Alonso de Ojeda
Alonso de Ojeda was a Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 navigator, governor and conquistador. His name is sometimes spelled Alonzo and Oxeda.

Early life

Alonso de Ojeda was born in 1466 in Cuenca
Cuenca, Spain
-History:When the Iberian peninsula was part of the Roman Empire there were several important settlements in the province, such as Segóbriga, Ercávica and Gran Valeria...

. He came from an impoverished noble family, but had the good fortune to start his career in the household of the Duke of Medinaceli
Duke of Medinaceli
Duke of Medinaceli is a Spanish noble title given to Luis de la Cerda y de la Vega on 31 October 1479, by the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon when the old title of Count of Medinaceli, awarded to his grandfather, Bernal de Foix, in 1368, whereby was transformed...

. Early on he gained the patronage of Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca
Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca was a Spanish bishop, a courtier and bureaucrat whose position as chaplain to Queen Isabella enabled him to become a powerful counsellor to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs...

, bishop of Burgos and later Patriarch of the Indies, who made it possible for Ojeda to accompany Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

 in his second voyage to the New World
New World
The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically America and sometimes Oceania . The term originated in the late 15th century, when America had been recently discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle...

 in 1493. Ojeda distinguished himself there by his daring in battle with the natives, towards whom, however, he was unduly harsh and vindictive. He returned to Spain in 1496.


After three years, in May 1499, he again journeyed to the New World, this time on his own account with three vessels and accompanied by the cosmographer Juan de la Cosa
Juan de la Cosa
Juan de la Cosa was a Spanish cartographer, conquistador and explorer. He made the earliest extant European world map to incorporate the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century, sailed first 3 voyages with Christopher Columbus, and was the owner/captain of the Santa...

 and navigator Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. The Americas are generally believed to have derived their name from the feminized Latin version of his first name.-Expeditions:...

, who discovered that, contrary to Columbus' beliefs, the land was not Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. In little over three weeks he sighted the mainland near the mouth of the Orinoco River, and after landing at Trinidad
Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands and numerous landforms which make up the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. It is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. With an area of it is also the fifth largest in...

 and other such places, discovered a bay which is now known as Lake Maracaibo
Lake Maracaibo
Lake Maracaibo is a large brackish bay in Venezuela at . It is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Strait at the northern end, and fed by numerous rivers, the largest being the Catatumbo. It is commonly considered a lake rather than a bay or lagoon, and at 13,210 km² it would be the...

. The stilt houses of the Wayuu people in the area of Lake Maracaibo reminded Vespucci of the city of Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, , so he named the region "Venezuela," meaning "little Venice" in Italian. The word has the same meaning in Spanish, where the suffix
In linguistics, a suffix is an affix which is placed after the stem of a word. Common examples are case endings, which indicate the grammatical case of nouns or adjectives, and verb endings, which form the conjugation of verbs...

 -uela is used as a diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

 term (e.g., plaza / plazuela, cazo / cazuela); thus, the term's original sense would have been that of a "little Venice".

Although the Vespucci story remains the most popular and accepted version of the origin of the country's name, a different reason for the name comes up in the account of Martín Fernández de Enciso
Martín Fernández de Enciso
Martín Fernández de Enciso was a navigator and geographer from Seville, Spain. He was instrumental in colonising the Isthmus of Darien. Fernandez de Enciso founded a village near the Cabo de la Vela with the name Nuestra Señora Santa María de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela, the first settlement...

, a member of the Vespucci and Ojeda crew. In his work Summa de Geografía, he states that they found an indigenous population who called themselves the "Veneciuela," which suggests that the name "Venezuela" may have evolved from the native word.

There, at Guatemala, Ojeda married an Indian maiden named Guaricha.

Hispaniola and Spain

After some further exploration, he made his way to the island of Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

, where he was received far from cordially, as it was thought that he was infringing upon the exploring privileges of Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

. On his return to Spain in 1500, he took many captives whom he sold as slaves
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

. Even so the voyage was not financially successful, netting some fifteen thousand maravedis in profit
Profit (accounting)
In accounting, profit can be considered to be the difference between the purchase price and the costs of bringing to market whatever it is that is accounted as an enterprise in terms of the component costs of delivered goods and/or services and any operating or other expenses.-Definition:There are...

 to be divided among the fifty-five crew-members surviving from the original three hundred. Note, that since forty maravedis per day was an average wage for skilled labor, they could have made more money staying at home. Returning on the heels of Peralonso Nino's smaller but far more lucrative voyage magnified this disappointment.

Having influential friends at home, he was appointed Governor of Coquibacoa and was able to fit out a new expedition, which left Cadiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 in 1502 and made a landing on the American continent at a place which he named Santa Cruz. There he established a colony which did not last long. Mutiny erupted, and he was hauled to Santo Domingo in shackles where a judge stripped him of his titles and properties before allowing him to return to Spain.

Somehow he made his way back to Hispaniola, where he rejoined former associate Juan de la Cosa. There he conceived the idea of establishing colonies on the mainland between Cabo de Vela and the Gulf of Urabá
Gulf of Urabá
The Gulf of Urabá is a gulf on the northern coast of South America. It is part of the Caribbean Sea. It is a long narrow inlet in the coast of Colombia, close to the connection of the continent to the Isthmus of Panama. The town of Turbo lies at the southern end of the Gulf...

, and after some time spent in petitioning the Government, the two comrades finally obtained the necessary permission.

Colombia and hostile Indians and slaves

He went back to Spain and after great effort organized his third and last expedition in 1509. Among those who embarked in his four vessels was Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro González, Marquess was a Spanish conquistador, conqueror of the Incan Empire, and founder of Lima, the modern-day capital of the Republic of Peru.-Early life:...

, the future conqueror of Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

. Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

, who was later to dominate Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, would have been among the soldiers of fortune engaged in this adventure, had not a sudden illness prevented him from sailing. With about 300 men, he sailed from Hispaniola to take possession, as Governor, of Nueva Andalucía, which comprised the territory between the gulfs of Urabá (Darién
Gulf of Darién
The Gulf of Darién is the southernmost region of the Caribbean Sea, located north and east of the border between Panama and Colombia. Within the gulf is the Gulf of Urabá, a small lip of sea extending southward, between Caribana Point and Cape Tiburón, Colombia, on the southern shores of which is...

) and Maracaibo
Maracaibo is a city and municipality located in northwestern Venezuela off the western coast of the Lake Maracaibo. It is the second-largest city in the country after the national capital Caracas and the capital of Zulia state...

. Near the site of the present city of Cartagena
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena de Indias , is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department...

 he landed with a party of about 70 men to capture Indians for slaves. Ojeda found the natives very hostile; they attacked his force and killed every man except Ojeda and one other.

The reason that the natives were hostile was that Spaniards were raiding villages and taking many as slaves. Ojeda was no exception to the cruelty of the Spanish against the native people. An eyewitness account recorded by historian Bartolomé de las Casas
Bartolomé de Las Casas
Bartolomé de las Casas O.P. was a 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer and Dominican friar. He became the first resident Bishop of Chiapas, and the first officially appointed "Protector of the Indians"...

 notes, "The Spaniards worked an incredible slaughter on that village, they spared no one, women, children, babies or not. Then they robbed." Ojeda was known for his cruelty, he was a man that often shocked and brutalized the natives. He violated all sense of justice on the island of Hispaniola, he cut off the ear of a very important chief, seized the native King Caonabo and took him in chains to Spain, and enslaved countless Indians.

Later life and death

Not yet despairing, he founded a new colony at San Sebastian, but provisions soon ran low. It became necessary for him to go to Hispaniola to obtain supplies for the settlement, which he left in the charge of Francisco Pizarro. He was shipwrecked on the way, and only after suffering great privations did he finally reach Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, known officially as Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic. Its metropolitan population was 2,084,852 in 2003, and estimated at 3,294,385 in 2010. The city is located on the Caribbean Sea, at the mouth of the Ozama River...

, where he died. Las Casas records of his death, that "He died sick and poor, poor, he didn't have a cent to bury him, I think, for all the pearls, the gold he had gotten or stolen from the Indians, for all the slaves he had made of them the times he hit the mainland. He willed himself to be buried right at the door of the church and monastery of St. Francis..."

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.