There is no record of Vasco de Balboa's birth, but historians estimate it to be the year 1475. He was born in Jerez de los Caballeros and sailed to the New World in 1500. Balboa settled in Hispaniola and explored the eastern coast of Panama after unsuccessful attempts at farming.
He used his knowledge of the area to usurp the authority of the appointed governor and convinced a group of settlers to follow him to present-day Darien, where he established the first Spanish foothold on the American mainland. Prompted by native descriptions of gold-rich lands beyond the South Sea, Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 and became the first European to reach the eastern shores of the Pacific, claiming it and its land for Spain. However, Balboa's rivals convinced King Ferdinand that he had committed treason, and Balboa was arrested and beheaded in 1519.