Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa set sail for South America on a trans-oceanic voyage, establishing the first settlement in modern-day Panama and claiming the western coast of South America for Spain before meeting his death, via execution, in 1519. Balboa was born in 1475 to humble beginnings. He came from the city of Jerez de los Caballeros, born to a father with noble blood but far less affluent than his noble peers.Continue Reading
After childhood, de Balboa left his hometown, seeking fortune and success elsewhere. Like many, he dreamed of leaving Spain and setting sail for the New World, searching for new opportunities. Balboa initially found work as a farmer on the island of Hispanola, following a short Spanish expedition to Colombia.
His farming career proved unsuccessful, ultimately landing Balboa in debt. He fled prosecution from debt collectors, sneaking aboard a cargo ship bound for San Sebastian, a city in coastal Colombia, in 1510. Balboa established a settlement in Darien, situated in Panama. Despite maintaining peace, Balboa and Spanish authorities treated the natives poorly. Balboa assumed position as governor of Darien, exploiting the land and people for gold and riches. The Spaniard eventually lost his position as governor to Pedro Arias Davila, appointed by King Ferdinand II. Davila ultimately had Balboa executed, fearing an uprising from Balboa and allies.Learn more about Exploration & Imperialism