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His women


Elcano fully trusted his mother, a woman who had had to raise no less than eight children in the absence of a father, Domingo Sebastián de Elcano, of whom we know little. It is to her that our captain left in his will [1] the control of his assets, and the supervision of the care of his children Domingo and María, had with María Hernández de Hernialde, a neighbor of Guetaria, to whom in his will he referred as the one I had as a virgin maiden , and with María de Viudaurreta, a neighbor of Valladolid, respectively. Elcano did not marry any of them.


For Catalina del Puerto it had to be very hard the moment when she received confirmation of the death of her son Juan Sebastián, embarked in 1525 again towards the Especiería on the Loaysa expedition, because in addition his sons Martín Pérez de Elcano (pilot of the Sancti Spiritus ship) [2], Antón Martín de Elcano (pilot of the Santa María del Parral ship) and Ochoa Martín de Elcano (master of the San Gabriel ship, and later of the Santiago Patache), together with his son-in-law Santiago de Guevara, captain of Patache Santiago, and husband of his daughter Inesa de Elcano. One of these children was also traveling, and therefore the grandson of Doña Catalina, named Martín Sánchez de Guevara [3]. Only Ochoa returned, aboard the patache Santiago, which was separated in a storm from the rest of the navy in the Pacific, and went to seek the help of Hernán Cortés. Later he would return to Spain [4].

The first survivors of the Loaysa expedition of the group that managed to reach the Moluccas arrived in Spain in 1534, nine years later. Doña Catalina had to be informed then of the fatal fate of the rest of her children. However, they were not the ones who carried the testament of Juan Sebastián de Elcano to Spain, signed in a tremulous handwriting by our captain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Who did it was the last captain of Loaysa's expedition, Hernando de la Torre, who handed it over to the lords of the Council of the Indies closed and sealed [5], and it was opened in the presence of Rodrigo de Gainza, Catalina's grandson and nephew of our captain.

Sick in bed and in dire need [6] , Catalina del Puerto sued the prosecutor to get the salary and benefits owed to Juan Sebastián. He had fixed an annual lifetime pay of 500 gold ducats with which Emperor Charles V wanted to reward him for his merits in the expedition of the first round the world, which, however, he had never received. In addition to this, he later obtained an additional grant of another 1,000 ducats as a bonus for assuming the post of Captain Major in Loaysa's army, which he left without having received payment [7].


In that lawsuit, they expressly testified on behalf of Doña Catalina, Juan de Mazuecos and Vicente de Napoles [8], who together with Arias de León had managed to be the first to return to Spain from that dramatic trip, traveling from India to Lisbon aboard the Portuguese ship Flor da Mar. They answered the questions that the prosecutor wanted to ask them in relation to all their children.


The Emperor wanted to settle the debt to Juan Sebastián de Elcano in March 1535, ordering that 200,000 maravedís be paid to Doña Catalina del Puerto, deducting from them 30,000 mrs apparently already paid long ago, paying it immediately with 20,000, and the rest spread over the three successive years [9]. The Casa de Contratación complied with this order promptly, completing the last part of the payment on January 22, 1538 [10]. Although it was a very large amount, we calculated that it was not even a fifth of everything that was owed to him.

In 1536 Andrés de Urdaneta returned to Spain, that boy from neighboring Villafranca de Ordicia who had been admired by Juan Sebastián de Elcano, and had wanted to embark with him on the Loaysa expedition. He had signed the captain's will as a witness, and was present at the time of his death. He returned eleven years after his departure aboard the Portuguese ship São Roque , bringing his daughter Gracia, born in the Moluccas to an indigenous mother. There is nothing written about it, but it would not be logical to doubt that Andrés de Urdaneta, upon returning to his homeland, took care to inform Doña Catalina in detail about what happened to her children.


In 1538 Catalina del Puerto appointed a new attorney to claim the salary of her sons Martín Pérez de Elcano and Ochoa Martínez de Elcano [11]. Nothing got. Many years later, in 1553 and 1554, there are separate documents in which he named his grandson Rodrigo de Gainza heir and gave him powers to continue claiming on his behalf [12].

Unfortunately, Dona Catalina passed away after a few months. Rodrigo de Gainza continued to sue, but in a little later document he already referred to her as his deceased grandmother. This document has no date, but it was noted at the bottom that it was received in Valladolid on May 23, 1555 [13]. The Council of the Indies ended up giving the reason to Rodrigo de Gainza in the open lawsuits over the salaries of the relatives of our captain.


[1] AGI, Patronato, 38, R.1

[2] The latest news we have found about Martín Pérez de Elcano places him alive as a pilot of the Santa María de la Victoria ship, in the Pacific, on September 22, 1526, when they were only ten days away from arriving in Mindanao. . In this document, written on board, there was evidence of the delivery of certain goods belonging to Juan Sebastián, after his death, to Esteban de Mutío, son of María de Elcano. AGI, Patronato, 38, R.1, image 31 in PARES.

[3] AGI, Indifferent, 425, L.23, F.164R (3) In this document, from the year 1555, Inesa claimed the salary due to her son as a member of the Maluco expedition, so it is to be assumed that by then he would have died.

[4] There is a royal decree of December 1529 in which the Emperor asked Ochoa Martínez de Elcano to join the expedition to the Maluco de Simón de Alcazaba. In addition, in the records of the heirs of Santiago de Guevara we find that Ochoa went from the San Gabriel ship to the Santiago Patache, acting as master (AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, fol. 4r) for what seems Of course, he ended up surviving, and that he returned to Spain after receiving help from Hernán Cortés (1526). It would confirm that the fact that it does not appear in the payments that Cristóbal de Haro made to his crew members did not return on board the ship San Gabriel, while, instead, an Álvaro de Berrio was paid as master of this ship, a position that Ochoa practiced before him (in PATRONATO, 37, R.38, image 103 in PARES ). For all this, we dare to conclude that Ochoa Martínez de Elcano did survive Loaysa's expedition, returned to Spain and died not long after, before receiving the salary that was due to him, and that his family continued to claim.

[5] AGI, Patronato, 38, R.1, img 5. in PARES.

[6] AGI, Indifferent, 422, L.16, fol. 190v.

[7] AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, fol. 12r

[8] AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, fols. 30r-31r.

[9] AGI, Indifferent, 422, L.16, F.186V-191R.

[10] AGI, Contratación, 4676, Cargo Book of 1538, fol. 241v.

[11] AGI, Patronato, 37, R.37. The salary of another son who died in this expedition, Antón de Elcano, was not claimed by Catalina del Puerto but by his wife, María Ochoa de Elorriaga (AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, fol. 22r).

[12] That of Martín Pérez de Elcano in AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, fols. 10r-11r. That of Ochoa Martínez de Elcano in the same document, folios 14r-15r.

[13] AGI, Patronato, 40, N.1, R.5, Bl. 8, fol. 8r.


Proyecto realizado por alumnos y profesores del Instituto de Enseñanza Secundaria IES Lacimurga Constantia Iulia, de Navalvillar de Pela (Badajoz, España).

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