Adelantado (Spanish pronunciation: [aðelanˈtaðo]) (meaning
"advanced") was a title held by Spanish nobles in service of their
respective kings during the Middle Ages. It was later used as a
military title held by some Spanish conquistadores of the 15th, 16th
and 17th centuries.
Adelantados were granted directly by the monarch the right to become
governors and justices of a specific region, which they were charged
with conquering, in exchange for funding and organizing the initial
explorations, settlements and pacification of the target area on
behalf of the Crown of Castile. These areas were usually outside the
jurisdiction of an existing audiencia or viceroy, and adelantados were
authorized to communicate directly with the Council of the Indies.
1 The reconquista
3 See also
The term has its origins in the reconquista. The term comes from the
phrase por adelantado (Spanish: "in advance", although translations
stating "one who goes before" and "the forward man" are also found).
According to the
Siete Partidas the office of adelantado was the
equivalent of the Roman
Praefectus urbi (Latin).
The earliest definitely known adelantado was appointed by Alfonso X in
1253 in the recently conquered territory of "La Frontera" (Andalusia).
However the office had precedents in the duties and rights held by
some officers of the Navarrese dynasty of Castile and León, and
Álvar Fáñez or
Fortún Sánchez in the Ebro valley performed
similar services in detached territories beyond the frontier. It was
during this time that the Siete Partidas, commissioned by Alfonso X,
more precisely identified the powers of the office. That law code
created the position of an adelantado mayor, who was at the same time
an intermediary appellate judge, located in the judicial hierarchy
between local justices and the king's court, and an executive officer,
who as a direct representative of the king, was charged with
implementing royal orders in his assigned area. Most appointees were
from the upper nobility or the royal family. After its success in
Andalusia, the institution was introduced in the northern areas of the
peninsula, merging with, and becoming indistinguishable from an older
judicial office, the Royal Merinos.
Beyond the peninsula the term adelantado was granted to Alonso
Fernández de Lugo in the conquest of the Canary Islands and was
confirmed to members of his family. The term became modified over
time. During the colonization of the Americas and Spanish East Indies
(Asia), each charter specified different powers to each adelantado,
sometimes in a vague manner, which often lead to confusion, as in the
Juan de Oñate
Juan de Oñate and the
Viceroy of New Spain. The title
was also granted both as an inheritable title and one that lasted for
one life only. With the publication of the Ordinances Concerning
Discoveries (Ordenanzas de descubrimientos, nueva población y
pacificación de las Indias) in 1573, the attributes of adelantados
became regularized, although the title was granted with much less
frequency after this date, especially since the institutions of
audiencias, governors and viceroys had been developed.
Nevertheless, the Ordinances are useful because they illustrate the
faculties adelantados often had. The Ordinances established that
adelantados, in their capacity as governors and justices of the new
territories, had the right to hear civil and criminal cases in appeal,
to name the regidores and employees of the cabildos of any towns
founded, to name interim treasury officials, to issue ordinances on
the use of land and mines, to establish districts, and to organize
militias and name their captains.
The adelantado grants of Charles V prior to the establishment of the
Viceroyalty of Peru.
The first use of the title adelantado in the Americas was by
Bartolomeo Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, who governed
Hispaniola under this title during his brother's absence from 1494 to
1498. It was later inherited by
Diego Colón after much litigation.
Other conquistadors who were granted the title include:
Juan Ponce de León
Juan Ponce de León for Florida and Biminí, renewed in 1524 for
his son, Luis.
Rodrigo de Bastidas
Rodrigo de Bastidas for
Isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panama and Santa Marta
Vasco Núñez de Balboa
Vasco Núñez de Balboa for the South Sea.
Ferdinand Magellan for the Spice Islands, and Diego Velázquez
de Cuéllar for Yucatán and Cozumel.
Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez for Florida.
Pedro de Alvarado
Pedro de Alvarado for Guatemala.
Francisco Pizarro for Peru, and
Pedro de Mendoza
Pedro de Mendoza for Argentina.
Pedro Fernández de Lugo for
Santa Marta (as son of Alonso
Fernández de Lugo,
Tenerife and La Palma, he was a
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto for Florida.
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca for Río de la Plata.
Pedro de Valdivia
Pedro de Valdivia for Chile.
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés for Florida.
Miguel López de Legazpi
Miguel López de Legazpi for the Philippines.
1595: Alvaro de Mendaña, and after his death his wife Isabel Barreto,
for the Solomon Islands.
^ Fisher, Lillian Estelle. Viceregal Administration in the Spanish
American Colonies. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1926, 81.
^ Fisher. Viceregal Administration, 81.
^ The laws relating to adelantados are compiled in Titles 3, 4 and 7
of Book IV of the Recompilación de las leyes de Indias. In Spanish.
^ García Añoveros 1987, p. 247.
Ayala, Manuel Josef de. Diccionario de gobierno y legislación de
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García Añoveros, Jesús María. Don Pedro de Alvarado: las fuentes
históricas, documentación, crónicas y biblografía existente,
Mesoamérica, vol. 13 (June 1987), pp. 243–282. CIRMA: Antigua
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Jular Pérez-Alfaro, Cristina. Los adelantados y merinos mayores de
León (siglos XIII-XV). (León: Universidad de León)
O'Callaghan, Joseph F. O. A History of Medieval Spain. (Ithaca,
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