Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
|Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar|
|5th Governor of the Indies|
|Preceded by||Diego Columbus|
|Succeeded by||Hernán Cortés
as the Governor of New Spain
|1st Governor of Cuba|
|Succeeded by||Manuel de Rojas y Cordova|
Cuéllar, Segovia, Crown of Castile
|Died||1524 (aged 58–59)
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
- For the Spanish painter, see Diego Velázquez.
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (1465 in Cuéllar, Spain – c. June 12, 1524 in Santiago de Cuba) was a Spanish conquistador. He conquered and governed Cuba on behalf of Spain and moved Havana from the south coast of western Cuba to the north coast, placing it well as a port for Spanish trade.
Little is known about the early life of Diego Velázquez. He was born in Cuéllar c. 1465, in the Segovia region of Spain. He distinguished himself in battle in Naples before moving to Seville, where he met Bartholomew Columbus. He first visited the New World with the crew of Christopher Columbus's second voyage in 1493.
He settled in Hispaniola, which he helped pacify under the leadership of Nicolás de Ovando, the Governor of the Indies. According to historian Troy S. Floyd, "Velazquez himself, reportedly wealthy in island terms by 1511, held encomiendas at Verapaz, Salvatierra de la Sabana, and Santiago de Caballeros, where he was in partnership with an unidentified encomendero in mining enterprises."
He married the daughter of Cristóbal de Cuellar, who died soon afterwards. He never remarried.:139
Conquest of Cuba
He was named to lead the expedition of conquest of Cuba in 1511, with 300 men, a three-year undertaking noted for its brutality. He acted under orders from Diego Columbus, recently restored as Viceroy of the Indies. He founded a number of new Spanish settlements and cities on the island, first Baracoa in 1511 and then most notably Santiago de Cuba in 1514 and Havana in 1515. Velázquez was appointed Governor of Cuba.:16 The new settlers did not wish to be under the personal authority of Diego Columbus, so Velázquez convoked a general cabildo (a local government council) which was duly authorized to deal directly with Spain, and therefore removed Velázquez and the settlers from under the authority of Columbus, their nominal superior. It was a precedent that would come back to haunt him with the Mexican adventures.
Conquest of Mexico
Noting the weakness of the natives, Velázquez authorized the importation of black slaves in 1513. He authorized various expeditions to explore lands further west, including the 1517 Francisco Hernández de Córdoba expedition to Yucatán (see: Spanish Conquest of Yucatán), and Juan de Grijalva's 1518 expedition.:16,27 He was made the 1st Adelantado of Cuba with jurisdiction over the former Governorship of the Indies.:126 He initially backed Hernán Cortés's expedition to Mexico,:44–47 but pulled back his support before the expedition was scheduled to launch. Cortés disobeyed Velázquez's orders to disband his expeditionary force and left for Mexico anyway.:56
Velásquez lost his governorship of Cuba in 1521, for his misuse of indigenous labor, but he was restored to office in 1523. At the time of his unexpected death in 1524 at age 59, he was "the richest Spaniard in the Americas," despite financial losses on the expedition of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and of Hernán Cortés. He completed the successful conquest of Cuba, founded towns that remain important, made Cuba economically prosperous, and turned it into the staging point for expeditions of conquest elsewhere. 
- List of Viceroys of New Spain
- Viceroyalty of New Spain
- History of Cuba
- History of Havana
- Juan de Grijalva
- Wright, Irene. The Early History of Cuba, 1492-1586. (1916, rep. 1970)
- Allan J. Kuethe, "Havana" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 3, p. 173. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
- Jacquelyn Briggs Kent, "Diego de Velásquez" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 5. p. 375. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1996.
- Floyd, Troy (1973). The Columbus Dynasty in the Caribbean, 1492-1526. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 63,81.
- Kent, "Diego de Velásquez", p. 375.
- Diaz, B., 1963, The Conquest of New Spain, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140441239
- Kent, "Diego de Velásquez" p. 375.
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