Vasco Nunez de Balboa

Vasco Nunez de Balboa, b. 1475, the son of a poor nobleman, was a Spanish CONQUISTADOR and explorer. The first European to sight the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean, he opened the way for Spanish exploration and settlement of South America's western coast. He set sail for the New World in 1500 as part of an expedition to the north coast of Colombia. He settled on the island of Hispaniola and tried his hand unsuccessfully at farming. In 1510, to escape his creditors, he stowed away on a ship heading for the mainland, where he founded the colony of Darien on the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1513, Balboa led an expedition to the west, and on September 25 or 27 he sighted the Pacific Ocean, which he named the South Sea. King Ferdinand II of Aragon appointed Pedrarias Davila as governor of Darien and named Balboa to serve under Pedrarias as governor of an area on the Pacific coast, where Balboa founded the settlement of Acla. In January 1519, Pedrarias had Balboa beheaded in Acla on false charges of treason.

Bibliography: Anderson, Charles L., Life and Letters of Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1941; repr. 1977); Garrison, Omar, Balboa: Conquistador (1971)

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