Balboa, Vasco Núñez de

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Balboa, Vasco Núñez de

(bălbō`ə, Span. vä`skō no͞o`nyāth dā bälbō`ä), c.1475–1519, Spanish conquistador, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean. After sailing with BastidasBastidas, Rodrigo de
, c.1460–1526, Spanish conquistador in Colombia. In 1501, accompanied by Balboa and Juan de la Cosa, he discovered the mouths of the Magdalena River. Because of difficulties with the Spanish crown, it was 1525 before he returned to found Santa Marta.
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 in 1501, Balboa probably went to Hispaniola. In 1510, fleeing from creditors, he hid on the vessel that took EncisoEnciso, Martín Fernández de
, fl. 1509–19, Spanish conquistador and geographer. Commanding the supply ship for the colony planted (1509) near Cartagena by Ojeda, he met the discouraged men who had abandoned the settlement and persuaded them to found a new one
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 to Panama. After reaching DariénDarién
, eastern part of Panama between the Gulf of Darién on the east and the Gulf of San Miguel on the west. Darién province, heavily forested and sparsely populated, is in the western part of the region.
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, Balboa took command, deposed the incompetent Enciso, and sent him to Spain as a prisoner. Balboa showed only rarely the rapacity and cruelty characteristic of the conquistador. He won the friendship of the indigenous people, who accompanied him on his epic march across the isthmus. Toward the end of Sept., 1513, he discovered the Pacific and claimed it and all shores washed by it for the Spanish crown. His discovery came too late to offset Enciso's complaints at the court of Spain. Balboa was replaced by Pedro Arias de ÁvilaArias de Ávila, Pedro
, known as Pedrarias
, c.1440–1531, Spanish colonial administrator. He was sent (1514) as governor to Darién (now part of Panama), then under the rule of Vasco Núñez de Balboa.
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, and while preparing an expedition to Peru, he was summarily seized, accused of treason, and beheaded.


See C. L. G. Anderson, Life and Letters of Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1941, repr. 1971); K. Romoli, Balboa of Darién (1953).

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Balboa, Vasco Núñez de


Born circa 1475 in Jerez de los Caballeros; died 1517 on the Pacific shore of the Isthmus of Panama. Spanish conquistador.

Balboa set sail for America in 1500, reaching the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In 1510 he sailed across to the Isthmus of Panama, where there was a new Spanish colony. Hearing about a rich southern coastal country (Peru), Núñez de Balboa, in search of a convenient route there, became the first man to cross the Isthmus of Panama and to reach the shore of the “South Sea” (Pacific Ocean). Early in 1517 he was falsely accused of plotting against the ruler of the colony and was executed.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Balboa, Vasco Nuñez de

(1475–1517) discovered the Pacific Ocean. [Sp. Hist.: Benét, 75]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.