Isabel Barreto de Castro (Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain, ?1567 – 1612) was a Spanish female sailor and traveler, considered one of the first women to hold the office of Admiral in history. She was daughter of Francisco Barreto, Portuguese governor of India, and married Alvaro de Mendaña, Spanish navigator, patron of several expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, and discoverer of the Solomon Islands and the Marquesas Islands.
Isabel accompanied him on his last expedition from Peru to the Pacific. In the Santa Cruz Islands, she replaced Mendaña and her brother, Lorenzo Barreto, as Adelantada and Governor after their death. She and the main pilot Pedro Fernandez de Quiros arrived at Manila, in the Philippines, with the 100 survivors of the expedition in the only remaining ship (at the beginning 378 men and women in four ships), after a terrible voyage of twelve weeks from the settlement of Santa Cruz (Nendö).
Doña Isabel was honoured in Manila, and Quirós was commended for his service; with both absolved of any responsibility for the results of the expedition. 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. The story is told in The Islands of Unwisdom, an historic novel by Robert Graves.
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 Fernandez de Quiros. 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.
- San Bernardo (Pukapuka, Cook Islands), August 20.
- La Solitaria (Niulakita, Tuvalu), August 29.
- Salomon Islands:
- Guam, January 1, 1596.
- Manila, February 11.
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- Finisterrae «ISABEL BARRETO, PRIMERA ALMIRANTE DE LA MARINA» Consultado el 22 de mayo de 2012
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- Biografías.com «Barreto, Isabel (ca. 1567-ca. 1610).» Consultado el 22 de mayo de 2012
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