Diego de Almagro

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Diego de Almagro

The Spanish conqueror and explorer Diego de Almagro (ca. 1474-1538) had an important share in the Inca conquest and was the first European to visit Chile by land.

Diego de Almagro was a foundling, born probably in the town of Almagro, near Ciudad Real. His first 40 years are obscure, though he appears to have had a military career. He reached America in 1514 with the fleet that brought the Spanish conqueror Pedrarias (Pedro Arias de Avila) to govern the Isthmus of Darien.

In 1524 Almagro formed a partnership with Francisco Pizarro and the priest Hernando de Luque, Vicar of Panama, to investigate reports of Inca wealth to the south. The two lay partners had no financial means, but Luque was able to borrow the money. Pedrarias was uninterested in the enterprise and made no objection, and Pizarro sailed late in 1524. Almagro was delayed several months but then followed the present Colombian coast to a point near modern Buenaventura. Unable to locate Pizarro, he returned to the Isthmus to find him already there.

Gaspar de Espinosa then advanced 20,000 pesos de oro, which enabled the partners to sail again, each in his own ship. Again they divided company: Pizarro after many adventures reached the Inca city of Tumbes, while Almagro returned to Panama ahead of him. Pizarro then went to Spain to secure a royal commission for the Peruvian conquest. Almagro trusted him, as Luque obviously did not, to deal fairly with his associates and was angry upon learning that Pizarro had obtained the major concession for himself. Pizarro somewhat appeased him with explanations, but the two were never friendly thereafter, though Almagro continued to cooperate.

Pizarro invaded Peru first, and Almagro joined him at Cajamarca early in 1533 shortly before the Spaniards executed Sapa Inca Atahualpa. Almagro helped preside over the tribunal that condemned Atahualpa to death.

The four Pizarro brothers now had a firm grip on Peru, so Almagro for a time accepted Francisco's orders. He occupied Riobamba in present-day Ecuador and then met Pedro de Alvarado, who had come from Guatemala to share the Peruvian wealth. Almagro prepared the way for a bargain whereby Pizarro paid Alvarado 100,000 pesos de oro to leave Peru.

Almagro next went to Tchili (Chile), where he hoped to win a rich realm for himself. Suffering great hardships, the party reached Coquimbo and there received an unfavorable report of the country ahead. Almagro turned back to Peru, where the Pizarros meanwhile had nearly crushed the rebellion of Inca Manco. Almagro scattered the remnants of Manco's army and then seized Cuzco, inviting war with the Pizarros. He defeated one Pizarrist army at the Abancay River but was then defeated and captured by Hernando Pizarro at the battle of Las Salinas near Cuzco. Had Francisco Pizarro been present, he might have spared his old partner's life. Hernando, however, had always hated Almagro and had him beheaded in July 1538 after a mock trial in which the major charge was rebellion against the Crown.

Almagro sired a mestizo son in Panama, known to the Spaniards as Almagro the Lad. The Lad headed the conspirators who murdered Francisco Pizarro in Lima on June 26, 1541. Young Almagro was executed by the Pizarrists the following year.

Further Reading

The classic narrative is William Hickling Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru (2 vols., 1847; many later editions). Philip A. Means, Fall of the Inca Empire and Spanish Rule in Peru: 1530-1780 (1932), covers Almagro's career in less detail. Frederick A. Kirkpatrick, The Spanish Conquistadores (1934; 2d ed. 1946), also deals with Almagro. Hoffman Birney, Brothers of Doom: The Story of the Pizarros of Peru (1942), gives the highlights of Almagro's career. Pedro Cieza de Léon's 16th-century work, Civil Wars in Peru: The War of Las Salinas (trans. 1923), describes Almagro's fight against the Pizarros and his death. □

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Diego de Almagro

1474?-1538

Spanish explorer who, in a partnership formed with Spanish explorer Francisco Pizzaro (1470?-1541) in 1522, explored the Inca territories of Mexico for wealth. Almagro made exploratory trips into Columbia and was the first European to enter Chile by land. The rivalry of the conquistadors turned ugly for Almagro when Francisco Pizzaro's brother, Hernando (1475?-1578), had Almagro beheaded in July of 1538 after the latter was charged with rebellion against Spain.