Gasca, Pedro de la (1493–1567)

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Gasca, Pedro de la (1493–1567)

Pedro de la Gasca (b. August 1493; d. 10 November 1567), president of the Audiencia of Lima and bishop of Palencia and Sigüenza. Born in a hamlet in Ávila, Spain, Gasca briefly attended the University of Salamanca before leaving in 1508 to attend the recently founded University of Alcalá de Henares, where he received a master of theology. He continued in Alcalá as colegial in the Colegio Mayor of San Ildefonso. In 1522 he returned to Salamanca to complete a study of law and in 1528 served briefly as rector of Salamanca.

In 1531, Gasca became affiliated with the Colegio Mayor de San Bartolomé, where he assumed the duties of rector for two terms. He received a prebend in Salamanca's cathedral (1531) and was named maestrescuela (teacher of divinity). Returning to Alcalá in 1537 as vicario (vicar), he was placed under the tutelage of Francisco de los Cobos, secretary of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Shortly thereafter he became general inspector of Valencia and, in 1540, justice of the Council of the Inquisition. Gasca served well in both capacities, impressing Cobos, who saw in him the qualities necessary to pacify Peru, then in the throes of rebellion. In late 1545 Gasca accepted the royal commission naming him president of the Audiencia of Lima and giving him power to offer pardons and make grants. He also was empowered to revoke the onerous chapter 30 of the New Laws, which prohibited inheritance of encomiendas, and to authorize new entradas. In addition he had general power to grant all types of office and to conduct any business in the name of the monarch.

Gasca left Spain in April 1546. When he reached Santa Marta, Colombia, on 10 July he learned of the execution of Viceroy Blasco Núñez Vela after the battle of Añaquito (18 January 1546). In Panama he entered into negotiations with Pizarrists, convincing many to abandon the rebels. By April 1547, when he headed south, he had gained the support of the Pacific fleet under Admiral Hinojosa. When they first landed, they discovered that several important cities in the north already had declared for the royalist cause. On 30 June Gasca reached Tumbes, on Peru's north coast, with a substantial force. During their one-and-a-half month's stay, Lima declared for the royalists, and the Pizarrists left for the highlands.

Gasca established military headquarters at Jauja, by which time he had collected 700 harque-busiers, 500 pikemen, and 400 horsemen. News of a stunning defeat of the royalist force (20 October 1547) under Diego de Centeno at Huarina, to the south, failed to discourage Gasca's forces. The final battle between Gonzalo Pizarro and Gasca (9 April 1548) on the plain of Jaquijahuana, not far west of Cuzco, ended in royalist triumph; most Pizarrists threw down their arms and surrendered. Gonzalo Pizarro and his leading commander Francisco de Carvajal, along with some 48 principal leaders, were executed; 350 rebels were sent to labor in the galleys; and 700 were exiled from Peru.

In July 1548, Gasca retired with his secretary and Archbishop Loaysa to the hamlet of Guaynarima to distribute the spoils (Indian encomiendas) to the victors. He then departed for Lima, leaving the archbishop to announce the awards in Cuzco. The results shocked most royalists, two-thirds of whom received no grants, while some rebels who returned to the crown at the last moment were well rewarded. In May 1548 Gasca ordered a general inspection and tribute assessment for the encomiendas. The first systematic census to be undertaken and largely completed, it began in March 1549, with two inspectors for each district. Gasca's purpose was to increase yet stabilize tribute collection and to protect the Native Americans as much as possible.

Gasca restored the administration of justice under firm royal authority. He licensed new expeditions, one of which led to the foundation of the city of La Paz, Bolivia. He also named Pedro de Valdivia governor and captain-general of Chile, thus recognizing him as conqueror of that land. Most important for the crown, he carried back an enormous treasure. Shipment of the king's fifth had long been delayed as a result of Peru's civil wars. Gasca left Lima in January 1550 and reached Seville in September. In November he reported to the Council of the Indies in Valladolid, where he was ordered to inform directly Charles V, who was then in Flanders. On 6 April, while he was in Barcelona preparing to travel to Germany, Gasca became bishop of Palencia. He sailed to Genoa, then north to Mantua, where he met Prince Philip in June. Passing through Trent, where the church council was in session, Gasca finally met Charles V (Charles I of Spain) at Augsburg on 2 July 1551. The emperor received him with gratitude, for Gasca had restored a rebellious colony and provided the treasure that would allow Charles V to continue his imperial religious and political policies in the heart of Europe.

Gasca returned to Spain early in 1553 and assumed his post at Palencia on 6 March. He was asked to report to the Council of the Indies several times in following years, and in 1556 he was called on by Charles V to escort his sisters, Queen Leonor of France and Queen Maria of Hungary, to interview the Infanta Maria of Portugal in Badajoz. Named Bishop of Sigüenza in 1561, he served there until his death at the age of seventy-four.

Pedro de la Gasca is buried in a beautiful stone coffin bearing his effigy in the center of the church of Santa María Magdalena, which he built in Valladolid.

See alsoNew Laws of 1542; Valdivia, Pedro de.


Juan Cristóbal Calvete De Estrella, Rebelión de Pizarro en el Perú y vida de don Pedro Gasca (1963–1965).

Teodoro Hampe Martínez, Don Pedro de la Gasca (1493–1567), su obra política en España y América (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Brunke, Jose de la Puente. Encomienda y Encomenderos en el Perú: Estudio social y político de una institución colonial. Seville: Publicaciones de la Excma. Diputación Provinical de Sevilla, 1992.

                                      Noble David Cook