Any study dealing with the conquistadores inevitably brings with it great emotional impact. It represents a veritable Pandora’s box for the historian who attempts to put forth themes that praise the individual exploits of the men, the glories of Spain, or, once again, the leyenda negra that stigmatizes all Hispanic colonization. This study chose to look at the conquistadores of Mexico City because they were the first group to come in contact with people in the New World who had reached a high degree of civilization, and because the conquest of Mexico City prefigures all others.

To understand the conquistadores, one must go beyond their leader, Hernán Cortés, and other well-known figures, such as Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Pedro de Alvarado, Gonzalo de Sandoval, and Cristóbal de Olid. These men are not truly representative of the great majority of the conquistadores. The research undertaken for this study gathered all the data available for each conquistador.1 In order to obtain the most realistic and most objective results possible, the research intentionally omitted studies that deal with the main aspects of this period, such as the spiritual conquest, the formation of large estates, the theoretical foundations of the conquest, and so on. Most of these concepts do not deal directly with the conquistadores, and the picture painted of them often corresponds more to their historical image than to reality.

In the course of the research, it became apparent that a dictionary of conquistadores of Mexico City was necessary; no study existed that included all the individuals. At the beginning of this century, Francisco A. de Icaza published a Diccionario that was nothing more than a list of conquistadores and colonists from Mexico, drawn up from archives dated around 1547 and known to be incomplete.2 M. Orozco y Berra also drew up a list of the conquistadores from Mexico City, the Yucatán, Chiapas, and Guatemala. This list was based on sources known at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, many of which were secondhand and, as such, replete with errors. A first attempt at a true dictionary of the conquistadores of Mexico City, New Spain, and New Galicia was undertaken by Victor M. Alvarez and included 1,147 conquistadores, but the work fell victim to its sources: numerous omissions, confusion of homonyms, obvious errors due to bad transcriptions, no use of the archives in Seville, and so on. It could not be seriously considered as a basis for our study. Ida Altman recently studied the original immigration from Extremadura, but in the context of all of sixteenth-century America.3

The establishment of the corpus for this study stems from utilization of sources cross-checked and confirmed, taken essentially from the archives of Seville and Mexico City.4 Also consulted were the protocols of the notarial archives from Mexico City and Puebla, the great, classic collections written between the middle of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Moreover, all the chronicles of the conquistadores and those of the historiographers from the sixteenth century were used; and to them were added contributions from recent works by Peter Gerhard, Peter Boyd-Bowman, and others, wherever they were deemed irrefutable. In contrast to all previous works, however, this study was based especially on the informaciones (or relaciones) de méritos y servicios (service reports) that the conquistadores, their descendants, or their assignees drew up to assert their rights or to request compensation for services rendered to the crown. These documents, created between 1524 and 1627, are very difficult to decipher.5 That explains why most historians have relied on certain transcriptions of lists done here and there and often replete with errors.6

This study examined several thousand folios that make up the 353 informaciones. The documentation resulted in the ability to list, and to define in a strict framework, 1,212 known individuals out of a total of approximately 2,100; that is, about 58 percent of the conquistadores of Mexico City. Naturally, the amount of information on each conquistador varied. For some it consisted of a simple signature; for others, one or two references in a chronicle; for still others, quite a lot of information, depending mostly on the compilation of one or more informaciones or the testimony gathered during the person’s lifetime.

Of the 2,100 conquistadores of Mexico City, more than half were killed leaving no will or other records. Practically no trace of them remains, since the official papers preserved by Cortés disappeared, in particular during the Noche Triste. Still extant, however, is the “Carta del ejército de Cortés,” a very important document that reveals the names of more than five hundred conquistadores.7 The first lists of conquistadores appeared in the 1530s, but it was not until 1546-47 that the colonial authorities recorded one with specific information on each conquistador.8 As for the missing half, they will quite likely remain unknown. For most of the 1,212 known individuals, however, enough information exists to draw some conclusions about them, and especially about their origins.

Composition of the Expeditions

The first expedition was formed at the beginning of 1517. Commanded by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, it was composed of three ships and 110 men from Tierra Firme, Santo Domingo, and Cuba. Most of them had no money, and joined forces to explore and raid the West Indies.9 A fleet of three caravels and one brigantine comprised the second expedition. Hearing favorable rumors from the 1517 expedition and also the publicity put out by the main partners, many people volunteered; a total of 240 men were assembled for the trip.10 Among them were survivors of Hernández de Córdobas venture, such as Díaz del Castillo. Most were poor, and wished to discover rich lands that would be ideal for colonization. The commander of the fleet was a hidalgo, Juan de Grijalva, a relative of the governor of Cuba.

For the third expedition, Cortés managed to assemble 10 ships, 4 of which had been used for Grijalva’s trip.11 Subsequently an 11th was added: that of Juan Núñez de Sedeño, a salesman from Havana, who had intended to ship with his vessel 1,000 arrobas of cassava bread, 1,500 arrobas of bacon, and a large quantity of chickens to miners near Santiago, Cuba. With orders from Cortés, however, Diego de Ordaz persuaded Núñez de Sedeño to change his course by buying his entire cargo. Núñez de Sedeño joined the expedition near Cape San Anton.12

On February 10, 1519, nine caravels left Havana bound for Mexico.13 Alvarado’s ship, commanded by Diego Camacho, had to head along the north coast and wait for the others. Núñez de Sedeño’s caravel had to join the expedition as quickly as possible.14 After three days, Cortés reviewed his troops. He counted 508 soldiers, including 32 crossbowmen and 13 escopeteros (musketeers, gunmen), and 109 seamen on 11 ships.15 They had 16 horses and about 10 bronze guns, 4 of which were small and lightweight. Personnel also included 200 Indians from Cuba (used mainly as messengers), along with some Indian women.16 Some blacks were also present.17

On July 4, 1519, Francisco Salcedo’s ship joined the Spanish fleet. Besides the ship’s owner, whom Cortés had coerced in Cuba, the ship transported 11 soldiers and 1 or 2 horses. Most important of all, Salcedo announced that Diego Velázquez, the governor of Cuba, had received permission from Spain to found a colony and begin to trade in the recently discovered land.18 Velázquez took advantage of this authorization to mount a new expedition, which he entrusted to Pánfilo de Narváez, one of his lieutenants, with the order to arrest Cortés and send him back to Cuba.

Narváez’ expedition consisted of 18 ships (7 of which were brigantines) and stores including a large stock of flour, cassava bread, bacon, and wine.19 (The massive enlistment of soldiers produced a relative decrease in the population, especially in Cuba, since the Spaniards took with them their native servants. Similarly, in Trinidad only 10 vecinos remained out of 60.20) Narváez’ fleet included pilots and seamen who had sailed with Grijalva.21 It also followed more or less the same itinerary as Grijalva did. After reaching Yucatán, it rounded the peninsula and arrived, on April 23, 1520, at San Juan de Ulua. In the meantime, one ship had been lost in a tempest and five more were in very bad condition.22 Unable to anchor in the harbor, they were forced to run aground on the beach. The landing was swift. Narváez had at his disposal about a thousand Spaniards: 800 footsoldiers, 120 crossbowmen, 80 escopeteros, and 80 horsemen.23 There were also a few hundred Indian auxiliaries from Cuba and about 20 artillery pieces.

Later, after Narváez’ defeat and the Noche Triste, three ships in distress put in at Veracruz. Formerly part of the expedition sent by Francisco de Garay, governor of Jamaica, they had been helping the flotilla of Alonso Alvarez de Pinedo, beaten back by the Indians at Panuco.24 The first ship, captained by Diego de Camargo, had run out of food. It carried about 60 sick men. They all had a greenish complexion and swollen bellies, prompting their mates to call them the green potbellies (los panciverdetes). The symptoms showed that they were suffering from yellow fever, and some, including Camargo, soon died.25 Miguel Díaz de Aux arrived with the second ship a few weeks later, while Cortés was in Tepeaca, bringing 7 horses and about 50 soldiers. Their sturdiness gave them the nickname “stocky” (los lomos recios).26 The third vessel, under the command of Francisco Ramírez, a veteran soldier, brought about 40 troops, among them numerous bowmen, as well as weapons and 10 horses. The bowmen wore arrowproof, padded cotton jackets (escaupiles), bringing them the nickname “packsaddled” (los arbadillas). The warm welcome they received in Veracruz, along with Cortés’ promises, made them decide to break away from Garay and join the Mexican expedition.27

They were not the only reinforcements. Pedro Barba came from Cuba with 2 horses and 13 soldiers while Cortés was at Tepeaca. This small number was occasioned by the size of the ship sent by Diego Velázquez, who thought New Spain was under the power of his hired man, Pánfilo de Narváez. Barba carried a letter for Narváez reiterating the order that Cortés be sent back to Cuba as a prisoner. Cortés had no difficulty rallying the troops to this cause, and appointed Barba, whom he had befriended in Cuba four years earlier, as captain of his bowmen.28 Another ship arrived a week after Barba’s, also sent by the governor of Cuba, who had commandeered it from the owner, Ginés de Carrión, on its arrival from Spain.29 Commanded by Rodrigo Morejón de Lobera, it brought food, 8 soldiers, 6 crossbows, 1 horse, and some ropes.30

At the end of 1520, while Cortés was at Tlaxcala, yet another vessel docked at Veracruz. It brought the first of a new series of conquistadores, who headed directly for the Mexican coast and who were especially attracted by the lure of easy financial gain. No longer sent by the governor of Cuba, they came directly from Spain, in a high-tonnage vessel that made a stop in the Canaries. A salesman, Juan de Burgos, had chartered the ship; he brought with him Francisco Medel as first mate and leader of 13 soldiers. On board were 3 horses, numerous crossbows, arcabuces, powder, weapons, equipment, ropes, and various merchandise. At first de Burgos had wanted to sell his products in Cuba; but hearing of the situation in Mexico, he decided with Medel to conduct business in this new territory, where his products would be more valuable. He was not wrong, for no sooner had he arrived in Veracruz than Cortés bought from him all his products, including the surplus, and enlisted his soldiers.31

In late February and early March 1521, while Cortés was in Texcoco, four vessels patrolled the Mexican coasts. At the head of this flotilla was Julián de Alderete, who had traveled from Spain to Santo Domingo with Diego Colón at the end of 1520. Knowing what was happening in New Spain, Alderete had decided to come with his 30 or 40 men, who included 8 horsemen, escopeteros, and crossbowmen, plus gunpowder. Two ships belonging to Rodrigo de Bastidas, under captain Gerónimo Ruiz de La Mota, and a ship belonging to Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón (with survivors from the Pearl Coast) completed the expedition.32 This small armada comprised 150 Spaniards and about 80 horses.33 One more ship, which joined them just before the fall of Tenochtitlán, belonged to Juan Ponce de León. Its complement consisted of survivors from the Florida expedition, about 30 men.34 It, too, brought arms and powder.35

Geographical Origins

With the creation of the Casa de la Contratación in 1503 and its establishment in Seville, voyages to the New World began to be documented. Indeed, the civil servants of that institution were required to record in the departure registers the complete names of the passengers, their geographical origins, even their occupation and duties, and to deliver the departure license in the crown’s name.36 For the period studied here, however, the collection contains incomplete lists for particular years, especially the first decade (before 1509) and the year 1518.37

Peter Boyd-Bowman has tried to establish an exact account of the first Spanish settlers in America.38 As far as the conquistadores of Mexico City are concerned, however, this author sometimes gives too much importance to faulty secondary sources, especially for the first decades of the sixteenth century.39 Fewer than half of the 1,212 known conquistadores appear on Boyd-Bowman’s list.40 The others are not really stowaways, despite the evidence that a fair number of immigrants came to the New World illegally.41

The route of the illicit immigration, moreover, especially that of Jews, conversos, or convicts escaping justice, passed through Portugal and the Canaries, where immigrants procured false papers and bought their passage on ships to the New World despite numerous decrees that forbade any Moors, Jews, or convicts to go to America.42 Santo Domingo and sometimes Jamaica and Cuba were the last stops before arrival in New Spain.

A comparison between Boyd-Bowman’s immigration figures and those for this study shows some significant differences. The two sets of data agree on Andalucía as the area of greatest emigration. In the more detailed account for this study, León comes second, with 18.1 percent of the conquistadores, but this area stands in fifth place according to Boyd-Bowman. The conquistadores from Old Castile were a little less numerous, with about 11.3 percent according to Boyd-Bowman; and this figure is similar to that of New Castile with about 7.6 percent less.

The map of the conquistadores’ geographical origins shows clearly the provinces that produced the greatest numbers: they form a bloc reaching from central Spain to Andalucía. Those that contained the highest contingents were Seville, Huelva, Badajoz, Cáceres, Valladolid, Salamanca, Toledo, Zamora, Burgos, Segovia, and Viscaya (see table 1). Very few conquistadores came from eastern Spain (Cataluña, Valencia, Murcia, Baleares), which was oriented more toward the Mediterranean. Seamen and pilots often came from the provinces of Seville and Huelva: Anton de Alaminos, father and son; Juan Pinzón; the Peñate family; Lucas Genovés; and so on. Fifty-four percent of the seamen and pilots came from Huelva; more than half of these from Palos and the rest from Moguer, Gibraleón, Niebla, Lepe, Umbria, and Aracena. Twenty-two percent were from Seville, of which 56 percent were from Triana and 44 percent from the city of Seville. Two percent came from Cádiz (Jerez de La Frontera).

Among the leaders of the conquista, Hernán Cortés, Andrés de Tapia, the four Alvarado brothers, and Gonzalo de Sandoval were all from Badajoz, which explains their strong solidarity. Their conquest was marked by greater unity and stronger cohesion among the conquerors. The main towns the conquistadores came from were Seville (58 inhabitants), Palos (17), Medellín (12), Salamanca (11), Cuellar and Moguer (10), Toledo, Jerez de la Frontera, and Medina del Campo (9), Cáceres (8), Avila and Fregenal de la Sierra (7), Córdoba, Burgos, Huelva, Ciudad Rodrigo, and Triana (6), Badajoz, Gibraleón, Mérida, Madrid, and Zamora (5). It is often difficult to distinguish whether the conquistador was a native (natural) or just a citizen (vecino) of the area he indicated at his departure. Therefore, the supremacy of Seville in these figures must be qualified by the consideration that the metropolis gradually attracted a wave of migrants from the inner regions of the peninsula, who gathered in hope of a passage to the Indies.43

The ranks of the conquistadores also included foreigners, despite the discriminatory royal orders issued at the beginning of the sixteenth century that, like those for Jews and convicts, forbade them to travel overseas.44 The most numerous were the Portuguese, who included a soldier, a silversmith, and a blacksmith. The second-largest group were the Italians. They came primarily from Genoa, and more than half of them were seamen. These two nationalities formed more than 85 percent of the non-Spaniards. There were also Greeks, especially from Rhodes, and one Fleming. An examination of the conquistadores’ arrival dates in the New World shows a large percentage of Andalucíans among those who arrived before 1510 (one-third), compared to barely 11 percent Extremadurans. Later in the conquest fewer Andalucíans appeared, but the number of Extremadurans remained at 14 percent. By then a larger variety of geographical origins was noted, which indicates that the migration was spreading.

In the first three Mexican expeditions, the same phenomenon is notable: Andalucíans remained more numerous in Francisco Hernández de Córdoba’s expedition (43.5 percent) than in that of Juan de Grijalva (22.7 percent) and that of Hernán Cortés (27.1 percent; see figure 2). These results, however, apparently correlate with the type of expedition. Hernández de Córdoba’s venture was mainly a discovery voyage and involved mostly seamen. While the expeditions of Grijalva and Cortés also had discovery characteristics, they had already begun to reveal aspects of conquest and colonization.45

Waves of Immigration

The departures for the New World were not a constant flow. A mere review of the arrival dates of conquistadores during the “Antillean period” (1492–1519) shows different migration waves and distinguishes six very different stages (see figure 3):

  1. The Columbian era, 1492–1502 (0.4 percent).

  2. The Dominican age, which really started with Nicolás de Ovando’s expedition in 1502 and concluded toward the end of 1509 after the settlement of Puerto Rico (6.9 percent).

  3. The Cuban period, including the conquest of the island under Diego Velázquez, 1510–1513 (16.6 percent).

  4. Departures for Tierra Firme, chiefly with Pedrarias Dávila as early as 1514, and the extension of colonization in the islands until 1516 (18.5 percent).

  5. The first discoveries of New Spain between 1517 and 1519 (57.7 percent).

  6. The migrant flood to Mexico, as early as 1520 from the islands of Santo Domingo, Jamaica, and Cuba and later from the Iberian peninsula, launched by the news of the conquest, as Alderete’s expedition shows.

Those taking part in the first two expeditions were often veterans, for whom we have information on only a small number.46 They included:

Santo Domingo: Anton de Alaminos, Benito de Cuenca, Gregorio de Castañeda.

Cuba: Anton de Alaminos, Alonso Guisado, Anton Bravo, Gregorio de Castañeda, Jorge de Alvarado, Juan de Salcedo, Juan de Grijalva, Pedro del Castellar.

Tierra Firme: Martín Vázquez, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, Cristóbal Martín Leiva, Francisco Montejo, Alonso Ortiz de Zúñiga.

Research was able to ascertain the ages of only 20 percent of the conquistadores. In most cases, their ages were determined only through testimony in the informaciones. Frequently the witnesses gave their age, and sometimes their origin and profession. In 1531, Francisco de Alamilla claimed in Francisco Montano’s información to be over 25 years old.47 In 1558, Melchor de Alavés, who was 65, testified in Gabriel Bosque’s información; and in 1562, in his testimony for A. García Bravo, he claimed to be about 70.48 In his judgment of residency for his brother Pedro in 1529, Gonzalo de Alvarado said he was about 33.49 These small vagaries mean that this information must be matched with that on departure or arrival dates, then with notarial documents found in the chronicles, and so on. The information that Pedro de Alvarado “was 34 when he left for our campaign,” for example, comes from Díaz del Castillo.50 With less precise information—when that chronicler speaks, for example, of the “old Heredia” who had fought in Italy—the most probable date of birth must be guessed; in this case, before 1470.51

At the time of the conquest itself, the ages of the conquistadores were what might be expected. In 1519, about two-thirds of the men were in their twenties or thirties (see figure 4). They were generally tough men in the prime of life. This would be essential in any military expedition. There was also, however, a fair portion of young men under 20 (28.1 percent), often ship’s boys or pages. In addition, 8 percent of the men were over 40, and almost a fourth of these were over 50.

One of the oldest conquistadores was Rodrigo Rengel, aged 72. Andrés López, Hernando de Cantillana, Bartolomé Hernández de Nava, Alonso Hernando, Juan González de Heredia, Francisco de Aguilar, and Bartolomé de Astorga were all in their fifties. Among the ten conquistadores aged over 50, three were from Seville, two from Huelva, one from Vizcaya, and one from Portugal. Of the Spaniards, three were seamen, two were soldiers, and one was a silversmith. Four came to America before 1508. Diego de Val denebro was probably in America as early as 1498. Two came in 1514, and the other four between 1516 and 1519. Three of them took part in the conquest either of Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, or Tierra Firme; one even served in Italy.

Juan de Escalante, Pedro González de Nájera, Pedro de Valencia, Juan Díaz, and Bernardino Iñíguez were in their forties. Hernán Cortés was 34, and so were Pedro de Alvarado, Alonso de Avila, Antonio de Arriaga, Diego de Avila, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, and Andrés de Tapia. It is in this age bracket that the most famous captains of the conquista are found.

Díaz del Castillo was about 24, and so were García de Aguilar, Gonzalo de Alvarado, Luis de Avila, Anton de Carvajal, Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, Alonso Hernández Puertocarrero, and Vasco Porcallo. Juan Núñez Mercado, Rodrigo de Evia, Alonso Pérez de Zamora, Diego de Salamanca, Jorge and Gómez de Alvarado, Pedro de Aragón, and Sancho de Barahona were also in their twenties.

The youngest were between ages 16 and 18, such as Diego de Colio, García del Pilar, Pedro de Mafla, Miguel López, Rodrigo de Castañeda, and Juan Cano. A fair number of them quickly learned the native language, and some, including Pilar and Castañeda, became translators. There were also, most likely, some very young men, such as Juan Ortega, called “Orteguilla,” who was Cortés’ page and who died at the hands of the Mexicans.

Social, Professional, and Cultural Background

Contrary to widespread assumption, the number of hidalgos among the conquistadores remained very limited. In most cases the mistaken idea of their numbers came from the conquistadores themselves or their descendants; 20 or 30 years later, the latter often pretended to be hidalgos, though no trace of this status appeared in any previous documents. Thus in 1546–47 Diego de Colio did not mention his hidalguía, but in 1560 he declared himself viejo hidalgo de buena limpieza generación.52 Andrés de la Tovilla was cited a hidalgo only in his 1579 información.53 Juan Coronel’s case is more complicated: in his 1532 información he described himself as a hidalgo, and this was confirmed by the granting of his coat of arms in 1538. In 1547, however, he no longer put forward this claim.54

Indeed, if some conquistadores were tempted to climb the social ladder by pretending to be hidalgos, they did so mainly after the conquest, at a time when hardly anybody could testify to their origins. Moreover, in a large number of informaciones prepared at the end of the sixteenth century at the request of the conquistadores’ children or grandchildren, the latter present their famous forebears as hidalgos.

It seems there was more to this practice than a mere obsession with hidalguía. The truth is, the system became corrupt. To be granted hidalgo status, it was necessary only to bring before the chancellery proof of membership in a family that had paid no taxes for at least three years and had maintained a military way of life, possessing arms and horses.55 Some descendants of the conquistadores could easily present such proof. Before drawing any conclusions, however, chancellery officials would have to find the documents supporting their claim. For others, it was just a question of time before the ancestor’s mere assertion of being a hidalgo would be transformed into an established truth.

Out of 1,21a conquistadores, this study found only 69 hidalgos, or 5.7 percent. This figure most likely is lower than the actual number, for social origins is not known for all the conquistadores. A reasonable estimate of the true hidalgos might be 10 percent (10.2 percent in the kingdom of Castile), a percentage identical to that of hidalguía on the peninsula.56

Women among the conquistadores were very few.57 Only 13 could be identified by name, but there were probably about 20, or about 2 percent of the members of the various expeditions (see table 2). More than half of them came with Pánfilo de Narváez.58 They were all Spanish, mainly Andalucíans. If Francisco Cervantes de Salazar can be believed, Cortés’ troop included a few prostitutes.59 Most of the women were in their thirties, and some had been in America since 1514–15. Beatriz González settled in Santo Domingo as early as 1514.60 Elvira and Beatriz Hernández settled in Puerto Rico around 1515 with Juan Coronel, Elvira’s new husband and the conquistador-to-be of Mexico City.61 All the women came from modest social origins.

We can only guess at why they took part in the conquista. It seems that Ana Gómez came to look for her husband, Benito de Vejer, who had left with Cortés.62 The mulatta Beatriz Palacios came with her father, Cristóbal Palacios, as well as her husband, Pedro de Escobar.63 Juana Martín sailed with her husband, Bartolomé de Porras.64 Elvira Hernández, followed by her sister Beatriz, left the husband she had married in 1515 in Puerto Rico to go with her lover, Juan de Almonte.65 Juan Portillo arrived in Mexico with his wife.66 As for the single women who came to New Spain, they found husbands very quickly. Beatriz Bermúdez Velasco married the conquistador Francisco de Olmos around 1524.67 Isabel de Ordaz married the conquistador Hernando Alonso.68 María Vera also married a settler, after the fall of Mexico.69 More than half the women among the conquistadores married another conquistador.

The two blacks known as conquistadores were Juan Garrido and Guidela.70 The latter, most likely an emancipated slave, was Narváez’ jester (chocarrero).71 Juan Garrido’s case was unusual. A native of the Congo, he came to Portugal on his own, probably toward the end of the fifteenth century, and there was baptized to Christianity. Then he went to Spain, where he stayed seven years before leaving for Santo Domingo around 1510. He took part in numerous entradas in the West Indies before going to San Juan with Ponce de León on a mission to pacify the island. He also saw Florida and Cuba before joining Cortés’ 1519 expedition to New Spain.72

Even if the Spaniards took with them their native servants (especially those from Cuba), none of the latter was given the title of conquistador, not even the devoted Tlaxcaltecos. The only exception is Diego de Valbuena, an Indian from Cuba, who came to New Spain with 40 men of his own, probably after Narváez’ expedition, to participate in the conquest of Mexico City.73

Compiling a list of the conquistadores’ occupations is not easy. To date, information is available on only 13 percent of them. The results are therefore not meaningful. What is known is that their occupations were varied: more than a third were linked to the sea (seamen and pilots), 37.3 percent were related to trade (salesmen) and craft work (blacksmiths, carpenters, tailors). Almost 16.3 percent were soldiers, and nearly 11.1 percent were letrados, notaries or secretaries. Priests, monks, doctors, chemists (pharmacists), and musicians are also found. Despite the lack of detailed information, peasants are known to have constituted a portion of the conquistadores. Thus the licenciado Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón explained in January 1520 that farmers and pigkeepers were among Narváez’ men.74

Many of the conquistadores had occupations connected with the conquest, like the seamen, soldiers and escopeteros, crossbowmen, and gunners (about 8 percent of Cortés’ expedition). A fairly good idea of the number of seamen comes from Díaz del Castillo, who points out 617 men in Cortés’ expedition, including 109 seamen (that is, 10 per vessel) and 45 escopeteros and crossbowmen.75 This amounts to a reasonable 18 percent seamen.

Real soldiers were very few, and officers nonexistent. They were all rank-and-file soldiers who had enlisted to serve the crown on the different European battlefields. Some had served in Italy (a little more than 1 percent) before migrating to the West Indies. Tovilla and Sotelo took part in the battle of Garigliano (1503) under the orders of the “Great Captain,” Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba. Though Tovilla limped, he was very good at handling arms, especially the pike.76 Sotelo built a catapult during the siege of Tenochtitlán.77 Canillas had been a drummer.78 As for Pedro Briones, his two earlobes were cut off because he refused to surrender.79 Cortés appreciated these men’s stalwart qualities. He appointed Briones captain of a brigantine and Francisco de Orozco commander of artillery.80 Diego Marmolejo and Sebastian de Ebora made their debuts against the pirate Barbarroja.81 Gregorio de Castañeda served during the Granada wars.82 Others learned how to be a soldier during the conquests of Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, or Tierra Firme.

Except for a few letters that survive, it is difficult to tell if the conquistadores knew how to write—an indication of their educational or cultural level. To answer this question, the research looked for signatures appended at the end of conquistadores’ testimony or depositions. If the person knew how to write, the document always ended with the phrase e firmolo de su nombre, followed by the signature or, if it was a copy, the name of the signatory. For those who didn’t know how to write, the mention was not of signature (firma) but of mark (señal).

Thus Andrés López declared that he did not know how to write in Martín López’ información.83 Yet he appended his mark to the bottom of his testimony during the residencia of Hernán Cortés.84 His mark looks like a signature, as is shown in Juan González Ponce de León’s información, in which López also testified.85 Perhaps López made do with reproducing a sample he had at his disposal. Juan Cáceres Delgado, who likewise did not know how to write, simply appended his mark at the bottom of his deposition in the residencia of Pedro de Alvarado.86

Of all the conquistadores identified in the documents, 84.2 percent could append their signature, compared with 15.8 percent who declared they did not know how to write (see table 4). A high proportion of hidalgos (96.4 percent) could write; only the Basques Cristóbal Martín Millan de Gamboa, who was in America around 1502, and Juan Bono de Quejo, who arrived before 1510, were illiterate.87 About ten conquistadores left written accounts of their exploits, though only six of these chronicles have survived. Those of Alonso de Ojeda, Gerónimo Ruiz de la Mota, Alonso de Mata, and Juan Cano had disappeared by the end of the sixteenth century.88


To make a statistical study of people who lived at the beginning of the sixteenth century is not easy, but nonetheless necessary. Peter Boyd-Bowman’s work has shown the way, but the results must be refined and checked against indisputable sources to establish a history of the conquest of the New World that is open neither to doubt (such as that shown in the debate over the Quincentenary) nor to ideological manipulation. It is on the basis of such work that we will be able to define the conquistadores’ world and, by the same token, understand the history of the conquista.

Although they have been traditionally presented either as unscrupulous adventurers responsible for horrible massacres or as crusaders and founders of modern Latin America, the conquistadores generally belonged to neither of those categories. They were primarily men who tried to find what they could not obtain in their native country. Their originality resides in their reponse when they were plunged into a new and unfamiliar environment that constantly put their lives in danger. Their success lies in their capacity to overcome the obstacles and to adapt to the new world they would soon dominate.

The conquistadores of Mexico City came to America to find wealth and a better life. Most of those who weathered the great battles, however, did not profit much from their participation in the conquest as a whole. Close to 60 percent of the conquistadores perished in the battle of Mexico City; among those who survived, a fair number eventually lost part or all of their personal wealth. Many ended their days in poverty, encumbered by debts. A better share in colonial life came to the second generation, the sons and daughters of the conquistadores, because of the labors of their fathers.


Only from sixteenth-century sources (archives in Seville and Mexico, chronicles of conquistadores and contemporaries). This work is based on Bernard Grunberg, “The World of the Conquistadores During the Conquest of New Spain in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century” (Ph.D. diss., Sorbonne, 1992). The dissertation comprises three parts: a dictionary of the conquistadores of Mexico, a history of the conquest of Mexico City from original sixteenth-century sources, and a study of the world of the conquistadores. The last part has been published as L’Univers des conquistadores: les hommes et leur conquête dans le Mexique du XVIe siècle (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1993).


Francisco A. de Icaza, Diccionario autobiográfico de conquistadores y pobladores de Nueva España (Madrid, 1923; reprint, Guadalajara: E. Avina Levy Editor, 1969). See also Archivo General de Indias, Seville (henceforth AGI), Audiencia de México, 1064.


Ida Altman, Emigrants and Society: Extremadura and Spanish America in the Sixteenth Century (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1989).


Namely, AGI: Patronato Real, Audiencia de México, and Justicia; and Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City (henceforth AGN): Historia, Mercedes, Hospital de Jésus, and Inquisición.


AGI, Patronato Real, 54-89; AGI, Audiencia de México, legajos 95, 96, 203, 204, and Audiencia de Guatemala, leg. 52.


Thus, a comparison of two transcriptions of the “Carta del ejército de Cortés” shows not only gaps but also numerous errors. The transcription by J. García Icazbalceta (according to a copy of the original) contains 15 percent obvious errors (false first and last names, omissions), and the other, furnished by the Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista, y organización de las antiguas posesiones de América y Oceania, sacados de los archivos del reino y muy especialmente del de Indias (hereafter CDIA), 42 vols. (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1864–84), vol. 28, contains 22 percent errors, compared to the transcription made for this study (based on the original from AGI, Justicia, leg. 223, fols. 17v–22v).


AGI, Justicia, 223, fols. 17v–22v.


AGI, Patronato Real, 20.1.1 and 56.2.1; Audiencia de México, 96.4 and 1064; Justicia, 223.


A good number of the participants were veterans of Pedrarias Dávila’s expedition of 1513–14, repatriated from Tierra Firme to Cuba. See Andrés de Tapia, “Relación de algunas cosas de las que acacieron al muy ilustre señor don Hernando Cortés, Marqués del Valle, desde que se determino ir a descubrir tierra en la Tierra Firme del Mar Océano,” in “La conquista de Tenochtitlán,” by Germán Vázquez, Historia-16 (Madrid) (1988), 83; Bernai Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (Madrid: CSIC, 1982), chap. 1.


Juan Díaz, Itinerario de la armada del rey católico a la isla de Yucatán, en la India, en el año 1518, en la que fue por Comandante y Capitán General Juan de Grijalva, in “La conquista de Tenochtitlán,” 31-57; Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Historia general y natural de las Indias (Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1959), chap. 17:8; Bartolomé de Las Casas, Historia de las Indias (Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1957–61), pt. 3, chap. 109; Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, Relación de méritos y servicios del conquistador Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México [UNAM], 1972), 24-27; Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España (Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1971), pt. 2, chap. 2; Francisco López de Gomara, Historia de la conquista de México (Mexico City: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1943), chap. 5; Antonio de Herrera, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Océano (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1601–1615), pt. 2, chap. 3:1; Pierre Martyr Anghiera, “De orbe novo: les huit décades,” in Recueil de voyages et de documents pour servir à l’histoire de la géographie depuis le XIIIe jusqu’à la fin du XVIe siècle, vol. 21 (Paris: Ernest Leroux Editeur, 1907), pt. 4, chap. 3; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 8; Hernán Cortés, Cartas y documentos (Mexico City: Porrua, 1963), 8-9; Francisco de Aguilar, Relación breve de la conquista de la Nueva España (Mexico City: UNAM, 1977), 64; A. de Tapia, “Relación de algunas cosas,” 82-83; Gonzalo de Illescas, “Historia pontifical y católica, en la cual se contiene las vidas y hechos de todos los sumos pontífices romanos . . . ,” in La conquista de México, by B. Argensola (Mexico City: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1940), 269-73; Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Historia del Nuevo Mundo (Madrid: Alianza, 1987), pt. 2, chap. 13; Fray Juan de Torquemada, Monarquía indiana (Mexico City: Porrua, 1975), pt. 4, chaps. 1-4; CDIA, 10:82, 12:222-46, 27:305, 28:20, 30, 34:273, 35:257; Diego de Landa, Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (Mexico City: Porrua, 1973), chap. 3.


The largest had a displacement of 100 toneles, the three next-largest 60 to 80 toneles. Most of the smaller ones were probably brigantines. Compare Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 2, chap. 21; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 6; A. de Tapia, “Relación de algunas cosas,” 75; López de Gomara, Historia de la conquista, chap. 8; CDIA, 35:56; Landa, Relación . . . de Yucatán, chap. 4.


Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 2, chap. 20; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 6; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chap. 3:12; López de Gomara, Historia de la conquista, chap. 8; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 21; CDIA, 27:162, 313; Icaza, Diccionario, n. 49.


Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 7; Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, pt. 3, chap. 115; A. de Tapia, “Relación de algunas cosas,” 69. Gomara, however, sets this date as February 18. Historia de la conquista, chap. 10.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 25.


Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 2, chap. 21; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 26; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chap. 4:16; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 8; Oviedo, Historia general y natural, pt. 33, chap, 1; Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, pt. 3, chap. 116; A. de Tapia, “Relación de algunas cosas,” 75. In the records of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, on Dec. 24, 1519, Licenciado Juan Carrillo, fiscal real, gave the number of 600 men (CDIA, 35:6). But López de Gomara gives 550 men (Historia de la conquista, chap. 8) and Cortés 400 (Cartas, 11).


This number, from López de Gomara (Historia de la conquista, chap. 8) and Torquemada (Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 7), seems close to the truth. Estimates range from five hundred to more than one thousand natives (CDIA, 35:60, 63, 68, 71, 79). Thus, Juan de Estacio, a blacksmith from San Salvador, Cuba, testified on Nov. 21, 1520: “Vió, como el dicho Hernando Cortés al tiempo que fue desta isla, llevó muchos Indios, que no sabe qué cantidad, más de que oyó decir que serían hasta mil animas, e que así mismo este testigo a visto en los navíos que van en la dicha armada van muchos Indios, porque todos los que van en la dicha armada cada cual dos Indios para su servicio, e que de haber sacado los dichos Indios desta dicha isla según los pocos que en ella hay, ya Sus Altezas an recibido deservicio. . . .” (CDIA, 35:74). All of which must be exaggerated, considering the number and size of the vessels of the expedition.


The most famous was Juan Garrido from Africa. See AGI, Audiencia de México, 204.3; and Icaza, Diccionario, no. 169.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 53; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 3, chaps. 18, 20; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 24; López de Gomara, Historia de la conquista, chap. 38; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chap. 5:14; CDIA, 28:122.


CDIA, 35:281.


“La dicha gente hace mucha falta en la Isla, porque queda muy despoblada e sin gente, porque en esta villa de la Trinidad quedaran diez vecinos, poco más o menos, e queda destruida la villa sin gente de mineros e estancieros e porqueros e otra gente de trabajo, e que a oydo decir a algunos vecinos de la villa de Bayamo que no quedan allí sinon hasta cinco o seis vecinos, e estos enfermos e dolientes, e lo mismo en los otros pueblos de la isla.” Lic. Vázquez de Ayllón, Cuba, Jan. 24, 1520, in CDIA, 35:65.


CDIA, 35:282.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 100; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 59; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chaps. 9, 18.


Cortés, Cartas, 81–82. According to Díaz del Castillo, the troops included 1,300 to 1,400 soldiers, 80 horsemen, 60 blunderbussmen, and 80 crossbowmen (Historia verdadera, chap. 109); Andrés de Tapia claims it was more than 1,000 soldiers, including 90 horsemen and 150 crossbowmen and blunderbussmen (“Relación de algunas cosas,” 113); for López de Gomara, 600 footmen, 80 blunderbussmen, 120 crossbowmen, and 80 horsemen (Historia de la conquista, chap. 96). Most of the documents show a number between 800 and 1,000, which seems most likely considering the tonnage of the vessels. Compare Códice Ramírez, cited in Crónica mexicana, by Hernando Alvaro Tezozomoc (Mexico City. Porrua, 1975,), pt. 8, chap. 143; Sepúlveda, Historia del Nuevo Mundo, pt. 6, chap. 7; Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Obras históricas (Mexico City: UNAM, 1975), vol. 2, chap. 87; Sumario de la residencia tomada a Don Fernando Cortés, gobernador y capitán general de la Nueva España (Mexico City: García Torres, 1852-53), 2:50.


Cortés, Cartas, 116; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap; 79; Anghiera, De orbe novo, pt. 5, chap. 6; Oviedo, Historia general y natural, pt. 33, chaps. 15-17; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chap. 10:18; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 41.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 133; Cortés, Cartas, 104-5; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chaps. 38, 41; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chaps. 3:11, 10:18; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 79; CDIA, 35:370.


Icaza, Diccionario, no. 127; CDIA, 35:370; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 133; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 91; Cortés, Cartas, 113, 116 (this last is incorrect when Cortés attests to only 30 men).


Icaza, Diccionario, n. 231; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 133; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 79. As a whole, the three expeditions comprised 150 Spaniards and about 20 horses.


CDIA, 35:354, 403, 465; Sumario de la residencia a Cortés, 2:165; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chaps. 131, 145; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 41.


Información de servicios de Ginés de Carrión, uno de los que acompañaron al adelantado Diego Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, July 9, 1521, in CDIA, 40:59-70.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 131.


AGI, Patronato Real, 55.3.3, fols. 1–1v and 73.2.11, fols. 1v–2, Audiencia de México, 203.4, fol. 1s; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 232; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 136; Aguilar, Relación breve, 94; Cortés, Cartas, 130; Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, Obras históricas, 2, chap. 91; Oviedo, Historia general y natural, pt. 33, chap. 19; López de Gomara, Historia de la conquista, chaps. 124, 127; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 41; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 87.


On the Pearl Coast survivors, see Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 71; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 155.


AGI, Patronato Real, 55.3.3, fol. 5v; 62.1.1, fols. 17, 24; 62.1.4, fol. 238v; Audiencia de México, 203.6, fols. 1–2; Icaza, Diccionario, n. 125, 150; Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chaps. 143-45; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 85; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 71; Francisco del Paso y Troncoso, comp., Epistolario de Nueva España, 16 vols. (Mexico City: Antigua Librería Robredo, de José Porrua e Hijos, 1939-42), vol. 1, no. 51.


AGI, Patronato Real, 77.1.4, fol. 26.


Ibid., 77.1.4, fols. 6, 7, 26, and 89.2.1, fols. 2, 11; Cortés, Cartas, 176; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 3, chap. 2:1; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 175; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 97; Oviedo, Historia general y natural, pt. 33, chap. 8.


Herrera, Historia general, pt. 1, chap. 3:2; José Luis Martínez, Pasajeros de Indias: viajes transatlánticos en el siglo XVI (Madrid: Alianza, 1983).


Catálogo de pasajeros a Indias durante los siglos XVI, XVII, y XVIII, redacto bajo la dirección de don Cristóbal Bermúdez Plata (Seville: CSIC, 1940), vol. 1, 1509-1534.


Peter Boyd-Bowman, Indice geobiográfico de cuarenta mil pobladores españoles de América en el siglo XVI, vol. 1, 1493-1519 (Bogotá: Instituto Carvo y Cuervo, 1964), vol. 2, 1520-1539 (Mexico City: Editorial Jus, 1968).


Especially the list of conquistadores established—with sometimes whimsical spelling of names and many mistakes of transcription—by Orozco y Berra, the CDIA, and borrowings from the Colección de documentos inéditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista, y organización de las antiguas posesiones de ultramar (CDIU), 25 vols. (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1885-1932).


Actually, Boyd-Bowman lists 743 (Indice, 1:41-42), but only three-fourths of those are reliable. The remaining fourth comes from erroneous texts, unreliable interpretations, or inaccuracies.


For Jaime Vicens Vives, illegal immigration during the first half of the sixteenth century was eight times greater than the official departures. Vicens Vives, Manual de historia económica de España (Barcelona: Editorial Vicens Vives, 1967), 289.


Recopilación de leyes de las Indias (Madrid: Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, 1972), vol. 9, sec. 26; Bernard Grunberg, “Les premiers juifs mexicains,” Revue des Etudes Juives 145 (Paris, 1986), no. 3-4:361.


Francisco Morales Padrón, “La ciudad del quinientos,” in Historia de Sevilla (Seville: Univ. de Sevilla, 1989); Eduardo Trueba, Sevilla maritima, siglo XVI (Seville: Gráficas del Sur, 1986); Ruth Pike, Aristocrats and Traders: Sevillan Society in the Sixteenth Century (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1972).


Recopilación de leyes de las Indias, vol. 9, secs. 26, 27; Diego de Encinas, Cedulario indiano (Madrid: 1945-46), vol. 1, fols. 440-62; Richard Konetzke, “La legislación de extranjeros en América durante el reinado de Carlos V,” in Charles Quint et son temps (Paris: CNRS, 1959), 93-108.


Pierre Chaunu, Conquête et exploitation des nouveaux mondes (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969), 119-35; Séville et l’Atlantique (Paris: SEVPEN, 1959), vols. 6, 8; Séville et l’Amérique, XVIe-XVIIe siècles (Paris: Flammarion, 1977); J. H. Parry, The Spanish Seaborne Empire (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966; reprint London, Hutchinson, 1971); E. J. Hamilton, American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 1501–1650 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1934).


For Hernández de Córdobas expedition, Díaz del Castillo states: “Acordamos de nos juntar ciento y diez compañeros de los que habíamos venido de Tierra Firme y de otros que en la isla de Cuba no tenían indios, . . .” Historia verdadera, chap. 1:5.


AGI, Patronato Real, 54.7.1, fol. 5v.


Ibid., 61.2.2, fol. 5; “Fue preguntado por la preguntas generales, dixo ques de hedad de setenta años, poco más o menos.” Ibid., 83.4.5, fol. 87.


“Fue preguntado por las preguntas generales dixo ques de hedad de treynta e tres años poco más o menos.” Proceso de residencia contra Pedro de Alvarado y Nuño de Guzmán (Mexico City: n.p., 1847), 161.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 206:641.


Ibid., chap. 49:93.


Icaza, Diccionario, no. 24; AGI, Patronato Real, 63.1.12, fol. 4.


AGI, Patronato Real, 75.3.2, fol. 21.


Ibid., 54,8,5 and 169,1; Antonio Paz y Melia, Nobilario de conquistadores de Indias (Madrid: Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles, 1892), 246; Santiago Montoto, Nobilario hispanoamericano del siglo XVI (Madrid: Compañía Ibero-Americano de Publicaciones, 1927), 92–93; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 121; CDIA, 27:433.


Bartolomé Bennassar, Histoire des espagnols (Paris: A. Colin, 1985), 1:317.


Annie Molinié-Bertrand, Au siècle d’or: l’Espagne et ses hommes, la population du royaume de Castile au XVIe siècle (Paris: Económica, 1985); “Les hidalgos dans le royaume de Castile: approche cartographique,” Revue d’Histoire Economique et Sociale (Paris) 1 (1974), 51–82; Bennassar, Histoire des espagnols, 1:318.


Some conquistadores brought one or more native maids from Cuba. Others were accompanied by Indians from the islands whom they had married. Thus, Alonso Pérez Maite came with his wife, a pretty Indian from Bayamo. Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 205:638.


Of all the women who came with Narváez, five stayed in Veracruz. They were killed at Tustepec while trying to join the Spaniards who had taken refuge at Tlaxcala, just after the Noche Triste. See Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 128:289.


“Pidieron a éstos, como se acostumbra en España, dos mujeres públicas.” Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 2, chap. 21:237.


CDIA, 1:145, 150.


Ibid., 27:442, 568.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 156:412.


AGI, Patronato Real, 83.3.1, fol. 2; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 220; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 5, chap. 116; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 96.


AGI, Patronato Real, 58.1.2, fol. 2; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 181.


CDIA, 27:442-43.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 149:365, chap. 156:412-13.


AGI, Patronato Real, 65.1.9, fol. 1; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 79.


“Memorial de los conquistadores,” in Sumaria relación de las cosas de la Nueva España, by Baltázar Dorantes de Carranza (Mexico City: Imprenta del Museo Nacional, 1902 [reprint, Mexico City: Porrua, 1987]), 457.


AGI, Patronato Real, 60.4.1, fol. 7.


Some conquistadores brought along black slaves for domestic use. Juan Cortés was Hernán Cortés’ slave. See Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 72:508; and Diego Durán, Historia de las Indias, pt. 71, chap. 10:519.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 122; Cervantes de Salazar, Crónica de la Nueva España, pt. 4, chap. 87.


Icaza, Diccionario, no. 169; AGI, Audiencia de México, 204.3, fol. 1v.


“Es yndio de Cuba.” Icaza, Diccionario, n. 163.


CDIA, 35:65.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 26:48.


Ibid., chap. 205:630; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 62.


Díaz del Castillo, Historia verdadera, chap. 145:407.


Ibid., chap. 205:634.


Ibid., chap. 173:508.


For Briones, see ibid., chap. 149:365. For Orozco, see ibid., chap. 26:49; Torquemada, Monarquía indiana, pt. 4, chap. 7; Herrera, Historia general, pt. 2, chaps. 4-6.


Marmolejo, Epistolario de Nueva España, 3, no. 129; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 467.


AGI, Patronato Real, 67.1.8, fols. 17-18; Icaza, Diccionario, no. 459.


AGI, Patronato Real, 57.1.1, fol. 41, and II, fol. 34; and 63.1.15, VII, fol. 34.


“E questa es la verdad para el juramento que fizo e señalolo de su señal.” Sumario de la residencia a Cortés, 2:284.


AGI, Audiencia de México, 203.24, fol. 16v.


“E firm0lo de su señal porque dixo que no sabía escribir.” Proceso de residencia contra Alvarado, 150


On Gamboa, see Proceso de residencia contra Alvarado, 140; Francisco Fernández del Castillo, Tres conquistadores y pobladores de la Nueva España: Cristóbal Martín Millan de Gamboa, Andrés de Tapia, Jerónimo López (Mexico City: AGN, 1927), 12:19, 66.


We have no suspicious tale of an Anonymous Conquistador. The memoirs of Alonso de Ojeda and Alonso de Mata, however, were used by Torquemada and Cervantes de Salazar, as were those of G. Ruiz de la Mota, also by Cervantes de Salazar, and those of Juan Cano, by Alonso de Zorita.