Gonzalo Pizarro Biography

Explorer, Governor (c. 1502–1548)
The half-brother of Francisco Pizarro, conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro helped conquer Peru in the early 1530s and led a rebellion against Spain in the 1540s.


Born in Spain around 1502, Gonzalo Pizarro was the half-brother of conquistador Francisco Pizarro. He traveled on his brother's expedition to Peru in the early 1530s and helped him overthrow Incan ruler Manco Capac. Gonzalo became governor of Quito in 1539. He led a rebellion against the Spanish government over the "New Laws" in the mid-1540s, and was executed in Peru on April 10, 1548.

Early Life

Born around 1502 (some sources say 1506) in Trujillo, Spain, Gonzalo Pizarro is best remembered for his rebellion against the Spanish crown in Peru during the 1540s. He was the son of a soldier, also named Gonzalo. His father had many children, including Gonzalo's half-brother Francisco Pizarro. Francisco had traveled on several expeditions to the New World, hoping to find his fortune.

Little is known of Gonzalo's childhood. He eventually joined his brother for a mission of a lifetime. Gonzalo served as a soldier under Francisco on his journey to Peru in the early 1530s.

Spanish Conquistador

Gonzalo aided his brother in conquering the Inca people in the region. He was generously rewarded by Spain, receiving land and the governorship of the city of Quito in 1539. In 1540 or 1541, Pizarro led his own eastward expedition from Quito. The venture soon proved to be a disaster when supplies ran low. Pizarro's lieutenant Francisco de Orellana left the group to search for food, but he never returned.

Accompanied by only a small surviving faction of his original expedition, Pizarro eventually made his way back to Quito. He then learned about the assassination of his half-brother in 1541. Around this time, King Charles V was pushed to pass a series of regulations, usually referred to as the "New Laws," to reign in the widespread abuse enacted by Spanish colonists and improve the lives of the native peoples in the New World.

Rebellion and Death

These new rules, however, did not go over well with many of the Spanish colonists. They sought the aid of Pizarro in challenging the decrees. He put together a force of soldiers and scored a victory against viceroy Blasco Núñez Vela in 1546. Spain then sent Pedro de la Gasca to quell the rebellion. In 1548, Pizarro was forced to surrender after his troops abandoned him. He was beheaded on April 10, 1548, in Cuzco, Peru.

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