Near Paraguay River
|Known for||First European to reach the Inca Empire|
He was possibly a member of the failed expedition of Juan Díaz de Solís, which sought a sea passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. After reaching the mouths of the Uruguay and Paraná rivers, it was apparent that the Río de la Plata was not such a strait. At this point, 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, the Spanish sailor Melchior Ramírez, Alejo de Ledesma, and Francisco Chaves. Melchior Ramírez, in turn, would assist and guide Cristóvão Jacques on his voyage of exploration to the Río de la Plata and the Paraná River in 1521, returning again to Santa Catarina.
Aleixo Garcia traveled inland, living among the Guaranís who knew 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.
In 1524 and 1525, the small group (various sources claim from four or five men to more than a dozen) 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 Río de la Plata region for several years.
- A. J. R. Russell-Wood (8 July 1998). The Portuguese Empire, 1415-1808: A World on the Move. JHU Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8018-5955-7.
- Descubrimiento y conquista del Río de la Plata y el Paraguay, Julio César Chaves, Ediciones Nizza, 1968 (in Spanish)
- Peabiru, a rota perdida In Portuguese
- Primeiro branco a pisar no imperio Inca também viveu em Palhoça. In Portuguese
- Carta de Luis Ramírez a su padre desde el Brasil (1528) . Introducción, edición, transcripción y notas, Juan Francisco Maura. Lemir (Departamento de Filología Hispánica de la Universidad de Valencia), parnaseo.uv.es (2007).