Biography of Hernando o Hernandarias de Saavedra Arias de Saavedra (1564-1634)

Spanish conquistador born in Asunción (Paraguay) in 1564 and died in Santa Fe in 1634. Of Creole origin, was conqueror of Río de la Plata, founder of currents and first native Governor of the Río de la Plata. It favoured the creation of Jesuit reductions and the division of the territory into two governorates of Río de la Plata and Asuncion.

He was son of the Spanish conquistador Martín Suárez de Toledo and of María de Sanabria, two important characters of the platense history from the 16th century. Martín Suárez arrived in Paraguay in the expedition of Governor Cabeza de Vaca, who was his Lieutenant between 1569 and 1572. Later, Garay commissioned him to found the city of Santa Fe. In terms of María de Sanabria, he/she was the daughter of the Spanish Juan de Sanabria, and arrived at the Paraguay expedition of Juan de Salazar. This lady got married on the Brazilian coast with the conquistador Hernando de Trejo, who had a son, Fernando Trejo, who was then Bishop of Tucumán. Hernando died in 1559, and María de Sanabria married remarried Martín Suárez de Toledo, with whom he/she had to Hernandarias.

He was educated in the Paraguayan colony founding conflicts. Since the age of 15 he/she participated in the campaigns of conquest and population of the governorates of Tucumán and the Río de la Plata. He/She accompanied Gonzalo of Abreu and Hernando de Lerma, attended the new foundation of Buenos Aires and six months toured the area of the Mar del Plata with Garay, who became his father-in-law when at the age of 21 he/she married his daughter, Jerónima de Contreras. It was with Alonso de Vera to punish the guaycurúes Indians, who had revolted, and accompanied the same captain to the settlement of conception of Bermejo, where he/she was appointed mayor of brotherhood.

Afterwards it returned to Asunción, and accompanied an expedition against the guaycurues, who had returned to take up the Governor Juan Torres de Vera y Aragón . This Governor, as heir to Ortiz de Zárate, should establish a fourth population in the area of La Plata, fulfilling the obligations contracted by him, and entrusted this mission to Hernandarias and his nephew, Alonso de Vera. On April 3, 1588 was founded the city of Vera of the seven currents (current flows), next to the southern coast of Brazil. After this, Hernandarias, had 24 years, stayed in currents during a year, defending it from indigenous attacks. In 1589 he/she would return to this city, after having been attacked by Indians (had killed 23 Spaniards), Fortify it, and then went to help conception of the Bermejo, which was still subject to attacks of the natives.

In 1592 the cabildo of Asunción Hernandarias elected Lieutenant Governor, charge that happened to Vera Alonso. Its new administrative task with great zeal, he/she fulfilled until the arrival of the proprietary Governor Fernando de Zárate in 1594, which commissioned him to then control the city of Santa Fe, in which remained until 1596.

After the arrival of a new Governor asunceno Juan Ramírez de Velasco, who died suddenly in the capital the year 1598, Hernandarias was elected then Interim Governor by asunceno cabildo, which confirmed the viceroy of the Peru and the same Crown. It was the first time in the history of America that a Creole was named for an important administrative charge. The fact was doubly significant, if we take into account that Hernandarias took office accompanied by the Bishop of Tucumán, who was none other than his brother Fernando de Trejo, also Creole. Hernandarias set the terms of the four cities of La Plata and, on the death of the new Governor, Diego Rodríguez Valdés, was appointed Governor in property (1602).

He held his position until 1609 with enormous effectiveness. In 1603 he/she published Ordinances for the reduction of the Indian villages, with resolutions of a Synod held in 1598. The Ordinance provided for working hours, limitations of the mita, good treatment to Indians, etc. Hernandarias was to be applied with the help of the Jesuits, that created the first cuts, sending missionaries to del Guayra, the Paraná and the Uruguay. It also helped to the Franciscan Missionaries and the construction of the Cathedral of Asunción and Buenos Aires. No less important was his work by holding the peace in the new cities, found the first school in the region, and defend the coast from pirates attacks. Its suppression of smuggling, which was already virtually institutionalized in Buenos Aires, was entrusted by certificates of 1601 and 1602, and aroused many criticism and discontent, which materialized in some accusations during his trial of residence, which was fined. In 1604 he/she made an expedition to Patagonia in search of the myth of the Caesars (was searching for myth until February 1607) and which took him to the Rio Negro and Santa Cruz. In 1607 he/she explored the rivers Uruguay and Tape, the charruas to fight.

In 1609 was succeeded by Diego Marín de Negrón, and Buenos Aires returned to smuggling and the previous flaws. Dead Negron, as well as its successor, French Beaumont y Navarra, which was brevisimamente on the remote control, was re-elected Governor (1614) Hernandarias. During his last Government deployed an intense activity to suppress smuggling, by applying large penalties to violators (it was said that the Governor was contrary to trade authorized with Brazil), continued promoting the missionary activity and requested the division of the governorate of the Río de la Plata, given the impossibility of governing a vast territory to the Crown. The monarch accepted the proposal of December 17, 1617, when the two governorates of Río de la Plata, were created with capital in Buenos Aires, and the del Guayra, also known from the Paraguay, with capital in Asunción.

Hernandarias ceased the following year, in 1618, when two independent governors were already chosen for each of them. It withdrew then from the Government, dealing with its many revenues and his family (was married to Jerónima de Contreras, daughter of Juan de Garay, as has already been said) until the audience of Charcas appointed you judge to determine the behavior of the Governor of Buenos Aires, Francisco Céspedes, who answered in the post. In 1632 he/she was appointed protector of the Indians.

The silver division in two governorates marked the beginning of the beautiful decadence against Buenos Aires.


MOLINA, R. A. Hernandarias. Buenos Aires, 1948.

LEVENE, R. Argentina history and Americana. Buenos Aires, Amoeba, 1970.

Tower REVELLO, j. "The Governors of Buenos Aires (1617-1777)" in history of the nation of Argentina. Academia Nacional de la Historia, vol. III.