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The Iberian Pig in Spain and the Americas at the time of Columbus

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Chapter III: Pigs in the Exploration of the Americas


El Puerco Conquistador: The pig as a tool for Spanish explorers

There are three animals that were absolutely essential to the Spanish soldiers during the conquest of the Americas: the horse, the dog, and the pig. They form what Morales Padrón called, “la trilogía animal de la conquista.”[1] With the dogs in front, the horses underneath, and the pigs grunting behind, the Spanish expeditions of subjugation were phenomenally successful. Essentially the horses and dogs were instruments of war, although the horse also served for prestige, transport, and carried loads. The pig was the primary form of sustenance, but in hard times, as Gonzalo Pizarro could attest, a delicious dog or horse is far more useful than a valiant one.[2]

Already it has been shown that along with the pig many other Castilian livestock were readily available to the expeditionary forces that would conquer the enormous landmass from North to South America. Why, then, did so many Spanish explorers choose to bring pigs along as a primary source of sustenance? We have seen that sheep did not fair well in tropical weather, and that cows were not available in sufficient numbers in the first part of the Spanish invasion. As historian Eduardo Laguna Sanz insightfully noted: “La expansión y utilidad de los ganados españoles no fueron uniformes ni en espacio ni en el tiempo; ni tampoco fue igual la clase de aprovechamiento que proporcionaron.”[3] Sheep were appropriate for higher elevations, thriving well, providing meat, cheese, and wool in cold, rugged climates. Cows offered tasty beef and milk, as well as hides which served a plethora of local uses, and which could be sold back to Europe. And pigs, as we have discussed at length, afforded a plentiful, breeding, and ambulatory supply of meat ideal for expeditions.

These facts alone are not enough to explain the pig’s near universal adoption. So before we examine the role hogs played in the journeys of specific explorers like Hernán Cortés or Francisco Pizarro, let us consider exactly how pigs could benefit any would-be explorer of the fifteenth or sixteenth century. I hope to show here that hogs offered many advantages over other livestock on an expedition: hardiness, a self-sustaining diet, easy herding, great fecundity, and a familiar flavor.

The simplest explanation for the utility of swine is simple economics. Bernal Díaz, the famous chronicler of the Cortés expedition, tells us quite matter-of-factly: “compramos puercos, que nos costaban en aquel tiempo a tres pesos, porque en aquella sazón no había en la isla de Cuba vacas ni carneros.” The pigs were so abundant in the Antilles— from where the earliest voyages invariably supplied themselves— that their cost relative to other animals was substantially lower. Pigs were cheap, and if that were not enough incentive, early on they were sometimes the only livestock available in sufficient quantity for purchase. Of course this was not always the case, as a number of competing expeditions at any one time might buy out entire stocks and expend them relatively quickly.[4] This is what happened to Sebastián de Benalcázar in Nuevo Granada, leading him to purchase his famous feasting pig for 1,600 pesos. At that particular moment and location, pork prices had skyrocketed to 500 pesos or more; chronicler Pedro Cieza de León relates that pigs were so in demand that the Spaniards could not wait for them to be born: “de los vientres de las puercas compraban, antes que nasciesen, los lechones a cien pesos y más.”[5] Excepting such outstanding situations, the cost of pig steadily decreased as the sixteenth century moved forward.[6]

While many horses died on ocean voyages, petite pigs also took up little space on boats, less than might cows or even sheep, and for their size provided a higher percentage of usable meat.[7] Of course they took up even less space if slaughtered first and brought along as tocino (salt pork), or other preserved forms of meat. We can imagine that a typical maritime voyage would carry some sort of bread— likely of cassava, if it originated in the Antilles— along with dried pork and at least a few live pigs to maintain supplies.[8] The Spaniards had millennia of experience salting meat in the form of jamón, embutidos, and ibéricos. These had proved useful in supplying the crew of ships during the long voyage from Spain. In the Antilles, the Spanish learned another method from the local Indians. There, hunting was a common source of meat, and smoking the carcass preserved it long enough for extended storage. Bernabé Cobo tells us of these barbacoas,aprendieron los españoles de los indios, que no supieron hacer otro género de cecina sino éste, para guardar por algún tiempo la carne.”[9] The Spanish readily added this method to their own retinue of culinary talents.

Bringing live pigs was as much a stored supply of food as it was an investment in future food supplies. Cobo tells us that the Spanish used pigs “para mantenerse déllos en las tales jornadas, si se viesen necesitados de bastimentos; que por ser ganado tan fecundo, da muy en breve copioso fruto.”[10] Pigs were so easy to transport that a few were generally carried along and deposited on islands, left to reproduce prolifically until a later voyage might hungrily come across them, as this message to the incoming governor of Río de la Plata attests:

Quedan en una ysla de las de San Gabryel un puerco y una puerca para casta; no los maten, y si oviere muchos tomen los que ovieren menester y dexen siempre para casta, y asimismo de camino echar en la ysla de Martyn Garcia un puerco y una puerca, y en las demas que les pareziere, para que hagan casta.[11]

We witnessed this same logic when Columbus defended his decision not to let his eight puercas be slaughtered for the one-time benefit of a tasty pork barbecue. Pigs were “seeded” on many islands that explorers would often only much later come back to, including Barbados, Bermuda, and the Channel Islands near California.[12]

Another of the pig’s key selling points was undoubtedly that it, unlike other livestock, could be herded through difficult and varied terrain. Pigs did not rely on large pastures of grass as did sheep and cows; these animals might have subjected the horses to unfavorable competition during long expeditions over rugged terrain. Instead, the pigs pretty much fended for themselves, eating whatever they could find en route, freeing the Spanish soldiers from a large investment in food or herders. Pigs adapted both to the tropical humidity as well as the mountains and dry land. They were also resistant to hunger and even lack of water because they do not perspire through the skin. Through varying American terrain, the pigs continued commendably, keeping up with the soldiers and finding novel food sources as they went.[13]

While herding pigs was relatively easy, and the Spanish had millennia of experience in this matter, keeping control of hundreds or even thousands of these self-reliant animals was not an exact science. An untold number of pigs escaped and went on to populate the regions through which they were being led. These pigs turned wild, just as they had in the Antilles, and reverted to a form similar to wild boars. Given their remarkable fecundity and resourcefulness, descendents of these hogs were destined to outpace the Spaniards in their conquest of the Americas. Coronado in his exploration of the American West would encounter Indians who had been hunting and exploiting wild boars well before his arrival.[14] Later expeditions would benefit from this wild game, which could be hunted.

Perhaps the most obvious reason for bringing the pigs along is that they provided a valuable source of meat and nutrition. As one historian has put it, “every army travels more on its stomach than on its feet.”[15] The Spaniards were generational veterans of wars, having fought the Moors for 800 years, and knew this fact very well. The rearguard of any expedition thus consisted of camps to raise and herd the pigs that would feed the soldiers on the frontlines of battle.[16]

Finally, we should not underestimate the fact that pork was a familiar food to the Spanish— and predominantly Extremaduran— conquerors. They had come to rely on pigs for their nutrition and livelihood in Spain, and without hesitation transferred this knowledge and predilection for pork into the lands that they conquered. For all these reasons, it should be no surprise that modern scholars like Justo del Río Moreno exaltedly affirm, “en la América del siglo XVI no hubo una sola hueste que no llevara entre sus acopios algunos cerdos o que no basara su alimentación en sus carnes.[17]

Hernán Cortés

Beyond just theoretical musings on which animal would have been best for a Spanish explorer in the New World, we have documentary evidence that often tells us precisely which animals and how many accompanied the conquistadors. In the early accounts and major conquests, the pig is always featured prominently. Perhaps the most famous conqueror of the New World is Hernán Cortés, who with the help of his Indian allies, brought down the once-powerful Aztec empire.

It seems that Cortés spent little time deliberating over which animals he would use to supply his expedition. Bernal Díaz tells us that the men supplied themselves as much as possible from what was available in Cuba at the time.

Digamos ahora cómo todas las personas que he nombrado, vecinos de la Trinidad, tenían sus estancias, donde hacían el pan cazabe, y manadas de puercos, cerca de aquella villa, y cada uno procuró de poner el más bastimento que podía.[18]

Of course the problem with mounting any expedition is that there never seems to be sufficient quantity of what is needed, especially money with which to purchase such items. Recall that Díaz told us that cows were not available at all in Cuba at the time, and it would appear that horses and sheep were in short supply as well.[19] Many of the supplies, including those of pig (which traveled as tocino), would have to be obtained with diplomacy, as this interesting story relates:

...y en aquel instante vino un navío de la Habana a aquel puerto de la Trinidad, que traía un Juan Sedeño, vecino de la misma Habana, cargado de pan cazabe y tocinos, que iba a vender a unas minas de oro cerca de Santiago de Cuba; y como saltó en tierra el Juan Sedeño, fue a besar las manos a Cortés, y después de muchas pláticas que tuvieron, le compré el navio y tocinos y cazabe fiado, y se fue el Juan Sedeño con nosotros.[20]

López de Gómara also tells us that Cortés’ purchases effectively reduced Cuba’s supplies of pig to zero: “Tomó a Fernando Alfonso los puercos y carneros que tenía para pesar otro día en la carnicería, dándole una cadena de oro, hechura de abrojos, en pago y para la pena de no dar carne a la ciudad.[21]

Almost immediately the workers “comenzaban a hacer cazabe y salar tocinos para matalotaje.”[22] This would prove to be the basis of the Spanish maritime diet; the etymology of the word matalotaje, which from the original French meant “mariner’s salary,” perhaps tells us that sometimes this was all they could hope to get. All told, Cortés took with him “cinco mil tocinos y seis mil cargas de maíz, yuca y ajís.[23] And even so, López de Gómara laments that the crew left “con muy poco bastimento para los muchos que llevaba y para la navegación...” and that Cortés sent for more supplies, including some pigs, from Jamaica.[24]

There seems no doubt that Cortés was resupplied at times with essentials, and the original tocino was used up early on. Cortés ordered Diego de Ordás to begin raising hogs in Veracruz before he set out for the final conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán, no doubt to create such supplies.[25] More provisions arrived when the Narvaez’s ships landed in an unsuccessful attempt to displace Cortés. As luck would have it another vessel arrived just in time for the banquet following the surrender of Tenochtitlán:

Cortés mandó hacer un banquete en Cuyoacan, en señal de alegrías de la haber ganado, y para ello tenían ya mucho vino de un navío que había venido al puerto de la Villa-Rica, y tenía puercos que le trajeron de Cuba...”[26]

Again we see that pigs, that familiar food from Spain, was especially important as feasting victuals, although unlike Benalcázar, Cortés would obtain them at a bargain price.

After several mentions about pigs being used to supply the expeditions, the paper trail often runs dry. As has been suggested, perhaps to a sixteenth-century Spanish chronicler or explorer, it was banally obvious how herds of pigs and dried salt pork supplies would be managed. Chroniclers appear reluctant to mention the herds of pigs on this expedition probably because Cortés had ordered them to trail four days behind the company in order to conserve their stocks.[27] There is ample evidence, however, that a large drove of pigs followed Cortés from Mexico to his conquest of Honduras. In a long roster of the persons and supplies that left with Cortés from México for las Higüeras, Díaz lists: “y una gran manada de puercos, que venía comiendo por el camino....”[28] López de Gómara confirms that Cortés took “una piara de puercos, animales para mucho camino y trabajo y que multiplican en gran manera.”[29]

The journey to Honduras was an arduous one. Although the group was supplied with a map from local Indians, it did not readily explain how the expedition was to cross the jungles and swamps with their heavy supplies and animals. The horses were half underwater, some of the company drowned; after it all, Gómara remarks “y aun cómo pudieron llegar los puercos fué maravilla.”[30] But Cortés knew that his armies depended as much on their fighting prowess as they did on mere survival, and the abundance of pigs were crucial in the fight against hunger. Near the end of his trek from Mexico all the way to Honduras, with supplies beginning to run out Cortés remarks:

...aunque en aquellas cuatro jornadas que desde Acuculin allí trujimos se pasaron innumerables trabajos...en especial de hambre —porque aunque traíamos algunos puercos de los que saqué de México que aún no eran acabados había más de ocho días cuando a Taniha llegamos que no comíamos pan sino palmitos cocidos con la carne y sin sal...[31]

Note that supplies of bread ran out well before those of meat. Having a rearguard that moved with the army had proven an excellent idea, one that would be copied by later conquistadors.

Of course many of the pigs that followed Cortés on this arduous march did not arrive. Those that were not eaten instead escaped and, as they tended to do, reverted to wild forms. Today the Yucatan is home to muscular, energetic boars with sharp tusks and oversized heads. Probably these are some of the most rugged pigs in the modern world, and surely they are descended from this expedition’s original herd.[32]

Cortés took livestock very seriously, no doubt because of his Extremaduran roots. Once the conquest was completed and he was (more or less) in control of Mexico, Cortés sent for livestock, including pigs, to be brought from Santo Domingo, Jamaica, and Cuba.[33] There is even evidence that he sent for pigs from as far away as Genoa, Lombardia, and Barcelona.[34] He also imposed a series of ordenanzas that encouraged the proper and managed care of the livestock, especially pigs. In March of 1524 he proclaimed “que si algun vezino e morador u otra qualquier persona, tobiere sitio señalado por el dicho Consexo para crianza de puercos, que no se pueda dar a otro alguno en media lengua a la redonda.” He further solidifies the rights of porqueros by declaring “sy algun criador de puercos quisiere sacar su ganado a otra parte, que nenguna persona le pueda entrar en el sitio o criadero que dexare, fasta seis meses primeros siguientes, porque mexor pueda rrecoxer el ganado que se le obiere quedado perdido....”[35]

The Cortés expedition to Mexico resulted in the pig’s widespread introduction into that country. Soon after a specialized pig industry would develop in Toluca, which because of its high altitude was ideal for making jamones, salzones and embutidos that became famous in the New World.[36] Cortés’ ordenanzas come astoundingly soon, a fact which assures us of the important role this livestock would play, not just in the conquest of Mexico, but even more so in its early colonization.

The Pizarros

Of all the conquistadors Francisco Pizarro, the ill-famed conqueror of Peru, is perhaps the one most associated with pigs, but of which we have the least firsthand accounting. His contemporaries, however, had plenty to say. Pizarro was purported to have been a swineherd, but this information likely originates from López de Gómara’s unflattering biography in his Historia General de las Indias:

Era hijo bastardo de Gonzalo Pizarro, capitán en Navarra. Nació en Trujillo, y echáronlo a la puerta de la iglesia. Mamó una puerca ciertos días, no se hallando quien le quisiese dar leche. Reconociólo después el padre, y traído a guardar los puercos, y así no supo leer. Dióles un día mosca a sus puercos, y perdiólos. No osó tornar a casa de miedo, y fuése a Sevilla con unos caminantes, y de allí a las Indias.[37]

Scholars debate whether these are the facts, or merely represent Gómara’s distaste for Pizarro manifesting itself in literary exaggeration. James Lockhart believes that Pizarro suckling a mama pig— the so-called “porcine legend”— is completely false, and notes that Pizarro, even in lineage, had the qualities of a leader. David E. Vassberg contends that while the baby conquistador suckling a pig is far-fetched, it is quite possible that Francisco Pizarro did tend hogs in his native Extremadura, and the occupation was not considered lowly there. The vast majority of Pizarro’s cohorts on the Peruvian expedition came from Extremadura, notably his hometown of Trujillo, and certainly the pastoral lifestyle in some ways prepared them to be physically strong, alert, and resourceful men. Calling Pizarro (or Cortés for that matter) a swineherd may easily have been a regional stereotype.[38]

While the men who conquered the Incas came from Spain, the pigs came from Panama.[39] That story probably begins in Jamaica, from where many pigs made their eventual entrance into the mainland. In 1521 and reiterated again in 1531, Francisco de Garay was ordered by the Crown to send from Jamaica to Panama, among other supplies, “mil cabezas de puercos...para repartir entre los vecinos y favorecer el poblamiento de la ciudad.”[40] Another five hundred hogs were sent from Jamaica to Nicaragua, destined to follow Núñez de Balboa to the Pacific Ocean— another expedition fed primarily on the meat of pigs.[41] But the first hogs to arrive in Nicaragua probably came to Santa María la Antigua with Pedro de Arbolancha in 1513, because there is evidence that when Pedro Arias de vila (better known as Pedrarias) arrived one year later, there were already some pigs available for slaughter. In any case, he sent back to Jamaica for even more and a group of hogs arrived in 1514, and another in 1515.[42]

The pigs did not do quite as well on the mainland as they had in the Antilles, probably because predators like pumas, coyotes, and humans limited their growth. Oviedo y Valdés noted that “aunque de los puercos que se han llevado a Tierra-Firme se hayan ido algunos al monte, no viven, porque los animales así como tigres y gatos cervales y leones se los comen luégo.”[43] Deficient supplies caused the governor to insist in 1537: “sobre la forma de remediar la escasez y carestia de carne, mandando que los que tienen indios crien puercos.”[44]

That said, thousands of pigs did survive in the Spanish estancias, and from these Panamanian pigs Francisco Pizarro supplied his expedition to Peru. He arrived there in 1531, and just as Cortés had left some pigs in Veracruz to reproduce and increase supplies, so too Pizarro left a few men in charge of hogs on the island of Flores, and later in the Peruvian mountains at Túmbez.[45] There is scant firsthand accounting of how many pigs were driven behind the soldiers on their way to the Incan capital. Diego de Trujillo’s chronicle, like Bernal Díaz’s of Mexico, assumes that we know pigs were following behind. At one point when the soldiers are nearly dying of thirst, Trujillo relates:

la gente que iba delante descubrió una laguna chica de agua verde, y allí nos remediamos de agua, aunque unos puercos que Hernando Pizarro traía de Panamá, la pararon de tal arte que era barro lo que bebíamos...[46]

It seems likely that the number of pigs brought by the Pizarros was substantial. We have records sent back to Spain to verify the expenses of Diego de Almagro and Francisco Pizarro in their preliminary voyages south in 1525. Here witnesses attested to a great number of pigs; Alonso de Cazeres claims that he saw “una manada de puercos que los suso dichos tenian al tiempo de la partida é que toda se hizo salar é algunos novillos....[47] The evidence points to Pizarro using the same technique for his later voyages. He and Almagro also received royal licenses to import more livestock from Panama to Tumbéz and Cuzco in 1532.[48]

The pigs brought by Pizarro to Peru became pork, the first meat weighed out in the carnicerías of Lima. This is corroborated by the ubiquitous nature of hogs in the Peruvian townships and landscapes for the first few years. Bernabé Cobo tells us:

Y así, los trujeron consigo los primeros españoles que entraron en este reino del Perú con su conquistador el marqués D. Francisco Pizarro en el año 1531; y crecieron y multiplicaron tan en breve, que la primera carne de Castilla que se pesó en la carnecería desta ciudad de Lima, luego que se fundó fué de Puerco.[49]

The padre goes on to tell us that pork was the only meat available in Peru in any quantity for several years, and was strictly regulated by the municipality to ensure quality and supply. Just one year after the city’s founding, an arroba of pig (about 25 pounds) was selling for only twenty reales. Garcilaso de la Vega reported years later that the price of pig went up, notwithstanding their large numbers, because the mange epidemic necessitated the lard for its cure. Despite it all, however, Vega assures us: “Las puercas han sido muy fecundas en el Perú.”[50]

Pigs also played a significant role in the civil wars that ripped through Peru two decades after the initial defeat of the Incas. Although the price of pig in Lima steadily declined from its founding in 1536, this trend reversed itself at the onset of fighting. All sides in the conflict armed themselves with horses and swords to be sure, but they also purchased hogs to maintain their soldiers in the fighting. It is clear that such droves were vital to the nutrition of the opposing bands, as this letter dated 1545 sent to Gonzalo Pizarro from Hernando Bachicao attests:

En este pueblo dexo a vuestra señoría quinientos puercos para que coma, que como yo voy depriesa, no comí más de ciento.[51]

Other letters similarly point to pigs and corn as integral to the soldiers’ diet during this conflict.[52]

While Francisco Pizarro may have delivered the pigs to Peru, it was definitely his brother Gonzalo that used them to their fullest extent. In 1541 he obtained from the city of Quito between two and six thousand pigs,[53] and a substantial number of dogs and llamas, which he brought with him on his ill-fated journey through the Amazon in search of the País de la Canela. In short order this cinnamon expedition encountered such hardship and rains that Herrera y Tordesillas informs us: “por no perecer de hambre, comían de los perros y de los caballos, sin que se perdiese gota de sangre.”[54] When they returned one and a half years later, having traveled four hundred leagues, López de Gómara describes what was left:

No volvieron cien españoles, de doscientos y más que fueron. No volvió indio ninguno de cuantos llevaron, ni caballo, que todos se los comieron, y aun estuvieron por comerse los españoles que se morían...[55]

There was probably no need to say what happened to the pigs.

Hernando de Soto

With good reason the industrial hog farmers of the United States today affectionately call Hernando de Soto the “father of the American pork industry.” In 1539, Soto arrived at what is today Tampa Bay, Florida with only thirteen pigs he had obtained in Cuba. With discipline that would have impressed Columbus, Soto did not allow the hogs to be slaughtered except in dire circumstances, and so by the time of his death three years later, his herd counted seven hundred heads. This number does not include what was eaten, those that were captured by or given to the Indians, nor the countless rogue pigs that escaped to seed the country for its future hog industry.[56]

The Soto mission undoubtedly offers us the best sixteenth-century account of how the pigs were used on an expedition. There are several contemporary sources relating the story, all of which mention the numerous pigs following the soldiers.[57] The most detailed in relation to swine was written by Garcilaso de la Vega, who although not present in the journey himself, wrote a contemporary history of the trek by interviewing its participants, notably Alonso de Carmona. Even he, however, neglects the pigs at first and apologizes to the reader, saying:

aunque hasta aoro no hemos hecho mencion que el Adelantado uviesse llevado este ganado a la Florida, es assí que llevó mas de trecientas cabeças machos y hembras, que multiplicaron grandemente, y fueron de mucho provecho en grandes necessidades, que nuestros Castellanos tuvieron en este descubrimiento.[58]

Throughout the journey, Soto was cognizant of the herd following behind him, so much so that it will strike the modern reader as extreme. Soto marched only as rapidly as the soldiers and pigs could stand, and tried as best he could to avoid hunger by eating maize, not pork.[59] When the group encountered rivers, Soto had his men build rafts to ferry the pigs across.[60] Vega reminds us that these hogs were always protected: “particularmente se les señalava, quando caminavan, una de las compañías de acavallo, que por su rueda los guardassen.”[61] Clearly, the pigs were important to Soto to such an extent that their protection and treatment borders on religious.

This is not meant to say that the soldiers went hungry at the expense of the pigs. Pork was reserved for the sick, but when extreme hunger took hold, Vega informs us:

El Governador passando tres dias que avian estado en aquel alojamiento, viendo que no se podia llevar tanta hambre, que cierto era mas que se puede encarecer, mandó que matasse algunos cochinos de los que llevavan para criar, y se diessen de socorro ocho onças de carne a cada Español, socorro mas para acrecentar la hambre que para la entretener.[62]

But more than any other expedition, the one led by Soto was determined to breed the hogs. There are constant references to the pigs being reserved for breeding in case they should find a place to make a settlement.[63] Again this demonstrates how useful the pig was both as an instrument for conquest, but also as a vehicle for colonization. In a crude way, swine served as the “gateway” animal. Unlike other livestock, they could survive the arduous campaigns, and once a township was established, other animals like cattle and sheep could be brought in larger numbers. But until that stability took hold, pigs were superlatively useful.

Perhaps even more than Soto might have wanted, the Indians of La Florida quickly became acquainted with the pigs, and more resolutely than most natives, they took a strong liking to pork. At first Soto offered the pigs to the Indian chiefs as gifts to keep them friendly and also to accustom them to raising the animal themselves. Vega recounts:

Y porque se acordassen dellos les dio el Governador entre otras dadivas, dos cochinos macho y hembra, para que criassen. Y lo mismo avia hecho con el Caçique de Altapaha, y con los demas señores de provincias que avian salido de paz, y hecho amistad a los Españoles.[64]

The Indians were not always satisfied by the few hogs Soto was willing to give up, however. Thus, there are numerous accounts of pig-nappings and warfare committed against the expedition. In one case, the Indians set fire to the Spanish camp, and all but the piglets (who were small enough to escape their pens) died. Vega reports that “cada Indio traia çeñidos al cuerpo tres cordeles, uno para llevar atado un Castellano, y otro para un cavallo, y otro para un puerco, y que se ofendieron mucho los nuestros quando lo supieron.[65] Besides such pig rustling from the Indians, some of the animals escaped on their own: “se perdieron muchos por los caminos, aunque sobre ellos llevavan mucha guarda, y cuydado.[66] Unfortunately, it was out of the frying pan and into fire for many hogs, as free wild pigs proved to be a favorite animal for the Indian hunters.[67]

The hospitable woodland environment, and Indians’ newly found appetite for pork, made certain the hogs would multiply in this region. Alonso de Carmona reported that he found a sow lost on the outward journey, now with thirteen piglets, each of which were marked on the ears. Vega reasoned that the Indians had marked them and were exploiting them just as the Spaniards might: “Devio ser que los uviessen repartido los Indios entresi, y señaladolos con las propias señales: de donde se puede sacar, que ayan conservado aquellos Indios este ganado.”[68] As late as the twentieth century, the Choctaw tribe of this region was reported to have still been raising Iberian hogs.[69] The feral razorback, or “wood hog,” that survives in the woodlands of the southern United States has sparse bristles and long heads and legs. Almost surely, they are the legacy of Hernando Soto, descended from such sixteenth-century expeditions.[70]

Continued >> Chapter 4: The Indians and the Pigs


[1] Francisco Morales Padrón, Los conquistadores de América (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe. S.A., 1974), p. 117.

[2] Laguna Sanz, p. 68.

[3] Laguna Sanz, p. 93.

[4] Carlos Pereyra, La obra de España en América (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 1920), p. 167.

[5] Quoted in Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 16.

[6] Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 20.

[7] Crosby, “Metamorphosis,” p. 83; Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 15; Gade, p. 39.

[8] Laguna Sanz, p. 200.

[9] Cobo, book X, chap. V, vol. 2, p. 364.

[10] Cobo, book X, chap. V, vol. 2, p. 363.

[11] Colección de libros y documentos referentes a la historia de América (Madrid, 1904-1929), vol. 6, p. 368.

[12] Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, p. 175–6.

[13] Tudela de la Orden, p. 148; Sauer, p. 189.

[14] Herbert E. Bolton, Coronado: Knight of Pueblos and Plains (Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1949), p. 131.

[15] Bolton, p. 112.

[16] Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 15.

[17] Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 16.

[18] Díaz, chap. XXI, vol. 1, p. 114.

[19] Díaz, chap. XXI, vol. 1, p. 114.

[20] Díaz, chap. XXI, vol. 1, p. 115.

[21] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista de México (Mexico: Editorial Pedro Robredo, 1943), chap. VII, vol. 1, p. 58.

[22] Díaz, chap. XX, vol. 1, p. 111.

[23] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. VIII, vol. 1, p. 62. He explains that a carga is the weight an Indian can carry, equal to about two arrobas or 50 pounds.

[24] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. VIII, vol. 1, p. 58–9.

[25] Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 16.

[26] Díaz, chap. CLVI, vol. 2, p. 114.

[27] Tudela de la Orden, p. 150; Coe, p. 230.

[28] Díaz, chap. CLXXIV, vol. 2, p. 258.

[29] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. CLXXV, vol. 2, p. 131.

[30] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. CLXXV, vol. 2, p. 133.

[31] Hernán Cortés, Cartas de relación (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1993), p. 586–7.

[32] Richard Lee Marks, Cortés: The Great Adventurer and the Fate of Aztec Mexico (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), p. 297.

[33] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. CLXIV, vol. 2, p. 107.

[34] AGI, “Envío de ganado del Marqués de Valle,” Indiferente, 1964, L.10, F. 41r-41v (5 Jun 1546); AGI, “Licencia de pasajeros,” Indiferente, 1964, L.10, F. 151r-151v (11 Feb 1547).

[35] Hernán Cortés, “Ordenanzas locales dadas por Hernán Cortés,” in Estudio de testamento de Don Hernando Cortés Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, ed. Jesús Ignacio Fernández Domingo (Badajoz: Diputación de Badajoz, 1999), p. 149.

[36] Laguna Sanz, p. 87 & 194.

[37] López de Gómara, Historia de la conquista, chap. CXLIV, vol. 2, p. 210.

[38] James Lockhart, The Men of Cajamarca (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972), p. 136; David E. Vassberg, “Concerning Pigs, the Pizarros, and the Agro-Pastoral Background of the Conquerors of Peru,” Latin American Research Review 13:3 (1978): p. 47 & 57; Jordan, p. 37. For more references to the Pizarro swineherd debate, see the bibliography of Vassberg’s “Concerning Pigs,” p. 57–8.

[39] For a more detailed study of the entrance of swine into the New World separated by island and region, see Victor Manuel Patiño’s excellent Plantas Cultivadas y Animales Domésticos, Vol. 5.

[40] AGI, “Despacho para la ciudad de Panamá,” Panama, 233, L.1, F.288v-290r (6 Sep1521); AGI, “Envío de mantenimientos de Jamaica a Panamá,” Panama, 234, L.5, F.1v-3r (4 Nov1531); Morales Padrón, Jamaica, p. 72 & 282.

[41] Jose Toribio Medina, ed., El descubrimiento del Océano Pacífico, Vol. 2 (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Universitaria, 1913), p. 188.

[42] Patiño, 296–7.

[43] Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, Sumario, chap. XIX, p. 65.

[44] AGI, “Respuesta al cabildo secular de Panamá,” Panama, 235, L.6, F.144r-144v (7 Dec1537).

[45] Río Moreno, “Cerdo,” p. 16.

[46] Diego de Trujillo, Relación del descubrimiento del reyno del Perú (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1948), p. 50.

[47] José Toribio Medina, ed., Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de Chile, Vol. 4 (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1889), p. 21 & 44.

[48] AGI, “Licencia a Diego de Almagro,” Panama, 234, L.5, F. 34r (22 Jun1532).

[49] Cobo, book X, chap. V, vol. 2, p. 363.

[50] Vega, Comentarios, book IX, chap. XIX, p. 605.

[51] Juan Pérez de Tudela y Bueso, ed., Documentos relativos a don Pedro de la Gasca y a Gonzalo Pizarro (Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1964), vol. 1, p. 428.

[52] Pérez de Tudela y Bueso, vol. 2, p. 449–477.

[53] Scholars and chroniclers differ on the total number of pigs that Gonzalo Pizarro brought along with him. Rodolfo Cronau says 4,000. Sophie Coe claims an amazing 6,000. Cieza de León and Herrera y Tordesillas, 5,000. López Gómara’s Historia general de las Indias says 3,000.

[54] Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del mar oceano (Madrid: Universidad Complutense, 1991), década VI, book VIII, chap. VII, vol. 3, p. 741.

[55] López de Gómara, Historia general, chap. CXLIII, internet.

[56] Crosby, Columbian Exchange, p. 79; Parsons, p. 228; Missouri Agricultural Statistics Service, internet.

[57] These sources include the Relaçam of the Portuguese “Gentleman of Elvas,” the account by Luys Hernández de Biedma, and the one quoted extensively here by Garcilaso de la Vega. Excellent English translations of all these are printed in The De Soto Chronicles. One other description of the expedition was written by Oviedo y Valdés’ in his much more elaborate Historia general y natural de la Indias. See bibliography.

[58] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. II, p. 144. Note that Vega lists the number of pigs at 300, but scholars agree based on other accounts that the number brought to Florida was 13. By this point in the journey, however, the herd had already grown to 300 heads. This is corroborated by the Elvas account.

[59] Paul E. Hoffman, “The De Soto Expedition, a Cultural Crossroads,” in The De Soto Chronicles, Vol. 1, ed. Lawrence A. Clayton, and others (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993), p. 7.

[60] Vassberg, speech.

[61] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. II, p. 144.

[62] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. VII, p. 154.

[63] Besides the others listed here, see also Vega, La Florida, book VI, chap. VI, p. 316 and book V, part 2, chap. XVI, p. 307.

[64] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. II, p. 144.

[65] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. XXXVII, 220.

[66] Vega, La Florida, book III, chap. II, p. 144.

[67] Parsons, p. 228; Vassberg, speech; Laguna Sanz, p. 194.

[68] Vega, La Florida, book V, part 2, chap. VII, p. 287.

[69] Vassberg, speech.

[70] Parsons, p. 228.

© 2005 by b.z.