Núñez Vela, Blasco (?–1546)

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Núñez Vela, Blasco (?–1546)

Blasco Núñez Vela (d. 18 January 1546), ill-fated first viceroy of Peru. From Ávila de los Caballeros, Núñez Vela had served as veedor general de las guardias de Castilla before his appointment as first viceroy of Peru. A large fifty-ship fleet carrying the viceroy and justices (oidores) of the first Royal Audiencia of Lima sailed from Sanlúcar on 3 November 1543 and reached Nombre de Dios, on Panama's coast, on 10 January 1544. Entrusted with the application of the famous New Laws of 1542 for the protection of the Indians, the newly appointed viceroy quickly set out to enforce the legislation to the letter, in spite of vocal opposition from settlers. He freed Indian slaves in Panama, and on 24 January headed for Peru, arriving relatively quickly at Tumbes on 4 March 1544. From there he marched overland toward Lima.

Encomenderos and previous royal officials began to grow wary of Núñez Vela's seemingly intransigent character. He announced a full residencia (official inquiry) to examine the tenure of Governor Cristóbal Vaca De Castro. In Piura he ordered the tambos, the old way stations manned by natives, closed. In Trujillo he removed Indians from some encomenderos and mandated that natives could not be used to transport Europeans. As he entered Lima, the royal factor, Illan Suárez de Carbajal, asked the viceroy to respect city rights. Tension rose between the viceroy and other officials. The viceroy ignored and insulted his chief advisers, the oidores. Meanwhile Gonzalo Pizarro, the Peruvian rebel leader who had been proclaimed governor by the Audiencia in Lima, slowly moved toward the city, his ranks swelling with disaffected settlers. The turning point came when the viceroy, in a fit of anger, assassinated Suárez de Carbajal. The oidores decided that by this act the viceroy had threatened the stability of royal government in Peru, and they imprisoned him on 18 September 1544. They asked the crown for review of the New Laws and a trial for Núñez Vela, whom they planned to return to Spain to face charges before the Council of the Indies.

He was imprisoned for a time on an island off Lima, before his opponents shipped him to Panama. During the voyage north, however, the crafty viceroy convinced the ship's captain to land him at Tumbes, where he began to collect men and weapons to retake the viceroyalty. Hoping to engage quickly and defeat the still weak and disorganized Núñez Vela, Gonzalo Pizarro set out from Lima in March 1545. The viceroy retreated northward as far as Pasto, in modern Colombia, trying to unite with Sebastián de Belalcázar, an old Pizarro enemy. A final engagement of rebel and royalist forces took place not far from Quito, in Ecuador. The viceroy was finally defeated and killed by the rebels at the battle of Añaquito on 18 January 1546.

See alsoPeru: From the Conquest Through Independence .


José Antonio De Busto Duthurburu, Historia general del Perú, vol. 2, Descubrimiento y conquista (1978).

Alexandra Parma Cook and Noble David Cook, Good Faith and Truthful Ignorance: A Case of Transatlantic Bigamy (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Ramírez, Susan E. The World Upside Down: Cross-Cultural Contact and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Peru. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.

                                     Noble David Cook