Cristobal Vaca de Castro Biography

Cristobal Vaca de Castro (Izagre, León, Spain, c. 1492 – Valladolid, Spain, 1564).

Lawyer, Explorer and Political and Military Leader of Spanish origin, who was appointed by Emperor Charles I as judge pesquisorr, being sent to Peru, to resolve the conflict between Diego de Almagro el Mozo and Francisco Pizarro.

He was also Governor of Peru, between 1542 and 1544. Among his contributions, the discovery of Tucumán, made in 1543 by a Spanish expedition, commanded, at his request by Diego Rojas.

Early Life

Cristóbal Vaca de Castro was born in a village, owned by his father, located in the city of Izagre, in the kingdom of León. As for his date of birth it is believed that it may have taken place in the year 1492. Very little data is known about his early life, except that he would have completed a Law Degree at the University of Valladolid.

Once graduated, he was employed in the service of García de Loaysa, in the condition of servant. His master, would have gradually gained a powerful position, becoming President of the Council of Indies and Archbishop of Seville, events that ultimately benefited this lawyer.


In 1537, the influence of his mighty master took effect, being appointed with the title of Lord of Seven Churches and the places of Izagre and St. Mary of Loreto.

Likewise, thanks to the advice of Laoysa, the Spanish Emperor Carlos I chose Vaca de Castro to send him to Peru, as a persecuting judge, in order to resolve the armed conflict between the almagrists and the pizarrists, among other clashes, such as the circumscribed to New Granada, between Pascual de Andagoya and Sebastián de Benalcázar.

Likewise, he was assigned the mission to visit the fortresses located in San Juan and the island of Hispaniola, as well as to reform the Audiencia de Panamá. In order to have sufficient power, the sovereign Charles I of Spain enlisted him with the power to replace the current governor Francisco Pizarro, in the event of death, or any disabling circumstance.  He was also given the habit of the Order of Santiago, while he was appointed as a member of the Royal and Supreme Council of Castile.

Journey to the New World

On November 5, 1540, Vaca de Castro left Spain, departing from the port located in San Lúcar de Barrameda. He was accompanied by a squadron made up of seventeen ships, with which he would face the multiple storms he had to cross, before his arrival in Santo Domingo, on December 30, 1540, occurring, when he could not reach San Juan, when his crew was diverted from course by a Caribbean storm.

Two months later, he stepped on Panama, where he arrived on February 24, 1541. According to his task, he chaired and reorganized the Royal Audience of Panama, doing so with Valladolid’s as an example. He then sailed for Peru on March 19, 1541.

However, a temporary fort, he made him choose the land route, anchoring his ships in Buenaventura, from where he departed to Cali, and then to Popayán, where he effectively intervened in the conflict between Pascual de Andagoya and Sebastián de Belalcázar. While in this city, he received the news of Pizarro’s death, and the assumption of Diego de Almagro el Mozo, as governor.

Battle of Chupas

Castro’s cow immediately departed for Peru. Finally, on 7 August 1542, he arrived in Lima, accompanied by the troops of Marshal Alonso de Alvarado, with whom he joined in Huaura. He immediately began to organize the fight against the almagrists.

Vaca de Castro moved to Jauja, where he proclaimed himself Governor of Peru and Captain General of the Army, in front of the King’s troops. Invested with the new powers, he marched to Huamanga, knowing that Almagro El Mozo was advancing from Cuzco in front of 500 soldiers. Vaca de Castro exhausted the diplomatic route, exchanging letters with this warlord, facing the refusal, decided to wait for him in Chupas, where he defeated him on September 16, 1542.

After an arduous pursuit, he managed to apprehend Al Magro El mozo, ordering his execution.


His first act as governor was to issue several providences, in order to reward the loyalty, of those who remained in defense of the King’s opinions. He also gave himself up to the task of reorganizing the city. In 1543, an expedition led by Diego Rojas, under his command, headed for Rio de la Plata, discovering Tucumán.

Another important issue covered by Vaca de Castro was to put the encomenderos in the waist. In 1542, the King proclaimed the New Laws, which came almost to suppress the encomiendas, so they rebelled. Faced with possible uprisings, the King decided to send a Viceroy to Peru.

Arrest and final years

Vaco de Castro returned to Lima, in September 1543, to wait for the new Viceroy of Peru, Blasco Núñez Vela, to whom he handed over power on May 15, 1544. However, under the apparent charge of conspiracy, Vaco de Castro was arrested and handed over to the Royal Household, where 100 thousand Castilians were imposed on him. He was confined to a boat, which was anchored in the Callao rada. When Gonzalo Pizarro’s rebellion arrived in Lima, Vaco de Castro managed to convince the crew to set sail for Panama, from where he left for Spain.

Upon his arrival in the Iberian Peninsula on 23 June 1545, he was imprisoned for ten years for illicit enrichment. However, a few years later he achieved his acquittal, and even got a place in the Council of Castile, by King Felipe II, who also recognized him the unpaid salaries since 1545.

In 1562 he retired from public life from his duties, entering the Convent of St. Augustine, where he died in 1564.

Image source:

Cristobal Vaca de Castro Biography
Source: Education  
August 6, 2019

Next Random post