Spanish Conquistador. His conquest of the Incan Empire opened the way for Spain's colonization of most of South America. Born Francisco Pizarro Gonzalez, in Trujillo, Spain, he was the illegitimate son of Gonzalo Pizarro Rodriguez de Aguilar, a Spanish Army Infantry Captain, and Francisca Gonzalez Mateos, a woman of modest means from Trujillo. In February 1502, Pizarro sailed from Spain in a convoy of 30 ships carrying 2500 colonists to the New World. In 1513, Pizarro joined the expedition of Vasco Nunez de Balboa in crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and became one of the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean. In 1519, the Spanish governor of Panama, Pedro Arias Davila, believed Balboa was plotting to overthrow him, and sent Pizarro to arrest him. Balboa was subsequently convicted of treason and beheaded; Pizarro was rewarded for his loyalty to the governor by being named Alcalde (mayor) of Panama City (1519 to 1523). In 1522, a Spanish expedition from Panama returned from exploring the Pacific coast of what is now Colombia and Ecuador, and reported tales of a wealthy Indian empire further to the south. These tales caught Pizarro's attention, and he determined to find and conquer this empire. Obtaining permission from Panama's governor Davila, his first two expeditions returned without finding the Incan empire, although they did capture some Indians bearing gold and silver destined for the Incan Emperor. Despite this show of wealth, Pizarro was denied a third expedition from the new Panama governor, Pedro de los Rios. Finally, in April 1528, Pizarro convinced the Governor to fund a small ship for exploration. Boldly sailing further south than ever before, this expedition reached the boundaries of what is northern Peru, and discovered a land of incredible riches, observing many Indians wearing decorations of silver and gold. Pizarro returned to Panama with this information, to gather a stronger force. When Governor Rios again refused his request for an expedition, Pizarro returned to Spain and appealed directly to King Charles. The King agreed with the expedition, and gave Pizarro license to conquer Peru and the Incan Empire, named him Governor and Captain-General of the area of New Castile (the new name given for Ecuador and Peru), for a distance of 200 miles along the Pacific Coast of South America from Panama down to Peru. He was given three ships, 180 men and 27 horses, along with authority to recruit additional ships, men and horses in Panama. In 1529, Pizarro left Panama for Peru, landing initially on the coast of Ecuador. Moving further south, he established the third Spanish settlement in South America, San Miguel, and the first Spanish settlement in Peru. Within two months, Pizarro had found the Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, in the northern Incan city of Cajamarca, and moved his small force there, where in a surprise attack on November 16, 1532, the Spanish defeated a vastly superior Incan force. Taking Atahualpa prisoner, Pizarro agreed to release him if his followers would fill a room 22 feet by 17 feet with gold and two additional rooms with silver. Despite the fulfillment of the ransom, Pizarro had Atahualpa strangled, in order to intimidate the Incans. Gathering other tribes to aid him, Pizarro then completed the conquest by marching on to the Incan capital city of Cuzco, taking it within a year. Pizarro founded the city of Lima, in January 1535, to serve as his new capital. In 1538, Pizarro had an argument with one of his principle suppliers in Panama, Diego Almagro, which culminated in a battle between their respective supporters, and Pizarro had Almagro executed. Three years later, on June 26, 1541, Almagro's son, Diego Almagro II, mounted a coup against Governor Pizarro, attacking Pizarro's palace in Lima and killing him, and then forced the city council to appoint Almagro as the new Governor of Peru. Following the coup, Pizarro's remains were buried in the cathedral courtyard in Lima. At some unknown time later, Pizarro's body was reburied in the floor of the cathedral itself.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson