Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro (c. 1530–1608)

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Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro (c. 1530–1608)

Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (b. ca. 1530; d. 1608), Spanish admiral and chronicler of South America. Born in Pontevedra, in northwestern Spain, Sarmiento served in the navy of Philip II, reaching the rank of admiral. Combining his maritime profession with the writing of history, he researched the history of the Incas before the Conquest, pursuing his work on Historia índica (History of the Incas, 1572) while Viceroy Francisco de Toledo ruled Peru. He voyaged to the Strait of Magellan, becoming the first to enter from the west, and attempted to found a colony there. Lacking the enthusiastic backing of the king, the colony failed and its inhabitants perished while Sarmiento was imprisoned in Europe. He described his experience in Derrotero al Estrecho de Magallanes (Voyage to the Straits of Magellan, 1580).

Among the chroniclers of sixteenth-century Peru, Sarmiento stands out for these two works. The Historia is an example of the efforts of Viceroy Toledo and those around him to establish a histor-iographic record that would confirm the justification for Spanish dominance of the Andean peoples. Arguing against the claims of native Andeans to self-government, chroniclers such as Sarmiento promoted a providentialist view of Spain's role as Christianizer of the New World.

See alsoPhilip II of Spain; Providencia.


Clements R. Markham translated the Narratives of the Voyages of Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to the Straits of Magellan into English (1895). A biography in Spanish is that by Ernesto Morales, Sarmiento de Gamboa, un navegante español del siglo XVI (1932).

Additional Bibliography

Benites, María Jesús. Con la lanza y con la pluma: La escritura de Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. San Miguel de Tucumán: Instituto Interdisciplinario de Estudios Latinoamericanos, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, 2005.

Carrillo, Francisco. Cronistas del Perú antiguo. Lima: Editorial Horizonte, 1989.

                                            Kathleen Ross