Rumours trickle through history, and our expert Robin Graham, sets the record straight with the famous Pizarro statue in Trujillo. It is difficult to believe that the violent, chauvinistic conquistadors are part of the heritage of the friendly people of Spain today. Walking the peaceful streets in the small town of Trujillo today dilutes those years of violence.
By Robin Graham
Mérida, Medellín, Albuquerque, Valdivia – travellers in either North or South America can hardly be surprised that many of the places they pass through will have Spanish names. What they might not be aware of is just how many of those names come from one particular part of the Iberian peninsula.
At the western limit of the country, adjacent to Portugal and far enough south to bake in the summer, often freezing in the winter, this was a hard land populated by the hard people that were to be the conquistadors. Whatever the origins of its name, it is certainly fitting: Extremadura.
When a local man, already experienced at sea, heard about the conquests that his distant cousin – one Hernán Cortés – was making in the New World, he wanted a piece of the action. In the year 1533, on his third attempt, he finally became the man that conquered the Incan empire. His name was Francisco Pizarro and he came from a town called Trujillo.
Like its larger neighbour, Cáceres, Trujillo – already steeped in history courtesy of the Romans and five centuries of Muslim rule – was to be adorned with the opulent palaces built by the newly rich conquistadors when they returned to Spain. Today’s visitor can still visit most of them, in and around the town’s beautiful Plaza Mayor, including one built for Pizarro’s daughter Francisca, whose mother was Inés Huaylas Yupanqui, his Incan princess bride. The Extremaduran style is an austere mix of stone and sturdy tower, but with ivy creeping over the facades and storks nesting on the turrets can give a fairy tale impression.
Although Pizarro, for obvious reasons, would not be a favourite amongst today’s Peruvians, he seems to be well thought of here – a very generously proportioned statue of him on horseback looks over diners on the square. Lonely Planet will tell you the statue was originally intended to be Cortés himself but, on being understandably rejected by Mexico, was plonked here as Pizarro instead.
It isn’t true but the rumour still makes the rounds. Either way it’s an imposing sculpture for one of the most charming squares I’ve seen in Spain, a country filled with charming squares.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found, with accompanying photography, at alotofwind He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: @robinjgraham or liked: alotofwind
Photography at 500px.