Pedro de Alvarado Biography

(Conquistador, Explorer)
Pedro de Alvarado

Born: 1485

Born In: Badajoz, Spain

Pedro de Alvarado was a Spanish conquistador credited with the conquest of much of Central America, including Guatemala and El Salvador. Well known for his skills as a soldier, he also played major roles in the conquest of Cuba and in the conquest of Mexico led by Hernán Cortés. Not much is known about his early life before he earned a name for himself as an adventurous and fearless conquistador, though folk legends give several accounts of his early exploits which however lack credibility. Born in Badajoz, Extremadura, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to arrive in Santo Domingo, on Hispaniola. There he met another adventurous soul, Hernan Cortes, with whom he participated in the conquest of Cuba under the command of Diego de Velázquez. He then went on to participate in an expedition to Mexico and the siege of Tenochtitlan, commanding one of four forces under Cortes. An experienced and well known military commander by now, he led the conquest of Quiché and Cakchiquel of Guatemala and in 1524 founded Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala and served as its governor. Very famous for his bravery, he was also notorious for the unspeakable cruelties he inflicted upon the natives of the lands he conquered.
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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras

Died At Age: 56


siblings: Jorge de Alvarado

Soldiers Explorers

Died on: July 4, 1541

place of death: Guadalajara, Mexico

Cause of Death: War

Childhood & Early Life
Pedro de Alvarado was born in 1485 in the town of Badajoz, Extremadura, to Gómez de Alvarado and Leonor de Contreras. Pedro had a twin sister, four full-blood brothers, and an illegitimate half-brother.
Not much is known about his childhood and early life experiences though there is no doubt that he grew up to be an adventurous young man. Around 1510, he along with his brothers crossed the Atlantic Ocean to venture into the New World.
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Later Years
Pedro de Alvarado soon arrived at Santo Domingo, on Hispaniola where he met Hernan Cortes who was serving as a public scribe. The two men struck up a friendship and participated in the conquest of Cuba, under the command of Diego de Velázquez.
Following the conquest, Diego de Velázquez became the governor of Cuba. Alvarado settled into a prosperous life as an estate owner. The governor heard reports of gold in the newly discovered Yucatán Peninsula and organized an expedition of four ships and 260 men to explore the area. Alvarado was made the captain of one of these ships.
The expedition left Cuba in April 1518. Over the course of their journey, the men confirmed the news of the presence of riches in the Aztec Empire (modern-day Mexico) to the west, and also collected golden trinkets as proof.
During the expedition, Alvarado disobeyed Juan de Grijalva, the overall commander of the expedition which greatly angered him. As a punishment, Grijalva sent back Alvarado to Cuba to relay the news of the discoveries of the riches. Alvarado was received enthusiastically in Cuba and soon plans were made for further expeditions to the gold-rich lands.
In February 1519 a new expedition was organized, with a fleet of 11 ships carrying 500 men and some horses to conquer Mexico. Hernan Cortes was placed in command of the expedition of which Alvarado was also a part. Alvarado was a brave man blessed with great military skills. Cortes recognized this and gave him important leadership roles.
Alvarado played a significant role in the siege of Tenochtitlan, commanding one of four forces under Cortes. Eventually Cortes dispatched Alvarado to invade Guatemala with 180 cavalry, 300 infantry, large amounts of ammunition and gunpowder, and thousands of allied Mexican warriors.
The Spanish army under Alvarado soon seized K'iche' kingdom and fought fierce battles with the Kaqchikel kings, eventually forcing them to surrender to the Spanish. Then the Spaniards went on to defeat the Pipil of Panacal. Alvarado’s army continued eastwards from Atiquipaque, seizing several more Xinca cities.
By 1523 Alvarado had conquered the Quiché and Cakchiquel of Guatemala. He then founded Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala in 1524 and made this town the first capital of Guatemala, which later grew to include much of Central America. During this period he also brought the nation of Cuzcatlán (El Salvador) under Spanish control. He became the governor of Guatemala in 1527.
Even though he was highly popular and wealthy by this time, he yearned for more adventure and set out on an expedition to conquer Quito in 1534. However, Quito had already been captured by Sebastian de Benalcazar on behalf of the Pizarro brothers. He then sold his ships and munitions to Diego de Almagro, one of Francisco Pizarro’s captains, and returned to Guatemala.
Major Works
A renowned conquistador who participated in several significant Spanish conquests, Pedro de Alvarado is best known for leading the conquest of Guatemala. He was dispatched by Cortes to invade Guatemala during the Spanish expedition against the Aztecs. Alvarado successfully conquered Guatemala and was made its governor.
Personal Life & Legacy
His first marriage was to Francisca de la Cueva, the niece of Francisco de los Cobos, the Spanish king's secretary, and a member of the powerful noble house of Albuquerque. His wife died shortly after their arrival in America.
He later on married one of his first wife's sisters, Beatriz de la Cueva. He did not have any legitimate children from either of his marriages.
He was in a long-term relationship with Luisa de Tlaxcala, a Nahua noblewoman, daughter of the Tlaxcallan Chief Xicotencatl the Elder. In spite of not being married to him, she was respected for her relationship with Alvarado and for her noble origin. This union resulted in the birth of three children. Alvarado also had two other children with other women.
In 1541 he received a letter from fellow Spanish conquistador Cristóbal de Oñate, pleading for help against hostile Indians who were besieging him at Nochistlán. He gathered his troops and went to help Oñate but was badly injured in a freak accident involving a horse and died a few days later on July 4, 1541.

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