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Francisco de Toledo, El Virrey de Perú

by Debbie Wells

Francisco de Toledo y Figueroa was born July 10, 1515, in the village of Oropesa in Toledo, Spain. Francisco's father was the third Count of Oropesa, and through his mother's side, was third cousin to Emperor Charles V. In 1535 Toledo joined the Order of Alcantara, a religious-military order. For nearly twenty years he served in armies for the Emperor in Germany, Flanders, Italy, Hungary, France, and the Barbary Coast. Francisco and his family were close friends of the Emperor. So much so that the latter spent time at their house before he went to the monastery at Yuste, where he died in 1558. Toledo and his older brother were even present at the Emperor's death.

Francisco was a steward in Philip II's court, and in 1568 was "appointed to restore vice-regal authority to the vast empire of Peru" (Zimmerman, 45-47). Not only was he appointed as viceroy, captain general, and governor, but also as the president of the audiencias of the viceroyalty of Peru. "Espíritu austero y con un profundo sentido de la responsabilidad, fue el verdadero organizador del Virreinato del Perú" [Austere in spirit, and with a profound sense of responsibility, he was the true organizer of the Viceroyalty of Peru] (Francisco, online). One of his main orders was to take special care that the Indians were converted and given proper religious training. In other words he had to make sure that the clergy were doing what they were supposed to do. Toledo had Sarmiento de Gamboa chronicle information given by some of the older survivors of the prehispanic times, about the government that had ruled under the Incas (Francisco, online). The narratives that Sarmiento wrote have been considered to be some of the best written by the Spanish about the Incas. Toledo sent these to the King, in hopes that a museum would be founded. The viceroy had a priest "study the traditions that the Incas had regarding their racial origins" (Zimmerman, 108).

Arthur Zimmerman notes that "Toledo tried to adjust the Spanish civilization of the day to what he considered was the best of the political and social structure of the former Incan Empire" (Zimmerman, 170). Toledo formulated laws and rules that applied to everyone. He tried to use political and social structures from the Indian background of the Incas, hoping to convert the natives to Christianity. During this time the viceroy was also making rules and regulations that would stop the abuse and misuse of power by the Spaniards. He "enacted the laws governing native tributes and labour, and founded the Mint (Casa de la Moneda)" (Untitled, online).

Francisco de Toledo is considered by many to be one of the greatest viceroys of Peru. He "served from 1569-1581…consolidated royal authority and Spanish dominance in the viceroyalty" and has been called "one of the great administrators of human times" (Mabry, 63.). He tried to place capable and trustworthy personnel in government positions, though these were hard to find! When people were not doing their jobs, he replaced them. If a job needed to be done, he made positions and filled them with those he found to be trustworthy. "The Indians admitted that the country had not been so well governed since the time of Inca Yupanqui" (Virtual, online).

Toledo was ordered by Philip II to care for the Indians and their conversion. He took this to heart, and worked hard to educate them. The viceroy considered what was best for the Indians, both politically and socially, and strived to provide for them justly. Toledo added new laws and royal decrees related to the Indians and their lands; and gathered the natives into villages, or reducciones. These villages were usually made up of 400 families. A detailed census was taken describing the different ethnic groups and their economic status (Francisco, online). Also, Toledo "broke the power of the encomenderos (the large estate owners), reducing them to obedience to the crown and to the viceroy" (Toledo, online).

Francisco de Toledo made an extensive tour of inspection of the territory of Peru. He was the only viceroy to ever do so. It took him over five years, traveling over five thousand miles to personally visit the land. He found problems and rectified them; settled differences and solved problems of exploitation of Indians; made travel safer; built bridges; commissioned men to discover territories and to found cities; increased revenues; modified many practices of priests; and changed laws that were unjust. "His tour of inspection had convinced him that there were many abuses of power which needed correction and many flaws in the governmental machinery which needed repair" (Zimmerman, 134).

Some claim that "the one great blot on his administration was the unjust execution (1571) of the Inca leader, Tupac Amaru, after trouble between the Spanish and the Incas" (Toledo, online). Numerous eye-witness accounts stated that many clerics who were convinced of Amaru's innocence, begged Toledo on their knees that the Inca be sent to trial in Spain (Jacobs, online). According to Arthur Zimmerman, the idea that the execution of Tupac Amaru was unjust, is a "myth". It is one that "depicts Toledo as a bloody, detestable, cruel, and extremely ambitious ruler, while the victim-Tupac Amaru--was a young, shy, innocent person who was persecuted because he was the direct descendant of the imperial house of Peru". He notes that this depiction of the Inca is far from the truth, for he was not an "irresolute weakling". Tupac Amaru was found guilty because he was guilty. There were those who wanted to spread the myth to hurt the viceroy. Even "the audiencia of Lima, in a report of January 27, 1573, stated that Tupac Amaru brought on his own death". Toledo had tried to settle differences peacefully, and "three of his ambassadors to the Inca" were murdered (Zimmerman, 115-117). The Inca then resisted Toledo's army with his own, thus he was treated as a rebel.

The Viceroy had enemies that were determined to see him fail. The previous governor and captain general of Peru, Lope García de Castro was a member of the Council of the Indies, and was negative toward most any policy Toledo tried to impose. There were others who opposed him out of envy or anger because of the changes he had made. Zimmerman notes that "Toledo said that the greatest damage to the governments in the Indies was the return to authority of men who had been banished from official positions in the New World" (Zimmerman, 119). Several such men included the licentiates Landecho, Salazar, Altamirano, and Monzón. All four had been removed from previous posts for different crimes, and then were placed on the audiencia as high powered judges.

Despite the opposition during Toledo's time as viceroy, the king began to receive more money from Peru. The laws were enforced and the collection of taxes was perfected. Toledo made sure that the exchequer officials balanced their books and that accounts were sent regularly to Spain. These books had not been properly balanced nor audited in over fifteen years at the time Toledo arrived in Peru. The income from silver mines became greater with legislation and with better methods of mining.

Much of the political structure that stands today is based on the ideas and policies of Toledo. Practices and laws that he laid down are still in force. Though it is said that "Toledo ruled Peru with a harshness never before known" (Jacobs, online), this Viceroy "was able to transform a disorganized colony into a viceroyalty with a solid and advanced legal basis and structure" (Zimmerman, 170). Toledo brought order out of chaos and peace out of turmoil with humanity, moderation and wisdom.


El virreinato. Online: Retrieved 06/08/03.

Francisco de Toledo. Online: d/HISTORIA/toledo.htm. Retrieved 06/08/03. Now broken

Incas and Conquistadores. Online: Retrieved 06/08/03.

Jacobs, James Q., Tupac Amaru, The Life, Times and Execution of the Last Inca . Online: . Retrieved 06/08/03.

Mabry, Donald J., Colonial Latin America. Coral Springs, FL: Llumina Press, 2002.

Toledo, Francisco de. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 200l. Online: Retrieved 06/08/03.

Untitled Document. Online: . Retrieved 06/08/03.

Virtual American Biographies. Online: Retrieved 06/08/03.

Zimmerman, Arthur Franklin, Francisco de Toledo: Fifth Viceroy of Peru 1566-1881. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1938.