Rodrigo de Bastidas: Biography, Travel and Routes

Rodrigo de Bastidas (1445-1527) was a Spanish visionary and conqueror, founder of the city of Santa Marta, Colombia. He conquered the coast of the Colombian Atlantic, from the peninsula of La Guajira to the Gulf of Urabá in Colombia. He did the same with the Isthmus of Panama and the Magdalena River.

This Sevillian navigator also visited Cartagena and Cispatá, as well as the entire Venezuelan coast. Bastidas was a navigator by profession, although at the end of the 15th century he worked as a scribe. Driven by the passion to know and conquer new horizons, he left this activity in the year 1493.

Rodrigo de Bastidas

As a navigator, Bastidas accompanied Christopher Columbus in his second trip to the Indies. This captain was not well known at the time, but in the year 1500 he received authorization from the Spanish Crown to tour the lands that Christopher Columbus had just visited.


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Travel to America and exploration
    • 1.2 Authorization in 1500
    • 1.3 Death
  • 2 Travel and routes
    • 2.1 Trip with Columbus
    • 2.2 First trip in 1501
    • 2.3 Arrival in Santo Domingo
    • 2.4 I return to spain
    • 2.5 Possible trip in 1507
    • 2.6 New trip in 1524: return to the New World
    • 2.7 Treason
  • 3 Companions
    • 3.1 Vasco Nunez de Balboa
    • 3.2 Juan de la Cosa
  • 4 Founded cities
    • 4.1 Santa Marta
    • 4.2 Cartagena de Indias
  • 5 References


The date of the birth of de Bastidas is not known with exactitude, although it is calculated that it was towards the year 1445 in the city of Seville. His profession before embarking on his most prominent voyage as navigator and conqueror, was that of scribe.

He married Isabel Rodríguez de Romera Tamaris and they had two children; Rodrigo de Bastidas and Rodriguez de Romera and Isabel de Bastidas and Rodríguez de Romera.

Travel to America and exploration

After leaving with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage (1493), Bastidas asked the Spanish Crown for permission to continue the conquest with his own money. In exchange for allowing it, the Crown asked for a quarter of the benefits it acquired in their travels.

He left for the New World from Cádiz in 1501 with two ships; San Antón and Santa María de Gracia, accompanied by Juan de la Cosa and Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

Authorization in 1500

The authorization that gave him in the year 1,500 the Spanish crown had like objective to continue the conquest in the name of the Spanish Crown and to visit places that had not been sighted by Cristóbal Columbus in his previous trips.

Rodrigo de Bastidas left from Cádiz in October or September of 1501; On that occasion he was associated with two navigating experts: Vasco Núñez de Balboa and the cartographer Juan de la Cosa.


Bastidas' refusal to share the gold he got in his travels angered some of his men, including Lieutenant Villafuerte, who led a conspiracy against him that ended the conquistador's life.

One night in Santa Marta -Colombia-, while Bastidas was asleep he was attacked and stabbed. He could scream and other men came to his aid. Because they did not have medical supplies, they left for Santo Domingo, although the bad weather forced them to go to Cuba, where they died of injuries.

Later, his son took his remains to Santo Domingo, where he is buried with his wife and son in the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, in the colonial zone.

Travel and routes

Trip with Columbus

The first great adventure of Rodrigo de Bastidas to the American seas was in the company of the conquistador Christopher Columbus on his second expedition.

First trip in 1501

Later, in the year 1500 the Spanish Crown authorized him to make his own trip.

It was then that he put together two caravels in the company of the navigators Juan de la Cosa and the adventurer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. In this way he left for his great American adventure in 1501.

In the trip of Bastidas the same followed the route of the third trip of Columbus by Colombian grounds and waters. It even reached Venezuelan soil crossing its coast; he stepped on land that had been sighted before by Alonso de Ojeda, Juan de la Cosa and Américo Vespucio.

In South America Bastidas skirted the coasts of Cabo de la Vela, located in Venezuela. Then he left for the west and colonized the Atlantic coast of Colombia. With his fellow travelers he explored a large part of this coast, specifically the Santa Marta region.

Later it continued by the coasts of Panama, soon it passed through the mouths of the river of the Magdalena, and by the Gulf of Uraba or of Darien, now Cartagena de Indias.

Motivated by problems of the ships for which he was about to be shipwrecked, decided to divert to Jamaica. There he solved the problem of the boats and continued his trip to La Española.

However, the destination of the navigator was changed thanks to the bad weather that I throw to Cabo de Canonjía, where he again had to repair the ships. This time it took four weeks to make repairs.

Then he tried to get back to Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola, but he was shipwrecked due to bad weather and had to make a stop in Xaraguá, in Haiti.

Arrival in Santo Domingo

In Haiti (also located on the island of Hispaniola), he separated his crew into three groups and undertook a trip by land to Santo Domingo.

After having dedicated himself to the commerce with the Indians, some authors indicate that he was recognized like a man of kind treatment with the natives.

However, for this work had to respond in a trial by Governor Francisco de Bobadilla. He seized him and took all the gold.

I return to spain

For the middle of 1502 the captain Rodrigo de Bastidas returned to Spain leaving the Dominican Republic. The trip became dangerous due to bad weather, but finally he was able to reach his destination.

In Spain he was acquitted of all charges. Once Bastidas paid the Crown all the corresponding rights, he was given a life pension. It was taken out of the collection of an annual income on the production of the provinces of Urabá and Zenú.

On December 15, 1521, interested in the Island of Trinidad, signed a new capitulation to populate it; nevertheless, the opposition of Diego de Colón made him desist.

From Santo Domingo he planned another expedition to the region of Santa Marta, the most enduring work of Bastidas and which is considered the most important in his life.

Possible trip in 1507

According to some sources, in 1507 the colonizer Bastidas and Juan de la Cosa made another trip to the Colombian territory; however, there is no reliable information to support it.

New trip in 1524: return to the New World

The trip that is most certain was the one made in 1524, when it was granted about eighty leagues of coastline, beginning with the Cabo de la Vela to the Magdalena mouths in Colombian spaces.

Rodrigo de Bastidas arrived again in 1525 to the bay of Santa Marta, where he built a fortress that served as the basis for the construction of Santa Marta. Then he continued his conquest in the indigenous territories of Bondigua and Bonda.

In these places it remained next to its rich fortune, product of the looting made to the conquered territory. This wealth caused the betrayal of some of his trusted men, who seriously wounded him.


There are versions of different authors who say that those who stabbed him did so because of their benevolent treatment of the indigenous inhabitants. Those who defend this version indicate that Rodrigo de Bastidas wanted a peaceful coexistence.

However, this turned out to be a symbol of weakness for some of his companions. The latter had traveled the ocean in search of riches and were not willing for the Indians to resist them to snatch the gold, pearls and other resources.

Whatever the cause of the aggression, Bastidas was betrayed by his companions and mortally wounded. Before such events, the explorer decided to travel to Santo Domingo. Motivated by the bad weather, his boat never reached that destination but touched waters of Santiago de Cuba. There he died.


Vasco Nunez de Balboa

This companion of Rodrigo de Bastidas was of Galician origin. As recorded for the story, was the first European who spotted the Pacific Ocean from American lands. When he accompanied de Bastidas, it was also his first trip to the New World.

Juan de la Cosa

This Spanish cartographer was present on seven of the first trips that were undertaken to America. Its objective was to register the riches, landscapes and other characteristics of the American lands.

On the first trip he accompanied the navigator Christopher Columbus, not only as an expeditionary, but as the owner of one of the ships that made the crossing.

For that same reason, and given that the vessel did not arrive at port to happy term, Juan de la Cosa was tried. However, at the end of the trial he was declared innocent and, in addition, he was given compensation.

It is attributed the development of the first map of the subcontinent where for the first time it is given the name of America.

Founded cities

Santa Marta

History reports that the most important city founded by the Spanish Rodrigo de Bastidas was Santa Marta de Colombia. It happened on July 29, 1525. That day he landed in the Bay of Gaira.

The name of the new city founded is due to the founder's hometown, since the patron saint of the city of Seville, in Spain, is Santa Marta; it is precisely July 29 is the day on which the saint is honored.

The foundation was made by bringing inhabitants of other regions and some animals, in addition to those present in the area, to ensure the population's food. The chosen site had pleasant weather.

Also, it was near a river that it baptized like river of the Magdalena and from which it could initiate the route by the remaining territory. This river also served to supply fresh water to the population.

In Santa Marta he ordered the construction of a fortress that would serve years later for the foundations of the aforementioned Colombian city. He was governor of this city until his death.

Cartagena de Indias

Even though this was not a city founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas, the name of this city is found in most of its biographies.

This is because he was the first European to set foot in this area, which in the future would be founded by the conquistador Pedro Heredia after the combat and murder of its original inhabitants. When de Bastidas arrived, he gave it the name of Barú Gulf.


  1. Biographies and Lives. (2004-2018) Rodrigo de Bastidas. The Online Biographical Encyclopedia. Recovered in:
  2. Universal Illustrated Encyclopedia, Cantabrian Editorial, volume 3, Viszcaya Spain.
  3. Universal Illustrated Encyclopedia (1973), European-American, Espasa-Calpe, S.A., Madrid, Spain, Volume VII, pp 1108.
  4. Great Encyclopedia Rialp GER, (1971) Editions RIALP, S.A., Volume III.
  5. Nauta, (2005). Encyclopedia of Great Personages, Barcelona, ​​Spain.

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