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Entradas to the Incomplete:

Sixteenth-century Spanish “Conquests” of the Amazon River Basin




                In his book Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, historian Matthew Restall identifies the major fabrications that characterized Spanish expeditions of the new world in the Age of Conquest. In discussing one of these myths (‘the myth of completion’), Restall states that the conquistadors “were so concerned to depict their endeavors as conquests and pacifications, as contracts fulfilled, as provincial intention, as faits accomplish” that they “presented their deeds and those of their compatriats in terms that prematurely anticipated” this success.[i] This was done for a number of reasons. First, anticipating the “inevitable” outcome of the conquests was a matter of “political exigency” that “conformed to [a] developing imperial ideology” predicated upon notions of universal empire.[ii] Second, presenting the expected result in advance could accelerate financial, political, and reputational rewards that were attached to new world conquests, while simultaneously protecting the explorer from drawbacks that stemmed from a failure to meet royal definitions of success; thus, Restall concludes that portraying colonial endeavors as anything but a disaster was vital to the success of each conquistador.[iii]


             Perpetuating the myth of completion was standard colonial procedure in the sixteenth-century Spanish empire. Christopher Columbus took the lie that he had found a westward route to Asia to his death, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.[iv] Hernán Cortés maintained that he had subdued the Aztec empire and the region of Mexico when the riotous aftermath at Tenochtitlan proved otherwise.[v] Francisco Pizarro maintained that he had conquered the Inca Empire when the New Castile Civil Wars and the rebellion of Túpac Amaru threatened to undermine all that had happened.[vi] And elsewhere, from the “conquests” of the Maya Empire in the Yucatan to the conquistadors-turned-cannibals of Buenos Aires,[vii] Spaniards sowed a garden of literary falsehoods in hope of reaping the benefits associated with such distortions. But nowhere were the inherent hypocrisies of the myth of completion made more blatantly evident than in the case of the Amazon River basin, where geographic, ecologic, and demographic conditions thrust conquistadors violently out of their element and into a hostile world where the colonial precedents of their forefathers no longer guaranteed success. In short, nowhere was the Spanish myth of completion more obviously incomplete, and impossible to uphold, than in the context of the sixteenth-century entradas to the Amazon.



The Expeditions

            Historian Peter Bakewell defines an entrada (literally, ‘entry’) as an exploratory expedition from the Spanish colonial period into the interior of an unknown territory.[viii] In 1494, the ill-conceived Treaty of Tordesillas placed the Amazon River basin in Spanish jurisdiction in an effort to preserve Portuguese interests on both the West coast of Africa and the Eastern littoral of Brazil.[ix] Spanish authorities granted an eighteen-year lease on some lands in northern South America to a German kingship in 1529; but, with this exception, nearly all entradas to the Amazon River basin in the sixteenth-century were Spanish operations. Italian and Portuguese explorers—such as Amerigo Vespucci and Pedro Álvarez Cabral—had reached the eastern coast of Brazil as early as 1499, but they had not penetrated deeper into the interior. Overall, the Portuguese colonial presence was mostly peripheral and inconsequential until the seventeenth century.[x]


            The first Spanish expedition to grace the margins of the Amazon River basin was that of Vincente Yáñez Pinzón in 1500. Pinzón sailed fifty miles up the estuary of the Amazon before heading northward to the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda reconnoitered the northern coast of South America around Lake Maracaibo, profiting from petty looting, pearl fisheries, and man-stealing operations.[xi] German conquistadors began arriving to the province of “Little Venice” in 1529, and the appointed governor (Ambrosius Dalfinger) commissioned an expedition that same year. In 1531, Diego de Ordáz began an expedition in the footsteps of Pinzón that was detoured up the Orinoco River past its confluence with the Meta.  His successors Jerónimo Ortal and Alonso de Herrera led expeditions to the same region in 1532 and 1535 respectively. In 1536, the Spaniard Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada helmed an expedition up the Magdalena River that “conquered” the lands of the Muisca and established the present-day Colombian capitol of Bogotá in the province of Cundinamarca. The German adventurer Nikolaus Federmann and the Spaniard veteran Sebastián Benalcázar also reached the land of Bogotá within the year, prepared to contest that it had already been claimed. In 1538, the Spanish cavalier Gonzalo Díaz de Pineda led an expedition over the eastern-ridge of the Ecuadorian Andes to the perimeter of the Amazon River basin.


          Three salient expeditions were launched in 1541. The first was spearheaded by the German Philipp von Hutton with the intent of subduing the Omagua capitol near the Japurá River. The second was launched by Hernán Pérez Quesada and aimed toward the upper Caquetá and Putumayo Rivers. The third was conducted by Gonzalo Pizarro under the guidance of Pineda with the intention of continuing his earlier exploration into the Amazon. The hidalgo Francisco Orellana was an appointed lieutenant of this voyage. He separated from Pizarro near a place called ‘the confluence of St. Eulalia’ and ferried the Amazon River to its estuary at the Atlantic, at which point he sailed northward to the island of Cabagua in the gulf of Paria. Meanwhile, Pizarro and Pineda marched back to the city of Quito. In 1545, Orellana orchestrated his second and last expedition to the Amazon River basin. Lope de Aguirre, Pedro de Ursúa, and Fernando de Guzmán retraced the first Orellana expedition from the confluence of St. Eulalia to the gulf of Paria in 1560. All in all, the sixteenth-century Amazonian entradas were characterized by three major groups: those pursuing the legacy of Ordáz on the Meta River in northern Venezuela, those vying for the territories of New Granada in northern Columbia, and those entering the Amazon proper from its eastern boundary at the Andean mountains.


The Sources

            Some of the Spanish entradas yielded first-hand narratives called relacións. For example, the first expedition of Francisco Orellana was chronicled by the eye-witness Dominican friar Gaspar de Carvajal. Some entradas only yielded litigious documentation when necessary. The Pizarro expedition was reported via a series of letters to the crown that were devised to indict Orellana of treason. Conversely, Orellana and his scribe Francisco de Isasaga drafted legal documents with the intention of exonerating him. The Aguirre expedition produced a series of legal documents including oaths of treason and a formal war declaration called the información. Like Pizarro, Aguirre also wrote letters to the crown. Royal courts in the western Indies facilitated the documentation of formal testimony called judicial inquiries. During these sessions, conquistadors bore formal witness to the services rendered by their comrades on previous expeditions.  Other marginal players such as Vespucci and Cabral composed letters to their respective patrons. Not surprisingly, the Spaniards invested little interest in recording the events of the German conquistadors.


         The sixteenth-century entradas are also recreated from the texts of prominent contemporary authors such as Agustín Zárate, Cieza de León, Garcilaso de la Vega, Pedro Simon, and Toribio de Ortiguera. Most notably, the esteemed position of ‘official historiographer of the Indies’ was the authorized channel through which all new world documentation flowed. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés held this position from 1523 to 1557. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas held a similar post during the early years of the seventeenth century.  These sources lay relatively dormant until they were translated to English in the nineteenth century, and American scholars like William Prescott, William Bollaert, and Adolph Francis Bandelier took interest in them. In the late nineteenth-century, a literary debate concerning the nature of the Orellana-Pizarro split provoked a groundswell of historical analysis. The Madrid-based Spanish writer Jiménez de la Espada advocated the ‘traitor-theory’ of Orellana in 1893, and the prolific Chilean scholar José Toribio Medina countered that claim with a tour de force publication called The Discovery of the Amazon that next year. The Discovery compiles all primary sources related to the first and second Orellana expedition. “Entradas” draws on a 1934 reprinting of the text by the American Geographic Society with running commentary by H.C. Heaton. Secondary research for “Entradas” was based primarily on the historical narrative River of Darkness by the journalist Buddy Levy and the historical survey Tree of Rivers by the Amazonian-specialist John Hemming. Additional information on the expedition of Aguirre is derived from The Re-Creation of a Sixteenth-Century Journey by the linguist Stephan Minta. Finally, the theoretical framework for “Entradas” was inspired by Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest by Matthew Restall.


The Motivations

            The entradas were spurred onward by the stories of La Canela and El Dorado—the latest manifestations of the connection between new world utopian fantasy and the religious, political, and economic dream of the Catholic Monarchs in Spain. La Canela stated that vast quantities of a most-precious spice grew wild in a province of cultivable cinnamon trees just beyond the Ecuadorian Andes. Obtaining access to such spices was a high priority for new world conquistadors and an original impetus for discovering a westward route to Asia because spices “disguised the taste of rotting meat” in an age before refrigeration.[xii] They also camouflaged the smell of putrid corpses, made sour wine palatable, served medical and religious functions, and acted as a popular aphrodisiac.[xiii] The expedition of Pineda encountered natives that “testified” to the existence of La Canela, and Pineda believed them so whole-heartedly that he accompanied Pizarro on a fateful expedition to discover it three years later.


        The second myth that incited the entradas to the Amazon was the legend of El Dorado (literally, ‘the Gilded One’). It referred to the story of a prosperous tribal king who ruled over a territory so abundant in gold that he regularly used resinous gums to cover himself in a dust film of it, which he then washed clean each night by way of a bath in a nearby lake. As a result of this habit, the lake bed shone resplendently with accumulated layers of discarded gold.[xiv] Conquetios Natives around Coro on the coast of northern Venezuala told the German stewards about a tribal ritual from the interior region of Lake Guatavita on the Paramo Mountains that matched this tale, and the story spread like wild fire.[xv] Old world fables depicting quests for gold—such as Jason and the Golden Fleece, Hercules and the golden apples, Marco Polo and the golden palace, and Zayn Al-Asnam and the golden statue—primed Spaniards to believe in the lavish promises of what amounted to little more than vague hearsay. New world treasure from the “conquests” of Francisco Pizarro and Hernán Cortés imbued these promises with a tangible precedent. Specifically, the excessive ransom of the Inca lord Atahualpa at Cajamarca in modern-day Peru galvanized conquistadors to believe in unthinkable riches. As a result of this context, “the existence of El Dorado [became] so little doubted that for a time people drew maps of it.”[xvi]


          A controversial debate ordered by the Spanish monarch Charles V over whether or not it was right to enslave the indigenous populations of the new world placed an official ten-year embargo on entradas from 1550 to 1560.[xvii] During that embargo, a strange event occurred that rekindled El Dorado fever in the Amazon River basin.  The remnants of a massive flotilla of Indians from eastern Brazil, led by the native Viaruzo, arrived at the Amazonian headwaters of North-eastern Peru in the town of Santiago de Muyobamba, and told the Marquis of Cañete that they had traversed kingdoms of gold and silver to get there.[xviii] The contemporary accounts of Cieza de León, Toribio de Ortiguera, and Pedro Simon all corroborate this story,[xix] which became the catalyst for the last sixteenth-century Spanish entrada to the Amazon: that of Aguirre and Ursúa. The archaeologist Adolph Francis Bandelier explains the entradas of the Amazon River as the last logical option in a trial and-error search for El Dorado that took conquistadors across the northern basin from the province of Cundinamarca near present-day Bogotá, to the Meta River, to the territory of the Omaguas, and eventually, to the river itself.[xx]


          And each conquistador had unique reasons for undertaking an entrada that were largely based on previous experience. Pinzón had sailed as a pilot with Christopher Columbus. Ordáz distinguished himself with Cortés on the “conquest” of Mexico. Pizarro was the younger half-brother of the famous conquistador Francisco Pizarro and, as such, had accompanied him in the watershed overthrow of the Inca Empire. Orellana was aware that the two greatest conquistadors of the new world (Pizarro and Cortés) came from his home region in Spain (Extremadura). And Last, Aguirre had served the Crown in various new world rebellions. So, whatever the circumstances, the sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadors of the Amazon River basin believed that their chances at success had finally arrived. Unfortunately, the expeditions that transpired were so utterly incomplete that they closed the region to European “conquest” for half a decade. In particular, the geographic, ecologic, and demographic conditions of the frontier scarred colonial sensibilities in such a way that they repelled Spanish advances forever. 




            The Amazon River basin is the largest drainage basin in the world, encompassing roughly two-and-a-half million square miles of land from the Parana basin in the south to the Orinoco basin in the north.[xxi] The innumerable tributaries create an unparalleled riverine environment that historian John Hemming has metaphorically described as a “tree of rivers”.[xxii] The waterways vary in color from sediment-laden white to tannin-stained black to a clear and crystal blue.[xxiii] They are connected longitudinally in northern Brazil by a distributary known as the Casiquiare Canal, making it possible to travel by boat from the Orinoco delta in northern Venezuela to the terminus of the River Plate in southern Uruguay.[xxiv] They are connected laterally by the serpentine Amazon River—a major artery that runs four thousand miles from its origin at the Marañón and Ucayali Rivers in the Peruvian Andes to its prodigious estuary at the Atlantic.[xxv] The river is an uncontested leviathan, containing more freshwater than the Mississippi, the Nile, and the Yangtze Rivers combined. It is six miles at its widest point and over three hundred feet at its deepest.[xxvi] It has been given many names throughout its history of contact with European explorers, including the Mar Dulce, the Marañón, the Solimöes, the Amazon, and the Orellana.


            No standard taxonomy exists to account for the varied geographical features of the Amazon River basin beyond a few basic terms.[xxvii] These terms dilute the complex geographic diversity of the region into five conceptual landscape formations that are herein referred to as altiplano, terre firme, varzea, llanos, and cerrado land. The altiplano consists of the Andean cordilleras that form the western boundary of the basin. Here you will find the foggy promontories and cloud-covered mountains, where many of our sixteenth-century conquistadors began their entradas to the Amazon after leaving the Spanish colonies of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian west coast. The rocky altiplano west of Lake Maracaibo in Colombia provided the stage for many of the sixteenth-century expeditions to New Granada.  Overall, the altiplano is a highland region defined by dried and stony table-top plateaus, snow-capped volcanos, and vegetal-infested mountainsides. The complex road networks of the Incan empire disappear in the altiplano to the south, and the descending mountains give way to an environment of humid floodplains known as varzea. These wetlands are forever reincarnated by cycles of seasonal flooding, and they compose the mired shoreline of all Amazonian waterways.[xxviii]


         The interior canopied woodlands of the basin are called terre firme in contrast to varzea. These equatorial hotbeds comprise the largest tropical rain forest in the world.[xxix] The terre firme and varzea are replaced by scattered savannahs known as llanos on the eastern portions of South America. These llanos are defined by stark-plains, fertile grasslands, rolling hills, and groves of clustered trees. The eastern-most portion of the Amazon River basin is also defined by sections of patchy scrubland known as cerrado.[xxx] The river itself empties into the Atlantic Ocean at a labyrinth of massive estuaries that is two hundred miles wide and contains an island the size of Switzerland.[xxxi] A smaller estuary in northern Venezuela marks the terminus of the Orinoco River in the Atlantic Ocean. These two delta regions served as additional entrance points for the sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadors of the Amazonian frontier.


Interaction with the Entradas:

         Perhaps Vespucci suggested the unparalleled beauty of the llanos and cerrado lands when he called the eastern coast of Brazil “the terrestrial paradise” in 1503.[xxxii] Perhaps Pinzón recognized something of the same when he observed the fresh-water discharge of the Amazon River in 1500, and thus, gave the waterway its first European name: the Mar Dulce, or Sweet Sea.[xxxiii] But the sixteenth-century conquistadors who actively engaged the altiplano, varzea, and terre firme discovered that paradise was an illusion. Similar to the way that Joseph Conrad described the Congolese jungles in his book The Heart of Darkness, the Amazonian floodplains, tropical forests, and scaling peaks closed behind the conquistadors and stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for their return.[xxxiv] The Spaniards had burst across “the threshold of an eternal darkness” and found themselves estranged in a hostile environment that was both repellant and entrapping.


          The expedition of Ordáz was crippled by geographic obstacles. Tordesilla notes that he reached the twisted estuary of the Amazon River with the intention of beginning his explorations there;[xxxv] however, difficulties associated with sailing upstream and navigating the tangled delta region forced him to abandon these hopes.  These same difficulties forced Pinzón and Vespucci to abandon exploration attempts up the same river thirty-one years earlier.[xxxvi] These difficulties also contributed to the undoing of the Orellana expedition to settle New Andalusia. Ordáz reappeared on the Orinoco estuary at the northern border of his royal commission and descended the river past its confluence with the Meta, at which point he was halted by the “cascades or rapids of Atures—a violent and impassable defile of rushing white water and falls thundering over rocks.”[xxxvii] Ordáz was forced to discard his hopes of conquest and return to the gulf of Paria, admitting that his expedition was barred by geographic phenomena on two separate occasions. The expedition of Ambrosius Dalfinger offers a contemporaneous parallel, whereby the expedition was halted by the swelling varzea of the Magdalena River.[xxxviii] Other expeditions in New Granada were periodically diverted by the presence of inaccessible cliffs in the altiplano.[xxxix]


         Geographic obstacles prevented the Pizarro expedition from extending beyond the headwaters of the Amazon. It was customary procedure to bring horses along on entradas, especially due to their military success in the campaigns of Cortés and Francisco Pizarro; however, horses were rendered useless on the Amazonian frontier. The varzea and overgrown terre firme handicapped and eventually prevented their movement on land and they died frequently when forced to wade across rivers. Pizarro writes that many horses drowned in crossing the turbulent San Rafael Falls due to the “great size of the river and depth of the water.”[xl] And horses were not the only standard instruments of conquest that were neutralized by the unique geography of the Amazon. The Werner Herzog film Aguirre, the Wrath of God visually portrays the ineptitude of artillery cannons unsuccessfully drug across the thick and sloshy varzea.[xli] Similarly, Pizarro writes of a flash flood that carried off supplies and equipment when it ravaged a campsite that was built too close to a river. [xlii]


         The geographic conditions of the eastern Amazon basin contributed to the abrupt failure of the Pizarro expedition, which never made it beyond the confluence of the Napo and the Coca rivers in order to discover the greatest geographical barrier of all: the Amazon itself. When Orellana split from the Pizarro expedition in order to reconnoiter the river for food, he soon discovered what Vespucci, Pinzón, and Ordáz had already learned on the eastern estuary. He discovered that the swift downstream tide of the river permits navigation in only one direction. As Hemming notes, “the Spaniards could not conceivably have maneuvered their makeshift craft against such a powerful current for such a distance” in order to return upstream to Pizarro.[xliii] The downstream torrents of the river compelled Orellana to issue the creation of an indemnity document that would absolve him of any obligation to the Pizarro expedition.[xliv] He had crossed a geographical Rubicon and retreat was not an option. Only the river could direct him now.


         Perhaps the most disappointing geographic realization was the fact that varzea landscapes made the dreamland of La Canela “unbelievably uninhabitable.”[xlv] The expedition of Pizarro had “discovered great strands of the false cinnamon trees” that they had intended to find. Quesada also discovered them around Bogotá, but the encompassing lands were so “full of swamps, rivers, and quaking bogs” with such a scarce natural food supply that both conquistadors deemed the region as unsuitable for colonization.[xlvi] So as the geographic features of the western altiplano and the central varzea and terre firme debilitated the sixteenth-century Spanish expeditions, conquistadors were forced to accept the growing realization that the geographic scaffolding of the Amazon River basin could not support their lavish dreams of gold, spice, and fame. The first irony is that, as conquistadors like Ordáz and Ursúa fought desperately to pry their way into the Amazonian frontier, conquistadors like Pizarro and Orellana fought desperately to escape it. The explorers saw the region as both impenetrable and inescapable “when a simple glance at a map shows that no place on earth offers more avenues of penetration.”[xlvii]




            The Amazon River basin is “the most bio-diverse region in the world”[xlviii] according to the variegated flora and fauna that comprise its ecosystems. More than three thousand plant species have been discovered in the area of only one square mile.[xlix] The following overview is an extremely simplified delineation of the prominent ecological features. A thick and shield-like canopy of softwood evergreen and coniferous tree forms, such as firs and pines, characterizes the terre firme. It is here that the imposing ceiba tree—also known as the kapok—and the lofty moriche palm can grow to colossal heights of beyond two hundred and one hundred feet respectively.[l] It is here that trees bearing fruit such as the abui, the guava, the pineapple, and the peach palm support human and animal life. The eastern-most llanos and cerrado lands exhibit pockets of semi-deciduous trees and the infamous red-timbered Brazilian wood tree, from which the modern country derives its name.[li]


          The umbrellic canopy of the terre firme eclipses the forest floor and encourages the proliferation of epiphytes—plants structures that grow and thrive non-parasitically on existing organisms.  Tropical epiphytes take the form of orchids, ferns, cacti, bromeliads, mosses, lichen, creepers, lilies, lianas, and strangler figs.  The twentieth-century novelist Barbara Kingsolver once described the Congolese jungle of central Africa as a sort-of primeval “forest [that] eats itself and lives forever” in her book the Poisonwood Bible.[lii] This expression serves to aptly capture the tangled essence of the terre firme—a region enveloped by a cannibalistic web of invasive epiphytes and mangrove root structures.


         The Amazon River basin supported a diverse cornucopia of animal life in colonial times. Larger mammals included manatees, tapirs, capybaras (giant rodents), agoutis, sloth, deer, jaguars, bats, monkeys, and the white-tipped peccary. Birds included storks, partridges, egrets, and parrots such as the famous scarlet, military, or blue-and-yellow Macaw. Reptiles and amphibians included turtles, iguanas, alligators, caimans, anacondas, rattlesnakes and roughly one-thousand species of rain frogs. The waters were awash with approximately two-thousand species of tropical fish, including tetras, catfish, cichlids, guppies, electric fish, and the renowned piranha. Lastly, the heavens and earth frequently throbbed with the presence of insects like mosquitos, jiggers, ticks, flies, hornets, scorpions, beetles, butterflies, and ants.[liii]


         Extracting food from the abundant resources of the Amazon River basin was a learned behavior for native populations. John Hemming notes that “indigenous people practiced hunting and fishing from childhood”[liv] and they recognized how to derive a balanced diet from the available food sources by a range of practices including fruit-harvesting, hunting, fishing, farming, and mulching and composting.[lv] David Cleary notes that intensive agriculture was practiced for millennia before the arrival of Europeans. Evidence suggests that the cultivation of maize began as early as six thousand years ago and the starchy, tuberous, and ubiquities roots of the manioc shrub—also known as yucca or cassava—became the agricultural life-blood of the Amazon even before that.[lvi] Natives inherited the age-old practice of leeching cyanide and prussic acid from bitter strains of the manioc shrub in order to make it edible, a process that was based upon an ability to distinguish fundamental ecological differences in plant structure.[lvii] A semi-nomadic indigenous group of the Bolivian lowlands provides an authentic face to the concept of native ecological coexistence. The Tsimane’ can derive over five-hundred practical uses from over four-hundred recognizable plant species. They can boil rocks to extract salt deposits for cooking, and they can coerce schools of fish to the surface for easy killing by way of a natural sap that binds to their oxygen receptors.[lviii]


Interaction with the Entradas:

         The second irony is that the early conquistadors of the Amazon River basin starved to death in a veritable land of plenty simply because they were not skillful enough to catch any of the fish or larger mammals.[lix] Levy states that “these animals could only be slain by skilled and patient hunters trained to stalk them [and so] the Spaniards were reduced to fantasizing about eating them as they starved.”[lx]  León, Carvajal, and Pizarro all write about conquistadors who were reduced to eating saddle, strap, and stirrup leather. They made a crude soup by boiling the leather with foraged ground herbs, or they ate the leather raw after toasting it over ashes.[lxi] The conquistadors even ate the soles of their own shoes.[lxii] This last practice is perhaps the greatest testimony to the severity of their hunger, as Spaniards condemned themselves to walk across pulsing beds of insects, rocks, ivy, and thorny vines on their exposed feet.


         The depraved and ravenous stragglers of the failed Pizarro expedition were reduced to drinking a blood-based soup that they siphoned from their horses.[lxiii] Levy describes the heinous practice by which these animals were essentially eaten alive in order to maximize their potential food yield. Conquistadors carved off a chunk from the thigh of a horse that walked alongside them, drew blood from the wound, and then clotted it up with caked mud and river clay, only to reopen it later for the same purpose.[lxiv] Overall, the horses and dogs that proved so vital in the conquests and pacifications of Peru and Mexico were completely inept in the Amazonian terrain because there was “nothing for them to eat on the forest floor.”[lxv] They became useful only as food. Consumption of domesticated animals was a characteristic symptom of many frontier “conquests” rather than an exclusive characteristic of the Amazonian entradas. For example, the narrator of the shipwrecked expedition of Pánfilo de Nárvaez in North America states, “every third day a horse [was] killed and the meat [was] distributed” for consumption.[lxvi] However, horses were potentially more valuable alive than dead in the open-air navigable terrain of North America. Nevertheless, the exorbitant prices associated with purchasing horses in the new world speak to the severity of starvation in all frontier



        Pizarro and Orellana confected an expedition consisting of two hundred horses, two thousand dogs, and nearly three thousand swine.[lxviii] The horses and dogs were fitted for battle and prepared for military conquest while the swine were expected to generate a renewable food supply in the pacified territories, but none of these intentions came to fruition. Pizarro indicates, “all [of the] remaining horses were eaten,”[lxix] but only after the dogs and the swine. A similar fate befell the expedition of Aguirre and Ursúa, who consumed a total of one hundred horses and one thousand dogs.[lxx] León mentions that the conquistadors ate these animals “without wasting any entrails, skin, or other parts.”[lxxi] Even so, these animals were not enough to sustain them. The survivors of the Pizarro expedition still returned to Quito looking wan, jaundiced, and skeletal.[lxxii] The Aguirre expedition experienced moments when the “daily allotment of water was less than a quarter of a pint and maize was counted out in grains.”[lxxiii] According to Carvajal, the first Orellana expedition “should have perished from hunger” if they had not discovered yams, snails, and frog-sized crabs on a beach of the Amazon delta.[lxxiv] The second expedition survived by exchanging barter goods for food with villages near the shore.[lxxv] And practices were no different in the expeditions of New Granada, where feasting on domesticated animals failed to prevent the Quesada expedition from losing five hundred men to hunger, illness, and exposure.


        The third irony of these early expeditions is that Spaniards managed to die from both starvation and overeating. Seven conquistadors died of hunger from the Orellana party in less than two weeks since leaving Pizarro.[lxxvi] Meanwhile, hidalgos with Pizarro fell voraciously upon the bulbous tubers of a yucca plantation on the banks of the Aguarico River and died of stuffing themselves.  Levy describes how their “bellies distended grotesquely” and their “stomachs bulged grossly.”[lxxvii] León relates how some “swelled in such a way that they could not walk on their feet.”[lxxviii] Conquistadors experienced a medley of sicknesses related to overeating, malnutrition, and poison consumption such as jaundice, vomiting, paleness, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, seizure, dysentery, and coma. They also paid the dire consequences of ingesting bitter manioc because they could not distinguish between poisonous and benign forms of the plant. León describes a conquistador who chewed a thick white-colored root that instantly propelled him into a state of unintelligible delirium and madness from which he never returned.[lxxix] Others conquistadors were paralyzed by dizziness and “trembling bouts of diarrhea.” Perhaps the worst illness associated with these early conquests of the Amazon was hyponatremia, the official term for salt depravation.[lxxx] Agustín Zárate states that the pallid and gaunt survivors of the Pizarro expedition craved salt more than anything else.[lxxxi]


          Inclement weather conspired with other geo-ecological conditions to terrorize expeditions on the Amazonian frontier. Ursúa was “thwarted by a squall, rough seas, and heavy storms” that sunk the smaller ships,[lxxxii] and the seafaring half of the Quesada expedition was overtaken by storms and decimated.[lxxxiii] It came to pass that the expeditions of Ordáz, Orellana, Quesada, and Ursúa all experienced the nightmare of storm-related shipwreck at one time or another. These incidents were not exclusive to the Amazonian frontier, as some of the most devastating shipwrecks occurred in transit to South America on the Atlantic Ocean; however, storm-related shipwrecks compounded the inherent geographical obstacles of Amazonia.


          The brigantines that navigated the Amazon became victims of protruding shoals, whirlpools,[lxxxiv] and floating debris that threatened to tear them asunder.[lxxxv] Heavy tides severed hawsers and rendered boats unusable.[lxxxvi] Ships could be swamped, run-aground, or rotted by the bogged waters of the varzea.[lxxxvii] Ursúa found it impossible to season his wooden boats in the swamps and so they became “brittle, cracked, and broke apart.”[lxxxviii] Incessant rains contributed to the spread of sickness, the accelerated disintegration of clothing, the spoiling of gunpowder, and the rusting of equipment, all of which was notably captured by Zárate in his description of the surviving members of the Pizarro expedition.[lxxxix] Lastly, the concentrated presence of carnivorous bugs made the “glands that filter insect poison swollen and sore.”[xc] Clouds of mosquitos became so thick in the varzea that basic activities could not be performed without the help of a “swatting partner,”[xci] and the painful sting of the conga ant threatened to induce agonizing hallucinations.[xcii]

Carvajal describes how the Orellana expedition came upon an undamaged Tapir carcass that serendipitously washed onto the shore of their encampment. The massive corpse fed the entire contingent of nearly fifty men for almost a week,[xciii] proving that starvation was avoidable. It only became the undermining bane of the entradas because the conquistadors never learned to hunt as the natives did. That amount of successful ecological adaptation was not in the cards.




            John Hemming postulates that four to five million natives lived in the Amazon River basin at the moment of European contact, while three million natives lived within the territory defined by the present-day borders of Brazil.[xciv] These four-to-five million natives can be divided into four hundred tribal groups that spanned the previously mentioned geographic formations of the Amazon River basin. The widespread distribution of man-made soil deposits called terra preta suggests that “few if any parts of the Amazon were unoccupied during prehistory”.[xcv] Some of these groups were more-recent colonizing forces from outside regions of the South American continent, while others, like those at a specific site in the Amazon of western Brazil, have persisted in their present location for eight thousand years.[xcvi] Indians groups derived their languages from no less than a dozen linguistic trunks listed as Tupi, Je, Carib, Arawak, Tukanoan, Panoan, Yanomami, Mura, Nambiquoa, Bororo, Karaja, and Guaykew.[xcvii]


            The indigenous groups of the terre firme and altiplano tended to live farther apart, while those of the varzea on the Solimöes and Amazonas boasted the highest population densities.[xcviii] These are the populations that were encountered by the Spanish expeditions that traversed the main branch of the Amazon River, such as those captained by Orellana and Ursúa. Carvajal assigned Hispano-centric names to the major provinces of these groups in his relación, thus creating an informal demographic breakdown of the Amazon varzea. These provinces were named after either the Indian lord who appeared to be presiding over them or some other striking visual feature. Those names are: Aparia the lesser, Aparia the great, Machiparo, Omagua, Paguana, unknown, provincial de los horcas, pueblo de la calle, provincial de los Amazonas, provincial de los San Juan, provincial de los negros, and Ichipayo.[xcix]


         Overall, the relación proves that independent native communities lived shoulder-to-shoulder on sections of the Amazon River, especially east of its confluence with the Rio Negro. Grand fleets of shallow transport canoes called pirogues suggest that these varzea communities were primarily water-based.[c] They engaged in composting, fruit-harvesting, and large-scale agriculture. They managed storage-pens and fisheries for additional food production, and drank a fermented beverage of chewed-vegetables called chicha.[ci] The boundaries between native communities were shaped and sustained by intertribal warfare as well as trade and diplomatic conventions such as gift-giving. Some varzea communities were hospitable and others were impetuously bellicose.[cii]  There was evidence of slave practices and established tribute systems among warring communities, and many varzea groups seemed to act as extensions of larger interior settlements.[ciii] On several occasions, conquistadors discovered elaborate royal highways that led from the varzea to the interior terre firme.[civ]

Some communities exhibited shamanistic rituals and others adorned their bodies with colored pigments and local materials like parrot feathers. Shields were made of stretched reptile and mammal hides, and weapons were made of materials such as bamboo, wood, rock, obsidian, and stone. Indians played musical instruments like the drum, the trumpet,[cv] and the three-stringed rebee.[cvi] Some communities made porcelain ceramics,[cvii] relief carvings in hewn tree trunks, palm-frond sculptures, and buildings of wood, reed, and stone.[cviii] Spanish conquistadors observed a particularly unique stretch of hilltop fortresses on the eastern llanos and cerrado lands.[cix] Lastly, and perhaps most famously, there is evidence that women fought in the military ranks of at least one native group. 


Interaction with the Entradas:

            The bellicose attitudes of certain native communities presented great problems for the Spanish conquistadors. Overlords in the Aparia kingdom warned Orellana that natives to the west would kill them all.[cx] In accordance with this admonition, the expedition was engaged in assiduous riverine warfare since the moment they entered the domain of Machiparo until the moment they reached the Atlantic Ocean. Carvajal wrote repeatedly that survival was narrowly achieved by the ingenuity of the crossbows and harquebuses.[cxi] Regardless, several conquistadors died in battle and many others were severely wounded. Carvajal had his eye shot out by an arrow that went through his skull. Lucky for him, it was not poisoned.[cxii]


            The expedition faced so much consistent military resistance that the captain prohibited landings unless absolutely necessary. Conquistadors slept in huddled formations on the deck. When Orellana capitulated to the pleadings of his hidalgos and allowed them to sleep on the shore, they were ambushed in the night and nearly slaughtered.[cxiii] When they had no choice but to land in order to procure food, they had to fight their way through a thicket of native warriors to get it. They resorted to gruesome intimidation tactics that followed conquistador precedent. Orellana hanged Indians and set packed houses ablaze.[cxiv] The natives answered by displaying the severed heads of dead men on riverside gibbets.[cxv] Hostile natives on the Amazon estuary became the last straw in the downfall of the second Orellana expedition to New Andalusia, of which only twenty of the three hundred and fifty original members survived.[cxvi]


            Hostile natives obstructed all entradas to the Amazon River basin to some effect. Pineda was repelled by the Quijos natives while trying to descend the eastern slope of the Andes.[cxvii] Ursúa was also attacked on the altiplano, an inauspicious beginning that forced him to recruit replacement troops at Santa Cruz before he even made it beyond the parameters of the Andes Mountains.[cxviii]Ordáz was confronted by Carib Indians on his retreat down the Meta River in northern Venezuela.[cxix] Nicolaus Federmann was defeated by the Uybas and Uapes Indians.[cxx] Dalfinger was repelled by Indians at the Ambrosia valley[cxxi] and Philip von Hutton engaged in combat with the Omaguas.[cxxii] The expedition of Sebastián Benalcázar was routed by warlike Indians on the altiplano en route to New Granada.[cxxiii] Overall, relations in the Amazon River basin were epitomized by the comment of a sixteenth-century Indian from Sugamuxi, a town in the Spanish colony of New Granada.[cxxiv] The native said that a friendly Spaniard was like a river that flowed upstream, an oxymoron that would have been more-than familiar to the Amazonian conquistadors who had actually tried to do so.[cxxv]


The conquistadors encountered Amazonian poisons in their hostile engagements with indigenous peoples. Natives probably concocted their curare poisons[cxxvi] from the barks, seeds, fruits, and shoots of vespertine flowering plants of the genus Datura, commonly known as “Angel’s Trumpets”.[cxxvii]  Adolph Bandelier states that “poisoned arrows were formidable weapons” in New Granada.[cxxviii] Alonso de Herrera was struck down and killed by a poison arrow during his skirmish with Achagua Indians on the Meta River.[cxxix]  Carvajal describes the startling death of a conquistador named Garcia de Soria who died when he contracted poison from what should have been only a minor arrow wound.[cxxx] These experiences terrified the Orellana expedition so much that they immediately outfitted their brigantine with railing fortifications and resolved to land the craft only when absolutely necessary.[cxxxi]


            Almost worse than the presence of hostile natives, was the presence of no natives at all. The Orellana expedition survived on the generosity of natives from provinces like the Aparias, who “did not stop offering aid.” These natives gave the conquistadors “much food consisting of turtles and parrots in abundance.”[cxxxii] They supplied lodging and manual labor in the onerous task of boat building. They taught conquistadors to chalk their boats with cotton and tar them with a viscous resin called pitch.[cxxxiii] These advantages convinced Orellana to adopt a strategy of kind treatment with the Indians as long as possible,[cxxxiv] and the Spaniards became so dependent upon this symbiotic relationship that they acted like helpless orphans without native assistance. Carvajal states that the Indians “made us fast by force because they did not bring us food until Saturday.”[cxxxv] Once the Orellana expedition entered the volatile realm of Machiparo, violence and severe hunger compelled the Spaniards to begin seizing their food. A sort of Catch-22 scenario unfolded whereby the conquistadors both hoped and feared that they would encounter natives. This is a fourth irony. On the one hand, encountering indigenous groups almost always amounted to a state of carnage. On the other hand, stealing food from them seemed like the only way to obtain it. 


            Conquistadors so rarely encountered the “right” kind of natives in the “right” number. The distribution of peoples was imperfect, and so the conquistadors went hungry as they floated helplessly down barren and winding segments of the second longest river in the world.  Orellana left Pizarro and “did not find food for a distance of two hundred leagues”[cxxxvi] among the uninhabited shoreline. When his cadre finally discovered a native encampment, they scattered the villagers and raided the abandoned food supplies like rapacious bloodhounds.[cxxxvii] Afterward, they returned to a state of vacancy. Carvajal writes that “we endured more hardships and more hunger than ever before, because the river led from one wooded section to another wooded section” without the presence of natives, food, or a place to sleep.[cxxxviii] These purgatory-like barren stretches of land are a common motif in the judicial inquiries of the first Orellana expedition. Not only did the conquistadors find themselves deracinated in an unfavorable geo-ecological climate, but they discovered that opposing demographic factors such as hostile and absent native peoples greatly exacerbated their chances of failure.



            Variegated combinations of geographic, ecologic, and demographic conditions in the Amazon River basin forced conquistadors to abandon expectations of conquest and euphemistically reframe their destitute expeditions as voyages of survival, exploration, or preparation. Pizarro relinquished all hope of cultivating the cinnamon fields of La Canela after Orellana “abandoned” him; instead, he re-framed his expedition to reflect the arduous and horrific journey of survival that it became. He falsely indicted Orellana for disserting him with neither crossbows nor harquebus, and he emphasized the drama of his beggared trek in hopes that Orellana would face repercussions for his actions.[cxxxix] Meanwhile, Orellana relinquished similar goals of pacification and conquest. Spanish colonial protocol dictated that he should recite a standardized message called the requerimiento to the “conquered” natives of the Amazon; but he abandoned this practice after performing it among the Aparias,[cxl] an act which symbolized his forsaken hopes of conquest. The official testimony of Francisco de Guzmán—a conquistador from the second Orellana expedition—is a short-winded affidavit attesting to the pure ambition of survival.[cxli] Medina concludes that this expedition was such an abject failure that no one wanted to be associated with it by way of a judicial inquiry.[cxlii]


            Other conquistadors reframed their failed entradas as journeys of preliminary exploration. After being halted at the cataracts of the Orinoco, Ordáz set sail for Spain to beseech the crown for a strengthening of his commission on the basis that he had uncovered the whereabouts of a ‘one-eyed-king’ on the Meta River who could very well be his Atahualpa or Montezuma.[cxliii]  After being repelled by Quijos natives over the eastern-ridge of the Ecuadorian Andes, Pineda returned as a guide on the Pizarro expedition.[cxliv] Carvajal reframed his relación of the first Orellana expedition as a journey of discovery,[cxlv] and it was under this assumption that Oviedo immortalized it by inclusion it in his Historia General.[cxlvi] Aguirre reframed the failed entrada of Ursúa as a journey that was necessary in preparation for his attempted overthrow of the Spanish colonial empire. After murdering those who advocated for an El Dorado “conquest,” he drew up oaths of treason and documents such as the información that formally abandoned these intentions in favor of outright warfare on the Spanish colonies of King Philip.[cxlvii] His personal army—the “arquebus-bearing maranones”[cxlviii]—were not conceived among the epiphytes of the Amazon in order to remain there. They were intended for conquest elsewhere.


            These conquistadors met ends befitting their hazardous enterprises. Ordáz died in route to Spain from an illness that he allegedly contracted on the Amazonian frontier; the proverb “he who goes to the Orinoco either dies or comes back mad” was ostensibly contrived to sermonize his expedition.[cxlix] Pizarro was spewed from the Amazon in a tattered heap, only to get beheaded when his anti-royal uprising collapsed six years later.[cl] Orellana died of grief in the arms of his obsession, on the banks of the river that became his white whale.[cli] He was outlived by his fourteen-year-old wife, Ana de Ayala, who somehow managed to escape the Amazon unharmed.[clii] Ursúa and his loyalists were murdered in the throes of a drunken mutiny led by none other than Aguirre,[cliii] who died attempting a suicidal overland siege of New Granada from the island of Cabagua. His body was quartered and scattered across the Spanish provinces of the new world.[cliv] Even the expeditions of the aristocratic English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh adhered to this trend. He was condemned to imprisonment after his first exploration to Guiana and eastern Venezuela, and was condemned to death after his second exploration on the Orinoco. In each case, it was like strange forces were at work beneath the broad canopy of the Amazonian rain forest. To turn a phrase by Joseph Conrad, “hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they had all gone out on that stream bearing the sword,”[clv] and in return, the river had played the card of ignominious death on them all.  


            As for the basin itself, Oviedo stated “no one can find the Meta without costing more lives and more troubles.”[clvi] Lope de Aguirre authored a warning to King Philip II stating that death and misery are the inevitable ends of anyone who ventures out on the Amazon. “I advise you,” he stated, “that the stories [of El Dorado and La Canela] are false and in this river there is nothing but despair.”[clvii] Although this admonishment never reached its intended audience, it was heard somewhere, for Europeans, with the exception of Raleigh, did not attempt to enter the Amazon River basin for nearly half a century; at which time, they all seemed to arrive at once, all except the Spanish, for whom the geographic, ecologic, and demographic horrors of the sixteenth-century entradas were not so easily forgotten. 









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Holloway. In Documentos para la Historia Economic de Venezuela. Caracas: University Central, 1961. 


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            Filmproduktion and Filmverlag der Autoren. 1972. DVD    


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Bandelier, A.F. The Gilded Man (El Dorado): And Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of

            America. New York, Appleton, 1893.


Cabeza de Vaca, Álvar Núñez. Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition. Translated by Fanny

Bandelier. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.


Carvajal, Gaspar de. Discovery of the Orellana River. In The Discovery of the Amazon by José

Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 167-236.


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 Nineteenth Century.” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2001): 64-96.


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Guzmán, Francisco de. Statement by Francisco de Guzmán on the Conquest of New Andalusia.

In The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 358-361.


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            Press, 2006.


Hemming, John. Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008.


Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.


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Edited and translated by Alexander Parma Cook and Noble David Cook. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1998.


Levy, Buddy. River of Darkness. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.


Medina, José Toribio. The Discovery of the Amazon River: According to the Account of Friar

Gaspar de Carvajal and Other Documents. Edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934.


Minta, Stephen. Aguirre: The Re-Creation of a Sixteenth-Century Journey across South America.

            London: Jonathan Cape, 1993.


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            Educational Corporation, 1977.


Ortiguera, Toribio de. Expedition down the Marañón River and all that Happened During it. In

The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 310-328.


Oviedo, Fernández. History of the Indies: Bearing on Orellana’s Two Expeditions. In

The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 405-451.


Pizarro, Gonzalo. Letters to the Crown. In The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina,

edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 245-252.


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a Case Study of the Tsimane’ Amerindians in Lowland Bolivia.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, 2001.


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Description of the Battle of Vittoria and the Great Victory Gained by the Marquis of Wellington over the French Army under Joseph Bonaparte. I-xlix, 1814.


Segovia, Crisóbal de. Testimony before the Court of the Island of Margarita. In The Discovery of

the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934, 266-282.


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            J.M. Cohen. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968.


[i]Matthew Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 65

[ii]Ibid, 76.

[iii]Ibid, 65.

[iv]Ibid, 66.

[v]Ibid, 70.

 Ross Hassig, Mexico and the Spanish Conquest (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006), 174. 

[vi]Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, 71.

[vii]Ibid, 71.



[viii]Peter Bakewell, A History of Latin America to 1825 (Massachusetts: Willey-Blackwell, 2010), 552.

[ix]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008), 18.

[x] David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History of the Amazon: From Prehistory to the

Nineteenth Century,” Latin American Research Review, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2001): 80.

[xi]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man (El Dorado): And Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of America, (New York, Appleton, 1893), 4. 

[xii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 20.

[xiii]Jack Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation, (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), xviii.

[xiv]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, (New York: Bantam Books, 2011), 17. 

    John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 20.

[xv]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 11.

[xvi]Stephen Minta, Aguirre: The Re-Creation of a Sixteenth-Century Journey across South America, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1993), 8. 

[xvii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 35.

[xviii]Stephen Minta, Aguirre, 9-10.

  A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 90.

[xix] Cieza de León, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 90.

Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, (Edinburg: Ballantyne and Co., 1812), i.

[xx]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 64.



[xxi]William H. Nault, The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. A, “The Amazon,” (Chicago: Field

Educational Corporation, 1977), 383.

[xxii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers.

[xxiii]Ibid, 31.

[xxiv]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 66.

[xxv]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 78.

[xxvi]William H. Nault, The World Book Encyclopedia, 383.

[xxvii]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 67.

[xxviii]Ibid, 66.

[xxix]William H. Nault, The World Book Encyclopedia, 383.

[xxx]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 17.

[xxxi]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 19.

[xxxii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 17.

[xxxiii]Ibid, 13.

[xxxiv]Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2002), 30.

[xxxv]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 35.

[xxxvi]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 18.

    John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 24.

[xxxvii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 20.

[xxxviii]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 16. 

[xxxix]Ibid, 50.

[xl]Gonzalo Pizarro, Letters to the Crown. In The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee, (Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 249.

[xli]Werner Herzog, Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

[xlii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 24.

[xliii]Ibid, 25.

[xliv]Ibid, 25.

[xlv]Ibid, 23.

[xlvi]Ibid, 23.

[xlvii]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 67.



[xlviii]Ibid, 67.

[xlix]William H. Nault, The World Book Encyclopedia, 384.

[l]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 10.

[li]Ibid, 14.

[lii]Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999), 5.

[liii]William H. Nault, The World Book Encyclopedia, 384.

[liv]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 21.

[lv]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 77.

[lvi]Ibid, 74.

[lvii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 25.

[lviii]Victoria Reyez-García, “Indigenous Peoples, Ethnobotanical Knowledge, and Market Economy: a Case Study of the Tsimane’ Amerindians in Lowland Bolivia,” Ph.D. dissertation (Gainsville: University of Florida, 2001), 99.

[lix]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, xiii.

[lx]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 99.

[lxi]Cieza de León, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 70.

    John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 24.

[lxii]Cieza de León, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru: Chronicles of the New World Encounter, Edited and translated by Alexander Parma Cook and Noble David Cook, (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1998), 73-74.

[lxiii]Michael Wood, Conquistadors, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 215.

[lxiv]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 99.

[lxv]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 22.

[lxvi]Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition, Translated by Fanny

Bandelier (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 23

[lxvii]Toribio de Ortiguera, Expedition down the Marañón River and all that Happened During it, In

The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee, (Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 313.

[lxviii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 25-26.

[lxix]Gonzalo Pizarro, Letters to the Crown, 250.

[lxx]Stephen Minta, Aguirre, 55.

[lxxi]Cieza de León , The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 68. 

[lxxii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 97.

   Agustín de Zárate, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, Translated with an introduction by J.M. Cohen, (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968), 198.

[lxxiii]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, xxv.

[lxxiv]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, In The Discovery of the Amazon by José

Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee (Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 231.

[lxxv]Francisco de Guzmán, Statement by Francisco de Guzmán on the Conquest of New Andalusia, In The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, (Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 361.

[lxxvi]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 179.

[lxxvii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 66-68.

[lxxviii]Ceiza de León, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 72.

[lxxix]Ibid, 70.

   Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 66.

[lxxx]Agustín de Zárate, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 198.

   Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 62.

[lxxxi]Agustín de Zárate, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 198.

[lxxxii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 19.

[lxxxiii]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 20.

[lxxxiv]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 179.

[lxxxv]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, iv.

[lxxxvi]Francisco de Guzmán, Statement by Francisco de Guzmán, 360.

[lxxxvii]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 187/229.

[lxxxviii]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, v.

[lxxxix]Agustín de Zárate, The Discovery and Conquest of Peru, 198.

[xc]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 24.

[xci]Ibid, 74.

[xcii]Ibid, 61.

[xciii]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 230.



[xciv]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 16.

[xcv]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 78.

[xcvi]Ibid, 74.

[xcvii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 16.

[xcviii]David Cleary, “Towards an Environmental History,” 84.

[xcix] Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 167-236.

[c]Ibid, 218.

[ci]Ibid, 211.

[cii]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 15.

[ciii]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 220.

[civ]Ibid, 202.

[cv]Ibid, 215.

[cvi]Ibid, 218.

[cvii]Ibid, 201.

[cviii]Ibid, 205,

[cix]Ibid, 227.

[cx]Ibid, 183.

[cxi]Ibid, 198.

[cxii]Ibid, 216.

[cxiii]Ibid, 208.

[cxiv]Ibid, 208.

[cxv]Ibid, 210.

[cxvi]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 236-237.

[cxvii]Ibid, 18.

[cxviii]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, ii.

[cxix]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 20.

[cxx]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 47/50.

[cxxi]Ibid, 17.

[cxxii]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 84.

[cxxiii]Crisóbal de Segovia, Testimony before the Court of the Island of Margarita, In The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee, (Worcester, Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 268.

[cxxiv]Ibid, 268.

[cxxv]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 30.

[cxxvi]John Hemming, Tree of Rivers, 15.

[cxxvii]Wall text, “Amazonian Poisons,” Latin America. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, WI.

[cxxviii]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 9.

[cxxix]Ibid, 42.

[cxxx]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 224.

[cxxxi]Ibid, 224.

[cxxxii]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 180.

[cxxxiii]Ibid, 184.

[cxxxiv]Ibid, 184.

[cxxxv]Ibid, 187.

[cxxxvi]Ibid, 170.

[cxxxvii]Ibid, 174.

[cxxxviii]Ibid, 178.



[cxxxix]Gonzalo Pizarro, Letters to the Crown, 248.

[cxl]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 183.

[cxli]Francisco de Guzmán, Statement by Francisco de Guzmán, 358-361.

[cxlii]José Toribio Medina, The Discovery of the Amazon River: According to the Account of Friar

Gaspar de Carvajal and Other Documents, Edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, (Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 8. 

[cxliii]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness, 21.

[cxliv]Ibid, 63.

[cxlv]Gaspar de Carvajal, Discovery of the Orellana River, 167-236.

[cxlvi]Fernández Oviedo, History of the Indies: Bearing on Orellana’s Two Expeditions, In

The Discovery of the Amazon by José Toribio Medina, edited by H.C. Heaton and translated by Bertram T. Lee. Worcester, (Massachusetts: The Commonwealth Press, 1934), 405-451.

[cxlvii]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, xii, xvi, xlii.

[cxlviii]Lope de Aguirre, Letter of Lope de Aguirre to King Philip of Spain, 1561, Translated by Tom

Holloway. In Documentos para la Historia Economic de Venezuela, (Caracas: University Central, 1961), 2.

[cxlix]Buddy Levy, River of Darkness,, 21.

[cl]Ibid, 217.

[cli]Francisco de Guzmán, Statement by Francisco de Guzmán, 361.

[clii]Ibid, 358-361.

[cliii]Sir Walter Raleigh Scott ed., History of Lope de Aguirre, x, xxi.

[cliv]Ibid, xlixi. 

[clv]Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (London: Hesperus Press, 2002), 7.

[clvi]A.F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man, 44.

[clvii]Lope de Aguirre, Letter of Lope de Aguirre, 4.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.