Fernando de Alencastre, 1st Duke of Linares
Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, duque de Linares y marqués de Valdefuentes (c. 1641, Spain—June 3, 1717, Mexico City) was a Spanish nobleman and military officer. He also served as viceroy of New Spain, from January 15, 1711 to August 15, 1716.
Alencastre Noroña y Silva was a descendant of Fernando de Noroña, Duke of Linares, and thus from a very distinguished Spanish family. In addition to the two titles he inherited, he was knight commander of the Order of Santiago, lord of the bedchamber of the king, and lieutenant general in the army. He was also knight commander of the royal arms in the Kingdom of Naples, viceroy of Sardinia, vicar general of La Toscana and viceroy of Peru.
Beginning of his term as viceroy of New Spain
In 1711 he became viceroy and captain general of New Spain and president of the Audiencia.
On August 16, 1711 there was a strong earthquake that damaged many buildings and resulted in significant loss of life. The earthquake was said to last half an hour. The viceroy paid out of his own pocket to help the poor and to restore some of the buildings.
In 1713, Mexico City experienced a snowfall unlike any earlier recorded. The harvest failed, and a severe famine resulted. The streets were filled with people begging for bread. Perhaps as a result of the famine, a severe plague broke out, continuing into the following year. Many sick people were abandoned on the streets. Many people died and were buried in common graves. Both the viceroy and the archbishop of Mexico, José Lanziego, paid out of their own pockets to help the poor during these catastrophes.
Foreign affairs and defense
To cement the recent peace with England in 1713, the Spanish Crown granted that country a monopoly in the trade in black slaves throughout Spanish America for ten years. This had the unintended effect of allowing the English to introduce large quantities of contraband merchandise into the colonies as well. Also troublesome was the longstanding English settlement at Laguna de Términos. Here the English continued the illegal harvest of tropical woods, especially logwood.
Alencastre ordered the construction of four well-armed, light warships at Coatzacoalcos to reinforce the Armada de Barlovento (coast guard). He bought 600 new muskets in Cantabria for the militia and sent money for the repair of fortifications at Cumaná.
He petitioned the Crown to allow direct trade between New Spain and Peru, but the Crown rejected the proposal.
Internal affairs and new settlements
This viceroy organized two expeditions to reoccupy Texas and establish missions there. He founded the city of San Felipe de Linares September 3, 1711 (in present-day Nuevo León). Alencastre also aided the missions in California and New Mexico, and established new settlements there. Indians in New Mexico continued in revolt, and the viceroy sent priests there to subdue the natives peacefully.
Alencastre constructed the aqueduct of Arcos de Belén to Salto de Agua in Mexico City. He continued and expanded La Acordada, a special tribunal dedicated to fighting robbery in the cities and on the highways. He prohibited the manufacture of the alcoholic beverage aguardiente from sugar cane, and made attempts to suppress immorality among the regular clergy.
The Crown fixed the annual contribution of New Spain to the mother country at one million pesos. To raise this money required some ingenuity on the part of the viceroy.
On October 28, 1715 an insurrection broke out among the garrison at San Juan de Ulúa, near Veracruz. For two years the soldiers had received only partial pay. The rebels were tried, convicted, and pardoned. Afterwards they continued to press their grievances.
Alencastre founded the first public library and the first natural history museum in New Spain. King Philip V of Spain directed that the museum send to Spain samples of rocks, plants, fruits, animals and other things found in Mexico but unknown in Spain. The viceroy complied, copiously.
Retirement and death
In 1716 he turned over the office to his successor, Baltasar de Zúñiga, 1st Duke of Arión. He left for Zúñiga a written Instrucción, in which he detailed the sad social and economic conditions of the colony.
He died the following year in Mexico City, and was interred in the church of the Discalced Carmelites.
- (Spanish) "Alencastre Noroña y Silva, Fernando de," Enciclopedia de México, v. 1. Mexico City, 1988.
- (Spanish) García Puron, Manuel, México y sus gobernantes, v. 1. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrua, 1984.
- (Spanish) Orozco L., Fernando, Fechas Históricas de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1988, ISBN 968-38-0046-7.
- (Spanish) Orozco Linares, Fernando, Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985, ISBN 968-38-0260-5.