Francisco de Garay

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Francisco de Garay (1475 in Sopuerta, Biscay – 1523) was a Spanish Basque conquistador. He was a companion to Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World and arrived in Hispaniola in 1493.[1] Here he attracted attention when he encountered a large gold nugget worth four thousand pesos.[2] In 1496, Miguel Diaz and Francisco de Garay found gold nuggets along the Haina River.[3]

Early life[edit]

Garay was born in the Garay tower in Sopuerta, in the county of Encartaciones located in the province of Biscay.[4]


From 1514 to 1523, Garay served as Royal Governor of Santiago (Governor of Jamaica). As a Governor of Santiago he was accused of committing genocide of the island's indigenous population whom he enslaved and sent to work in the gold mines of Cuba. Writing in 1516, Bartolomé de Las Casas accused him of being responsible for the great decline of the Indian population. [5] By 1519, the original population of Jamaica was almost eradicated.[6] He also raised pigs during his governorship, at one point employing five thousand Indians to herd his swine.[2]


Garay sent several expeditions to explore, map and claim lands along the Gulf shore extending from present day Florida to Mexico. In 1519 Garay sent an expedition under Alonso Álvarez de Pineda to map the coast between Florida and the northern limit of the lands visited by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar.[7]:132–133 The Mississippi River was shown on the maps as Rio del Espiritu Santo (River of the Holy Spirit).

In 1523, Garay led a 600-man expedition to found a colony on the Panuco River near present-day Tampico. However, he landed by mistake 100 miles north at the mouth of the Soto La Marina River which he called the River of Palms (Rio de las Palmas). He reconnoitered by sending a small boat upriver about 25 miles, probably reaching the site of the present day city of Soto la Marina. The explorers found 40 Indian encampments along the river, indicating a large population, although the Indians apparently did not practice agriculture. The Indians plied the river in canoes and, although initially friendly, became hostile. Realizing that the river was not the Pánuco, Garay ordered an overland march southward to the Panuco.[8]

Garay's efforts to found a colony led him into legal conflict with Hernán Cortés.

While in Mexico City negotiating with Cortés, he became ill and died on December 27, 1523.[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Chipman, Donald E., Nuno de Guzman and the Province of Panuco in New Spain, 1518-1533. Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1967. p. 46
  3. ^ Floyd, Troy (1973). The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean, 1492-1526. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 4, 32, 73, 109–110, 130–138, 164.
  4. ^
  5. ^ In his "Memorial de Remedios para las Indias", Las casas accused de Garay, writing:"En Jamaica es asimismo necesario que vuestra reverendísima señoria mande deshacer una compañia que tiene hecha S. A. con uno que allí fue que se llama Francisco de Garay la cual es en gran diminución de los indios: porque no podrá ser sino que por aprovechar o dejar de aprovechar de S.A. ha de aprovechar asi . y no puede ser sin matar muchos indios especialmente que dicen que lleva licencia para sacallos de la dicha isla y traellos a la de Cuba a coger oro. y luego son muertos desta y de otras maneras que allí sucederán."
  6. ^ Baptiste, Victor N. 1990 Bartolomé de Las Casas and Thomas More's Utopia. p. 27 note m.
  7. ^ Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239
  8. ^ Salinas, Martin Indians of the Rio Grande Delta Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990, pp. 23, 73
  9. ^ Robert S. Weddle, Garay, Francisco de," The Handbook of Texas Online,, accessed 25 Feb 2013
  • Eugenio Del Hoyo; Historia del El Nuevo Reino De Leon (1577-1723)

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Juan de Esquivel
Governor of Santiago (Jamaica)
Succeeded by
Pedro de Mazuelo