Vasco Nuņez de Balboa
Discoverer of the Pacific Ocean,
Balboa began his adventurous life as a member of Bastida's crew. He first settled in
Hispaņola (present day Dominican Republic and Haiti). To escape his creditors there,
Balboa stowed away on a voyage to Panama in 1510. There were, at that time, about 800
Spaniards living on the isthmus, whose numbers were soon down to 60; due to the perils of
Antigua del Darien, the first city to be duly constituted by the Spanish crown, deposed the crown's representative and elected Balboa and Martin Zamudio as co-mayors.
Hearing rumors from the Indians, whom Balboa had befriended, about a great sea a few days travel away . . . Balboa became impassioned with the desire to find this great sea.
On Sept. 1, 1513 Balboa set out on his quest to discover this great sea, taking with him 190 Spaniards (one of whom was Francisco Pizarro, who was to later conquer the Inca Empire in Peru), a pack of dogs and 1,000 Indian slaves. It took 25 days of hacking their way through the dense jungles of Panama before they gazed upon the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Clad in full armor, Balboa waded into the water and claimed the sea and all the shores on which it washed for his God and his king.
In January 1514, Balboa returned to Antigua to find his enemies had denounced him in the Spanish court, and King Ferdinand had appointed a new governor for the Colony. The new governor was Pedro Arias de Avila, who became known throughout Panama as "Pedrarias the Cruel."
In 1517, Pedrarias charged Balboa with treason. Balboa was arrested and executed in "Acla" (an old Spanish settlement on the north coast of Panama, almost to the Colombian border).
Balboa's tombstone is located in Havana, Cuba. These three photographs of Balboa's tombstone, were taken in June 1998, by Frank Stabler, BHS '59 . . . while he was on temporary assignment in Havana for the INS.
More on Vasco Nuņez de Balboa
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Photos Courtesy of Frank Stabler
Photos by Lesley Hendricks
These photographs are the exclusive property of CZBrats. No reproduction of these photographs in any medium is allowed except with the written permission of CZBrats.
April 29, 2006