Vasco Nunez de Balboa may not be as famous as other explorers and conquistadors, but he should still be recognized as one of the leading figures of his time. This comes from the fact that he had a couple of important achievements that paved the way for succeeding explorers and helped the Spanish kingdom expand its territories.
Balboa was born to a nobleman father, but his family was not rich. He had three brothers and, when he reached his adolescent years, he became a page and squire to Don Pedro de Portocarrero, who was the lord of Moguer. Balboa, who was inspired by the discoveries of Christopher Columbus and was encouraged by Portocarrero, eventually sailed to the New World in a bid to make a better life for himself.
Balboa didn’t immediately become successful; in fact, a few years after he arrived at the island of Hispaniola, he became knee-deep in debt and had to stow away on a boat to escape his creditors. The boat that he was on was sailing to Panama and, with his charisma, he was able to convince the crew to let him stay on board. After a series of events, he was able to accomplish the following:
Founding The First Permanent European Settlement In America
When they arrived at the San Sebastian settlement in Panama, they found that it was already destroyed by the natives. Because of this, Balboa suggested that they move the settlement to another place named Darien, which had more fertile soil. However, before they could do so, the natives in Darien met them and engaged them in a battle. The Spanish eventually emerged victorious, and Balboa founded the settlement of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darien, which was considered to be the first permanent one on mainland America.
Leading The First European Expedition To Reach The Pacific Ocean
After founding the settlement, Balboa eventually became its mayor and later on became governor of the Veragua territory. He went on to defeat several native in battles and befriend others, collecting a large amount of gold as well as numerous slaves along the way.
After befriending one tribe, Balboa and his men learned from a native about “the other sea” as well as the rich kingdoms that were located along its coast. Balboa became interested in seeing all of these and went on an expedition to reach this sea. He and his men crossed the Isthmus of Panama, cutting through dense jungles and battling with the tribes who lived there. After more than 20 days, they climbed the summit of the mountain range from which they could see the sea. They then searched for a way to reach the coast and, a few days later, reached a bay, which they named San Miguel. He named the sea Mar del Sur (or the South Sea) and claimed it and the surrounding lands for the Spanish kingdom.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa eventually died by beheading at the hands of jealous rivals. Despite having his life cut short in his 40s, he was able to have two important accomplishments that paved the way to grander expeditions to the South Sea (now known as the Pacific Ocean).