Arias de Saavedra, Hernando (1561–1634)

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Arias de Saavedra, Hernando (1561–1634)

Hernando Arias de Saavedra (Hernandarias; b. 1561; d. 1634), one of the greatest figures in Argentine history and the first creole to hold public office in Latin America. He was born in Asunción to Captain Martín Juárez de Toledo, a close associate of Alvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca, and María Sanabria, daughter of the adelantado Juan Sanabria y Mencia Calderón. Following a common custom of the period, he was given his paternal grandfather's last name. From a very young age, Hernandarias participated in conquests and explorations and came in contact with important figures of the early history of the Río de la Plata region. He became known for his bravery and was severely wounded more than once.

In 1576, when he was only fifteen years old, he went to work for the governor of Tucumán, Gonzalo de Abrego. In 1577, he entered the service of Hernando de Lerma in Santiago del Estero, and three years later he accompanied Alonso de Vera y Aragón, cousin of the adelantado Juan Torres de Vera y Aragón, in a six-month cattle drive from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. In 1582, Hernandarias was with Juan de Garay for the second founding of Buenos Aires. That year he married Garay's daughter, Jerónima Contreras. In 1588, he accompanied Juan Torres de Vera y Aragón in the founding of San Juan de Vera de las Siete Corrientes.

Hernandarias held public office a total of six times, three times between 1590 and 1597 as interim governor of the Río de la Plata, and another three times between 1597 and 1618 as governor. The first time he became governor he was only 29 years old. As governor, Hernandarias proved to be an enlightened administrator. He encouraged commerce among the different provinces; tried to curb the rampant contraband in the Río de la Plata region; protected the Indians and encouraged the creation of Jesuit missions in Paraguay; distributed land among Spaniards, creoles, and mestizos; built schools, churches, and hospitals; and promulgated laws designed to improve the living standards of the population.

Hernandarias's policies created resentment among powerful Spaniards, particularly those engaged in contraband. In 1618, his enemies prevailed against him, and the new governor, Diego de Góngora, had him imprisoned and most of his property confiscated. His wife sought refuge with her brother, General Juan de Garay. Hernandarias's friends took his case to the crown, which sent the juez pesquisador (investigating judge) Matías Delgado Flores to investigate. Hernandarias was set free, and he was absolved of any wrongdoing in July 1624 by the oidor Alonso Pérez de Sálazar, who had been sent by the Audiencia of Charcas. Hernandarias died in Santa Fe.

See alsoArgentina: The Colonial Period .


Juan Estevan Guastavino, Hernandarias (1928).

Carlos María Aranguren, Hernandarias (1963).

Francisco José Figuerola, Por qué Hernandarias (1981).

Additional Bibliography

Hernandarias. Hernandarias, edited by Walter Rela. Montevideo: Ediciones Galeón, 2001.

                                 Juan Manuel PÉrez