Trujillo is a small city in the Extremadura region of western Spain. In spite of its modest nature as a sleepy town in an already sparsely populated region, Trujillo has played an important role throughout the whole of Spanish history; from its first settlement in ancient times through to the Roman and Moorish occupations of the Iberian Peninsula. The town contains a variety of fascinating monuments that provide details of its rich past. Trujillo is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of some of the most important Spanish conquistadors who played a key role in the discovery and colonisation of the Americas during the Spanish Golden Age.
Located just 45 kilometres from Caceres, the capital of the Extremadura region, Trujillo was first properly developed by the Romans. It was used as an outpost for the capital Roman city of Emerita Augusta, modern day Merida. Trujillo would not be further developed until after the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 CE. The Moors renamed the settlement Turjallah and turned it into one of the most important towns in the region. They built a strong fortress in Trujillo which still survives to this day and is a major draw for visitors to the city. After some 500 years of Moorish rule, Trujillo eventually fell back into Christian hands in 1232 following a siege lead by the Bishop of nearby Palencia.
Trujillo was given the title of city in 1430. However, many of the grander buildings now present in the city centre appeared later as a result of conquistadors building luxurious palaces after returning with riches from the New World. Trujillo’s most famous son, the Peruvian conquistador Francisco Pizarro, was responsible for the construction of the famous Palace of the Conquest, located in the Plaza Mayor. The plateresque palace, which looks out onto the plaza, is one of Trujillo’s most recognisable buildings. In the centre of the plaza stands a statue, erected in 1926, of Francisco Pizarro on horseback. This homage to Francisco Pizarro highlights the importance of his legacy upon the city.
Francisco Pizarro, Spanish Conquistador
The exact year of Francisco Pizarro’s birth is disputed by experts. Born in either 1471 or 1476 in Trujillo he went on to form an important part of the city’s history.
Francisco Pizarro sailed to the New World for the first time in 1502 as part of a 30 ship fleet with some 2,500 other colonists. In 1513, the Spanish conquistador was, after crossing Panama’s narrow stretch of land, among the first Europeans ever to see the Pacific coast of the Americas. After having worked his way through the ranks and gaining the trust of the right people, Francisco Pizarro was appointed mayor of the strategically important Panama City. The Peruvian conquistador’s influence allowed him to organise further expeditions into South America, into areas which remained largely unexplored.
It was only on Pizarro’s third expedition, after rallying support back in Spain and gaining permission from the King and Queen, that the conquistador was able to launch an all out assault on Peru to conquer and claim it for Spain. Francisco Pizarro’s men only numbered around 200 against the some 80,000 soldiers of the Incan Empire. However, it was the complacency of the Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, which allowed Pizarro’s forces to gain the upper hand. After capturing Atahualpa, they were able to use him as a puppet to topple the rest of the Incan empire. Peru became part of the Spanish empire and Francisco Pizarro founded the city of Lima, which then became its capital.
Peru’s third largest city was also named Trujillo in honour of Francisco Pizarro’s hometown of Trujillo, Spain. The region of Extremadura was also the birthplace of many other American conquistadors including Hernan Cortes, who overthrew the Aztec empire and conquered Mexico. Hernan Cortes was born in the town of Medellín not far from Trujillo and was actually a distant relation of Francisco Pizarro.
Spain’s Extremadura region, home to many Spanish conquistadors, therefore had a huge effect on the course of Spanish history and the Spanish Empire.