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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Capillana

Various nineteenth-century biographical dictionaries, in Spanish and English, recount the tale of a “Peruvian princess” named Capillana who fell in love with the conquistador Francisco Pizarro (circa 1478–1541), converted to Catholicism in 1541, lived in seclusion after his assassination, and died in 1549. These sources also credit her with the writing of a manscript containing descriptions of monuments and native plants. It is likely that the name “Capillana” is a corruption of the word capullana, a female Inka chief. Pedro de Cieza de León, author of The Discovery and Conquest of Peru (1553), discusses the conquistadors’ encounters with capullanas up and down the northern coast of Peru. He makes no mention of Pizarro’s alleged romantic involvement with a capullana. However, one of Pizarro’s men, Pedro Halcón, reportedly became so enamored with one of these female leaders that he had to be restrained in irons to prevent him from jumping ship and staying behind with her.