Isabel Barreto de Castro

During the time of the discovery of America, most of the conquerors were males. However, there were also women, who for years they went unnoticed for the official historiography. Among them, there stands out Isabel Barreto de Castro. According to the chronicles, she was born in Pontevedra in 1567 – she was baptized in the parish of Santa Maria la Mayor. Since she was a young girl, she stood out for her restless spirit, and ended up embarking on the adventure of the New World. She left for the City of Reyes (present Lima) together with her family in 1585 and there she met the elderly Alvaro de Mendaña, with whom she got married.

The islands have been inhabited for thousands of years. In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomón.

Mendaña planned to travel again to archipelago to take possession of it, setting out in 1595 they went there from the port El Callao. During the trip, Alvaro of Mendaña died from malaria and Isabel Barreto took charge of the expedition. According to the chronicler, fleet pilot, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, who traveled with them, “(Mendaña) left by universal and named heiress by Governor to Isabel de Barreto, his wife, because of His Majesty he had commission with power to name whoever wanted to. ”

This is how Isabel de Barreto became the first female admiral of the Spanish Navy, as owner and mistress of the Santa Isabel galleon. According to documents of the time, the cruelty of the new admiral cost the hanging of several sailors that had contravened her orders. Again, in words of Quiros, was “of manly character, authoritarian, untamed, will impose her will despotic to all who are under her I send”. Isabel, accused of cruelty by the crew, demonstrated a strong personality with great leadership and great determination. She had an uncompromising attitude and managed to maintain severe discipline of the crew of tough and adventurous men, always willing to conspire and mutiny.

Subsequently, Isabel set course to the Philippines, where he contracted second marriage before returning to the viceroyalty of Peru. She remarried to general Fernando de Castro, again crossing the Pacific Ocean to Mexico, and then settled in Buenos Aires, where they lived for several years, before returning to Peru.

It is said that Isabel crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the last time to Spain to defend her rights over the Solomon Islands, because the King had granted the right to colonize the islands to Pedro Fernández de Quirós. She may be buried in Castrovirreyna (Peru) or in Galicia (Spain), in 1612.

Route of Mendaña/Barreto/Quirós 1595 expedition:

    El Callao, April 9, 1595.

    Paita (Perú), June 16.

    Las Marquesas de Mendoza (Marquesas Islands), July 21 – August 5.

        Magdalena (Fatu Hiva)

        Dominica (Hiva Oa)

        Santa Cristina (Tahuata)

        San Pedro (Moho Tani)

    San Bernardo (Pukapuka, Cook Islands), August 20.

    La Solitaria (Niulakita, Tuvalu), August 29.

    Solomon Islands:

        Tinakula, September 7.

        La Huerta (Tomotu Noi), Recifes (Swallow Islands), September 8.

        Santa Cruz (Nendö, Santa Cruz Islands), September 8 to November 18. They attempted to found a colony, where Álvaro de Mendaña died, October 18.

    Guam, January 1, 1596.

    Manila, February 11.

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