Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ojéda, Alonso de

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OJÉDA, Alonso de (o-hay'-dah), Spanish adventurer, b. in Cuenca in 1465; d. in Hispaniola in 1515. He accompanied Columbus in his second voyage to the New World, and after the foundation of Isabela, the latter sent Ojeda on an expedition to explore the interior of Hispaniola. With a small force he advanced to Cibao, and returned after a successful exploration, during which he discovered gold-mines. In April, 1494, he commanded an expedition to La Vega Real against Caonabo (q. v.), cacique of Maguana, who was besieging the garrison of Santo Tomas under Pedro Margarit, and, after relieving the fortress, persuaded the Indians to return to their villages. In order to subdue them thoroughly, he planned and successfully accomplished the bold design of capturing the cacique, and brought him to Columbus. He afterward directed the operations against Caonabo's brothers, and decided, by a timely movement, the disputed battle of La Vega, in March, 1495, against the Indian's allies. On his return to Spain in the following year he obtained permission to explore the continent that had been discovered by Columbus on his third voyage, and, arming an expedition, sailed from Santa Maria on 18 May, 1499. Ojeda was accompanied by the former pilot of Columbus, Juan de la Cosa (q. v.), and also by Americo Vespucci (q. v.), who was one of the merchants that provided the expenses of the expedition. They were carried by winds and currents to the southward, touching the coast of America at latitude 5º S., and, coasting to the northward, landed in Trinidad. They then sailed along the coast, making frequent landings and having repeated fights with the Indians, and finally reached a country called Coquibacoa by the natives, which, on account of finding there towns built on piles in lakes, he named Venezuela, from a fancied resemblance to Venice. In the interior of a deep inlet he discovered a city built in the same manner, which he called San Bartolome, and which was probably Maracaibo. Resuming his voyage, the navigator proceeded to Cape Vela, when the bad condition of his ships forced him to steer for Hispaniola. He arrived at Yaquima (Jacmel) on 5 Sept., 1499, but was obliged by Roldan, a lieutenant of Columbus, to re-embark. He next tried to organize a mutiny in the garrison of Jaragua, but was foiled by the arrival of Roldan and Diego Escobar. He now returned to Spain, taking with him several hundred Indians from the Bahamas and selling them as slaves in Cadiz, where he arrived, 15 June, 1500. Being commissioned governor of Coquibacoa, he sailed again for America in January, 1502, and attempted to establish a colony, which he called Santa Cruz, but, on account of his despotic measures, he was imprisoned by his own crew and carried in chains to Hispaniola in September, 1502. He was set at liberty ten months later through the influence of Bishop Fonseca (q. v.). In 1508 he sent his former pilot, Juan de la Cosa, to Madrid to obtain a concession for new conquests on the main-land. The latter obtained for Ojeda the title to the country from Cape Vela to the middle of the Gulf of Darien, under the name of Nueva Andalucia, and sailing with about 200 men in three vessels, rejoined Ojeda in Hispaniola. By the fame of his former exploits the latter easily gathered about 100 more adventurers, among them being Francisco Pizarro, the future conqueror of Peru; and Hernan Cortes (q. v.) was prevented only by a sudden illness from sailing with him. In November, 1509, he left Hispaniola for Caramari (afterward Carthagena), where he was rescued from the natives by the expedition of his competitor, Diego de Nicuesa. He then sailed for the Gulf of Darien, and on the eastern shore founded the colony of San Sebastian, but soon his fort was surrounded by the natives, and when provisions and ammunitions began to fail, Ojeda sailed for Hispaniola in quest of his partner, Martin de Enciso (q. v.), leaving Pizarro in command of San Sebastian. He took passage on a vessel belonging to a trader named Bernardino de Talavera, who had fled from Hispaniola, and when the latter learned where Ojeda was going, he secured him as a prisoner. The vessel was wrecked on the coast of Cuba, when the crew, being attacked by the Indians, set Ojeda free and gave him the command. After many difficulties he managed to send a message to the governor of Jamaica, who despatched Panfilo de Narvaez (q. v.) to Ojeda's rescue, and facilitated his return to Hispaniola, Meanwhile Enciso had sailed, and when the news of his deposition by Balboa arrived, Ojeda was persecuted by his creditors, who had provided means for his expedition, and passed his last years in great misery, dying finally in consequence of a wound from a poisoned arrow that he had received in San Sebastian. — His son, Alonso, b. either in Andalusia or Hispaniola about the end of the 15th century; d. in Mexico about 1550, served in Cuba from early youth, accompanied Hernan Cortes to the conquest of New Spain in 1519, and was the first of the conquerors to learn the Mexican language. He was specially beloved by the natives of Tlascala, and therefore appointed by Cortes commander of the auxiliary force from that republic, which accompanied him on his expedition against Panfilo de Narvaez (q. v.). For the siege of Mexico he carried with his Indians two heavy pieces of cannon from Vera Cruz to Texcoco. He was also sent to arrange a dispute between the inhabitants of Cholula and Topoyanco, which he did so effectively that he brought an auxiliary army of 200,000 men from those two states, and as commander of part of that army contributed efficaciously to the siege and capture of Mexico. He wrote “Memorias y Comentarios de la Conquista de Mexico,” a valuable manuscript which was used by Antonio de Herrera in his “Decadas” and Torquemada in his “Monarquia Indiana.”