|Name:||Pedro de Alvarado|
|Death Date:||July 4, 1541 (aged 56)
Guadalajara, New Spain
|Birth Place:||Badajoz, Spain|
As per our current Database, Pedro de Alvarado died on July 4, 1541 (aged 56)
Guadalajara, New Spain.
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Alvarado and his brothers crossed the Atlantic Ocean before 1511, possibly in 1510. By 1511 a system of licenses had been established in Spain to control the flow of colonists to the New World. The only one of the Alvarado brothers that appears in the registers is Juan de Alvarado, in 1511, leading to the assumption that the rest were already in the Americas by the time the licensing system was established. The Alvarado brothers stopped off at Hispaniola, but there are few mentions of their stay there in historical documents.
Soon after arriving in Santo Domingo, on Hispaniola, Pedro de Alvarado established a friendship with Hernán Cortés, who at the time was serving as public scribe. Alvarado joined Cortés to participate in the conquest of Cuba, under the command of Diego de Velázquez. The conquest of Cuba was launched in 1511, and Pedro de Alvarado was accompanied by his brothers. Soon after the invasion, Alvarado was managing a prosperous hacienda in the new colony. It is around this time that Pedro de Alvarado emerges into the historical record as a prosperous and influential hacienda-owner, already well connected with Velázquez, who was now governor of Cuba.
The fleet left Cuba in April 1518, and made its first landfall upon the island of Cozumel, off the east coast of Yucatán. The Maya inhabitants of Cozumel fled the Spanish; the fleet then sailed south from Cozumel, along the east coast of the peninsula. The Spanish spotted three large Maya cities along the coast. On Ascension Thursday the fleet discovered a large bay, which the Spanish named Bahía de la Ascensión.
Alvarado had no children from either of his legal marriages. His life companion was his concubine Luisa de Tlaxcala (also called Xicoténcatl or Tecubalsi, her original names after Catholic baptism). She was a Nahua noblewoman, daughter of the Tlaxcallan King Xicotencatl the Elder. Luisa was given by her father in 1519 to Hernán Cortés as a proof of respect and friendship. In turn Cortés gave her in guard to Pedro de Alvarado, who quickly and unremarkably became her lover. Luisa followed Alvarado in his pursuit of conquests beyond central Mexico. Despite never being his legitimate wife, Luisa de Tlaxcala had numerous possessions and was respected as a Doña, both for her relationship with Alvarado and for her noble origin. She died in 1535 and was buried at the Guatemala Cathedral.
Cortés despatched Pedro de Alvarado to invade Guatemala with 180 cavalry, 300 infantry, crossbows, muskets, 4 cannons, large amounts of ammunition and gunpowder, and thousands of allied Mexican warriors. Pedro de Alvarado passed through Soconusco with a sizeable force in 1523, en route to conquer Guatemala. Alvarado's army included hardened veterans of the conquest of the Aztecs, and included cavalry and artillery; there were also a great many indigenous allies from Cholula, Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlaxcala, and Xochimilco.
Pedro de Alvarado and his army advanced along the Pacific coast unopposed until they reached the Samalá River in western Guatemala. This region formed a part of the K'iche' kingdom, and a K'iche' army tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Spanish from crossing the river. Once across, the conquistadors ransacked nearby settlements in an effort to terrorise the K'iche'. On 8 February 1524 Alvarado's army fought a battle at Xetulul, called Zapotitlán by his Mexican allies (modern San Francisco Zapotitlán). Although suffering many injuries inflicted by defending K'iche' archers, the Spanish and their allies stormed the town and set up camp in the marketplace.
Alvarado then turned to head upriver into the Sierra Madre mountains towards the K'iche' heartlands, crossing the pass into the fertile valley of Quetzaltenango. On 12 February 1524 Alvarado's Mexican allies were ambushed in the pass and driven back by K'iche' warriors but the Spanish cavalry charge that followed was a shock for the K'iche', who had never before seen horses. The cavalry scattered the K'iche' and the army crossed to the city of Xelaju (modern Quetzaltenango) only to find it deserted.
Almost a week later, on 18 February 1524, a K'iche' army confronted the Spanish army in the Quetzaltenango valley and were comprehensively defeated; many K'iche' nobles were among the dead. This battle exhausted the K'iche' militarily and they asked for peace and offered tribute, inviting Pedro de Alvarado into their capital Q'umarkaj, which was known as Tecpan Utatlan to the Nahuatl-speaking allies of the Spanish. Alvarado was deeply suspicious of the K'iche' intentions but accepted the offer and marched to Q'umarkaj with his army.
In March 1524 Pedro de Alvarado entered Q'umarkaj at the invitation of the remaining lords of the K'iche' after their catastrophic defeat, fearing that he was entering a trap. He encamped on the plain outside the city rather than accepting lodgings inside. Fearing the great number of K'iche' warriors gathered outside the city and that his cavalry would not be able to manoeuvre in the narrow streets of Q'umarkaj, he invited the leading lords of the city, Oxib-Keh (the king) and Beleheb-Tzy (the king elect) to visit him in his camp.
On 14 April 1524, soon after the defeat of the K'iche', the Spanish were invited into Iximche and were well received by the lords Belehe Qat and Cahi Imox. The Kaqchikel kings provided native soldiers to assist the conquistadors against continuing K'iche' resistance and to help with the defeat of the neighbouring Tz'utuhil kingdom. The Spanish only stayed briefly in Iximche before continuing through Atitlán, Escuintla and Cuscatlán. The Spanish returned to the Kaqchikel capital on 23 July 1524 and on 27 July, Pedro de Alvarado declared Iximche as the first capital of Guatemala, Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala ("St. James of the Knights of Guatemala").
Pedro de Alvarado rapidly began to demand gold in tribute from the Kaqchikels, souring the friendship between the two peoples. He demanded that their kings deliver 1000 gold leaves, each worth 15 pesos. The Kaqchikel people abandoned their city and fled to the forests and hills on 28 August 1524. Ten days later the Spanish declared war on the Kaqchikel.
On 8 May 1524, Pedro de Alvarado continued southwards to the Pacific coastal plain with an army numbering approximately 6000, where he defeated the Pipil of Panacal or Panacaltepeque near Izcuintepeque on 9 May. Alvarado described the terrain approaching the town as very difficult, covered with dense vegetation and swampland that made the use of cavalry impossible; instead he sent men with crossbows ahead. The Pipil withdrew their scouts because of the heavy rain, believing that the Spanish and their allies would not be able to reach the town that day.
In Guazacapán, Pedro de Alvarado described his encounter with people who were neither Maya nor Pipil, speaking a different language altogether; these people were probably Xinca. At this point Alvarado's force consisted of 250 Spanish infantry accompanied by 6,000 indigenous allies, mostly Kaqchikel and Cholutec. Alvarado and his army defeated and occupied the most important Xinca city, named as Atiquipaque. The defending warriors were described by Alvarado as engaging in fierce hand-to-hand combat using spears, stakes and poisoned arrows. The battle took place on 26 May 1524 and resulted in a significant reduction of the Xinca population.
Alvarado led the first effort by Spanish forces to extend their dominion to the nation of Cuzcatlan (in modern El Salvador), in June 1524. These efforts established many towns such as San José Acatempa in 1525 and Esquipulas in 1560. Spanish efforts were firmly resisted by the indigenous people known as the Pipil and their Mayan speaking neighbors. Despite Alvarado's initial success in the Battle of Acajutla, the indigenous people of Cuzcatlán, who according to tradition were led by a warlord called Atlacatl, defeated the Spaniards and their auxiliaries, and forced them to withdraw to Guatemala.
Alvarado was wounded on his left thigh, remaining handicapped for the rest of his life. He abandoned the war and appointed his brother, Gonzalo de Alvarado, to continue the task. Two subsequent expeditions were required (the first in 1525, followed by a smaller group in 1528) to bring the Pipil under Spanish control. In 1528 the conquest of Cuzcatlán was completed and the city of San Salvador was established.
Two years later, on 9 February 1526, a group of sixteen Spanish deserters burnt the palace of the Ahpo Xahil, sacked the temples and kidnapped a priest, acts that the Kaqchikel blamed on Pedro de Alvarado. The Kaqchikel kept up resistance against the Spanish for a number of years. On 9 May 1530, exhausted by the warfare that had seen the deaths of their best warriors and the enforced abandonment of their crops, the two kings of the most important clans returned from the wilds. A day later they were joined by many nobles and their families and many more people; they then surrendered at the new Spanish capital at Ciudad Vieja.
On 18 December 1527, the king of Spain named Alvarado as governor of Guatemala; two days later he granted him the coveted military title of Adelantado. Alvarado's close friendship with Cortés was broken in the same year; Alvarado had promised Cortés that he would marry Cecilia Vázquez, Cortes' cousin. Alvarado broke his promise and instead married Francisca de la Cueva. Technically, this was not his first marriage as he married an indigenous woman, daughter to Xicotencatl the Younger, who was referred to as Dona Luisa by Spanish speakers and Tlecuiluatzin by Nahuatl speakers.
Francisca de la Cueva died shortly after their arrival in America. Alvarado remained governor of Guatemala until his death. He was made Knight of Santiago in 1527.
Francisca de la Cueva was well connected at the royal court, being the niece of Francisco de los Cobos, the king's secretary, and a member of the powerful noble house of Albuquerque. This marriage gave Alvarado extra leverage at court and was far more useful to his long term interests; Alvarado thereafter maintained a friendship with Francisco de los Cobos that allowed him access to the king's favour. In 1528, by coincidence both Alvarado and Cortés were in Seville at the same time, but Cortés ignored him.
According to Alvarado's letter to Cortés, the Pipil came back to the town and submitted to him, accepting the king of Spain as their overlord. The Spanish force camped in the captured town for eight days. A few years later, in 1529, Pedro de Alvarado was accused of using excessive brutality in his conquest of Izcuintepeque, amongst other atrocities.
By 1532, Alvarado's friendship with Hernán Cortés had soured, and he no longer trusted him. At this time Alvarado requested permission from the king for an expedition south along the Pacific coast, to conquer any lands there that had not already been claimed for the Crown, and specifically rejected that Cortés should accompany him. In 1534, Alvarado heard tales of the riches of Peru, headed south to the Andes and attempted to bring the province of Quito under his rule. When he arrived, he found the land already held by Francisco Pizarro's lieutenant Sebastián de Belalcázar. The two forces of Conquistadors almost came to battle; however, Alvarado bartered to Pizarro's group most of his ships, horses, and ammunition, plus most of his men, for a comparatively modest sum of money, and returned to Guatemala.
In 1532, Alvarado received a Royal Cedula naming him Governor of the Province of Honduras. At that time, Honduras consisted of a single settlement of Spaniards in Trujillo, but he declined to act on it. In 1533 or 1534 he began to send his own work gangs of enslaved Africans and Native Americans into the parts of Honduras adjacent to Guatemala to work the placer gold deposits.
In 1536, ostensibly in response to a letter asking for aid from Andrés de Cereceda, then acting Governor of the Province of Honduras, Alvarado and his army of Indian allies arrived in Honduras, just as the Spanish colonists were preparing to abandon the country and go look for gold in Peru. In June, 1536, Alvarado engaged the indigenous resistance led by Cicumba in the lower Ulua river valley, and won. He divided up the Indian labor in repartimiento grants to his soldiers and some of the colonists, and returned to Guatemala.
During a visit to Spain, in 1537, Alvarado had the governorship of Honduras reconfirmed in addition to that of Guatemala for the next seven years. His governorship of Honduras was not uncontested. Francisco de Montejo had a rival claim, and was installed by the Spanish king as Governor of Honduras in 1540. Ten years after being widowed, Alvarado married one of his first wife's sisters, Beatriz de la Cueva, who outlived him.
After the death of Alvarado, de la Cueva maneuvered her own election and succeeded him as governor of Guatemala, becoming the only woman to govern a major political division of the Americas in Spanish colonial times. She drowned a few days after taking office in the destruction of the capital city Ciudad Vieja by a sudden flow from the Volcán de Agua in 1541.
Alvarado developed a plan to outfit an armada that would sail from the western coast of Mexico to China and the Spice Islands. At great cost, he assembled and equipped 13 ships and approximately 550 soldiers for the expedition. The fleet was about to set sail in 1541 when Alvarado received a letter from Cristóbal de Oñate, pleading for help against hostile Indians who were besieging him at Nochistlán.
The siege was part of a major revolt by the Mixtón natives of the Nueva Galicia region of Mexico. Alvarado gathered his troops and went to help Oñate. In a freak accident, he was crushed by a horse that was spooked and ran amok. He died a few days later, on July 4, 1541, and was buried in the church at Tiripetío, a village between Pátzcuaro and Morelia (in present-day Michoacán).