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SEBASTIAN DE BELALCAZAR 

Sebastian De Belalcazar was a famous Spanish conquistador born in 1479.  Although born Sebastian Moyano, he took his new last name, as it was the name of the castle town closest to his birthplace.  According to a number of reliable sources, Belalcazar left for the New World with Christopher Columbia as early as 1498.  However, another legend says that Belalcazar had killed a mule in 1507 and to flee from feared punishment, he left for the West Indies, which also offered him a life away from the poverty in which he was born. 

We do know that Belalcazar entered Nicaragua with Hernandez de Cordoba in 1524, becoming the first mayor of the city of Leon where he would remain until 1527 when he left for Honduras because of disputes with the Spanish governors.  Although he returned to Leon just briefly, he would sail to the coast of Peru where he connected with the expedition of Francisco Pizarro in 1532. 

Then two years later, he helped Pizarro fight against native tribes after which time he set off to conquer Quito valley in Ecuador.  However, to do this, he had to use money received in compensation from previous campaigns.  From there, the city of Quito was founded by Belalcazar along with Diego de Almagro.  In honor or Pizarro, the city’s name was changed to San Francisco de Quito. 

Then in 1535, Belalcazar moved north into what we know today as Colombia, searching for El Dorado.  As he entered the Cauca River Valley, he founded a number of Colombian cities to include Pasto, Santiago de Cali, and Popayan, the next most important city after Quito.  He then crossed to the Magdalena River Valley, going into the highlands of central Colombia along with Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada and Nicolas Federmann in 1539. 

At that time, Belalcazar was granted governorship of Popayan by Carlos the Fifth, although an honorary title.  Soon, squabbles broke out among the conquistadors, which included Belalcazar and a neighboring province that was governed by Pascual de Andagoya.  Defending his own lands, Belalcazar soon took some of the land belonging to Andagoya.  In addition, he helped calm disagreements between Almagro in Peru and supporters of the families of Pizarro. 

In 1546, Belalcazar ordered that Jorge Robledo, the governor of another neighboring province to be executed.  However, Belalcazar himself was put on trial in 1550 for the death of Robledo along with other crimes associated with his personal involvement in wars with the conquistadors.  Belalcazar was found guilty and ordered to death.  Unfortunately, while under appeal to the Council of the Indies the following year, Sebastian de Belalcazar died in his prison cell in Cartagena of fever.



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