Timeline Description: Vasco Nuñez de Balboa (1475 - 1519) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who led the first stable European settlement in South America. He was also the first European to see the eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean from a peak in Panama, and his discoveries paved the way for Spanish exploration of the western coast of South America. However, his ongoing rivalry with the leader of the crown colony in Panama ultimately led to his execution.
|1475||Vasco Nuñez de Balboa is born.
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa is born in 1475 in Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain. His parents belong to the lower nobility, but his father is not wealthy, so Balboa will need to seek his fortune through travel, like most men of his class. He is the third of four boys, and during his adolescence he serves as a page and squire to the lord of Moguer.
|1500||Balboa sails to South America.
Inspired by tales of Christopher Columbus and his success in the Americas, Balboa joins Rodrigo de Bastidas on a voyage along the coast of South America, near modern-day Colombia, in 1500. Bastidas is on a treasure-hunting voyage under the Quinto Real policy, which allows him to keep four-fifths of the treasure he finds if he gives one-fifth to the king and queen.
|1505||Balboa settles in Hispaniola.
With Bastidas, Balboa crosses the Caribbean coastline as well as the Colombian coastline. In 1505 the men run out of funds, and Balboa settles in Hispaniola (later known as Haiti). He lives here for several years as a pig farmer and planter, but he is unsuccessful and accumulates great debt.
|1509||Balboa escapes his creditors by stowing away on a voyage to Colombia.
Faced with financial difficulties, Balboa decides to escape his creditors by stowing away on Martín Fernández de Enciso's voyage to the coast of modern-day Colombia. The expedition lands at San Sebastian, a colony founded by Alonso de Ojeda in Urabá, and finds that Ojeda has left behind few survivors.
|September 1510||Balboa and the colonists found Santa María de la Antigua.
Balboa recommends that the surviving colonists leave Urabá and move to Darién, located on the isthmus of Panama, since the natives in this region will be less hostile. In September 1510 they found the town of Santa María de la Antigua, the first stable European settlement in South America. They begin bartering and fighting with the local Native Americans for gold.
|March 1, 1511||Balboa becomes the leader of Darién.
Shortly after settling, the colonists of Darién depose Ojeda's second-in-command, Enciso, and nominate Balboa as one of the two heads of the town council. He, in turn, calls for Enciso to be arrested for overstepping into the territory of de Nicuesa, governor of a nearby region. A mob overtakes de Nicuesa and puts him out to sea on March 1, 1511, effectively making Balboa the leader of Darién.
|December 1511||Balboa becomes the governor of Darién.
In December 1511 King Ferdinand II names Balboa interim governor and captain general of the region. He undertakes a fierce and ruthless campaign against the local Native chiefdoms, using force and torture to gain information about gold.
|September 1, 1513||Balboa sails for the narrowest part of the isthmus.
After he hears rumors of a wealthy kingdom full of gold located in the south, Balboa determines to find this kingdom, but his request for men and supplies is denied, thanks to Enciso's account of his treatment. Balboa sets out with limited resources on an expedition to Acla, at the narrowest part of the isthmus of Panama, on September 1, 1513. He takes a crew of 190 Spaniards and hundreds of Native carriers, and they proceed through dense jungle to attempt to find the Pacific.
|September 25, 1513||Balboa sights the Pacific.
On September 25 (or 27; the dates are disputed), 1513, Balboa ascends a peak in Darién and sights the Pacific. He then proceeds to the Gulf of San Miguel and claims the Mar del Sur (South Sea) for the king of Castile.
|January 19, 1514||Balboa returns to Santa María and announces his discoveries.
On January 19, 1514, Balboa returns to Santa María and announces his discoveries of the Mar del Sur and surrounding lands, as well as his sighting of the Pacific. His news restores his position as favored leader in the Americas, and he is named governor of the Mar del Sur, Panama, and Coiba.
|April 1514||Pedro Arias Dávila departs for Panama.
Charges by Balboa's enemies turn King Ferdinand against the conquistador, and the king sends the powerful nobleman Pedro Arias Dávila (called Pedrarias) to Panama to pursue claims of gold. Pedrarias departs Spain in 1514 with an expedition of 2,000 people.
|June 1514||Pedrarias takes control of Darién.
Pedrarias and his expedition arrive in Darién, now renamed Castilla del Oro, in June 1514, and he quickly takes command of the crown colony. He remains the ultimate Spanish authority in the colony, and Balboa is forced to obey his orders. Relations between the two men quickly disintegrate, as they mistrust each other.
|1517||Balboa embarks on an exploration of the Gulf of San Miguel.
Despite his attempts to prevent Balboa from accomplishing anything worthwhile, Pedrarias reluctantly agrees to allow Balboa to explore the South Sea. Between 1517 and 1518, Balboa transports a fleet of ships across the mountains to the Pacific shore, and he explores the Gulf of San Miguel.
|1518||Pedrarias summons Balboa back to the colony.
Balboa's continued stream of charges against Pedrarias finally convinces the king that Pedrarias is unfit to rule the colony. When Pedrarias hears of his impending removal, he quickly summons Balboa back to Santa María, ostensibly to discuss basic matters. Instead, Balboa is seized and charged with treason, rebellion, and mistreatment of Indians.
|January 12, 1519||Balboa dies.
After a show trial led by Pedrarias' chief justice, Gaspar de Espinosa, Balboa is found guilty of his charges. He is condemned to death and beheaded on January 12, 1519, along with four supposed accomplices.