Alentejo, Kingdom of Portugal
Near Paraguay River
|Known for||First European to reach the Inca Empire|
Aleixo Garcia, also known in Spanish as Alejo García (d. 1525 Paraguay) was a Portuguese explorer and conquistador who explored the Rio de la Plata in service to Spain, and later the Paraguay and Bolivia.
He was possibly a member of the failed expedition of Juan Díaz de Solís, seeking to find a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. After reaching the mouths of the Uruguay and Paraná, it was apparent that the Rio de la Plata was not such a strait. At this point, de Solís was killed - on testimony of his crew - by cannibal Indians (variously identified as the Charrúa or Guaraní) and his lieutenants opted to return to Spain.
On their return, some of their boats were shipwrecked off Santa Catarina in present-day Brazil. Among the 11 or 18 Spanish and Portuguese survivors was Aleixo Garcia, a Portuguese adventurer who had previously made contact with the Guaraní. With them were also the Portuguese sailors Henrique Montes (a veteran of the Gonçalo Coelho and Amerigo Vespucci expeditions) and Francisco Pacheco, and the Spanish sailor Mechior Ramirez. Alejo de Ledesma and Francisco Chaves were also among them. Melchior Ramires, in turn, would assist and guide Cristóvão Jacques on his voyage of exploration to Río de la Plata and the Parana river in 1521, returning again to Santa Catarina.
Aleixo Garcia now traveled inland, living among the Guaranís who know of the network of trails called Peabiru that covered this part of South America. While there, he heard tales of a "White King" who lived to the west, ruling cities of incomparable riches and splendor.
After eight years, Garcia had gathered enough men and supplies to attempt a voyage to the land of the "White King." Marching towards the west, using the trail network Peabiru, his company discovered a great waterfall. Credit for the discovery of the Iguazu Falls is usually given to the governor Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and historian Efraím Cardozo asserts Garcia crossed the Paraná at the smaller waterfall called Saltos del Monday.
During 1524 and 1525, the small group (four or five men, or more than a dozen, depending on the sources) recruited an army of about 2,000 local Guaraní soldiers from the vicinity of Asunción as reinforcement to invade the promising new land. They then entered the Chaco, a rough semi-desert region. Garcia was the first European to cross the Chaco and even managed to penetrate the outer defenses of the Inca Empire on the hills of the Andes, in present-day Bolivia. He was the first European to do so, accomplishing this eight years before Francisco Pizarro.
Garcia looted an impressive booty of silver. When the army of Huayna Cápac arrived to challenge him, Garcia then retreated with the spoils, only to be assassinated by his Indian allies near San Pedro on the Paraguay River.
The Indians, however, spared the life of his son, who was the first Paraguayan mestizo. News of this excursion into Incan territory later distracted Sebastian Cabot from his expedition to the East Indies (which could have resulted in the second circumnavigation of the globe after Ferdinand Magellan) causing him to imprison or maroon his lieutenants and remain in the Rio de la Plata region for several years.
 Descubrimiento y conquista del Río de la Plata y el Paraguay, Julio César Chaves, Ediciones Nizza, 1968 (in Spanish)