 15 January and 21 January appear in sources.
  2. ^ a b Lidz, Franz (September 2013). "Tracking Balboa". Smithsonian. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution. 44 (5): 32–36.
  3. ^ Alcalde Mayor: may be translated as mayor or chief judge—a position combining judicial, military, civil, and police powers, that may or may not be held by a person with legal training.
  4. ^ Alcalde: judge or quasi-judicial official
  5. ^ Gobernador: governor of a settled and 'pacified' territory
  6. ^ Alfonso G. Jiménez de Sandi Valle, Luis Alberto de la Garza Becerra and Napoleón Glockner Corte. LGBT Pride Parade in Mexico City. National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), 2009. 25 p.
  7. ^ Spate, O.H.K. (2020). "'South Sea' to 'Pacific Ocean: A Note on Nomenclature". In Ballantyne, Tony (ed.). Science, Empire and the European Exploration of the Pacific. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN 9781351901819.
  8. ^ Derr, Mark (2013). A Dog's History of America: How Our Best Friend Explored, Conquered, and Settled a Continent. The Overlook Press. p. 46. ISBN 9781468309102.
  9. ^ Alguacil: may be translated as constable, bailiff, or sheriff
  10. ^ Adelantado: governor of a territory that is still possibly experiencing hostilities; a position slightly lower than that of gobernador
  11. ^ Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239
  12. ^ "Vasco Nuñez de Balboa". Internet Archive.
  13. ^ Christman (1985), p. 33
  14. ^ Haimann, Alexander T., “1-cent Balboa”, Arago: people, postage & the post, National Postal Museum online, viewed April 18, 2014.

External links

Balboa Peninsula, Newport Beach

The Balboa Peninsula (also referred to as "Balboa" or "the Peninsula") is a neighborhood of the city of Newport Beach, Orange County, California. It is named after the Spanish explorer, Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

Balboa is primarily residential but has some commercial areas as well.

Decades of the New World

Decades of the New World (De orbe novo decades) by Peter Martyr's is a series of letters and reports of the early explorations of Central and South America that was published beginning 1511 and later anthologized. Being among the earliest such reports, Decades are of great value in the history of geography and discovery and describe the early contacts of Europeans and Native Americans derived from the narrative of the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and the reports from Hernán Cortés's Mexican expedition.

The Decades consisted of eight reports, two of which Martyr had previously sent as letters describing the voyages of Columbus, to Cardinal Ascanius Sforza in 1493 and 1494. In 1501 Martyr, as requested by the Cardinal of Aragon, added eight chapters on the voyage of Columbus and the exploits of Martin Alonzo Pinzón. In 1511 he added a supplement giving an account of events from 1501 to 1511. By 1516 he had finished two other Decades:

The first was devoted to the exploits of Alonso de Ojeda, Diego de Nicuesa, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa. It was first published against his consent in a Venetian-Italian summary in Venice in 1504, reprinted in 1507, and published in a Latin translation in 1508. The original Latin text was published in 1511.

The second gave an account of Balboa's discovery of the Pacific Ocean, Columbus' fourth voyage, and the expeditions of Pedrarias Dávila.

The first three appeared together at Alcalá de Henares in 1516 under the title: De orbe novo decades cum Legatione Babylonica.

The Enchiridion de nuper sub D. Carolo repertis insulis (Basle, 1521) was printed as the fourth Decade, describing the voyages of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Juan de Grijalva, and Hernán Cortés.

The fifth Decade (1523) dealt with the conquest of Mexico and the circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan.

The sixth Decade (1524) gave an account of Dávila's discoveries on the west coast of America.

The seventh Decade (1525) had collected descriptions of the customs of the natives in present-day South Carolina, including the "Testimony of Francisco de Chicora", a Native American taken captive there; as well as those of natives in Florida, Haiti, Cuba, and Darién.

The eighth Decade (1525) told the story of the march of Cortés against Olit.In 1530 the eight Decades were published together for the first time at Alcalá. Later editions of single or of all the Decades appeared at Basel (1533), Cologne (1574), Paris (1587), and Madrid (1892). A German translation was published in Basle in 1582; a French one by Gaffarel in Recueil de voyages et de documents pour servir à l'histoire de la Geographie (Paris, 1907).

The first three decades were translated into English by Richard Eden and published in 1555 (found in Arber's The first three English books on America Birmingham, 1885), thus beginning the genre of English discovery travel writing, which stimulated English exploration of the New World. Eden's translations were reprinted with supplementary materials in 1577 by Richard Willes under the new title, The historie of travayle into the West and east Indies. Richard Hakluyt had the remaining five decades translated into English by Michael Lok and published in London in 1612.

Diego de Nicuesa

Diego de Nicuesa (Spanish: [ˈdjeɣo ðe niˈkwesa]; died 1511) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer.

Diego arrived Santo Domingo in April 1502, with Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres' flotilla.In 1506, Nicuesa was given the job of governing Costa Rica, but ran aground off the coast of Panama. He made his way north overland, against resistance from the native population. The combination of guerrilla warfare and tropical disease killed half his expedition before he gave up.

In 1508, Diego de Nicuesa received a land grant at Veragua from Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Spanish monarch. He became founder and governor of Castilla de Oro, in what is now Panama, one of the first two Spanish settlements on the American mainland.

In 1510 he founded the colony of Nombre de Dios. The colony suffered from hunger, hostile natives, and illness, and was ultimately saved by the arrival of Colmenares, a companion who was coming after with supplies. The party abandoned the colony to sail to the more prosperous colony of Santa María la Antigua del Darién, which had been established by the conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa without the knowledge of Nicuesa. Informed by Colmenares of the new colony established within the borders of his territory, he headed to the colony to punish the colonists and take possession of it. But the colonists of Santa Maria were warned of the governor's intent and denied him entry. While most of Nicuesa's men were granted the right to stay in Balboa's colony, Nicuesa and 17 loyal followers were put out to sea. Nicuesa headed for the Santo Domingo but the ship disappeared and he was never seen again.

Gaspar de Espinosa

Gaspar de Espinosa y Luna (Medina de Rio Seco, Spain, 1484 - Cuzco, Peru, 14 February 1537) was an explorer, conquistador and Spanish politician. He participated in the expedition of Pedrarias Davila to Darién and was appointed mayor of Nuestra Señora de la Antigua. He initiated proceedings against Vasco Núñez de Balboa and conquered part of current Costa Rica. After living some time in Spain, he returned to America to join Francisco Pizarro and Almagro in the conquest of the Inca Empire.

History of Panama (to 1821)

In the history of Panama, the earliest known inhabitants were the Cueva and Coclé tribes, but they were drastically reduced by disease and fighting when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. But some moved out of Panama to have children and increase population.

Rodrigo de Bastidas, sailing westward from Venezuela in 1501 in search of gold, was the first European to explore the Isthmus of Panama. 10 years later, Vasco Núñez de Balboa visited the Isthmus and established a short-lived settlement in the Darién. Vasco Núñez de Balboa's torturous trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1513 demonstrated that the Isthmus was, indeed, the path between the seas, and Panama quickly became the crossroads and marketplace of Spain's empire in the New World. Gold and silver were brought by ship from South America, hauled across the Isthmus, and loaded aboard ships for Spain. The route became known as the Camino Real de Portobelo, or Royal Road of Portobelo, although it was more commonly known as Camino Real de Cruces (Royal Road of the Crosses) because the road led to the TOWN of Venta Cruces located on the Rio Chagres.

Panama was part of the Spanish empire for nearly 300 years, from 1538 to 1821. From the outset, Panamanian identity was based on a sense of "geographic destiny", and Panamanian fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the Isthmus. The colonial experience also spawned Panamanian nationalism as well as a racially complex and highly stratified society, the source of internal conflicts that ran counter to the unifying force of nationalism.

Isla del Rey, Panama

Isla del Rey is the largest island in the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama. It has an area of 234 square kilometres (90 sq mi), and a population of 1,676 (census 2000). Its current name is probably more a reference to Christ the King than to a secular king. There are four towns, which are San Miguel (pop. 967), La Esmeralda (pop. 524), La Ensenada (pop. 94) and La Guinea (pop. 83). It is easily larger than the other Pearl Islands combined, and is the second largest island in Panama, after Coiba.

The first European to see Isla del Rey was Vasco Núñez de Balboa in October 1513 on his first expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He could only see the islands from afar, as the poor weather prevented his canoes from landing there. He named the island Isla Rica (Rich Island).

Jerez de los Caballeros

Jerez de los Caballeros (Spanish pronunciation: [xeˈɾeθ ðe los kaβaˈʎeɾos]) is a town of south-western Spain, in the province of Badajoz. It is located on two hills overlooking the River Ardila, a tributary of the Guadiana, 12 miles east of the Portuguese border. The old town is surrounded by a Moorish wall with six gates. The newer portion is well built, and has numerous orange and other fruit trees. Its main industry is in agricultural production, especially in ham and bacon from herds of swine which are reared in the surrounding oak forests. The town is said to have been founded by Alfonso IX of Leon in 1229; in 1232 it was extended by his son Ferdinand III the Saint, who gave it to the Knights Templar. Hence the name Jerez de los Caballeros, Jerez of the Knights.Jerez de los Caballeros is the birthplace of the explorers Hernando de Soto and Vasco Núñez de Balboa. On 10 May 1539, Hernando de Soto wrote in his will: "That a chapel be erected within the Church of San Miguel in Jerez de los Cabelleros, Spain, where De Soto grew up, at a cost of 2,000 ducats, with an altarpiece featuring the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Conception, that his tomb be covered in a fine black broadcloth topped by a red cross of the Order of the Knights of Santiago, and on special occasions a pall of black velvet with the De Soto coat of arms be placed on the altar; that a chaplain be hired at the salary of 12,000 maravedis to perform five masses every week for the souls of De Soto, his parents and wife; that thirty masses be said for him the day his body was interred, and twenty for our Lady of the Conception, ten for the Holy Ghost, sixty for souls in purgatory and masses for many others as well; that 150000 maravedis be given annually to his wife Isabel for her needs and an equal amount used yearly to marry off three orphan damsels...the poorest that can be found," who would then assist his wife and also serve to burnish the memory of De Soto as a man of charity and substance. However, De Soto ended up dead in the house of an Indian chief at the headwaters of the Arkansas River near present-day McArthur, Arkansas, and died an impoverished defeated man, with "four Indian slaves, three horses and 700 hogs".

John Oxenham

John Oxenham (a.k.a. "John Oxnam", died (1580-09-30)September 30, 1580) was the first non-Spanish European explorer to cross the Isthmus of Panama in 1575, climbing the coastal cordillera to get to the Pacific Ocean, then referred to by the Spanish as the Mar del Sur ('Southern Sea').

Departing from Acla (in modern Darién Province), he descended to the Chucunaque River, which Vasco Núñez de Balboa had also used in 1513 to cross the isthmus, first following the coast to the town of Careta, then receiving assistance from the Cimarrones for the crossing itself.

List of conquistadors in Colombia

This is a list of conquistadors who were active in the conquest of terrains that presently belong to Colombia. The nationalities listed refer to the state the conquistador was born into; Granada and Castile are currently part of Spain, but were separate states at the time of birth of the early conquistadors. Important conquistadors and explorers were Alonso de Ojeda, who landed first at Colombian soil and founded the first settlement Santa Cruz, Rodrigo de Bastidas, who founded the oldest still remaining city Santa Marta, Pedro de Heredia, who founded the important city of Cartagena in 1533, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, who was the leader of the first and main expedition into the Andes (1536–1538), with his brother second in command and many other conquistadors, 80% of whom who didn't survive, and Nikolaus Federmann and Sebastián de Belalcázar who entered the Colombian interior from the northwest and south respectively.

Martín Fernández de Enciso

Martín Fernández de Enciso (c. 1470 – 1528) was a navigator and geographer from Seville, Spain. He was instrumental in colonising the Isthmus of Darien. Fernandez de Enciso founded a village near the Cabo de la Vela with the name Nuestra Señora Santa María de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela, the first settlement in the Guajira Peninsula. Due to constant attacks from the indigenous and pirates the village was moved to present-day Riohacha in 1544. His Suma de Geografia que trata de todas las partidas e provincias del mundo, published in 1519 in Seville, was the first account in the Spanish language of the discoveries of the New World.Fernández' 1509 expedition from Santo Domingo to aid Alonso de Ojeda saw Vasco Núñez de Balboa stow away on his ship.

In his work, “Suma de Geografía,” Fernández states that they found an indigenous population who called themselves the “'Veneciuela.’” This suggests that the name "Venezuela" may have evolved from the native word. (The conventional etymology of Venezuela, however, cites Amerigo Vespucci, who, seeing the indigenous palafitos, was reminded of the city of Venice, and therefore named this New World location, "Little Venice".)

María Olimpia de Obaldía

María Olimpia de Obaldía (9 September 1891 – 14 August 1985), was a Panamanian poet. The daughter of Manuel del Rosario Miranda and Felipa Rovira, she was born in Dolega, Chiriquí. She studied at the Escuela Normal de Institutoras in Panama City, qualified in 1913, and worked as a primary school teacher in her native town until her marriage to Don José de Obaldía in 1918.

She published her first book, Orquídeas, in 1926. In 1930, she was granted the title Maria Olimpia de Panama by the Instituto Nacional de Panamá. In 1951, she became the first female member of the Academia Panameña de la Lengua. In 1976, she was made a Commander of the Panamanian Order of Vasco Núñez de Balboa and in 1983 was decorated with the Orden de Belisario Porras. The same year, she received the papal award Augusta Cruz Insigne Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from John Paul II.

Her writings generally deal with subjects such as maternity and love of family. Her most famous poem Ñatore May, expresses the suffering of women of the Ngöbe Buglé people (an indigenous Panamanian Indian group).

Núñez de Balboa (Madrid Metro)

Núñez de Balboa is a station on Line 5 and Line 9 of the Madrid Metro. It is Located in Zone A.The station is named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

Order of Vasco Núñez de Balboa

The Order of Vasco Núñez de Balboa is an order of Panama, instituted on 1 July 1941 (Ley No. 94 de 1 de julio de 1941). It is awarded for distinguished diplomatic services and contributions to international relations between Panama and other states.

PSA Panama International Terminal

PSA Panama International Terminal is a port built by PSA International on the site of the former United States Navy Rodman Naval Base located southwest of Panama City at the entrance to the canal from the Pacific Ocean.

Panamanian balboa

The balboa (sign: B/.; ISO 4217: PAB) is, along with the United States dollar, one of the official currencies of Panama. It is named in honor of the Spanish explorer/conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The balboa is subdivided into 100 centésimos.

Panama–Spain relations

Panama–Spain relations refers to the diplomatic relations between Panama and Spain. Both nations are members of the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language and the Organization of Ibero-American States.

Poncha (disambiguation)

Poncha may refer to:

Poncha, an alcoholic drink from the island of Madeira

Poncha Pass, a mountain pass in south-central Colorado

Poncha Springs, Colorado, a town in Chaffee CountyPeoplePoncha (cacique), a native leader encountered by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in Panama

Cyrus Poncha (b. 1976), an Indian squash coach

Rehan Poncha (b. 1986), an Indian swimmer

Santa María la Antigua del Darién

Santa María la Antigua del Darién, formerly also known as Dariena, was a Spanish colonial town founded in 1510 by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, located in present-day Colombia approximately 40 miles south of Acandí, within the municipality of Unguía in the Chocó Department. It was the first city founded by conquistadors in mainland America. After Pascual de Andagoya, a Spanish-Basque conquistador under the direction of Panama governor Pedrarias Dávila, founded Panama City in 1519, Santa María la Antigua del Darién was abandoned and in 1524 was attacked and burned by the indigenous people.

Spanish expeditions to the Pacific Northwest

Spanish claims to the West Coast of North America date to the papal bull of 1493, and the Treaty of Tordesillas. In 1513, this claim was reinforced by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean, when he claimed all lands adjoining this ocean for the Spanish Crown. Spain only started to colonize the claimed territory north of present-day Mexico in the 18th century, when it settled the northern coast of Las Californias (California).

Starting in the mid-18th century, Spain's claim began to be challenged in the form of British and Russian fur trading and colonization. King Charles III of Spain and his successors sent a number of expeditions from New Spain to present-day Canada and Alaska between 1774 and 1793, to counter the threat of Russian and British colonizers and to strengthen the Spanish claim. During this period of history it was important for a nation's claims to be backed up by exploration and the "first European discovery" of particular places.

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