Hernando de Santillan, oidor of Los Reyes and later president of Quito, played an important role in the history of Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador between 1550 and 1568. Consequently he deserves a special study, for which there is a great abundance of documentation due in great part to the numerous and bitter enemies which he was able to create in a short time. His residencia as president of the Audiencia of Quito by itself fills seven legajos in the Archivo General de Indias.
The Spanish government appointed Santillan in 1563 as first president of the newly created Audiencia of Quito, without awaiting the results of his residencia as oidor of Los Reyes. As a result of this residencia he was prohibited from holding office or even residing in the Indies for eight years, but unfortunately the sentence was pronounced too late to save the settlers of Quito from four years of petty tyranny.
Santillán threw into chains two of the oidores and then had them deported to Spain in order to remain as absolute ruler. He also violated the royal dispositions which gave the Audiencia of Quito only legal functions, leaving those of government to President Lope García de Castro of Los Reyes. In order to discredit one of his enemies he held public hearings on the romantic adventures of one of the man’s married daughters, although later he had the effrontery of claiming that he had protected the honor of married women. He posted agents at strategic points to search travelers and intercept letters or even persons. Eventually complaints leaked out, chiefly from the port city of Guayaquil, and the expelled oidores, Salazar de Villasante and Dr. Ribas, together with President Castro, were instrumental in producing Santillán’s downfall.
Very little of this appears in Father Vargas’ book, which even gives Dr. Ribas’ death as occurring while he was being deported, when in fact he died after he had been fully rehabilitated by the Crown. There are some other minor errors, but the chief objection to this book is its thin documentation. Apparently, it was produced hastily so that its publication would coincide with the four hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the Audiencia of Quito. The book contains much useful information, however, and constitutes one more valuable chapter in Father Vargas’ steadily growing work on the colonial history of Ecuador.