Hernando De Soto
De Soto, Hernando
De Soto, Hernando 1941-
The Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, best known for his work on the informal economy and its negative effect on poverty amelioration, was born in 1941 in Arequipa. After his father left Peru in 1948 following a military coup, de Soto was educated in Switzerland and did not return to Peru until 1979. He founded the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) in Lima the next year and serves as it president.
De Soto has written two major books expounding his ideas: The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism (1986) and The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2000). For both, the subtitles are as significant as the titles. Terrorism is a topic with which de Soto is familiar. He and the ILD have been attacked (physically, not just intellectually) by the Shining Path, a leftist revolutionary Peruvian movement.
De Soto discusses five mysteries of capital in The Mystery of Capital. The three most significant are missing capital, the lessons of U.S. history, and legal failure. The basic argument is that the problems of the poor—whether in Peru, Egypt, Haiti, the Philippines, or elsewhere—are not due to lack of possessions or assets but to lack of legally recognized property rights. His researchers have documented the problems that the poor face in major cities, where it takes too long for them to get a license for a legitimate business and their capital is dead capital, preventing them from benefiting from standardization, legal transferability of property, and the use of property as collateral. De Soto claims that over half the grievances of the poor in Peru concern difficulties of getting legal title to real estate: houses, offices, factories, and agricultural land. He claims that the changes in the developing world since the 1960s rival those of the Industrial Revolution since they have involved a massive migration of four billion people leaving their traditional way of life.
De Soto and the ILD have been involved in designing and implementing programs to empower the poor in many areas of the world: Africa, Asia, Hispanic America, the Middle East, and the former USSR. The Other Path (a title chosen as a deliberate antithesis to the Shining Path) argues that the real enemy of the poor is not capitalism or “feudalism” but mercantilism: the predominant system in Europe in the early modern pre–Adam Smith (1723–1790) era and a continuing socioeconomic system in postcolonial Hispanic America. It was in The Other Path that de Soto first developed the ideas behind the informal economy: “informal” because it is not formally recognized by the law but functions outside it. It includes informal housing, informal trade, and informal transport.
De Soto points out the hidden costs of informality and the significance of the law as a determinant of development, and he critiques the redistributive tradition, which he associates with the early mercantilist system. He contrasts the relatively peaceful resolution of socioeconomic problems in England (and the United States) with the much more violent revolutions in France, Spain, and Russia. The unlearned lesson of U.S. history was its implementation of widespread property rights in the late nineteenth century.
Numerous criticisms have been made of de Soto’s theories and of attempts to implement them to empower the poor. He has been accused of favoring a “single bullet” approach, and the statistical basis of his data has been questioned. Some critics argue that it is difficult to establish who owns what in an informal economy and that some ILD reforms (such as those in Bogotá) have not improved conditions for the poor. Critics also argue that de Soto ignores the importance of culture and that, while he may be correct in his vision of property rights, the sequencing of reforms is just as important as the need to pay attention to local social context.
In response de Soto (as well as a prominent colleague of his, Madeleine Albright, former U.S. secretary of state) have countered that arguments for the importance of legally recognized property rights do not imply “a silver bullet” but a “missing link.” De Soto argues that heads of state want his help in quantifying the informal sector and that ILD is the only organization doing such detailed research. Perhaps the best summary of de Soto’s views would be that he has the correct diagnosis but an as yet imperfect prognosis; nevertheless, he has started the important process of documenting the (legally) unrecognized assets of the poor.
De Soto, Hernando.  2002. The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism. Trans. June Abbott. New York: Basic Books.
De Soto, Hernando. 2000. The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. New York: Basic Books.
De Soto, Hernando. 2003. The Economist versus the Terrorist. Economist, Feb. 1: 62.
De Soto, Hernando. 2003. Listening to the Barking Dogs: Property Law against Poverty in the Non-West. Focaal: European Journal of Anthropology 41: 179–185.
Albright, Madeleine. 2007. The World in 2007: It’s Time for Empowerment. Economist, 21st special yearly edition: 65.
Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD). http://www.ild.org.pe/home.htm.
The Mystery of Capital Deepens. 2006. Economist, August 24: 58.
Rossini, R. G., and J. J. Thomas. 1990. The Size of the Informal Sector in Peru: A Critical Comment on Hernando de Soto’s El Otro Sendero. World Development 18 (1): 125–135.
Samuelson, Robert. 2001. The Spirit of Capitalism. Foreign Affairs 80 (1): 205–211.
Woodruff, Christopher. 2001. Review of de Soto’s The Mystery of Capitalism. Journal of Economic Literature 39 (4): 1215–1223.
Soto, Hernando de (1500?-1542)
Hernando de Soto (1500?-1542)
Ruthless Ambition. Perhaps no one better exemplified the savage nature of the sixteenth-century Europeans who invaded North America than Hernando de Soto. A captain in the Spanish army at the age of twenty, de Soto had served as Francisco Pizarro’s chief military advisor during Spain’s ruthless conquest of Peru in the early 1530s. While de Soto had become a wealthy man as a result of that venture, he remained restless and desired to increase his fortune. Evidence of gold in the southeastern part of North America consequently spurred him to organize an expedition in hopes of finding another New World empire to plunder.
Followers. De Soto organized his expedition in the port city of Havana on the island of Cuba. His force consisted of 330 infantrymen equipped with swords, harquebuses, and crossbows, and 270 cavalrymen armed with swords and lances. Primarily veterans of earlier New World expeditions, his men opted for the lighter and more effective Aztec armor over the heavy and ineffective European variety. His force also included about 100 slaves, servants, camp followers, and pig herders. Finally, the expedition took with it mules to carry baggage, a herd of hogs—the ancestors of today’s southern razor-backs—to provide a source of food, and a pack of brutal Irish hounds to hunt and kill Indians in the swamps of the Deep South.
Methods. By using the approach pioneered by Hernando Cortés and Pizarro, de Soto hoped to avoid the fate that had befallen the Panfilo de Narváez expedition a decade earlier. Like his predecessors, de Soto planned to use advanced weapons, armored cavalry, and better tactics to dominate the numerically superior Indians. More important, he aimed to gain information, secure concubines for his men, ensure against attack, and extort the food on which his expedition depended by taking a tribe’s leader hostage upon entering its territory. When Indians did attack, moreover, he planned to retaliate savagely by slaughtering any he could find and by burning their settlements.
Early Campaign. Conflict with the Indians began as soon as de Soto’s men landed at Tampa Bay in May 1539. Timucuan hit-and-run attacks increased in frequency because de Soto’s men ruthlessly torched settlements and mercilessly killed peaceful Indians who approached them. When the Spanish passed into Apalachee territory they stumbled into a large, skillfully laid ambush at a difficult swamp crossing. The Apalachee thereafter constantly harassed de Soto’s men—who wintered in their territory—by attacking suddenly and by ambushing small, isolated detachments. De Soto retaliated by killing any Apalachees that his men caught.
Ocute and Cofitachequi. While de Soto’s relations with Native Americans were almost universally hostile, he did not war with every tribe he encountered. The Ocute of southern Georgia, in fact, allied with his expedition for an attack on their rivals, the Cofitachequi. The alliance with the Ocute was short-lived, however, and reflected the difference between European and Indian military objectives. The Ocute took vengeance on their traditional foe by killing and taking scalps in the first few Cofitachequi villages they entered. They then returned to their homeland satisfied that they had evened the score with their rivals. The Spanish, in contrast, sought wealth to plunder and food to fuel their expedition; de Soto’s men consequently looted pearls and other valuables from the Cofitachequis’ temples and forced the Indians to supply them with corn.
Battle of Mabila. De Soto’s only major pitched battle occurred later in 1540 in the large trading center of Mabila, located in present-day Alabama. As was their custom, the Spanish seized the Mabilan chief, Tazcaluza, upon meeting him on the outskirts of his chiefdom. Tazcaluza was ingratiating and compliant; he gladly escorted de Soto’s men to Mabila, where, he promised, they would find great stores of food and many women. Unbeknownst to de Soto, though, the Mabilan chief had laid an elaborate trap designed to destroy the unsuspecting Spaniards. Shortly after de Soto’s men entered the town, Tazcaluza sprang the trap by escaping from his Spanish guards. Suddenly, Indian warriors leapt from hiding, rained arrows on the invaders, and forced them out of the town with heavy casualties. Believing that they had routed de Soto, the Indians pursued the fleeing Spanish into the open fields outside Mabila’s fifteen-foot palisades. The Spanish, however, were preparing a trap of their own. After luring the Native Americans away from the protection of Mabila’s walls by feigning a disorderly retreat, de Soto’s elite, armored cavalry suddenly spun about and launched a devastating counterattack that crushed the Indians’ charge. Soon thereafter, the Spanish infantry reentered the town and set it to the torch while de Soto’s powerful cavalry prevented any Indians from escaping the conflagration.
Consequences. Native American losses at Mabila were staggering. Between twenty-five hundred and five thousand had died in the battle, most burning to death in the inferno that consumed the town. The Spanish likewise suffered heavily even though they wore Aztec armor and enjoyed the overwhelming advantage of cavalry: hundreds had been injured; more than forty had died; and they had lost some three dozen horses. More important, the battle had eroded seriously the expedition’s morale and had led de Soto and his lieutenants to doubt whether they could conquer and control the Indians of North America as they had the Aztec and Incan empires.
Death. Increasingly desperate because he had discovered no gold and because his men were becoming mutinous, de Soto moved northward into Chicaza territory in hopes of finding treasure. That proved to be a poor decision, however, because the Chicaza had developed a new tactic for dealing with the Spanish invaders: night attacks. In one especially effective night assault on de Soto’s winter camp, the Chicaza greatly weakened the expedition by killing a dozen Spaniards and slaughtering more than fifty horses. Continued night raids eventually drove the Spanish force westward across the Mississippi, where they destroyed many Indian villages and seized large quantities of corn. Then, while moving south along the Mississippi in the spring of 1542, de Soto suddenly took ill. He died in May and was replaced as commander by one of his lieutenants, Luis de Moscoso y Alvarado.
The End. Having heard rumors of Coronado’s expedition in the southwestern part of North America, Moscoso decided to move west through the plains of Texas in hopes of joining his countrymen. His men soon ran low on provisions and began to suffer grievous losses from the Tonkawa Indians’ skillfully laid ambushes. Desperate for food and weary from the Native Americans’ constant harassing attacks, the Spanish returned to the Mississippi, where they spent the winter of 1542–1543. Deciding to abandon the expedition that spring, Moscoso’s men constructed seven barges on which they planned to escape to Mexico. Their conflict with the Indians had not yet ended, however. A coalition of Mississippi valley tribes temporarily put aside their differences and joined together to pursue the Spanish down the river in a flotilla of canoes. Later, javelin-throwing Indians warred with the Spanish as they passed westward along the Gulf Coast. In the end, only about three hundred survivors—half the number that landed with de Soto at Tampa Bay—returned to Spanish Mexico.
Impact. De Soto’s expedition had profound ramifications for all the parties involved. It demonstrated that North America lacked easily plundered treasure and that the Indians were still too powerful to conquer. Consequently Spanish authorities lost interest in La Florida for several decades. As for the Native Americans, they were able to drive the Spanish out of North America despite the invaders’ superior weapons, better tactics, and irresistible armored cavalry. On the other hand, they had suffered thousands of deaths in battle and had lost tens of thousands more as a result of the diseases that the Spaniards had brought with them. De Soto’s invasion thus weakened the southeastern Indians greatly and left them increasingly unable to withstand the European incursions that grew steadily during the seventeenth century.
Miguel Albornoz, Hernando de Soto: Knight of the Americas (New York: Watts, 1986);
de Soto, Hernando
Hernando de Soto
The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto participated in the conquests of Nicaragua (in Middle America) and Peru (in South America). De Soto explored parts of nine states in the southeastern part of the United States, and he was the first white man to cross the Mississippi River.
Born to explore
Hernando de Soto was born sometime between 1496 and 1501 at Jerez de los Caballeros in the province of Estremadura, Spain. He was born into a family with minor nobility and little money as the second son of Francisco Mendez de Soto and Leonor Arias Tinoco. His education was limited; he was more interested in adventure and exploration. With little more than a sword and shield he sailed to Central America in 1514 with Pedro Arias de Ávila (c. 1440–1531), known as Pedrarias, who was about to become the governor of Panama.
As Pedrarias's lieutenant, de Soto was allowed to explore Central America in search of treasure and land. Among the areas he explored in the 1520s were modern Costa Rica and Honduras. De Soto conquered Nicaragua in 1524, and along with Hernan Ponce de Leon and Francisco Companon, he became a leading citizen of that country. De Soto was ambitious and wanted the chance to rule a country, but Pedrarias blocked his attempts to achieve more power in Nicaragua.
Fame and reward
Sailing from Nicaragua in 1531, de Soto joined Francisco Pizarro (1471–1541) in the conquest of Peru, becoming an important figure in the fight. He was the first Spaniard to meet the Inca leader Atahualpa (c. 1500–1533), who had led the victory of a recent civil war in Peru. Atahualpa had great wealth, and he gave many gifts to de Soto. Pizarro later had Atahualpa killed while de Soto was on a scouting mission. Although de Soto emerged from the conquest with a reputation as a skilled horseman and "one of the four bravest captains who had gone to the West Indies," he was upset that Pizarro had killed Atahualpa. He also felt he would never be given the opportunity to provide leadership to a country.
With fame and a fortune of 100 thousand pesos in gold, de Soto returned to Spain in 1536, where he married Isabella de Bobadilla, one of Pedrarias's daughters. De Soto was very interested in starting up a new expedition. He got his chance when Emperor Charles V of Spain (1500–1558) rewarded him for his efforts in Peru with a title as governor of Cuba and the authority to explore, conquer, and set up colonies (at his own expense) in the entire region that is now the southern part of the United States. De Soto returned to Cuba in 1538, where he assumed the governorship and prepared for his expedition to Florida.
An explorer until the end
Hoping to find another Peru, de Soto and 620 men landed south of modern Tampa Bay, Florida, on May 30, 1539. His party encountered a man named Juan Ortiz, a survivor of an earlier failed expedition to Florida, who had lived among the Indians for twelve years. With Ortiz acting as interpreter, de Soto began his search for treasure and an advanced Indian civilization. Marching up the west coast of Florida, he spent the winter near the present site of Tallahassee. In 1540 de Soto resumed the march through Georgia. At the Savannah River he met an Indian woman who offered him a long string of pearls and told him more could be found in nearby burial grounds. After collecting 350 pounds of pearls, the party continued northward into present-day South and North Carolina, across the Smoky Mountains into Tennessee, and southward into Georgia and Alabama. Their fiercest battle with Indians, which resulted in the loss of many men as well as the pearls, occurred in southeastern Alabama.
De Soto and his followers, anxious to find riches, set out once again to the north-west into northern Mississippi. In May 1541 de Soto sighted the Mississippi River south of current-day Memphis, Tennessee. After crossing the Mississippi he explored Arkansas, and established his winter quarters near the present site of Fort Smith. Having made up his mind to return to the sea, he reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, where he died of fever on May 21, 1542. De Soto's men wrapped his body in cloaks packed with sand and cast it into the river. The 311 survivors of the expedition, under Luis de Moscoso, floated down the Mississippi and coasted along the Gulf shore until they reached Tampico, Mexico, in September 1543.
For More Information
Clayton, Lawrence A., Vernon James Knight Jr., and Edward C. Moore, eds. The De Soto Chronicles. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.
Duncan, David Ewing. Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas. New York: Crown Publishers, 1995.
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto
Spanish Conquistador, Explorer, and Mariner
Hernando, known also as Fernando, de Soto was born in Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain. He spent nearly all of his youth at his family manor house, but at 17 he told his father of his desire to go to Seville and attempt to secure employment in a merchant fleet that traded in the West Indies. Though his father desired for him to study the law, de Soto was eventually permitted to pursue his interests in Seville. The young de Soto did quickly garner a position on a ship in 1514, but as a member of Pedro Arias Dávila's exploratory expedition to the West Indies and not specifically as a merchant. A skilled horseman and trader, de Soto quickly became known for accomplishing daring feats to gain high profits from his ventures.
De Soto's renown helped him create several successful partnerships with fellow explorers, such as Francisco Campañón and Juan Ponce de León. The influence of these men, however, led de Soto to abandon his mercantile interests in favor of conquistador pursuits. Adopting a military-like approach, de Soto commanded his fleet to vie for control of Nicaragua against fellow Spaniard Gil González de Ávila. He defeated his rival in Central America in 1527, and then plundered his new territory for precious metals and slaves. De Soto captured the bulk of his capital through slave trading—mostly by capturing natives.
After the death of his patron, de Soto allied himself with explorer Francisco Pizarro. After confirmed reports of a civilization in South America that possessed great wealth in gold, the two men planned an expedition to Peru in 1532. De Soto lent the fellow explorer two ships in return for being named Pizarro's Chief Lieutenant and the expedition's "Captain of Horse." The expedition led to the conquer of the Incan Empire. De Soto and the men under his command were instrumental in defeating the Inca at Cajamarca—a devastating battle for the Inca. Shortly thereafter, he became the first European to make contact with Atahuallpa, the Incan emperor. De Soto formed an amicable political alliance with the Incan ruler after the Spanish defeated the Incan capital at Cuzco. Pizarro undermined this alliance and held Atahuallpa for enormous ransom. Though the sum demanded was met and offered to Pizarro, he grew suspicious of the Incan ruler's power and murdered him. Dissatisfied with Pizarro's actions, de Soto left South America to return to Spain in 1536, taking with him enough plunder to make him one of the wealthiest men in Europe.
Though his feats in Peru gained him power and accolades from the Spanish court, de Soto was soon anxious to return to the New World. He petitioned the crown in 1537 to grant him permission to lead an expedition to conquer Equador but was refused. Instead he was made governor of Cuba and charged with the conquest of Spanish territory in North America. The following year, de Soto took 10 ships and 700 men to Cuba. In 1539, his Spanish forces landed in Florida, near present-day Tampa. What ensued was one of the most far reaching and devastating episodes in the history of European contact with the populations of the New World.
De Soto pushed his way through not only Florida, but Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He abducted native guides to lead his expedition through the southeast, in search of gold. However, the native peoples of the southeast did not possess the gold wealth of the highly advanced Incan civilizations de Soto had encountered in Peru. Disappointed, in 1540 de Soto attempted to head to Mobile Bay in Alabama to rendezvous with his ships. He was met with resistance from the natives at Mauvilia (Mobile). The local Native Americans were decimated, but the Spanish forces were weakened severely. Losing most of his men, supplies, and plunder, de Soto decided to extend his expedition and recoup his losses instead of returning to Spain.
De Soto again pushed northward, though this time the decision would prove fatal. His expedition was plagued by Indian attacks as they made their way through Alabama and Mississippi. On May 21, 1541, de Soto became the first European to sight the Mississippi River. However, he encountered the river south of Memphis, Tennessee, and instead of following the river and charting its path to the Gulf of Mexico, de Soto crossed the river into Arkansas in search of more wealth. The expedition was fruitless. De Soto decided to turn back and follow the Mississippi River southward. De Soto fell ill—most likely with Yellow Fever. He died in Louisiana, exactly one year after first sighting the Mississippi River, and was given a mariner's burial in that river.
ADRIENNE WILMOTH LERNER
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto
The Spanish conqueror and explorer Hernando de Soto (1500-1542) participated in the conquest of Peru, explored the southeastern part of the United States, and was the first white man to cross the Mississippi River.
Hernando de Soto was born at Jerez de los Caballeros in the province of Estremadura. Although of noble lineage, he was without wealth. "With only a sword and shield" he accompanied Pedrarias when the latter assumed his post as governor of Darien (Caribbean side of the Isthmus of Panama and Colombia). As Pedrarias's lieutenant, De Soto explored the area encompassing modern Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras in the 1520s.
Sailing from Nicaragua in 1531, De Soto joined Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, emerging from the conquest with a reputation as a skilled horseman and "one of the four bravest captains who had gone to the West Indies." With a fortune of 100,000 pesos in gold, De Soto returned to Spain in 1536, where Emperor Charles V rewarded his exploits by appointing him governor of Cuba and adelantado of Florida. As adelantado, he was commissioned to conquer and colonize, at his own expense, the entire region which is now the southern part of the United States.
De Soto returned to Cuba in 1538, where he assumed the governorship and prepared for his expedition to Florida. Hoping to find another Peru, De Soto and 620 men landed south of Tampa Bay on May 30, 1539. A reconnaissance party returned with Juan Ortiz, a survivor of the earlier illfated Narváez expedition, who had lived among the Indians for 12 years. With Ortiz acting as interpreter, De Soto began a 3-year journey in search of treasure and an advanced Indian population. Marching up the west coast of Florida, he wintered near the present site of Tallahassee. In the spring of 1540 De Soto resumed the march through Georgia. At the Savannah River he met an Indian chieftainess who offered him a long string of pearls and told him more could be found in nearby burial grounds. After collecting 350 pounds of pearls, the expedition continued northward into what is present-day South and North Carolina, across the Smoky Mountains into Tennessee, and southward into Georgia and Alabama. Their severest battle with Indians, which resulted in heavy casualties and loss of the pearls, occurred in southeastern Alabama at a large town called Mavilla.
De Soto set out once again to the northwest into northern Mississippi. In May 1541 he sighted the Mississippi River south of Memphis. After crossing the Mississippi he explored Arkansas and established his winter quarters near the present site of Fort Smith. Now resolved to return to the sea, he reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, where he died of fever on May 21, 1542.
De Soto's men wrapped his body in mantles packed with sand and cast it into the river. The 311 survivors, under Luis de Moscoso, built seven brigantines, floated down the Mississippi, and coasted along the Gulf shore until they reached Tampico, Mexico, on Sept. 10, 1543.
The most recent sources on De Soto are Garcilaso de la Vega, The Florida of the Inca, edited by John G. and Jeannette J. Varner (trans. 1951), and James A. Robertson, ed., True Relation of the Hardships Suffered by Governor Fernando de Soto and Certain Portuguese Gentlemen during the Discovery of the Province of Florida (trans., 2 vols., 1932-1933). Accounts of De Soto's career can be found in Woodbury Lowery, The Spanish Settlements within the Present Limits of the United States, 1513-1561 (1901); Edward G. Bourne, Spain in America, 1450-1580 (1904); and Herbert E. Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest (1921). □
de Soto, Hernando (1496–1542)
de Soto, Hernando (1496–1542)
A Spanish explorer who led the first European expedition into the southeastern United States. De Soto was born into a poor family in the Estremadura region of western Spain. He joined the expedition of Pedro Arias de Avila to Panama in 1514, and successfully fought for de Avila against his rival Gil David Gonzales. De Soto accompanied Francisco Pizarro to Peru in 1528 but had a falling out with Pizarro after the Spanish defeated the Incas under their emperor Atahualpa. The Peru expedition had greatly enriched him, however, and de Soto returned to Spain in 1536 a hero for his part in the conquest of the Incas.
De Soto married and settled down in Spain. But when King Charles V honored him with the title of adelantado (colonial governor) of Florida, a place the Spanish still had not fully explored, his ambitions in the New World returned. He set out in 1539 with six hundred men and nine ships, landing at a bay he called Espiritu Santu (Holy Spirit), on the western coast of Florida. De Soto's mission was to establish a permanent settlement, make a claim for Florida in the name of the king of Spain, and to find legendary cities of gold. The expedition, however, spent three fruitless years in Florida, suffering hunger, disease, and the attacks of hostile Native American tribes. With his men dying at an alarming rate, de Soto attempted to return overland to New Spain (Mexico), and led the expedition across the southeastern United States, passing through Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Running out of provisions in the dry plains of Texas, the expedition returned to the Mississippi River valley, where de Soto died of a fever in 1542. His body was wrapped in a blanket, weighted with stones, and sunk in the river by his men in order to avoid a clash with Native Americans, to whom he had claimed to be an immortal god.
See Also: Cortes, Hernán; exploration; Pizarro, Francisco