Juan Rodriguez Serrano

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Juan Rodríguez Serrano (Portuguese: João Rodrigues Serrão) was a Spanish navigator who was part of the Magellan-Elcano First Circumnavigation of the World.

Serrano, who was born in Fregenal de la Sierra, Badajoz, was related to Francisco Serrão, the man who inspired Ferdinand Magellan on his journey. The two were part of Francisco de Almeida’s fleet, which left to conquer India in 1505. In 1509, they took part in the Battle of Diu and in the first expedition to Malacca. They also took part in the siege of Malacca in 1511 under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque.


Under the command of Vasco da Gama, Serrano participated in the 4th Armada Portuguese in 1502. It was a punitive expedition to Calicut in response to the massacre of the Portuguese in 1500. An expedition of 15 ships was divided into two squadrons. They made a stopover on the island of Mozambique in June 1502 to carry out repairs and to create a trading post in Sofala. A caravel Pomposa was built and Serrano became its captain. He was tasked to bring back all the commodities from the trade with Sofala while they were on their way to Calicut. Two months later, two ships went missing along the Mozambican coast and Serrano made the journey to India.

In 1505, Serrano accompanied Magellan in the 7th Armada Portuguese under the command of Francisco de Almedia. They aimed to weaken cities that may be a threat and to build forts at strategic points. They also aimed to consolidate the hold of Portugal on the Indies. He was the commander of the Botafogo. As the fleet passed through the Cape of Good Hope, it suffered a violent storm which separated the ships. Two boats, Serrano’s Botafogo and Vasco Gomes de Abreu's São Gabriel, went missing. After almost two weeks, the fleet decided to continue without them.

Almeida went back to Kilwa which the troops took without much resistance in July 1505. It was during this period that the Botafogo was able to join in again. The armada captured and sacked Mombasa in August. In September, the Portuguese started building a fort in the west coast of India, at the level of Anjadip. Serrano was tasked to stay there to command the caravel which was responsible for patrolling the coast.

In August 1510, he headed the squadron of three ships to recognize the Ilha de São Lourenço (Madagascar). In March 1511, he participated in the capture of Malacca under the command of Albuquerque. In April 1514, he was in India after having made a reconnaissance in the Red Sea.

Expedition with Magellan

In 1518, he was part of the ten Portuguese in the fleet authorized by the king para el descubrimiento de la especería (for the discovery of the spice). As Ferdinand Magellan’s trusted man, he was appointed as captain and pilot of the Santiago. His stepson Francisco Durango was also on board as a page.

In May 1520, the fleet wintered out in the bay of San Julián and the Santiago was sent to reconnoiter. It suffered a violent storm which made it sink in the mouth of the Santa Cruz river, causing the death of its slave Juan Negro.

Serrano became captain of the Concepción. During another reconnaissance, it discovered the mouth of the Strait of All Saints, which later became the Strait of Magellan.

When they arrived in Mactan, one of its rulers, Lapulapu, refused to submit to the Spaniards. Serrano tried to stop Magellan from storming the shore. In the end, he was not able to save Magellan from being mortally wounded on 27 April 1521 at the Battle of Mactan.

After the death of their Capitán General Ferdinand Magellan, Duarte Barbosa and Serrano were appointed to lead the expedition.

Main article: May 1 Massacre

On 1 May 1521, Rajah Humabon invited the Spaniards for a great feast. Thirty officers, including Serrano and Barbosa, attended it. Towards the end of the meal, armed Cebuanos came and murdered the men. Twenty-seven were killed. Serrano, who was left alive and brought to the shore facing their ships, begged the men on board to pay a ransom to the Cebuanos. However, the Spanish ships left the port and Serrano was killed. Antonio Pigafetta speculated in his account that João Carvalho, who became first in command in the absence of Barbosa and Serrano, left Serrano so that he could be in command of the fleet.




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