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His women

Rembrandt. British Museum.
Catalina del Puerto
Captain Juan Sebastián de Elcano's mother


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.


Beatriz Barbosa
Wife of Captain Fernando de Magallanes


Fernando de Magallanes arrived in Seville from Portugal in October 1517. At that time, one of the best-positioned Portuguese there was Diego Barbosa, nobleman and commander of the Order of Santiago, favored by the Catholic Monarchs in compensation for his services in Granada and Pamplona. . At that time he held an important position as warden of the Shipyards and Royal Alcázares of Seville, and he immediately gave support to our captain. Barbosa had two children, named Jaimes and Beatriz, and Magellan began to look at her with good eyes.


Everything happened quite quickly. The young King Carlos I arrived from Flanders to Asturias in February 1518, and only a month later he was granted the so-called Capitulations of Valladolid [1], or the contract by which the Army was appointed Captain General of the Army. Thus, Magallanes and Beatriz Barbosa did not take long to get married. They had no time to waste, given the expedition's next departure. While this was being organized they had a child, whom they named Rodrigo, and again she became pregnant with a second child.


There are three documents formalized before a notary public relating to their marriage dated June 14, 1519: a letter of payment from Magellan to his father-in-law for 300,000 maravedís on account of the 600,000 he owed him for his daughter's dowry [2], the a dowry letter from Diego Barbosa and his wife, María Caldera, to their daughter [3], and a letter of deposit granted by Magellan to his wife worth 2,000 gold ducats [4].


On August 10, 1519, the five ships left Seville to stop at Sanlúcar de Barrameda for 41 days. Magellan, however, was in Seville signing his will a few days later [5]. In it he left his wife well protected, to whom he also managed to get the Casa de Contratación to pay her salary while the trip lasted, something that did not happen with the families of the rest of the expedition members. After his departure, they would never see each other again.


A few months later a great misfortune happened, because Beatriz lost the baby she was expecting, we do not know if prematurely or shortly after birth. In the documentation that we know there is no later trace of this child.


The captain general met his death on April 27, 1521 in Mactan (Philippines), in a combat that he engaged in with the natives. That news would take more than a year to reach Seville, when the ship Victoria [6] arrived. However, on May 6, 1521, just a few days after the death of Magellan, the paradox occurred that Beatriz Barbosa received hopeful news from her husband with the arrival in Seville of the ship San Antonio, which had set course for back to Spain from that strait that would bear her husband's name forever.


Those of the San Antonio brought good and bad news for Beatriz Barbosa. The good news was that her husband had discovered what appeared to be the passage by sea to the other side of America and, at least when that happened, he was still alive. The bad news was that his crew reported major abuses of authority by Magellan [7], who had come to banish Captain Juan de Cartagena to his fate in Patagonia, belonging to the Burgos nobility and who was nothing less than relative of someone very powerful: Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, whom the Catholic Monarchs had entrusted to found the Casa de Contratación de Indias in Seville.


Magellan had created a bad enemy for himself with that decision. Fonseca's reaction to learning of this was furious. He wrote an order to the officials of the Casa de Contratación [8] - the evil he has done has put me in such distress ... - in which he ordered that until the matter was clarified, payments to Beatriz Barbosa and that she be put under surveillance, so that she could not leave Seville.


During this same year, 1521, misfortune struck Beatriz Barbosa, as she suffered the hardest possible setback, with the death of her little Rodrigo in the month of September. She herself died six months later [9]. Her time came in 1522, before the ship Victoria returned and she could hear from her husband.


After his arrival in Seville in September 1522, Captain Elcano in person took care of delivering an artisan palm made with nail and thread, saying that it was a gift for Dona Beatriz from Jorge Morisco [9], who appears in the lists of embarked as "slave" of Magellan and acted as interpreter in the expedition. Jorge had stayed on the island of Tidore along with the rest of the companions of the Trinidad ship, and he wanted to have that nice detail with her. Sadly, when the palm reached its destination, both himself and its recipient had already passed away.


As we can see, it was a very sad story that of the family of our captain Fernando de Magallanes.



In general, the document that provides the most information on Beatriz Barbosa is AGI, Patronato, 36, R. 2 Autos de Jaime Barbosa and his brothers, heirs of Fernando de Magallanes, with the prosecutor, on the fulfillment of the capitulation made by the king with that for the discovery of the Spice . It is a long file that brings together different files on the process opened by his brother to collect the due from Magellan, which also contains the will of the captain general.

[1] AGI, Indifferent, 415, L.1, fols.18v-20r

[2] AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 9125P, Folios 127v-128v

[3] AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 9125P, Folios 126r-127r

[4] AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 9125P, Folios 129r-130r

[5] AGI, Patronato, 36, R.2, fols. 29-36.

[6] In the fiscal process initiated later to collect the inheritance of Magellan from Beatriz's brother, Jaimes Barbosa, two witnesses affirmed in 1529 that they learned of Magellan's death through "messenger letters" that arrived in Seville addressed to Diego Barbosa. One of them claimed that they came from Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa. The other of these witnesses did not mention Espinosa, but said that "he saw messenger letters that were sent to this city from the island called Matán, by which it was said how the said Fernando de Magallanes was killed on the said island of Matán. " It would be very strange if Espinosa sent some letters to Seville from the Philippines, and even more so if they had arrived. The same witness helps us to understand that his statement does not exactly match reality, by stating below that "at the time that the news and letters came to this said city of how the said Hernando de Magallanes was dead, this witness knows that the saying Rodrigo de Magallanes, his son, was alive. " Given that Rodrigo is known to have died in September 1521, and the expedition left Cebu on May 1 of the same year, it would have been necessary for the letters to travel by plane to arrive on time. The witness vaguely remembers the event, but it does seem evident from both testimonies that those letters from Espinosa to Diego Barbosa existed, although there would be no other explanation that they arrived on board the nao Victoria, along with those that the rest of the crew of the Trinidad they sent to Spain, according to what Pigafetta told us. Testimonies in PATRONATO, 36, R.2, pages 92 to 101.

[6] AGI, Patronato, 34, R.15

[7] AGI, Indifferent, 420, L.8, fols. 294r-295r

[8] AGI, Patronato, 36, R.2, fol. 1st.

[9] AGI, Contratación, 5090, L.4


Juana Durango
Wife of Captain Juan Rodríguez Serrano and mother of page Francisco


A woman as strong as in love with her husband. That was Juana Durango, to whom the arrival of the ship Victoria brought hard news, but also a silver lining for the hope that she always clung to, and for whom she fought in such a way that not only the Emperor had news of her, but also also King Juan III of Portugal, as well as Hernán Cortés himself, and the Portuguese governors in Asia. We go on to tell his story.


Her husband was one of the most prominent men on the expedition, the veteran Casa de Contratación pilot Juan Rodríguez Serrano [1]. Although he was born in Fregenal de La Sierra (Badajoz) [2], both lived in Seville together with a son and at least two daughters. The man's name was Francisco, and in reality he was only her son, so we can suspect that Juana had been widowed from a previous marriage. Before leaving, her husband was appointed captain of the smallest ship, the Santiago, and he wanted to embark with his stepson Francisco, who served as a page on the same ship [3].


Given that this ship was the most maneuverable and had the smallest draft, Magellan sent it as an advance to explore ahead alone while the others remained in the Port of San Julián, in Patagonia. Serrano then discovered the Santa Cruz River, but a strong storm ensued in which the ship ran aground against the rocks six leagues south of the mouth [4] and fell apart, allowing everyone to escape, except for one person who died. Later they were given ransom, and Magellan gave Juan Serrano the captaincy of the Nao Concepción. It was a post that had become vacant after the execution of its previous captain, Gaspar de Quesada, for being one of the leaders of the mutiny against Magallanes, which had already taken place in the Port of San Julián.


The navy continued its journey, discovered the strait, crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived at what would later be called the Philippine Islands. There they ended up landing in Cebu, a town with a large population where they befriended their local king Humabón. Soon, the death of Magellan happened and then Humabón plotted a betrayal against ours, inviting them to eat. Serrano and the majority were suspicious of this, but after a hint of cowardice by Duarte Barbosa (a relative of Beatriz Barbosa) he was the first to jump ashore to go [5].


Those who remained on the naos, without knowing what was happening, heard a great shouting and saw how the natives carried Juan Serrano to shore, wounded, naked and bound, telling them that they had killed the others, including his son Francisco. They asked for ransom for him, but when he was handed over to them, they did not release the captain. They did it again, without result, so they understood that what they wanted was to take the naos. They had no choice but to flee, leaving him there, and asking him to forgive them. We have different versions of Juan Serrano's behavior in this episode, from that of Pigafetta, who left him cursing the pilot Carvalho for marching, to that of Oliveira, in which it was he who heroically asked the others to leave because it was not the cause of a greater evil.


When the Victoria ship arrived in Seville in 1522, the surviving expedition members had to bring sad news to many families, but Juana's case was especially tragic. Beyond the feelings she may have had about it, a problem was created for her and that is, since her husband was not presumed dead, she lost the right to collect her salary as heir. While the relatives of the deceased were compensated for the work of their children and parents, Juana should manage to get ahead.


In 1526 Hernán Cortés sent his cousin Álvaro de Saavedra from New Spain in command of an expedition of three ships to the Maluco. In the document with the orders to follow, it included going to the rescue of Juan Serrano as one of the objectives to be met:

You will work to get to the island of Cebu, and take a language there if Juan Serrano, a pilot, and others who were imprisoned with him on that island are alive, and if they are alive, rescue them [6].


As is evident, the Emperor had informed Hernán Cortés of the case of Juan Serrano, and asked him to take advantage of his expedition to search for him. But in addition, he also wanted to involve King John III of Portugal in his search, to whom he wrote on April 28, 1526 [7]:

Very serene, very tall and very powerful King of Portugal:

On the part of Juana Durango, a neighbor of this city of Seville, a report has been made to me that, with Juan Serrano, her husband, going by our pilot in the navy that we sent to continue and hiring the spice shop that was by captain general Commander Magellan, was imprisoned and captive on the island of Zubú by the inhabitants of it, and from there he was taken as a captive to the king of Lozón, where he says that he is at present, and he pleaded with me and asked for mercy that because the island that the king of Luzon is lord is near the islands of Melaca, and he contracts with her his merchandise, you would write asking you to send to send the person who is for you in the said islands of Melaca, who knows if the said his husband is in the power of the said king of Luzon, and if he is alive, and try to have it from him, and send him to your kingdom.

And because because the said Juan Serrano is our vassal and having lost in our service, he would rejoice in his freedom, we affectionately ask you to write very kindly to the person you have in said India of Melaca so that he tries to know about the said Juan Serrano and his freedom and that, being free, send him to this your kingdom so that from there he can come to his house, which in this also will be a pious work and service of our Lord. I will receive a very singular satisfaction.


Juan II of Portugal waited some time, but ended up transferring this request to his governors and captains in Malaca and Maluco, to whom he wrote in February 1527 [8]:


The Emperor […] wrote to me letting me know that a Juana Durango, a neighbor of the city of Seville, told him that a Juan Serrano, her husband, by her navy pilot who ordered the continuation of the treatment of the spice that commander Magellan was the captain general, was taken prisoner and captive on the island of Cebu by the inhabitants of it, and that from there he was taken as a captive to the king of Lozón, where he says that he is at present. […] You will work to bring it or send it to our kingdoms.


A month after the king of Portugal sent that letter, Juan Durango offered Fernando Suárez, general treasurer of Portugal, 150 gold ducats as a ransom for her husband since, he claimed, he was a Moorish captive in the Indies of Portugal [ 9]. The guarantors of this large sum were Gonzalo Rodríguez and Beatriz de Atienza, widow of Pedro Durango (perhaps Juana's brother).


After this, there are different documents in which Juana Durango claimed through successive attorneys [10] that the salary due to her husband be paid, as well as twelve quintals of cloves that she claimed had come to her name on the Victoria ship, and twelve others who had remained on the Trinidad ship. In this fragment his precarious economic situation is evident [11]:


Juana de Durango, wife of Juan Rodríguez Serrano, VA pilot, from Seville, says that there may have been twelve years more or less that the saying her husband spent in the army of Hernando de Magallanes, captain of the spice army, and In all this time the said her husband is in the service of Your Highness in those parts where the said army was. And at the time that he left in the said army, he left said woman and daughters in said city with a lot of poverty and need, and later they have come in much more, in such a way that, if for the love of God some people don't give it to them honest, neither she nor her daughters eat. She asks and pleads with VA that, considering her poverty and fatigue that she and her daughters have suffered from hunger from the said times to the said twelve years, they order her to give […] even to support herself, fifteen thousand maravedís for her and her daughters, they have well need, in each year.


Carlos V ordered the Casa de Contratación de Sevilla in January 1531 to be informed of the amounts owed to Juana Durango, in response to the request that she had formalized [12]. A process was then opened with the prosecutor [13], in which the shipowner Cristóbal de Haro was involved, although it has not reached us in full and in whose last document, of May 1536, Juana still continued to claim what was due to her. Two years later, in 1538, she carried out the last management that we have news of, granting a power of attorney to Hernando de Ávila to try to get the Council of the Indies to pay her the annual salary of 1,500 maravedíes, which her husband should receive as Captain Fernando de Magallanes' Navy pilot [14].

With this document Dona Juana's story is diluted, without us knowing what ended up being hers. Although she said that she did not sign because she did not know how to write, this great woman had managed to move two empires to locate her husband, and she never gave up fighting for what was hers.



[1] AGI, Contratación, 5784, L.1, fol. 9

[2] PT / TT / CC / 2/101/87, fol 1v. ANTT Corpo Cronológico, Part II, mç. 101, No. 87

[3] AGI, Contratación, 5090, L.4

[4] Chronicle of Fernando de Oliveira or Manuscript of Leiden.

[5] Ibid.

[6] AGI, Patronato, 43, N.2, R.5, fol. 4r

[7] PT / TT / CC / 1/34/44 ANTT Corpo Cronológico, Part I, mç. 34, No. 44.

[8] PT / TT / CC / 1/35/108 ANTT Corpo Cronológico, Part I, mç. 35, No. 108.

[9] AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 3268P

[10] Five appointments as proxies appear in AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 39P, 1532P, 52P, 54P and 1073P

[11] AGI, Patronato, 35, R.7, Bl.2, fol 1r

[12] AGI, Indifferent, 1961, L.2, fols. 86v-87

[13] AGI, Patronato, 35, R.7

[14] AHPSE / // Notarial Protocols, 1073P


Juana de Paradiso
Wife of the pilot Francisco Albo

Francisco Albo was Elcano's pilot on the nao Victoria and, therefore, one of its main officers on board as an expert in navigation. Although he Spanishized his name, he was a native of Axio, a town located on the Greek island of Chíos, in the Aegean Sea, and a neighbor of Rhodes [1]. He was married to Juana de Paradiso and they both had at least one son, named Batista.

Albo received fame, money and honors upon his arrival in Seville. Elcano chose him to go to meet with the Emperor in Valladolid and, together with him, testimony of what happened during the trip was taken from the mayor Santiago Díaz de Leguizamo [2], which turns out to be one of the most relevant documents that they are preserved on expedition. In the same way, he compiled in an extraordinary document the one known as Derrotero [3] of the trip.

Carlos V was fascinated by the story they told him, and assigned Albo a bonus of 50,000 maravedís a year for his entire life [4] - although he never finished seeing these payments satisfied. On the other hand, for the salary earned during the expedition and the nail that was brought, he received 274,580 maravedís from the Casa de Contratación de Sevilla, which were paid to him three times (on March 9 and October 1, 1523 , and for Lent 1524) [5]. He was therefore one of the highest paid crew members. Thus, Albo and his family were able to lead a comfortable life.

What became of him later is a mystery. In fact, it is striking that, unlike the majority of his fellow survivors of the trip, he did not participate as a witness in the Board of Elvas - Badajoz [6], held in 1524 between Portuguese and Castilian experts to try to elucidate their membership. of the Maluco to one or another kingdom, by virtue of the Treaty of Tordesillas.


We only have a distant echo of what became of him, and it is a payment letter [7] signed by his son Batista in 1536. In it we can see that Francisco Albo had already died in Seville at that time — giving the impression that he settled in Seville after his return — and that his widow, Dona Juan de Paradiso, had later moved to Messina (Italy).

In addition, this letter, of which we show its transcript here, reinforces the hypothesis that, although Albo was born in Greece, he was probably of Genoese descent, not only because his wife ended up leaving for Italy, but also because of his connection with the consulate. Genoese merchant of Seville.


Juana and Francisco's son took care as the legitimate heir to collect the money that his father had in Seville, which at that time amounted to 35,000 maravedís, and of which he claimed that a part corresponded to his mother.


[1] AGI, Contratación, 5090, L.4, fol. 42r

[2] AGI, Patronato, 34, R.19

[3] AGI, Patronato, 34, R.5

[4] AGI, Contaduría, 425, N.1, R.1, fol. 153

[5] AGI, Contaduría, 425, N.1, R.1, fol. 2nd

[6] AGI, Patronato, 48, R.15

[7] AHPSe, Notarial Protocols Section, 52 (1536, May ...), F. 970


Catalina Vázquez, Isabel Méndez and Francisca Vázquez
Mother and sisters of the clerk Martín Méndez

Although Martín Méndez's parents married in Salamanca, shortly afterwards they settled in Seville [1], where their children Martín, Hernán, Isabel and Francisca were later born. Pedro Méndez, his father, died young, so the one who took care of running the house was his mother, named Catalina Vázquez. Martín received a good education and ended up being one of the most outstanding men on the expedition of the first round the world. It gives us a good idea of ​​it the fact that he was only surpassed by Juan Sebastián de Elcano in the amount received for his salary, boxes and quintalada after his return to Spain [ see table with the amounts received by each survivor].

His trade was that of a clerk. At that time, this involved much more than being a mere writer, since what was settled before a notary was awarded the category of truthful and legal, in a similar way to what happens with a notary in our days. Therefore, Martín Méndez legitimized and gave official character to the alliance sealed by the expedition members with the king of Tidore (Moluccas) as well as with many other kings allied to that environment, as reflected in the so-called Book of Peace , written and signed by him aboard the nao Victoria.

He was the leader of the group of 12 or 13 men who were imprisoned by the Portuguese in Cidade Velha , in the Cape Verde Islands, although the Emperor's negotiations with the King of Portugal would soon bear fruit and, on October 15, 1522, Thirty-seven days after the return of the ship Victoria, he ended up being released along with eight other of his companions [2]. His services were highly valued by Carlos V, who assigned him a life annuity of 200 ducats a year for his entire life, as a mercy for the services rendered in the expedition.

In 1526 he embarked again for the Spice, China and Japan in the expedition of Sebastián Caboto, with the position of lieutenant of captain general. He was accompanied by a servant of his, named Andrés de Villoria [3]. It was thus by the express will of the Emperor, who also wanted the Greek master Miguel de Rodas to embark, who had been another of the main men who had returned to Spain with Elcano [3]. Carlos V wanted to give weight to Cabot's expedition with these two men of his full confidence and proven worth.

However, this did not please Cabotus, who devised a different plan than the Emperor's idea. He had none of Martín Méndez even before he left, for which he was reprimanded and warned by Carlos V. Despite this, nothing changed and, while the expedition stopped on the island of La Palma, the old friends Méndez and Miguel de Rodas wrote letters to the Emperor, in order for the island officials to send them to the court. They were also joined in this by the captain of one of the ships, named Francisco de Rojas. [5]


However, Caboto was warned of this and prevented it, imprisoning these three men since then, who received very harsh treatment. Later, off the coast of Brazil, he left on the island of Santa Catalina - halfway between Rio de Janeiro and the Rio de la Plata, very close to the mainland coast - both Martín Méndez and Miguel de Rhodes. [6] It was an island populated by cannibals, so his true intention was to permanently get rid of them. According to Catalina Vázquez later, Caboto gave them as slaves to the chief of the Indians, so that he could do with them whatever he wanted.

This decision is only explained by the fact that Caboto thought to disobey the royal orders, given that when he reached the Río de la Plata he decided to dedicate himself to exploring it, entering the Paraná River, and forgetting to continue his trip to the Species as he had been entrusted by the Emperor. When he finally headed back to Spain, they again passed that island and found on the mainland certain weapons that had belonged to Méndez and to Rodas, by which it was learned that they had died eaten , and this is thus true by voice. and the fame of the people who may have news of it , as the prosecutor later said. [7] However, the exact circumstances of their death are somewhat unclear, as they apparently tried to gain the mainland coast. Caboto would later claim that he came to pick them up, but that the exiles had left the island in a canoe, because they found one of the slaves on the coast of the mainland who went with the said Martín Médez and Miguel de Rodas drowned, and a rodela which belonged to Miguel de Rodas, and a flask of orange blossom water, for which they presumed that the said Martín Méndez and Miguel de Rodas were dead . [8]

Caboto's expedition was an absolute failure, returning to Spain in 1530 without the latter having managed to find the riches he sought in the Río de la Plata, and with great loss of people. The families of our sailors then received the sad news of their deaths and the terrible circumstances in which they had occurred.

Catalina Vázquez then furiously denounced Sebastián Caboto for all the damage caused, not only to her son but also to the Emperor. Caboto defended himself against the accusations for not having followed the royal instructions, claiming that he did not know how to find the way to the Spice, which was used by the prosecutor to redouble his accusations, for deceiving the Emperor when he was entrusted with that mission, and to recriminate him with more reason for something very interesting: that the Strait of Magellan did not come, having as he had news for certain that Commander Loaysa was in the strait marinating his ships [9] . Those of the Caboto expedition had this news from those of Loaysa by people from this expedition they met, who had remained on an island in Los Patos Bay, which is near Río de Solís [Río de la Plata] [10].

The letter that Dona Catalina wrote to the Emperor giving an account of Cabot's abuses against her son and demanding justice, which we have transcribed here , is a must read. In it we find all the keys to the history of her son in the Cabot expedition, and we will also find a cultured, determined, angry, and hurt woman.

The saying my son remained on said island without any maintenance or other goods, and there they killed him and the Indian sayings ate him and did what they wanted with him, because after here nothing has been known about his life, for which The said Captain Sebastián Caboto incurred the death penalty and many other very great corporal and penal penalties established in the law and laws of these kingdoms, and committed the crime lesy magistatis and many other ugly and infamous crimes, especially that it is believed and has for It is true that, if the saying my son lived and was not killed so unjustly, the said army would take the journey and path that the VA was commanded to take.

From this letter we know that Hernán Méndez, Martín's brother, had also embarked on this expedition, but was killed after falling ill. Catalina Vázquez therefore lost her two sons on the expedition.

She herself met her death that same year, 1530, finding herself in court pleading for justice to be done. His daughters testified as follows: the said Catalina Vázquez, his mother, dealing with the said pleyt, passed away this present life in the court of their majesties, in the town of Ocaña [11]. Thus, Martín Méndez's sisters remained his only heirs, since he had never married or had children, and it was they who continued with the lawsuit and claims that their mother had initiated. Both moved from the family home, located in the collation (neighborhood, parish) of San Martín, and settled in that of San Andrés. In 1531 they were single and declared their age, turning out to be still young: twenty-three years Isabel and twenty Francisca [12].

The two sisters claimed the amount owed to their brother by the Crown, both for the salary earned by Martín Méndez during Caboto's expedition until his death, as well as for the amount corresponding to that grant of the Emperor of 200 ducats for life swear for the services rendered in the expedition of the first round the world, which he had only received twice [13]. They took quick and multiple steps to do so, represented by the Sevillian Julio Velázquez, who agreed to represent them as curator ad litem in the lawsuit. From April 1531, they gave successively a punctual reply to the prosecutor who, as usual, tried to justify the reduction of the amount owed under any argument.

While the process dragged on, the Empress Doña Isabel de Portugal herself issued an order to the Council of the Indies for both sisters to be paid an advance of 70,000 maravedís [14], an amount more than enough to get them out of any jam, given that they said they were poor and needy [15].

Finally, in the year 1533, the prosecutor established that they should be paid 278,000 maravedís. It was less than what would have been fair, but it was still a high amount. The lords of the Council of the Indies wrote to the Emperor to give an account of it [16], and demanded that he issue the mandatory order of payment, as it happened [17].


On February 1, 1532, the Council of the Indies issued two sentences against Sebastián Caboto, corresponding to the processes opened by Catalina Vázquez and her daughters, and by Captain Francisco de Rojas. In each of them he was sentenced to two years in exile in Oran. [18] However, the Emperor was condescending to Cabot and these sentences were never carried out. Later, this ended up passing to the service of the King of England.


[1] AGIPatronate, 35, R.6. Autos of heirs of Martín Méndez. Image 25 in PAIRS.

[2] AGI, Contaduría, 425, N.1, R.1, folio 1v, Information on salaries, merchandise and grants related to the Armada a la Especiería organized by Fernando de Magallanes.

[3] AGI, Patronato, 42, N.1, R.1 Expedition of Sebastián Caboto. Block 3, image 1 in PAIRS . Andrés de Villoria survived the trip.

[4] It is more than probable that a third member of the expedition of the first round the world also embarked on the Cabot expedition. We find a Juan de Santander referred twice, who may well be the cabin boy who came with Elcano on the Victoria ship. In Patronato, 42, N.1, R.10, folio 1r this Juan de Santander appears as bosun in the Caboto expedition, while in Patronato, 42, N.1, R.6, folio 1r he is mentioned as “ pilot from Seville, about forty years old ”. This second document is not dated, but appears in a file from 1537, so it could be inferred that he would have been 22 years old when he embarked with Magellan. It would be fitting that it was the same person by age, since there were other cabin boys on the expedition who were over twenty years old, as was the case with Nicolás de Napoles. This Juan de Santander survived the Caboto expedition.

[5] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.7, folio 10v. Prosecutor's orders against Sebastián Caboto.

[6] Captain Francisco de Rojas was also exiled on the island of Santa Catalina, but after arguing with Méndez and de Rodas he managed to reach the mainland (as explained by Caboto), and then returned to embark during the return in Captain Diego's brig. Garcia, who did not wait for the rest of the army. Thus, Francisco de Rojas survived and returned to Spain, immediately opening a criminal case against Sebastián Caboto.

[7] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.7, folio 10v. Proceedings of the prosecutor against Sebastián Caboto.

[8] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.4. (image 168 in PARES) Catalina Vázquez's cars against Sebastián Caboto: mistreatment. According to Caboto and certain witnesses before a clerk, during the return they found a certain Durango on the island of Santa Catalina, who said he was from the Loaysa expedition, as well as "a black man" from the Juan Díaz de Solís expedition, who They explained the discussion between Méndez, de Rodas and Francisco de Rojas.

[9] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.7, folio 11v. Prosecutor's orders against Sebastián Caboto.

[10] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.6. Cars between Francisco de Rojas and Sebastián Caboto. Image 12 in PAIRS.

[11] AGI, Patronato, 41, R.4. Catalina Vázquez's cars against Sebastián Caboto: mistreatment. See digitization in PARES .

[12] Ibid.

[13] AGI, Patronato, 35, R.6, folio 4r. Autos of heirs of Martín Méndez.

[14] AGI, Indifferent, 737, N.29, folio 1r. Consultation of the Council of the Indies.

[15] AGIPatronate, 35, R.6, folio 4r. Autos of heirs of Martín Méndez.

[16] AGI, Indifferent, 737, N.29, folio 1r. Consultation of the Council of the Indies.

[17] AGI, Patronato, 35, R.6, folio 68r. Autos of heirs of Martín Méndez.

[18] We found both judgments, respectively, in AGI, Patronato, 41, R.4, Image 399 in PARES, Autos de Catalina Vázquez against Sebastián Caboto: mistreatment, and AGI, Patronato, 41, R.6, Block 4. Image 29 in PARES, Cars between Francisco de Rojas and Sebastián Caboto.


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