Freeway-Free in Trujillo – Local Bad Boys Make Good
Trujillo in Extremadura is the hometown of Francisco Pizarro, the Conquistador who accompanied Balboa on his discovery of the Pacific Ocean, then overthrew the Inca monarchy, and was himself murdered by one of his own mutinous fellow- adventurers. My fellow-traveller W learned most of this history from the Peruvian point of view, which substitutes “betrayed” for “overthrew”, “plunderer” for “adventurer” etc. So I got a lot of colorful running commentary to accompany the information provided by the local tourist office.
Fernando and his brothers were rapscallions to the core, and their fellow Trujillanos breathed sighs of relief when they shipped off to the New World in emulation of Cortez. Imagine their dismay when the black sheep returned with piles of Inca gold and an Incan princess under each arm. Most of the Pizarros eventually died ingloriously in the New World, but not before bringing home a lot of plunder. Some of this was donated to the local church in the form of gold and silver reliquaries and altar pieces in an attempt to buy off the damnation they surely deserved.
The survivor, Hernando, probably escaped death only because during his volatile twenties and thirties he was already serving time in prison for murder. On release he married his brother Fernando’s daughter by the Incan princess whose brother Fernando had betrayed and burned at the stake. The couple corralled the Pizarro fortune and spent it in the old home town on building a lavish public plaza and a huge mansion decorated with bas-reliefs of themselves. and their families . In your face, Trujillo!
The huge statue of Fernando Pizarro on horseback in the public plaza is actually an impostor. The statue was originally commissioned by the Government of France as a statue of Hernando Cortez to be presented as a gift to the Government of Mexico. The French were embarrassed to discover that Mexicans didn’t appreciate being conquered by Cortez and wanted no part of a statue honoring him. Being both thrifty and resourceful, the French renamed the statue as Fernando Pizarro and sent it to Spain , where Pizarro is warmly remembered despite his wayward youth and unsavory exploits in the New World.
Trujillo’s old Castillo, originally a Moorish fortification, is positioned on the top of the highest hill with its medieval walls either intact or restored. We walked the entire battlement with some back-tracing and could see for miles across the country. I understand why the Spanish from this region felt at home in their New World colonies – the green foothills with their rocky protrusions look quite similar to the Sierra foothills of California in spring, even to the serpentine color of the rocks.
Trujillo is small and walkable and only a 45 minute bus ride from Caceres, so it makes for a perfect day trip with plenty of time for a siesta before venturing out for tapas in the evening.