Pizarro, Gonzalo

Pizarro, Gonzalo pēthärˈrō [key], c.1506–1548, Spanish conquistador, brother of Francisco Pizarro. A lieutenant of his brother in the conquest of Peru, Gonzalo aided in the defense of Cuzco (1536–37) against the Inca Manco Capac, subdued Charcas (present Bolivia), and fought against Diego de Almagro (1537–38). Appointed (1539) governor of Quito, in 1540 he commanded a disastrous expedition down the Napo River to the Amazon River in search of El Dorado. After extreme hardships, augmented by the disaffection of Orellana, he and his few remaining men staggered back two years later. Gonzalo then learned of the assassination of Francisco and offered to help the crown's representative, Vaca de Castro, but was refused. When the newly arrived viceroy, Blasco Núñez Vela, peremptorily enforced the New Laws, framed by Bartolomé de Las Casas and promulgated in 1542 to protect the Native Americans, popular indignation broke out, and Gonzalo was chosen to lead the revolt. In 1546, aided by Francisco de Carvajal, he defeated Núñez. His support evaporated, however, when the king's new representative, Pedro de la Gasca, arrived and offered pardon as well as repeal of the New Laws. Most of his army deserted just before the crucial battle. Their commander surrendered and was beheaded.

See P. de Cieza de León, The War of Quito (tr. 1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Explorers, Travelers, and Conquerors: Biographies