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Garay, Francisco de (?–1523)

Garay, Francisco de (?–1523)

Francisco de Garay (d. 27 December 1523), governor of Jamaica (1515–1523) and rival of the conquistador Hernán Cortés. Garay arrived in the Americas in 1493 with the second voyage of Christopher Columbus. On Hispaniola, Garay combined government service, as notary and later chief constable, with economic venture. By the time he became governor of Jamaica in 1515, he was one of the richest men in the islands. In 1519 he sent four ships under the command of Alonso Álvarez De Pineda to search the Mexican coast north of Pánuco for a westward passage. Pineda and his men were the first Europeans to explore the Gulf coast west of Florida, but, badly damaged in conflicts with the indigenous peoples, the expedition limped back to Veracruz, where most of the men joined Cortés's army.

These mixed results notwithstanding, Garay obtained a royal decree making him adelantado (royal representative) and governor of this vast stretch of coastline. This created a conflict with Cortés, who also had claims to Pánuco. In 1523 Garay landed there with several hundred men to confront Cortés directly, but he was preempted shortly thereafter, when Cortés received royal recognition as conqueror of Mexico and governor of New Spain. His authority superseded, Garay quickly acknowledged his defeat and traveled to Mexico City, where he died three days after meeting with Cortés. It was rumored that Cortés had poisoned him, but this seems unlikely, since Garay no longer posed a threat to the conquistador.

See alsoCortés, Hernán; Jamaica.


Joaquín Meade, El adelantado Francisco de Garay (1947).

Robert S. Weddle, Spanish Sea: The Gulf of Mexico in North American Discovery, 1500–1685 (1985).

Hernán Cortés, Hernán Cortés: Letters from Mexico, 2nd ed., translated and edited by Anthony Pagden (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Prescott, William Hickling. History of the Conquest of Mexico. New York: Modern Library, 2001.

                                       R. Douglas Cope

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