Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1519) was a Spanish explorer who was the first European to cross America and who discovered the Pacific Ocean. He crossed Panama in the year 1513. He also established first European settlement in America, Santa Maria. He was a Roman Catholic and worked as a maritime explorer under the crown of Castile.
Search for New World
Balboa was inspired by the voyages of Columbus in the late fifteenth century. In 1500 he decided to go America with Juan de la Cosa. Later he came in contact with Martin Enciso who was initially reluctant to keep him on his ship but later considering the extraordinary knowledge of Balboa about the region, he allowed him. He gained respect among the crew members because of his polite behavior.
Establishment of first European settlement in America: Santa Maria
Balboa suggested Enciso that the Mexico region is unstable to establish colony as there were numerous strong tribes so the colony must be established in Darien region which is quiet calm. Enciso agreed but instead, the tribes of Darien region fought war with the Spanish. Spanish won the war against Cemaco tribe and plundered gold from the region. In 1510, Balboa established first permanent settlement on mainland American soil called Santa Maria.
Discovery of South Sea (Pacific Ocean)
Balboa with the help of few natives started his journey to cross Panama on September 1, 1513. In the route they had to face dense forest, wild animals and very adverse climatic conditions. On September 20 they came in a village which was ruled by king Torecha. After a fierce battle with Torecha most of the people were badly wounded and only few people could manage to go with balboa. They crossed the river Chucunaque and then climbed the mountain ranges. On September 25, 1513 Balboa saw undiscovered sea from top of the hill. This was a very emotional moment for the Spaniards they marked crosses on the trees symbolizing their victory.
Death of Balboa
Death of Balboa was unfortunate. In the quest of discovering New World, he along with his three friends, was charged of being a traitor to the Nation. He was ordered to be beheaded. It is said that his head did not come off clean, they had to axe him thrice. His premature death left a legacy behind him that may have probably went a long way…